Ph.D. Curriculum

The curriculum is designed to accomplish three objectives:

  • To enable students to acquire a core of advanced knowledge of social work practice theory, social policy, research methods, and statistics,
  • To permit students to obtain specialized knowledge in areas of their own choosing, and
  • To facilitate the contribution of students to knowledge-building and education in social work and social welfare.

The program of study for the doctoral degree consists of 36 credit hours. It can be completed within three years although most students take longer because they wish (or need) to remain employed while completing their academic requirements and the dissertation. Students have eight years to complete the degree.

Students who do not have the M.S.W. degree will be required to successfully complete two courses in the School's M.S.W. program, SSW 620 Micro Practice in Social Work I and SSW 600 Social Welfare Policy and Services, as prerequisites to the two doctoral proseminars on social welfare policy and practice. Credit for these master's level courses will not count for the 36 required credits for the Ph.D. degree. Students can be excused from taking SSW 600 upon successful completion of a place out examination.

Required courses include four proseminars and two statistics courses. Students with the M.S.W. must also take two courses outside the School of Social Welfare, which along with electives and optional internships in teaching, practice, and research, enable students to develop further their own individualized interests. Other requirements include proficiency in a foreign language or in computer skills, a qualifying examination, a doctoral essay, a predissertation research requirement, and a dissertation. 

Our model programs can be viewed by clicking below:

Model Program I Full-Time Students with Assistantships
Model Program II Full-Time Students with Assistantships (Without MSW)
Model Program III Full-Time Students without Assistantships
Model Program IV Part-Time Study
Model Program V-Full-Time Study for Joint MSW/Doctoral Students (Clinical concentration)
Model Program VI- Full-Time Study for Joint MSW/Doctoral Students (Macro concentration)


Qualifying Examinations

The qualifying examinations covers subjects defined generally by the content of the required proseminars and are intended to measure the students' mastery of that content. Examination questions are drawn from a reading list compiled from the proseminar bibliographies. The examinations normally take place the week preceding the Fall semester and the week prior to the Spring semester. Students wishing to take an examination should notify the Ph.D. Program assistant at least one month in advance. Examinations are given in each of the following subjects: 1) Social Policy; 2) Research; and 3) Social Work Practice. Examinations are graded pass/fail. Students must pass all three examinations.


Predissertation Research Requirement

A predissertation research requirement for all Ph.D. students will be met by production of a paper that includes a research problem, study plan, analysis and a report of the findings. This paper must be approved as meeting the requirement by the student's advisor.


Doctoral Essay

The doctoral essay, a 20-25 page paper, is intended to serve three main purposes: 1) to further the student's potential for scholarly work, 2) to move students along in the development of a dissertation topic, and 3) to enable the student to complete a review of the literature relevant to his or her topic. The essay or portions of it can be incorporated into the student's proposal and dissertation.

Students should exhibit a mastery of knowledge in their selected area, and the paper should reflect a high level of integrative and conceptual ability. While publication is not a requirement, the essay should be of publishable quality. The essay should conclude with questions for further study. Ideally the questions should include those to be addressed in the dissertation.


Admission to Candidacy

Admission to candidacy requires that in addition to the general University requirements students have met the following requirements:

  • Satisfactory record of coursework;
  • Satisfactory completion of the language or computer proficiency;
  • Satisfactory completion of the predissertation research requirement;
  • Satisfactory completion of the qualifying examinations;
  • Satisfactory completion of the doctoral essay;

Once admitted to candidacy, students need to take only one dissertation credit to maintain continuous registration.


The dissertation advances the knowledge base of social work practice or the field of social welfare. Students are encouraged to begin to develop dissertation ideas and to do preliminary work on a potential dissertation topic during their first year of study.

The development of a formal dissertation proposal and the bulk of the student's dissertation research generally takes place at some point following successful completion of the qualifying examination.