Social Work

The School of Social Work (SSW) and the School of Law offer a cooperative educational program through which students may earn both the Master of Social Work (MSW), the primary professional degree in social work, and the Juris Doctor (JD) degree, the first professional degree in law. The MSW-JD program will enable students with interests in a wide range of areas where law and social work converge - such as child welfare, aging, health, mental health, juvenile and criminal justice, family issues, and housing - to engage in a highly integrative educational experience that will include academic courses, field placements, and research opportunities at the intersection of both professions. The joint degree program allows one to earn both degrees in four years rather than five.

Increasingly, social work professionals and attorneys are working together to promote the well-being of their clients. These areas of convergence exist in practice with individuals, families, and groups as well as with communities and organizations. The intersection of legal and social work concerns is also evident at the policy level, and research from both professional disciplines has been used to inform these activities. It is not uncommon for practitioners from both fields to work in concert to draft, implement, and/or advocate for legislation at the local, state, and federal levels.

The MSW-JD program is one among several programs that the Schools of Social Work and Law have jointly established throughout their long and rich history of collaboration. 

Faculty Advisors

University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work
Professor Jeffrey Shook, MSW, JD, PhD
2117 Cathedral of Learning
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 648-9365

Curriculum & Requirements

Students enrolled in the joint degree program will receive integrated training in social work and law over a four year period. The combined credit-hour requirements for the MSW and JD degrees obtained separately is 148 credits (60 for the MSW, usually completed in four full-time semesters, and 88 for the JD, usually completed in six full-time semesters). In the joint degree program, the two degrees are awarded for a combined total of 127 credits (52 in Social Work and 75 in Law). This reduction in credit-hour requirements is achieved through the acceptance of up to 6 credit hours of JD course work receiving a grade of C or higher toward the MSW degree and the acceptance of up to 13 credit hours of MSW work receiving a grade of B or higher toward the JD degree. All didactic foundation SW courses must be completed in a single academic year; likewise, all first-year JD courses must be completed in a single academic year. Neither degree may be granted prior to the fulfillment of all requirements for the joint degree program.

For Students Interested in Practicing in New York

Please be advised that students who wish to be admitted to practice in New York should not enroll in a joint degree program that entitles the student to more than 12 credits of advance standing at the Law School (i.e., the JD/MSW with the School of Social Work). See New York Rules of Court § 520(c)(5).

Sample Curriculum

(This sample curriculum is subject to change. Requirements for individual students may vary based upon their differing academic situations.)

    Courses Credits/Term and Credits/Total
Year 1 Fall

Law First Year

  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law
  • Legal Analysis & Writing
  • Legislation and Regulation
  • Torts
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)
  • Pitt Law Academy (0 cr.)

Law: 16/16

SW: 0/0


Law First Year

  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Lawyering
  • Legal Analysis & Writing
  • Property
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)
  • Pitt Law Academy (0 cr.)

Law: 17/33

SW: 0/0

Year 2 Fall
  • SW - Didactic Foundation Courses
  • SW - Field Placement
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)

Law: 0/32

SW: 18/0

  • SW - Research
  • SW - 2nd level HBSE
  • SW - 1st Requirement Skill
  • SW - Field Placement
  • Law - 3 credits
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)

Law: 3/32

SW: 12/30

Year 3 Fall
  • SW - 2nd Skill
  • SW - 2nd level Policy
  • SW - 3rd Skill
  • Law - 6 credits ***
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)

Law: 6/41

SW: 9/36

  • Law - 15 credits
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)

Law: 15/56

SW: 0/36

Year 4 Fall
  • SW - 2nd level Research
  • Law externship/SW Field
  • Placement ** (6 credits)
  • Law - 6 credits ***
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)

Law: 10/66

SW: 5/41

  • Law - 9 credits ***
  • Law externship/SW Field Placement
  • ** (6 credits)
  • Integrative Seminar (0 cr.)

Law: 10/76

SW: 5/4

** Students will have a concentration field placement (12 credits) during their final year in the program. Five credits will be counted for both the law externship and social work field placement and seven credits will be counted solely for the social work field placement.

*** Law upper-level requirements: ethics course, professional skills course (will substitute for 4th social work concentration skills course), writing requirement; 2 courses from menu of required electives.

A full listing of the requirements for graduation from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law can be found on the Graduation Requirements page.

Integrative seminar

All students must complete an Integrative Seminar, to be jointly presented by the School of Social Work and Law School, during each Fall and Spring semester of their enrollment in the MSW-JD program. The integrative seminar will meet twice each Fall and Spring semester. The goal of the seminar will be to allow students the space to discuss issues related to integration and to listen to and have a dialogue with outside speakers who have integrated law and social work in their practice, research, and/or teaching.

Required electives in the Law School

Students must complete at least 2 courses from the Law School menu of MSW-JD "required electives." The following sample menu illustrates the types of courses that might satisfy this requirement:

  • Adoption Law Seminar
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Bioethics and Law
  • Comparative Minority Groups Seminar
  • Constitutional Law and 21st Century Racial Realism Seminar
  • Conflict and Multicultural America Seminar
  • Education Law
  • Elderly and the Law
  • Elderly and the Law Seminar
  • Family Law
  • Family Law Seminar
  • Gender and the Law
  • Health Law and Policy
  • History of American Law
  • Human Rights
  • Jurisprudence
  • Law of Disability Discrimination
  • Legislation
  • Mental Health Law
  • Persuasive Narrative
  • Race, Religion and Law Seminar
  • Race, Racism and American Law Seminar
  • Religious Beliefs and Legal Frameworks Seminar
  • Reproduction, Sexuality and the Law Seminar
  • U.S. Races and the Justice System

Application Instructions

Students interested in the MSW-JD program must apply to and be admitted to each degree program separately and must also complete and submit a joint degree program application. Ideally, applicants should apply to each program simultaneously. However, the SSW will accept applications from JD students during the first year of law school and full-time MSW students who are in the process of completing first year courses may apply to the Law School. Please note that admission to each of the Schools does not insure admission to the Joint Degree program.

Tuition & Financial Aid

Tuition rates for full-time students vary between the Schools of Social Work and Law. Students in the joint degree program will pay the tuition rate of whichever school they are enrolled in for the majority of credits in a particular term; their school identification in a particular term will be based on the same rule. In practical terms, students will register as full-time law students for five terms and as full-time social work students for three terms.

For any semester, students should apply for financial aid to the School in which they are paying tuition during that semester.