Alabama PHD in Social Work | Social Work Doctorate Degrees

PhD in Social Work 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 social work doctoral 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 Program Information- Social Work Doctoral Programs

PhD in Social Work and DSW Programs

While the Master of Social Work (MSW) is generally considered the terminal degree, earning a doctorate in social work degree could help you advance your practice or prepare to teach at the postsecondary level.i Within social work doctoral programs, the two main degrees are the DSW and the PhD in Social Work. The Doctor of Social Work, abbreviated DSW, is a professional doctorate in social work. The PhD in Social Work is an academic degree. Each may therefore be better suited to different goals.

Potential Admission Requirements for Social Work PhD & 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 Might It Take to Get a Doctorate Degree in Social Work?

Typically a full time student earns a doctorate in 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.

FACT: When asked about their education level, 65% of BSW Program Coordinators responded they had earned a Doctorate degree[i]

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What's the Difference Between DSW Programs and PhD in Social Work Programs?

When it comes down to choosing Social Work Doctoral Programs, social workers may have to fine tune their career intentions to choose between the DSW programs and PhD Social Work 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 Doctor of Social Work Programs?

DSW Programs

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 in Social Work Programs

The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD in Social Work 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 subjects like:

  • 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

Social work doctoral programs each design their curriculum differently. Contact schools directly for more on available courses.

PhD Social Work 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 who now wants to pursue their own academic vision.

Are PhD & DSW Programs Available Online?

Online DSW programs may be available for more experienced practitioners. In general, graduate schools offer either a DSW degree on-campus, hybrid DSW programs, or online DSW social work programs. While online programs do diminish interpersonal interactions, it is assumed that you have built these skills with your master’s degree, so distance-learning may be a great option.

On the other hand, social work is a human-centered field, so studying on campus may have some distinct differences. GradSchools.com makes it easy for you to pinpoint the DSW and PhD Social work program that aligns with your professional and academic goals. Once you have chosen between the real and virtual classroom learning systems, you can generate listings in either the online or campus formats. Or, you can look for graduate schools by location; filter results by using the city, state or country tabs.

Find an Accredited DSW Degree or Social Work PhD Program

Social work doctoral 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; doctoral 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 doctoral 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. 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

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