Dual Degree FAQ

The School of Social Work offers nine (9) dual degree programs in partnership with other Columbia University graduate schools and affiliates, allowing students the opportunity to combine study in two professional disciplines. Students must apply to each school separately and be accepted to both programs in order to be designated as a dual degree student. For each program, students are assigned faculty mentors for their respective programs and meet regularly with the Office of Student Services to review program and billing requirements. NOTE: Advanced Standing and Transfer program students are not eligible for dual degree programs. For more information, go to the Dual Degree Guide.

Have questions about Financial Aid? Answers here

Have questions about Registration? Answers here

Have questions about Practicum Learning? Answers here

Admissions Requirements

What dual degree programs does the school offer?

What are the admissions requirements for the dual degree programs?

Dual degree status is established once you have been accepted to two participating schools, based on their individual admissions requirements. You should contact the Office of Admissions of both schools for the dual degree program in which you’re interested in to learn their specific admissions requirements.

When can I apply for a dual degree program?

You may apply for a dual degree with a participating institution prior to, concurrently with, or following matriculation at the School of Social Work, but no later than the second term of the first year of Practicum Learning. If you are accepted to a partner institution during your first year of enrollment at CSSW, you must immediately inform the Office of Student Services and Office of Practicum Learning so that your academic record can be updated with your dual degree status and a program plan can be created for satisfactory completion of your remaining Social Work coursework and field work requirements.

Will being a MS student help me get admitted into a participating dual degree institution?

No. Admissions decisions at participating institutions are made regardless of your status as a MS student at CSSW. Your application will be reviewed like any other application.

Who can advise me on how much the dual degree will really help me in the end?

The decision to pursue a dual degree is a very personal one. Your professional success will be determined as much by your drive and ability to do excellent work as by your academic credentials. The dual degree can be helpful in making interdisciplinary connections for yourself and in increasing your knowledge of a particular practicum. Your academic advisor, dual degree faculty coordinators and Student Services/Student Affairs staff at participating institutions may be able to help you determine whether or not pursuing a dual degree is the right choice for you. Depending on your interests and career goals, one of the school’s minor programs may be more conducive than a dual degree program (if interested, check out the Minor Programs on page 38 of the Student Handbook.

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Financial Aid

What is the cost per year?

For an explanation and breakdown of other fees, go to Cost of Attendance.

Please consult your partner school website or Office of Financial Aid for information about the cost of that portion of your program. NOTE: In your “split year” – when you are in residency at CSSW for one term and in residency at the partner school for the other term – your tuition and fees will be calculated per term based on each school’s set cost of attendance. Social Work and Public Health dual degree students should be mindful that Student Medical Insurance plans are year-long selections. The School through which you are billed in the Fall of your “split year” will determine the cost and type of medical coverage you have for the entire year – Morningside campus vs. the Medical Center – even after you switch program residency in the Spring term. This means that if you are billed via Public Health in the Fall and have the CUMC Student Medical Insurance Plan, you will be billed for that plan and must adhere to that policy’s coverage guidelines even after you switch your billing to Social Work in the Spring, and vice versa.

What types of financial aid are available?

Financial aid awards typically include a mix of institutional/merit scholarships, Federal Work-Study, federal loans, and other types of loans. If you are awarded Federal Work Study from the School of Social Work, you may only earn those funds via your practicum placement. This means that during your “split year” – when you are in residency at SW for one term and in residency at the partner school for the other term – if you are also in practicum placement and earning work study, you may only earn those funds during the term you are enrolled through the School of Social Work. If the partner school awards you FWS while you’re in residency there, you must secure a campus-based FWS job that is separate from your practicum placement in order to earn those funds. NOTE: Those who have served in the military should find out if they are eligible for veterans educational benefits by completing the checklist linked from Columbia University’s Veteran Affairs site. Likewise, those who have completed a term of service with AmeriCorps should contact AmeriCorps directly to see if they are eligible for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.

When will I be notified about my financial aid?

We usually begin processing financial aid packages in March, and notifications are sent out thereafter. You will receive a notification via e-mail of your awarded aid. If you are in residence at your partner school in the Fall of your “split year,” the School of Social Work generally isn’t able to access your financial aid record until late November/early December, and will offer you a Spring financial aid package once your record has been transferred to the school.

Are there special scholarships I can apply for?

We offer a handful of competitive scholarship awards for continuing students, which are announced via e-mail in March or April of your first year. In addition, we circulate any scholarship announcements from outside organizations to the student body via e-mail. As you approach your second year in residence at Social Work, we strongly encourage you to research possible scholarship opportunities via the Internet, community and/or religious organizations, professional networks, and so on. NOTE: If you are awarded a scholarship from an outside source, you must notify the Office of Financial Aid (send an e-mail to swfinaid@columbia.edu) so that it can be included in your financial aid package. If you are receiving federal loans or work study, it is a federal requirement that you report any outside awards to the School.

What if I’m not satisfied with my financial aid package?

You may appeal for more scholarship money to the Director of Admissions at cssw-admit@columbia.edu. (If you have received a higher scholarship offer from another graduate school of social work, a copy of that offer should be included in your appeal.) All other appeals, including those for work-study, should be e-mailed to swfinaid@columbia.edu. Please be mindful that while we do our best to provide need-based awards to all eligible students, our scholarship and work-study funding is limited.

Scholarship appeals are generally responded to within two weeks. Work-study appeals will initially be reviewed in late summer and will continue to be reviewed throughout the academic year; you will be notified via email if we are able to grant your appeal.

What kind of loans can I apply for?

All students who complete a FAFSA are eligible to receive the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Once you accept the loan, you must complete an entrance interview, sign a master promissory note, and fill out a loan request form. The funds will then be disbursed automatically to your student account at the beginning of each term. NOTE: The Department of Education charges a 1.068% origination fee on this loan, which will be deducted prior to the funds being disbursed.

In addition to the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you may choose to borrow either a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan or a private educational loan. The maximum amount you may borrow for either loan is listed under the Alternative Eligibility fund in your award letter.

The Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan is a fixed interest loan program that enables graduate students to borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education to help pay for their educational expenses. This loan, which is based on credit-worthiness, requires a separate entrance interview, master promissory note, and loan request form. For more information, go to Questions and Answers About Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Students. If you are approved for a PLUS loan, the funds will be disbursed automatically to your student account at the beginning of the term. NOTE: The Department of Education charges a 4.272% origination fee on this loan, which will be deducted prior to the funds being disbursed.

If you have any questions about the process, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Office of Financial Aid at swfinaid@columbia.edu or 212-851-2293; or make an appointment to speak to one of us.


What if I’m denied a PLUS or private loan?

If you are denied the PLUS Loan, we strongly encourage you to request a copy of your credit report and clear up any delinquencies of 90 days or more, or challenge any discrepancies you find on that report. You should then appeal to the Department of Education, providing documentation that those discrepancies or issues have been resolved. In our experience, most students who do this succeed in having their initial denial overturned. Another option is to reapply for the PLUS Loan with a credit-worthy co-signer or endorser. If neither of these options works, we suggest that you reach out to our Office of Financial Aid. A financial aid officer will ask you to compile and submit a monthly budget listing all of your basic living expenses (rent, food, utilities, personal expenses, etc.). This additional information will allow the financial aid office to calculate the assistance you still need and how much CSSW can cover.

I’m worried about the high loan debt I will accrue as dual degree student. Does the school offer repayment programs or advice on how to manage my loan payments after I graduate?

We strongly encourage you to research federal loan repayment programs, as well as loan forgiveness programs. As of Dec. 21, 2012, the Pay as you Earn Plan became available for eligible borrowers. The Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan helps keep your monthly student loan payments affordable, and usually has the lowest monthly payment amount of the repayment plans that are based on your income. If you need to make lower monthly payments, this plan may be for you. For instance, the Income-Based Repayment Plan for the Direct Loan and FFEL Programs helps in lowering your monthly loan payments to a manageable level. For more details, go to IBR information sheet (PDF: 2 pages). IBR is particularly beneficial when combined with the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which allows students to have their loan debt forgiven after completing 10 years of qualifying employment in the public service sector while simultaneously making 120 on-time loan repayments. For more information, go to the PSLF fact sheet (PDF: 2 pages).The Department of Education also has two helpful resources: a brochure, “Your Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt” (PDF: 56 pages); and a Web site full of useful information about the repayment of student loans.

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What are the requirements of the dual degree programs?

In addition to coursework and internship requirements, each participating institution requires that you maintain residency at the institution for a particular period; CSSW requires a residency minimum of three full-time terms (not including Summer, unless in the 16-Month Program). Dual degree requirements vary by program. Specific program plans that outline Social Work requirements are Dual Degree Study Plans. The typical dual degree program is a total of 90 points: a minimum of 45-48 points with the School of Social Work (27-30 points in course work and 18 points in Practicum Learning) and 42-45 (or more) with the dual degree school. There is variation across the programs.

Additional information about the respective dual degree programs can be found on pages 26-31 in the Student Handbook.

To complete the Social Work component of the curriculum, dual degree students should do the following:

  • Officially register through CSSW for a minimum of three full-time terms, not including the Summer session (unless in the 16-Month Program);
  • Complete all background and foundation practice courses;
  • Complete all practice courses in the chosen method area;
  • Complete the program’s Practicum Learning requirements;
  • Notify the respective schools’ coordinators, advisors and financial aid office of the coming year’s course plan each year;
  • File the appropriate registration and financial aid documents with the respective participating schools each term or year, as required.

Can I pursue a minor even if I am already doing a dual degree?

No. Dual degree students are not eligible to enroll in minor programs.

How long does it take to complete a dual degree program?

Most of our dual degree programs are completed in three years: MSW/MPA, MSW/MIA, MSW/MBA, MSW/MPH and MSW/MS-Urban Planning. Programs with JTS, UTS, Columbia Law School and Bank Street are completed in four years. (In some cases, students who have their teaching certification prior to starting the MSW/M.Ed. program are able to complete their degrees in three and a half years.)

How do I enroll for classes at Social Work if I’m in residence at my partner school?

Each term, the CSSW Office of Student Services will email you a Dual Degree Enrollment Declaration Form that you must complete to ensure the School is aware of your most current enrollment plans. If you note that you will be in residency at your partner school, and thus will not have access to the Social Work online registration system during the school’s designated registration periods, you also will be asked to complete a Dual Degree Cross-Registration Form.

Do I receive my diploma as I complete the requirements for each program?

No. The University will not confer either degree or issue either diploma until degree requirements are completed for both programs.

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Practicum Learning

Do practicum placement requirements differ for Dual Degree program students vs. other programs? For example, will I be assigned a placement that is tailored for my specific dual degree program?

No. As a dual degree student, you must still complete two years of practicum placement through the School of Social Work. You will assigned a first-year practicum placement (T6010) via the same process utilized for all students entering First Year Field Work. Your second-year placement process may vary depending on when your dual degree status is established, the length of your overall program, and your plan of study that has been discussed with and approved by the Office of Student Services.

If you are applying to a partner school during your first year at CSSW, you should still participate fully in the Second Year Placement Planning process (i.e., attending the annual Placement Planning Fair, availing yourself of seminars and information sessions, and completing and submitting the Practicum Learning Placement Form by the stated deadline). You are required to stipulate, on the Second Year Placement Selection Form, the name of the partner school to which you are applying, or have applied. When possible, an expected notification of status date should be indicated. You will not be placed until an admissions decision has been received from the partner school, and it has been determined that you will be entering Second Year practicum Work that upcoming Fall term. You are required to inform the Office of Practicum Learning of your status within two weeks of acceptance. All Dual Degree students also are expected to contact the Director of Advising, on intended start of their final year practicum placement in order to stay informed with the placement planning process.

The school does not have specific placement opportunities that are designated solely for each dual degree program, however you may work closely with the Assistant/Associate Directors of Practicum Learning to explore the various internship opportunities that may allow you to best combine your two programs of study, or allow you to gain valuable skills that complement your partner program.

Please carefully review the Practicum Learning Manual for general information about practicum placement requirements.

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Still have questions?

If your questions haven’t been answered, we urge you to enter them into our online form. Once your form is submitted, we will direct it to the appropriate department. Our goal is to answer any questions submitted by current students within 24 hours.