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Master's Program help appreciated

Hello everyone! I'm new here and am hoping to get some answers. I am enrolled at SNHU to get my bachelor's in human services concentration in substance abuse and a minor in organizational leadership. I plan on getting a master's after I'm done with my bachelor's. I started my educational journey with the intention of becoming a substance abuse counselor and have since changed my mind. I want to be involved in policy writing and work with the community. I've been researching jobs related to this and have come up with a policy analyst. I planned on getting my master's in social work but am wondering if public admin would be better. I don't only want to work in policy, I want to work with people too. Any advice is welcome and appreciated.

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Daniel’s Answer

Hi,
If you are are looking into a master's program that will offer you more diversity in terms of roles and more importantly work and manage people, i will advice you might want to apply into a Public Administration or Human Resource program
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Taylor’s Answer

Your instincts are spot on. When I went to grad school, I was just enrolled in School of Social Work - administration track. Like you, I wanted to be in policy, but work on social issues. For me, it was disability. Half-way through my curriculum, I felt like all I was learning was how to manage and supervise therapists. Luckily, my grad school (UT - Austin) offered a dual degree program with social work and public policy. So I amended my curriculum to include policy.

Upon graduating, I received a job offer to join the policy team at the largest disability nonprofit organization in the country. I still work there.

I don't know if I would have this position had i not added policy to my grad school plan. I can't recommend the dual degree program enough: https://socialwork.utexas.edu/academics/mssw/dual-degrees/

Hope that helps!
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Ann’s Answer

Hi Nichole - the answer is it depends. You will get a far more in depth education and experience with policy writing in a Master's of Public Administration than you will with a Master's in Social Work. On the flip side, you will get far more education on working in the community and resources to help people in a Master's in Social Work than a Master's in Public Administration. With that said, there are plenty of small non-profits with limited resources where people wear multiple hats and will often be out in the community and writing policy. It's just a matter of finding the right fit for the education and experience you gain.

I would recommend starting with determining which side of policy you are interested in. Are you interested in working for a non-profit or lobbyist where you are an activist trying to get government to adopt certain policies, or are you interested in working in the office of a politician and be on the end of creating policies on behalf of the government?

From that, choose the degree that most aligns with the type of role you want and seek internships and other opportunities that will give you experience in that area.

I hope that helps. I was trying to give you actionable items without being to wordy. If you have additional questions feel free to leave a follow-up comment.

Good luck!
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hi Nichole!

Deciding on the right master's program can be a crucial step in shaping your career path and achieving your professional goals. In your case, transitioning from a focus on substance abuse counseling to policy writing and community work, it is important to carefully consider which field of study aligns best with your aspirations. While both social work and public administration can offer valuable skills and knowledge for working in policy-related roles, there are some key differences to consider.

Social work is a field that focuses on helping individuals, families, and communities enhance their well-being. It encompasses various areas such as clinical social work, community organizing, advocacy, and policy development. A master's degree in social work (MSW) equips students with a comprehensive understanding of social issues, human behavior, research methods, and intervention strategies. Social workers often work directly with individuals or groups affected by social problems, providing support, counseling, and connecting them with resources.

On the other hand, public administration is a field that primarily focuses on managing public organizations and implementing policies at the governmental level. It involves developing and implementing policies, analyzing data, budgeting, strategic planning, and overseeing public programs. A master's degree in public administration (MPA) provides students with a solid foundation in public policy analysis, organizational management, leadership skills, and public finance. Public administrators typically work in government agencies or nonprofit organizations where they play a crucial role in shaping policies and programs that address societal needs.

To determine which field would be better suited for your career goals as a policy analyst working with the community, it is essential to consider the specific skills and knowledge each program offers. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Policy Analysis Focus: If your primary interest lies in policy analysis and development, a master's degree in public administration may be more suitable. Public administration programs often offer courses specifically focused on policy analysis techniques, evaluation methods, and implementation strategies. These courses can provide you with the necessary skills to assess policy effectiveness, conduct research, and make evidence-based recommendations.

2. Community Engagement: If you are particularly interested in community work and engaging with diverse populations, a master's degree in social work might be a better fit. Social work programs emphasize community organizing, advocacy, and working directly with individuals and communities. These programs often provide opportunities for field placements or internships where you can gain practical experience in community-based settings.

3. Professional Licensing: Another factor to consider is whether you plan to pursue professional licensing or certification. Social work typically requires licensure, which varies by state and often requires a master's degree from an accredited program. Public administration, on the other hand, does not typically have licensure requirements. If licensure is important to you, it may be worth considering a master's in social work.

Ultimately, the decision between pursuing a master's in social work or public administration depends on your specific career goals and interests. It can be helpful to reach out to professionals working in the fields you are considering and seek their advice or insights. Additionally, researching the curriculum and course offerings of different programs can provide valuable information about the skills and knowledge you will gain.

Top 3 Authoritative Reference Publications/Domain Names:

1. National Association of Social Workers (NASW) - www.socialworkers.org
2. Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) - www.naspaa.org
3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - www.bls.gov

God Bless!
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