For graduate students who are interested in serving the legal and social needs of individuals, families, groups, organizations, or communities, earning an advanced social work degree and Juris Doctor concurrently can be an excellent option.
Due to the fact that legal problems are often intertwined with social and economic issues, pursuing a Master of Social Work (MSW) and Juris Doctor (JD) together provides graduates with enhanced interviewing, empathic, listening, evaluation, and crisis intervention skills.
The following are some of the most popular social work career opportunities for professionals who have received dual preparation in law to provide comprehensive services and meet the diverse needs of their clients.
Public Welfare Administration
For decades, public welfare has provided valuable support services to society's most vulnerable populations who are struggling to overcome social obstacles. Often times, social workers with an educational background in law will become the administrators, managers, and program evaluators of the government's public welfare system to ensure the community's needs are successfully being met. At public welfare agencies and private social service agencies, social workers are involved in planning and administering welfare programs, training or supervising staff, and evaluating standards for service delivery.
Criminal Justice or Corrections
With an advanced social work degree and a Juris Doctor, many graduates decide to fulfill the various positions available within the criminal justice and corrections fields. In addition to serving as attorneys in a court of law, social workers with a deep understanding of the legal system can pursue job opportunities at rape crisis centers, police departments, prisons, and juvenile group home residences. Some social workers also decide to become probation or parole officers to arrange the services, training, counseling, and transportation needed after an offender is released from the system.
Political Policy and Planning
When social workers have the vast amount of knowledge gained from pursuing a Juris Doctor, they are also prime candidates for leading political careers in which they become involved firsthand in the creation of new laws and formation of social policies. It is common for graduates to hold elective offices from school boards and county governments to state legislatures and even the U.S. House of Representatives. For those willing to roll up their sleeves and participate in the political process, a social work degree and Juris Doctor can provide all the tools needed to be a successful agent for positive change.
Non-Profit Organization Management
Since the laws that govern non-profit organizations can be relatively complex, social workers with a Juris Doctor have a huge advancement for finding leadership positions in non-profit charitable, religious, political, governmental, and research institutions. While non-profit organizations are often focused on advocating for civil rights for diverse communities, they often require full-time legal staff to navigate through the complicated areas of company operations. Therefore, social workers with legal experience are commonly found working in policy formulation, program design, budget development, operations management, personnel supervision, resource allocations, taxation, public relations, and evaluation.
While most people believe that earning a social work and law degree concurrently is the preparation for a career as a social worker or attorney, there are actually many different career opportunities that provide a seamless blend of the two interdisciplinary fields. If you are interested in fulfilling any of these plentiful career options, there are luckily 78 MSW degree programs nationwide that offer dual degree programs accredited by the CSWE. With a social work degree and Juris Doctor in hand, you will have the comprehensive knowledge needed to pursue various leadership roles in advocating for those in need.