PhD in Social Work Programs and Doctorate in Social Work Degrees
Social Work PhD programs and DSW programs are designed for current social workers and those with MSW degrees who wish take their knowlege and skills to the next level. Depending on the program, students may prepare for clinical work, research, teaching or to advance public policy.
Although doctoral social work programs do not lead to a different level of licensure for social workers, you may opt to earn your degree to potentially further your career or as part of continued professional development.i
PhD in Social Work and DSW Programs
While the Master of Social Work (MSW) is generally considered a terminal degree, earning a doctorate in social work degree could help you advance your practice or prepare to teach at the postsecondary level.iWithin social work doctoral programs, the two main degrees are the DSW and the PhD Social Work degree.
The Doctor of Social Work, abbreviated DSW, is a professional doctorate in social work. The Social Work PhD is an academic degree. Each may therefore be better suited to different goals.
Potential Admission Requirements for PhD Social Work & DSW Programs
While admission procedures vary between graduate schools for social work, prospective DSW and PhD social work candidates usually need the following.
- To have earned a MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited school
- Experience in the field, submit resume
- GRE scores
- Application statement (purpose)
- An aptitude for writing, conducting research, and analyzing complex findings
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Social Work PhD?
Typically a full time student earns a doctorate of social work degree in two to five years. This may require the completion of about 48 course credits. Other than that, you are likely to have to pass a comprehensive exam, as well as write and defend a dissertation, or complete a project for graduation.
However, program lengths and course credits vary between social work doctoral programs. Completion times also depend on whether you attend full time or part time.
When asked about their education level, 65% of BSW Program Coordinators responded they had earned a Doctorate degree.[i] Click to Tweet
What's the Difference Between Social Work Doctoral Programs and PhD Programs in Social Work?
Social workers may have to fine tune their career intentions to choose between social work doctoral programs. While the choice is between two degrees of similar stature, the DSW and the PhD in Social Work differ. So how does one decide between the two?
The Doctorate in Social Work or DSW is considered a practice doctorate degree. DSW programs may give you the opportunity to conduct practical clinical research and prepare to lead social service programs (e.g. Director of Social Work)ii. Most classes are concerned with the application of knowledge and the implications of research in the field.
PhD Social Work Programs
The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD in Social Work degree is considered more research-oriented and may emphasize educational practices. Graduates typically seek advanced careers in research or academia (e.g. Social Work Professor or Program Coordinator)iii. These programs may therefore be more theoretical in nature.
DSW and PhD Social Work Courses
Depending on whether you pursue a PhD or DSW degree, you may have some required coursework in some of the subjects listed below.
- Social methods
- Social change
- Leadership and advocacy
- Research practice and methodology
- Statistics and social sciences
- Theories of social work
- Social work data analysis
- Quantitative research in social work
- Qualitative social work research
- Social work pedagogy
- Counseling services
Doctorin Social work programs each design their curriculum differently. Contact schools directly for more on available courses.
Social Work PhD Concentrations
Typically, doctoral students choose a program concentration to focus their research. This could be issue-related (drug addiction, mental health, cancer patients) or population-related (child welfare, seniors, veterans). Alternatively, a Social Work PhD student might choose a pertinent issue in the larger context of advocacy, prevention and causes of child abuse, or policy and implementation.
There are many options at this level of education which might be well-suited for the social worker who has mastered the basics of clinical or advanced generalist practice, is licensed and now wants to pursue their own academic vision. However not all doctorate in social work programs offer every concentration. Therefore be sure you check available options at the schools that interest you.
Are There PhD & DSW Programs Online?
While most social work programs require time on campus, online DSW programs may be available for more experienced practitioners. While online programs do diminish interpersonal interactions, it is assumed that you have built these skills with your master’s degree. Online PhD social work programs also have the advantage of being flexible and convenient, which could make them an excellent choice for working students.
On the other hand, social work is a human-centered field, so earning a PhD in Social Work on-campus may have some distinct differences. You could gain access to valuable campus resources, gain practical experience at local partner programs or work with professors on their research projects.
Can't decide? Some social work schools offer a hybrid of both. Hybrid DSW programs may combine campus and online courses throughout the year. Others may rely primarily on online coursework but require short campus residencies.
Every school designs their program differently, so be sure to contact Doctorate in Social Work programs directly to learn more.
Find Accredited DSW Degree or Social Work PhD Programs
Doctor in Social Work programs, unlike the MSW programs, are not subject to programmatic accreditation. However, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) considers faculty qualifications when evaluating programs for accreditation – having faculty with doctoral degrees is a plus.
What is the Council on Social Work Education?
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits BSW and MSW programs. Doctorate in social work programs have other standards applied. Since regulations vary between states, your state board may state that a doctoral program must be in a school that has an accredited master's program -- or that the university itself have regional accreditation.
In most cases, candidates do earn a master's en route to a Doctor in Social Work degree, so this may not be an issue for you.
Choose a DSW or PhD in Social Work Degree
For graduate students and current social workers who aspire to work in administration, academia or research, a Social Work PhD or DSW program may be a great way to potentially advance a career.
Whether you are interested in a clinical or leadership role, browse our sponsored program listings. Use our on-page navigation to tailor your list or follow the links to contact prospective graduate schools.
Then follow the links to read descriptions adn contact PhD Social Work programs directly. Take the next step today!
sources: [i] bls.gov/OOH/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-4 | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1022.00 |[iii] onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1113.00
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
Loyola University Chicago
The School of Social Work has a long tradition of educating outstanding professionals for the direct practice of social work.
- Northampton, MANorthampton, MA
For 90 years, the Smith College School for Social Work has provided graduate social work education to men and women around the world. Our program is internationally recognized for its dedication to and specialization in cli...
- Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Japan Women's University
- Tempe, AZTempe, AZ
Arizona State University
The School of Social Work promotes cultural, economic, and political justice in the Southwest through the education of social work practitioners.
- Uxbridge, United KingdomUxbridge, United Kingdom
- Chestnut Hill, MAChestnut Hill, MA
Boston College Graduate School of Social Work offers three professional degrees: Masters of Social Work, Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work, Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare, and several dual degrees. Boston College’s Masters of Social W...
- Dekalb, ILDekalb, IL
Northern Illinois University
- Taegu, KoreaTaegu, Korea
Kyungpook National University
- Baltimore, MDBaltimore, MD
Morgan State University
The goal of graduate program in social work is to prepare advanced social work practitioners at the Master's level and to develop and transmit new knowledge for the profession at the Doctoral level. The program is directed at the rigorous practice an...
- Williams Bay, WIWilliams Bay, WI
The mission of the School of Social Work is to prepare competent and committed human service practitioners who will promote the development and enhancement of resilient communities, social groups, families and individuals. The MSW program embraces a...
- Williams Bay, WI
- East Lansing, MIEast Lansing, MI
Michigan State University
The Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree prepares graduates for advanced social work practice. Students applying for admission to this program should be prepared for a rigorous schedule of course work combined with concurrent practicum experiences i...
- East Lansing, MI
- Columbia, ALColumbia, AL
University of Missouri - Columbia
The MU graduate program provides students both professional education and leadership in social work practice, research and community services. The strong academic setting upholds the essential values and ethics of the social work profession to enhance s...
- Denver, CODenver, CO
University of Denver
The doctoral program at the Graduate School of Social Work trains master's-level human service professionals to become social work researchers, educators and policy experts.
- Brighton, United KingdomBrighton, United Kingdom
University of Sussex
- Houston, TXHouston, TX
University of Houston
Social Work - Doctorate
The University of Houston offers both a Master in Social Work (M.S.W.) and a Ph.D. in social work. Also available are concurrent degree options with which full-time students may complete their M.S.W. requirements while pursuing a Ph.D. in social work, a...
- Canterbury, United KingdomCanterbury, United Kingdom
University of Kent
The School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) has a long and distinguished history, and is one of the largest and most successful social science research communities in Europe. It has received top ratings in Research Assessment...
- Portland, ORPortland, OR
Portland State University
PSU's Ph.D. program integrates practice, policy and research. We offer individualized study of a social problem. Students apply learning through teaching and research practica. Our program prepares graduates for research; teaching; and program developme...
- Portland, OR
- Salt Lake City, UTSalt Lake City, UT
University of Utah
- Arlington, TXArlington, TX
University of Texas at Arlington
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the School of Social Work's Masters and Ph.D program at The University of Texas at Arlington. Our faculty are nationally and internationally recognized as leading scholars and teachers in social work education and res...
- New Orleans, LANew Orleans, LA
- Saint Paul, MNSaint Paul, MN
University of Minnesota
The MSW program prepares professionals to enter advanced social work practice. The curriculum emphasizes social justice and the value of human diversity and the empowerment of oppressed people.
- Twin Cities, MN
- Chiba, JapanChiba, Japan
- Philadelphia, PAPhiladelphia, PA
University of Pennsylvania
Study social work at one of the country's leading Ivy League Universities.