Social Work PhD Programs
Social work PhD programs may be for you if you can answer these questions: Are you interested in working in a field that’s constantly growing and in-demand? Do you want a career where you can help others live better lives and feel better about their lives? You may find that working as a social worker is the perfect fit. Social workers work in a variety of settings, including schools, human services and child welfare agencies, mental health clinics, hospitals, and private practices, among others.
Social workers are expected to see employment growth of 12 percent during the 2020-2030 decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although the bare educational requirement to work as a social worker is a bachelor’s degree, candidates interested in working as clinical social workers or in research must have a doctoral degree. Some may choose a social work Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, while others may pursue a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW).
What is a Social Work Ph.D.?
The Ph.D. in Social work is one of two doctoral degrees an individual can earn in social work. This is the ideal degree for someone who enjoys research and education. Graduates of this degree can have careers where they can lead their communities in areas of social work, publish scientific journals, and present research findings at conferences.
A very popular career choice for holders of this degree is teaching others about social work. It’s also a degree that allows candidates to specialize in a specific area of social work. However, it’s not the degree chosen for individuals who want to work in a clinical setting.
The social work Ph.D. generally takes from three to five years to complete. This can vary depending on if the student is attending college full-time or part-time. The time can also vary if the student is completing the social work degree program online. Many universities offer this program through distance learning.
Many students also choose to take as many courses online as possible because this allows them to continue to work while they’re earning the degree online. PhD in Social Work programs are very competitive so interested individuals are encouraged to apply as early as possible. To enroll in a social work Ph.D., the individual must have a master’s degree in social work.
The applicant must also meet other requirements for admission. They’re typically required to submit the following.
- GRE scores
- Personal statements
- Letters of recommendation
- Research-based projects or writing samples demonstrating knowledge of the social work field
Students in the Ph.D. in Social Work program will complete courses like:
- Survey of Research Methods in Social and Behavioral Science
- Integrating Public Policy Issues and Outcomes in Social Work Research
- Quantitative Scientific Methods
- Perspective on Social Welfare
- Doctoral Teaching Practicum
- Research Methods
- Advanced Research Methods
At the end of the program, students are required to complete a dissertation and pass an examination. They may also be required to complete fieldwork.
Why Get a Social Work PhD?
There are many reasons why an individual might want to get a PhD in social work with the main reason being the numerous career opportunities it offers. Completing social work PhD programs offers many career opportunities for graduates mostly because social workers can find many areas in which to specialize, such as:
- Behavioral Health
- Child Welfare
- Clinical Social Work
- Ethnicity & Race
- School Social Work
The Ph.D. degree often leads to faculty positions at colleges and universities. In addition to being able to specialize in their chosen area of study, the graduate may find him or herself at the front line of research of real-world issues affecting not just their communities but also worldwide. They can learn about not just people but the society as a whole.
There are just so many reasons to earn a PhD in Social Work, including career opportunities, good wage potential, and both challenging and rewarding work. Social work Ph.D. holders often find themselves working as consultants or in leadership positions where they can have a role in problem-solving.
List of 15 Social Work PhD Programs in the U.S.
Social work PhD programs can be found both on-campus and online. Here are 15 Social work PhD programs in the U.S.
- Adelphi University, located in Garden City, NY, offers a PhD in Social Work degree through its School of Social Work. The program is available to full- and part-time students. Full-time students can complete the coursework for this program in two years. After two years, they have up to ten years to complete and successfully defend their dissertation.
- Arizona State University, located in Phoenix, AZ, offers a PhD in Social Work degree that takes about two years to complete after the master’s degree. Students are required to complete about 60 credits with 24 of those credits coming from the research and completion of the dissertation.
- The University of Michigan, located in Ann Arbor, MI, offers a PhD in Social Work degree through its School of Social Work. U of M offers not just the PhD in Social Work but also a joint program that allows the student to earn a social work degree and a PhD in one of four possible social science fields. This is a full-time program.
- The University of Chicago, located in Chicago, IL, has a PhD in Social Work degree through its Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice. This program takes three to five years to complete and requires completion of a dissertation in the first two years as well as passing a written examination in the final two years of the program.
- Washington University, located in St. Louis, MO, offers the PhD in Social Work degree through its Brown School. The four-year program requires the completion of 72 credits, 21 of which can be transferred from the master’s degree program. The last two years of the program are dedicated to the completion of the dissertation.
- The University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA offers a PhD in Social Work at its School of Social Work. This three-year program has students completing required elective and core courses the first two years, dissertation in the third year, and the comprehensive examination at the very end of the program.
- Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH offers a Ph.D. in Social Welfare through its School of Applied Social Sciences. The program is offered both full- and part-time. Full-time students can complete this program in two years.
- The University of Washington in Seattle, WA offers a Ph.D. in Social Work degree through its School of Social Work. This four-year 90-credit program requires students to complete coursework in the first three years, allowing the final year to complete the dissertation and final exam.
- Boston College in Boston, MA offers a PhD in Social Work degree at its School of Social Work. This is a full-time program that takes four years to complete. Students learn research methods the first two years and perform research the final two years.
- The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC has a PhD in Social Work degree program through its School of Social Work. This program requires the completion of 45 credits at U of NC as well as completion of a dissertation, two practicums, and several courses taken outside of the University of North Carolina.
- The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia offers a PhD in Social Welfare program at its PENN Social Policy and Practice. Students spend the first two years of this four-year program completing required courses and only do the dissertation and final exam when the teacher feels their ready.
- The University of California in Los Angeles, CA offers a PhD in Social Welfare at its Luskin School of Public Affairs. This program takes three to five years to complete. Students complete coursework the first two years while completing research assistantships and fellowships the final two years.
- The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA offers a PhD in Social Work through its School of Social Work. This highly disciplinary program requires students to complete fellowships and a lot of research.
- New York University in New York City offers a PhD in Social Work through its Silver School of Social Work. This program allows students to take several elective courses aimed at helping them in their area of interest. Students obtain a lot of hands-on training in the program. Graduation requires the completion of at least 48 credits.
- Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI offers a PhD in Social Work at its School of Social Work. The program requires students to complete courses in both social work and a particular area of social science as well as complete a research-based internship, statistics sequence, a dissertation, and comprehensive examination.
PhD in Social Work vs DSW Programs
When students decide they want to pursue a doctoral degree in social work, their first consideration is if they should complete a Ph.D. in Social Work program or a DSW program. Both of these can lead to careers as social workers. Although the PhD in Social Work is often referred to as the DSW, there are some differences between the two programs.
The curriculum for the two may be somewhat similar in nature, but students in the PhD program will do a lot of research while earning the degree. This might be why the PhD is referred to as a research-based degree. The DSW students will also perform some research as well, but their research is incorporated more into the curriculum.
The main difference between the two is what type of job they will be prepared for upon graduation. Social workers who are interested in working in a clinical setting should consider a doctorate in social work (DSW). Social workers who are interested in performing research or teaching social work in higher education institutes may find they are best suited to the PhD in Social Work.
Both programs require the student to perform research and complete society-focused intervention plans as well as large case studies. The courses and studies are an extension of what was learned in the undergraduate social work programs. Regardless of what degree the individual pursues, both will be qualified for positions that are very much in demand today.
Once the individual has completed the social work doctorate, he or she can become certified and licensed to practice in the state in which he or she works. Social workers are required to be licensed in all the states, although the licensing requirements may vary from state to state. The Association of Social Work Boards indicates that social workers can earn several different types of licensures.
To maintain licensure and certification, the social workers must complete continuing education. Social workers can obtain valuable information on continuing education courses and classes through the National Association of Social Workers. It also provides information on how social worker can track their licensing renewal requirements.
Choosing to get a PhD in Social Work is a big step for a rewarding career. Be sure to read more about becoming a social worker.