MSW/Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (MSW/VMD)

The Master of Social Work/Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (MSW/VMD) program provides a unique opportunity for students to gain meaningful understanding of both human and animal behavior.

Veterinarians are uniquely positioned health care practitioners due to their close interactions with both animal patients and human clients. Social work training and competence assist veterinarians in conversations that console and inform clients, as well as provide practitioners with perspective and insights into the strains associated with veterinary medicine and strategies for navigating and managing these challenges. Practitioners who complete an MSW/VMD dual degree gain specialized knowledge and skills that can inform therapeutic programs, professional trainings, and public policies.

Career Opportunities for MSW/VMD Graduates

Professional career opportunities include but are not limited to positions in:

  • Governmental organizations where social policies that address human and animal welfare are reviewed and developed;
  • Healthcare organizations and institutions where the human animal bond is a critical element in the welfare of patients (veterinary schools, medical schools, hospices, emergency housing settings);
  • Organizations that coordinate disaster relief efforts;
  • Professional and academic organizations that directly serve the veterinary profession, which suffers from one of the highest suicide rates in the health professions.

About the Program

The MSW/VMD dual degree program is offered in conjunction with Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Students earn both degrees in five and a half years. Through cross-counted electives and field placements that also fulfill veterinary school clinical electives, students will be uniquely prepared to understand the symbiotic and parallel relationships between humans and animals.

A total of up to eight courses are cross-counted between the two degrees and the advanced year of MSW field placement will fulfill at least two clinical elective requirements for the VMD. Students in the first two academic years of the dual degree enroll as Penn Vet students. Four of their core experiences can fulfill MSW requirements and electives. Students will also have the option of completing one MSW requirement over the summer.

Students in the third and fourth academic years of the dual degree program enroll in SP2 and fulfill their two years of field education requirements.

MSW/VMD students will enter clinics in the summer after their second year and continue their clinical training in the summer between their third and fourth years.

Students will return full time to Penn Vet in the fifth year, directly after completing their MSW Program. They will complete their clinical training in the summer after their fifth year, officially graduating in December.

Course Grid

1 (Penn Vet)Vet first-year curriculum Vet first-year curriculumVet related experiences
SWRK 603 (MSW1)
2 (Penn Vet)Vet 2nd second-year curriculum, including:
• VETX: (MSW2: could fulfill MSW Elective #1)
• VETX: (MSW3: policy course that could fulfill an MSW Policy Option)
Vet second-year curriculum, including:
• VETX: Biostats (MSW4: could fulfill an MSW Research Option)
• VETX: (MSW5: could fulfill MSW Elective #2)
Vet clinical rotations
3 (SP2)MSW 1st first-year curriculum:
• SWRK 601 (MSW6)
• SWRK 602 (MSW7)
• SWRK 603 (if needed)
• SWRK 604 + Field Placement (MSW8)
MSW 1st year curriculum:
• SWRK 614 + Field Placement (MSW9)
• SWRK 615 (MSW10)
• SWRK 7xx: Elective #3 (MSW11)
• SWRK 7xx: Elective #4 (MSW12)
Vet clinical rotations
4 (SP2)MSW 2nd second-year curriculum:
• SWRK 704/8 + Field Placement at animal-focused or health care-focused site (MSW13)
• SWRK 7xx: Elective #5 (MSW14, could fulfill a VET elective)
MSW 2nd second-year curriculum:
• SWRK 714/8 + Field Placement at animal-focused or health care-focused site (MSW15)
• SWRK 713 (MSW 16)
Vet clinical rotations
5 (Penn Vet)Vet clinical rotations and electivesVet clinical rotations and electivesVet clinical rotations and electives, if necessary

Field Placement

MSW/VMD dual-degree students will complete their advanced year field placement at an agency whose scope includes social work with animals or a human health care institution. Examples of animal-related field placements include:

  • Gateway Horseworks;
  • Urban Therapy Goats;
  • Penn Vet New Bolton Center.

This field placement will fulfill at least two Vet clinical elective rotations.


Separate applications and acceptances are required for both the MSW and VMD degrees. Students interested in the dual degree option are required to articulate their interests and career aspirations in a separate essay and interview for each program.

Veterinary students may apply to the MSW program prior to entering Penn Vet or during the fall of their first or second years. Ideal applicants will have a strong understanding of the social work profession, a stellar academic record, and a well-articulated intention of integrating social work with their professional careers.


Prospective MSW students may contact the SP2 Admissions Office at

Prospective VMD students may contact the Vet Admissions Office at 215-898-5434 or

SP2 News

Chad Lassiter

Alumni Stories

Chad Dion Lassiter, SP2 Alum, Receives 2021 Social Worker of the Year Award

On October 26th, the National Association of Social Workers, Pennsylvania Chapter, presented Chad Dion Lassiter, Penn’s School of Social Policy...

Ezekiel Dixon-Roman sits at a table with a laptop and speaks to an audience

Faculty & Research

Ezekiel Dixon-Román on the Facebook whistleblower

In a Senate hearing earlier this month, former Facebook project manager Frances Haugen testified against the tech giant, saying that...

cover page containing title of report

Faculty & Research

New Research Underscores Role Museums, Libraries Play to Create Healthier, More Equitable America

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, in partnership with Reinvestment Fund, have released a new study, Understanding the Social Wellbeing...

U.S./Mexico border with wall in foreground and mountains behind

Faculty & Research

The state of U.S. immigration

Immigration is once again front and center in the national debate. Approximately 65,000 Afghans have been evacuated to the United States after...

Discover More