Society & Culture

UGA and Emory University offer new dual master’s degree in social work and divinity

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia School of Social Work and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University have partnered to offer a dual master’s degree in social work and divinity. It is the first dual degree to be offered between the two universities.

The innovative, cross-disciplinary program will develop professionals uniquely equipped to deal with issues related to aging, addiction and other stressors, according to Maurice Daniels, dean and professor in the UGA School of Social Work.

“Students will learn to balance pastoral skills such as spiritual counseling with social work practices such as family therapy and community assessment, strengthening their endeavors with individual clients as well as in the public policy arena,” he said.

The program, which requires coursework in grief and loss management, will also address a shortage of professionals in Georgia who can combine faith-based and clinical training to help survivors of various types of loss.

“This degree requires training in grief counseling and will help to address the debilitating impact of grief, which is both a faith issue and a health issue,” said Harold Briggs, associate dean of the School of Social Work. According Briggs, the number of people experiencing stress related to loss has escalated in recent years, but clergy and licensed clinical social workers-the professionals most often sought for help-often lack professional training to assist with emotional and practical strategies for coping. The program, he believes, will help mitigate unhealthy grieving practices and reduce soaring health-related costs.

“The combined degree program will provide citizens of Georgia access to a cadre of professional experts who understand both the health impairment issues caused by grief and the faith-based needs of clients,” said Briggs.

Ian McFarland, Stokes Professor of Theology and associate dean of Candler School of Theology, agrees. “The cross-training at UGA and Emory will create a new, more effective brand of caregiver, one trained to help people draw on both community- and congregationally-based resources in working through grief and other sources of stress,” he said.

The Candler-UGA program is the first of its kind, according to McFarland. Currently there are four other dual master’s degree programs in social work and divinity in the Southeast that are recognized by the Council for Social Work Education, which accredits social work programs, but none that requires coursework in grief and loss.

The dual degree program takes four years to complete, one year less than if students pursued each degree separately. Students must be accepted into both programs and pay the tuition required at each institution. The course of study begins and ends at Emory. Students who have completed their first year of the Master of Divinity degree program at Candler and were accepted by Feb. 16 to the Master of Social Work degree program at UGA may begin enrolling in the School of Social Work this fall. Students who applied to the social work master’s degree program after Feb, 16 will be admitted for fall semester on a space-available basis until June 30. Students must complete requirements for the social work master’s degree in four consecutive semesters at UGA.

“Graduates of this program will be better prepared to serve clients during some of their most challenging times,” said Pamela Whitten, UGA senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Whether through this innovative dual degree program, infectious disease research or any number of other partnerships underway, collaborations between the University of Georgia and Emory enhance the health and prosperity of our state and nation.”

For more information, visit the UGA School of Social Work website at or the Candler School of Theology website at