Social Welfare Program Leading to the Doctor of Philosophy

The program of doctoral studies prepares students primarily for careers in teaching and research. It educates students in the theory and practice of social welfare. Graduates of the program gain advanced skills in research methods and the ability to analyze social policy and develop practice theory. The program requires 36 credits of study beyond a master's degree. The doctoral program offers students the opportunity to study with an outstanding faculty who are ranked as one of the most productive faculties in social work in the U.S.

Requirements for Admission

In addition to meeting the general University requirements students should have a master's degree from either a school of social work or a closely related discipline or profession. At least two year of professional experience is advisable but not required.

Program of Study and Research (36 credits minimum beyond a master's degree)

All doctoral students are required to enroll in four doctoral proseminars:
Ssw 823 Social Welfare Practice Theory (3)
Ssw 826 Social Welfare Policy (3)
Ssw 862 Social Welfare Research (3)
Ssw 863 Applications of Advanced Methods in Social Welfare Research (3)

A two-term sequence of advanced statistics courses is required (6-8 credits)

One advanced research course (a third research course) approved by the student’s advisor. This third research course must be on a specific research topic or methodology that is not covered or not covered in depth in Ssw 862, Social Welfare Research, and Ssw 863, Applications of Advanced Methods in Social Welfare Research.

One additional course in data analysis beyond the two-semester statistics requirement which may be met by taking an advanced data analysis course offered by other departments or the School of Social Welfare. This third data analysis course must be in advanced data analysis covering topics not covered in the required statistics course sequence or covering those topics in greater depth. Examples of appropriate courses include those on regression, structural equation modeling, and non-parametric statistics as well as those addressing data analysis techniques for qualitative methods such as narrative analysis, ethnography, case studies, and focus groups. This course must be approved by the student’s advisor.

Additional credits as advised to total 36 credits.


A dissertation based on independent research is required. The dissertation should constitute a significant piece of work which makes a contribution to the theory or practice of social welfare.


The qualifying examination covers subjects defined generally by the content of the required proseminars and is intended to measure the students' mastery of this content. Examination questions are drawn from a reading list compiled from the proseminar bibliographies.

The examination consists of three parts: 1) Social Policy, 2) Research, and 3) Social Work Practice. There are two questions for each part and each part is scored separately. Students must pass each part in order to pass the examination. If students fail, they need to retake only the part(s) failed.

Language or Computer Proficiency

Each student is required to show research proficiency in one of two ways. The first option a student may choose is to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. This may be demonstrated by successfully completing one of the University's standardized language proficiency examinations. The second option for fulfilling this requirement is to demonstrate proficiency in the use of a widely distributed and utilized social science statistical software package; e.g., SPSS or BMDP, as measured by satisfactorily completing an approved computer course or passing a performance or oral examination on computer skills.

Doctoral Essay

A doctoral essay that exhibits mastery of knowledge in a student's selected substantive area is required. The essay serves to further the student's potential for scholarly work and enables the student to complete a review of the literature relevant to his or her substantive area.

Predissertation Research Requirement

A predissertation research requirement demonstrating a set of research competencies is required. It is highly desirable for the student to use the requirements in a way that will advance their dissertaion research.

Admission to Candidacy

A student is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy upon the following:

1. Satisfactory record in course and seminar study;
2. Satisfactory completion of the research tool and predissertation research requirement;
3. Satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination;
4. Satisfactory completion of a doctoral essay.