Before social work was even a profession that you could go to school for, smaller local institutions such as the church helped to deal with social inequalities.
Today the field extends far beyond just the issue of inequality and poverty – it also follows the issues of sexual orientation, religion, race, and other protected classes. Modern-day social work is highly social justice-oriented and those who are actively working within this sector must be passionate about helping to improve the lives of others. Advanced social workers work directly with people, conduct research, and inform social policy.
College Choice has ranked the 60 best PhD programs in social work. These programs are compiled based on factors such as school reputation, financial support, and graduation rate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers are expected to experience job growth of 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, a much higher rate than the national average. Based on this statistic, it can be predicted that the need for advanced social workers will be on the rise. Keep reading to find out more information about the degree.
What type of PhD in social work should you get?
While a master of social work is the highest degree needed for most positions within the field, those who are hoping to go into academia or research can either get a doctor of philosophy or a doctor of social work. Sometimes the degree title will be called social welfare instead but there is virtually no difference in curriculum or content. While a PhD is primarily research-focused, a DSW is targeted more for those interested in higher clinical practice positions.
Although the majority of these programs are offered on-campus, some of them do have online courses. Most on-campus programs are created with adult professionals in mind. Some schools even allow students to choose part- or full-time status. Classes are generally offered only a few days of the week in the evenings allowing students to still continue their professional day job.
Check out the 50 best masters in social work degrees here.
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How much money do people with a PhD in social work make?
Despite the fact that the median salary of social workers regardless of education level is $49,470, those who hold a PhD in social work tend to have a much higher average salary. According to PayScale, those with a Ph.D. make an average of $68,000. This is higher than what the average of a Master’s holder in the field makes, which is an average of $52,000.
Factors that influence salary could include:
Type of institution (i.e. education, government, hospital)
Years of experience
City versus rural location
What can you do with a PhD in social work?
The field of social work is divided into two main categories: those in research and academia, and those in actual clinical practice. Because the PhD program is research-intensive and focuses more on theory, this program is ideal for future educators and policymakers. Several PhD holders go on to become fully tenured professionals at prestigious universities. In addition, they may also work in institutions and governmental organizations that directly influence policy and practice.
Many PhD holders do practice social work in a clinical setting, but it is often said that this degree is not necessary for that. If one does choose to practice, they may work in hospitals, local non-profit organizations, or in schools. Practice work is more community-based with direct contact with individuals. Both jobs, whether in research or practice, are strongly social justice-centered.
What are the requirements for a PhD in social work?
Strong applicants should already possess a master of social work degree in order to apply. In some schools, there is a rigorous MSW/Ph.D. dual program for excellent students who only hold a bachelor’s degree. The PhD program will last a total of four to five years, with the first couple years consisting of coursework. After the basic coursework has been completed, students will begin their research to go on to present and complete a final dissertation.
During the program, students may be required to complete a teaching or research practicum. These practicums involve working closely with faculty usually in exchange for some form of compensation such as a stipend and a tuition waiver. Throughout the PhD program, students are expected to maintain a high degree of scholarship, with most schools requiring a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Founded as a private preparatory school in 1863, Adelphi University has evolved into a nationally-ranked doctoral research institution. Its program focuses on liberal arts, STEM, and professional training. For the past 120 years, its engaging curriculum has made it the oldest private co-ed university on Long Island. Adelphi’s unique location in Brooklyn gives students the opportunity to experience the beautiful local culture of New York’s iconic city. Adelphi has repeatedly been included as a top college in several major educational ranking sites.
Adelphi’s Ph.D. in Social Work program prepares graduates for advanced leadership positions within the field. Students will complete 48 credit hours of coursework and maintain a minimum of a 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale. This challenging program is ideal for those with high scholarly ambitions.
Afternoon and evening courses
Full and part-time options
Ability to take qualifying examination after the first year of study if 24 credit hours have been completed
The full-time option comprises of four courses per semester being held two times a week. Part-time students only take two courses per semester.
Why is Arizona State University ranked No. 1 most innovative school in the United States? ASU has more than 40 nationally-ranked programs, dozens of award-winning faculty, and an economic impact of about $4.3 billion. Based on those statistics alone, ASU has a lot to be proud of! The School of Social Work began offering doctoral programs in 1982. The school has always been about creating leaders who can solve the next generation of social issues.
Learn both valuable teaching and research skills through ASU’s Social Work Ph.D. program. This degree is offered downtown by the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. A total of 84 credit hours will be taken.
Transfer up to 30 credit hours from Master’s program
Degree plan advising with graduate committee
Develop personal teaching portfolio
The Downtown Phoenix campus is a newly built six-story building that contains modern architecture. More than 11,500 students attend classes here.
Learn from highly-esteemed professors at Aurora University, located in the second-largest city in Illinois. Its main campus in the city of Aurora is less than one hour from Chicago. The University also operates other locations throughout the state and online. AU is a private school with about 5,800 students enrolled. The Doctor of Social Work degree is one out of the two doctoral level programs AU offers.
AU offers a Doctor of Social Work for clinical practitioners. Although research skills will be enhanced, the primary emphasis on this program is hands-on practice in the field. It can be completed in four to five years.
12 credit internship
Only four credit hours of dissertation
This program model emphasis peer and faculty relationships, and therefore has a very small average class size of only 11 students.
Many people envy students of Barry University, whose campus is located in the beautiful suburb of Miami Shores. Barry is a private Catholic university that was established in part by the Most Reverend Patrick Barry. It offers a liberal arts education in order to create the well-rounded individual. Other than coursework, Barry offers a variety of internship and study abroad programs. Currently, there are about 9,000 students are enrolled. Barry’s student population comes from a variety of backgrounds, including different religions.
Research and practice are both equally valued in Barry’s Ph.D. in Social Work program. Upon graduation, students will be able to apply theory in both academia and the workforce. This is a flexible program that has a part-time option for working professionals.
Part-time: year-round; minimum six credit hours per semester
three credit hour elective outside Social Work school
Completion time: four years
There is a three-credit teaching practicum that allows students to work with a faculty member to teach graduate and undergraduate courses.
Join the Baylor family today and get an education that emphasizes Christian values. Baylor University is a private university that is located in Waco, TX. It was founded by the Texas Baptist Education Society. Today, students still engage with their faith through classes and weekly gatherings. In 2017, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor among the top National Universities. In 2018, Kiplinger named it a best value private college.
Looking for a program that intersects faith and social work practices? Baylor’s Ph.D. in Social Work may be the right one for you. This program is dedicated to developing the next generation of Christian social workers who are passionate about improving the lives of others.
Taught primarily online in a synchronous format
Dissertation containing three publishable articles
Classes are on Monday and/or Thursday in the evening from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM Central Standard Time. Because the classes are held live, students can interact with peers and faculty in real time.
Located in one of the nation’s oldest cities, Boston College is a private Jesuit university that was established in 1863. BC began as a “small streetcar college” that served the Catholic immigrant community. Today it is a comprehensive liberal arts university that is proud of its Jesuit traditions. Although students are encouraged to learn more about their faith, students of all backgrounds are welcome.
Those who are passionate about improving social welfare should consider applying to Boston’s Ph.D. in Social Work. This program is ideal for future professors or those who wish to enter into academia. As such, there are several professional opportunities to prepare for one’s career, such as:
Doctoral students are able to apply for financial aid by December 1st. Students must be enrolled full-time and complete a three-year residency.
Boston is known for its important American history and great sports teams, but it is also home to some excellent universities. Boston University is a private research institution that has been operating since 1869. Ranked No. 42 in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report, BU is constantly making headlines for its new projects and research. Most recently BU launched a $20 million initiative aiming to support new entrepreneurs.
Join a program that is committed to social justice by enrolling in Boston’s Ph.D. in Social Work. Students will take a variety of courses in different disciplines, develop research skills, and cultivate a culture of urgency to solve problems. Key features of this degree are:
63 credit hours (Coursework completion time: two years)
Minimum of two semesters teaching
Funding package up to five years
Students will choose an interdisciplinary specialization that focuses on a specific group of people, or choose a social issue that they are interested in. A minimum of 12 credit hours will be completed in the specialization.
Brandeis University is a medium-sized private research institution with strong Jewish roots. It was established in 1948 by the American Jewish community during the period when many Jewish people still faced a lot of discrimination. Therefore, the university aimed to be a safe place for those to further their education. Due to its history, Brandeis strongly emphasizes diversity, inclusivity, and critical thinking. The Heller School for Social Policy and Management offers the Ph.D. degree. This school was the first of its kind and is consistently ranked among the top ten in the nation.
Ranked a top program in 2020 by the U.S. News & World Report, Brandeis’ Ph.D. in Social Policy allows students to concentrate in an area of their passion. Students will spend four to six years in the program undergoing research, seminars, and courses. The concentrations offered are:
Children, Youth, and Families
Global Development and Sustainability
Assets and Inequalities
In 2017, 100% of this program’s alumni were employed within three months of graduation.
Bryn Mawr College encourages women from diverse backgrounds to follow their passions. For almost a century and a half, Bryn Mawr has been a leading women’s college in the nation. Students come first here, with teaching put as a first priority. The college was actually the first women’s college to offer Ph.D. programs, an important milestone considering that women have historically been shut out of higher education. The U.S. News & World Report ranks Bryn Mawr the No. 27 best liberal arts college in the country.
Did you know that the first ever Ph.D. in Social Work degree was awarded at Bryn Mawr? Currently, the program continues to serve deserving and excellent students who can be found in many impressive positions. Both part and full-time students are accepted.
Typical class size of six students
Full funding including tuition waiver and stipend
Completion time: maximum of eight years
Bryn Mawr discourages competition among peers, and instead encourages group collaboration. Students work together in small-knit communities, with only about three or four students per cohort.
Case Western Reserve University is a private research institution located in Cleveland, Ohio. Its unique name came from when Western Reserve University combined with the Case Institute of Technology. Since its inception, CWRU has focused on applied science and programs that would directly help people get jobs. As of fall 2018, more than 6,600 graduate students are enrolled. CWRU ranked No. 42 overall in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of Best Value schools.
Looking for a more flexible Ph.D. program? CWRU offers a full- and part-time Ph.D. degree in Social Welfare. It can be completed in two or three years and only requires 37 credit hours of coursework, plus 18 credit hours of dissertation. Some course topics are:
Social work education
Qualitative research models and methods
Theories of human behavior
Full-time students are eligible to receive a research fellowship for four years, allowing them to work alongside faculty in projects.
Receive a faith-based education from one of the major leaders of higher Catholic education at the Catholic University of America. The university was founded based on a charter by Pope Leo XIII with the mission of creating the next generation of Catholic leaders. This global university has the unique position of being located in Washington D.C., giving students several opportunities to engage in relevant social issues. As of today, Catholic University is the only national university of the Catholic Church.
The doctoral program in Social Work follows the teachings of Jesus Christ while maintaining high scholarship and professional standards. This program can be completed either full or part-time. Sample courses include:
Cognitive Behavioral Theory and Social Functioning
Adult Learning Theories for Professional Education
Multivariate Statistics and Design
There are over ten areas of study in this department currently being researched by the Social Work faculty. On the department’s faculty website, students can click on each area and contact the person they may be interested in working with.
Many will know Clark Atlanta University for its unique history. CAU began as a small school that was founded to serve the primarily African-American population. Over time, more and more programs were added. Clark College was established in 1869 by the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Although the school currently still has historic ties with the United Methodist Church, all students are welcomed regardless of faith. CAU is the No. 18 top historically-black university in the nation according to the U.S. News & World Report.
CAU’s Ph.D. in Social Work program focuses on leadership and policy within the field. Students who are interested in both careers in academia and public service will find this program useful. The goal of this program is to especially encourage those of African-American descent and other minorities to become leaders of the field.
72 credit hours
Take courses from other schools such as the School of Business Administration
This program heavily emphasizes issues of diversity and developing social policies to overcome social problems such as discrimination. The department also hopes to preserve African-American heritage.
Learn from a leading research university at Colorado State University located near the base of the Rocky Mountains. CSU was established in 1870 originally as the Colorado Agricultural College. Today the university operates more than ten colleges and schools, including a distance learning education system. Its main campus is located in Fort Collins, a medium-sized town with a population of about 150,000 people. This city has been nationally recognized for its livability thanks to its beautiful scenery and access to great outdoor activities.
CSU’s Ph.D. program in Social Work is a flexible degree that can work with any schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is adjustable to each student’s research passions. Examples of electives are:
Analysis of Relationships
Foundations of Educational Research
CSU has several partnerships with various interdisciplinary research centers. Some centers are the Center for the Study of Crime and Justice, Social Work Research Center, and the Center for Healthy Aging.
For the past 265 years, Columbia University has been a leader of higher education and research in the state of New York. Columbia was originally chartered in 1754 by King George II of England, making it the fifth oldest institution in the nation. The university has lived through several important historic moments, rising and falling with the times. Today Columbia is nationally recognized for its meaningful service and research, tied for No. 3 ranking overall in the country by the U.S. News & World Report.
Since its founding in 1950, Columbia’s Ph.D. in Social Work program has been serving motivated professionals. This two-year program consists of challenging coursework and several hands-on experiences. It is offered in the fall and spring. There are three concentrations to choose from:
Social Policy and Administration
Social Policy and Policy Analysis
Students are urged to get involved in activities such as joining professional networks and clubs. For instance, students may be able to share their experiences with the Columbia Social Work Review journal.
Florida International University is the city of Miami’s first and only public research institution. FIU’s campus was first located on an abandoned airfield, with classes beginning in 1972. Its success and growth as a university has been thanks to its caring faculty and supporters who wanted to see the education of the city blossom. Today FIU is considered a major university in South Florida. It is ranked as a top 100 public university by the U.S. News & World Report.
Get prepared for a career in Social Work in the academic, non-profit, or for-profit atmosphere through FIU’s Ph.D. program in Social Welfare. Thanks to the university’s location in the Miami-Dade area, students have access to several agencies for internships.
Required Master’s degree
Events such as research day and career development fairs
Guaranteed field placement
This program is offered by the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, therefore there are many crossovers with the field of public health. Students are encouraged to attend public health-related events and organizations.
Florida State University is one of the oldest and largest institutions of higher education within the state. It has the highest research activity classification according to the Carnegie Commission. About 41,900 students are enrolled, with about 850 of them studying Social Work. Due to FSU’s passionate research in various fields, it is proud to make a strong impact on the state and the city of Tallahassee where it is located. In the 2016-2017 school year, total research expenditure totaled about $268.3 million, heavily contributing to the local economy.
Throughout FSU’s Ph.D. in Social Work with an emphasis in Research Methods and Teaching, students will gain hands-on experience to prepare them for a career in academia. At the beginning of the program, students will take courses to learn the fundamentals, then later progress to further research their personal interests. Below are some courses that can be taken:
Practicum in Applied Research
Introduction to Scholarly Writing
Systematic Reviews in Social Work Research
There are a variety of financial aid options available including the College of Social Work specific scholarships, federal and university financial aid, fellowships for minorities and women, as well as graduate assistantships.
Did you know that the founder of Fordham University actually considered the school to be a “daring and dangerous undertaking?” The university was established by Bishop John Hughes who wanted to see immigrants succeed through Catholic education. So before becoming Fordham, the school was the Jesuit University of New York, making it the oldest Catholic institute of higher learning in the Northeast. The U.S. News & World Report ranks Fordham among the “Best Colleges for Veterans.”
Take advantage of what the New York metropolitan area has to offer by enrolling in Fordham’s Ph.D. program in Social Work. This school and the city is a leader in social justice issues, making this an ideal program for ambitious adults.
Specializations: Practice, Policy Development, and Implementation
Concentrations: Children and Families, Gerontology, Mental Health
Offered part or full-time
The Rogler Doctoral Fellowship is a two-year fellowship for those interested in researching Latino/Hispanic-related issues. A stipend is included.
Howard University is a private research institution that is recognized as a historically black university. Although Howard focuses primarily on STEM-related research and programs, it also offers degrees in the humanities. The School of Social Work was founded in 1935 during a tumultuous time. Many people were still recovering from the Great Depression and the modern-day field of social work within the U.S. was just starting to take off. This school specifically worked to help train black individuals who lacked educational opportunities.
Howard’s Ph.D. in Social Work curriculum is highly challenging and allows students to specialize in an area that meets their passions. Through mentorship, scholars are able to emerge with new critical thinking and research skills. Below are the specialization areas:
Health and Mental Health
Family and Community
Other areas dependent on faculty approval
Howard is the first HBCU to offer a doctorate in Social Work. The first doctorate degree was awarded in 1980.
Indiana University is the state’s premier research institute of higher education located in Indianapolis. With the goal of transforming people through educational opportunities, IUPUI offers quality programs across its 17 schools. In fact, it is ranked as one of the top 200 schools in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report. The Indiana University School of Social Work began in 1911 with the goal of promoting social justice. The school offers programs from the undergraduate level to the doctoral level, including professional certificate programs.
As the only Ph.D. program in Social Work within the state of Indiana, this degree prepares future educators and researchers. There are two options for this program: PreDoc Exploratory Option or the Ph.D. in Social Work.
PreDoctoral: only nine credit hours to apply towards the Ph.D. degree
Part and full-time
Up to 30 credit hours may be transferred
There are several fellowships and assistantships available. The university fellowship includes a travel stipend, stipend, full tuition, and health insurance.
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
Those who step on to LSU’s campus will immediately know that the university takes pride in its deep connection with the state. Louisiana State University Agricultural & Mechanical College is the state’s flagship university that was founded in 1860. In the beginning, the school began as a seminary but steadily evolved into a public research university that has many connections with the Baton Rouge community today. LSU A&M College was officially founded in 1874 when it merged with LSU, prompting its name change that has remained ever since. The local Louisiana culture offers students a unique experience of both French and Spanish cultures, with local traditions such as Mardi Gras.
LSU’s Ph.D. in Social Work focuses on empirical research that targets a certain population within the social service systems. This is the only independent doctoral social work program within the state. A variety of research areas are undertaken, including:
Behavioral health and interventions
Students who do not have a Master in Social Work degree can still apply for this program, given that they take at least nine credit hours of Social Work courses.
Emphasizing the idea of cura personalis or “to care for the whole person,” Loyola University Chicago is the city’s Jesuit, Catholic institution for higher learning. Students are encouraged to learn more about their faith and to use its teachings in their future careers. In 2018 over 17,000 students enrolled in their undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Loyola’s School of Social Work is listed as a top school for graduate programs.
Loyola’s Ph.D. in Social Work follows Jesuit principles, focusing on social justice as a core belief in their curriculum. Students will complete two years of coursework, then a dissertation that he/she must defend. Some courses that are available are:
Historical & Contemporary Issues in Social Work Practice
Social Theory & Social Politics
There are two Ignatian Fellowships available for passionate students who want to use their faith to advance the field of social work. This fellowship was created to help historically marginalized and underrepresented populations.
For more than 160 years, Michigan State University has worked to become a top research university. Together, it is committed to creating a culture of respect, protecting students and the community, and building a stronger campus. Thanks to their hard work, MSU is ranked among the top 100 best universities in the world according to the World University Rankings 2019. It is also among the top eight in the nation as stated by the Wall Street Journal.
For those who want to work in Social Work, either in practice or research, MSU’s Ph.D. program is ideal for all types of advanced professionals. As an interdisciplinary program, students will be able to choose an exact area of focus while taking courses across many departments. Some specializations are:
Women’s and Gender Studies
Global Urban Studies
Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change
Twelve credit hours of specific electives must be taken in order to declare a specialization.
Graduate assistantships are offered for five full years. International students are also eligible for funding. During the first three years, a research assistantship will be given, and during the last two years, students will receive a teaching assistantship.
Located in Baltimore, MD, Morgan State University is a public institution that desires to offer higher education through an urban learning environment. Morgan offers more than 100 programs and has an alumni network of over 50,000 individuals. The school is proud to be considered the city’s “preeminent public urban research university,” as officially designated by the state of Maryland. Morgan is also known to serve the African-American population and is among the top public schools in the country for the number of doctorates it has awarded to black students.
Morgan’s Ph.D. in Social Work has a curriculum that focuses on urban social work issues. For instance, it will cover things such as urban policy analysis, research, and education. Applicants with a Master’s degree in the field are eligible to apply. Below are some common courses:
History of Social Welfare Policy
Social Work with Urban Organizations and Communities
Contemporary Social Policy Analysis
In order to apply, applicants must submit a personal background statement answering five specific questions. The questions are listed online on the program’s website
Ranked the No. 3 university in the state, New York University is a private research institution that was established in 1831. It is considered one of the largest private universities in the nation. The School of Social Work was founded in 1960 and is a leader in the field and in clinical practice. With a strong research-centered curriculum, students are prepared for their future careers. The school also places an emphasis on greater social issues such as diversity.
NYU’s Silver School of Social Work offers a world-class Ph.D. in Social Work aimed at creating global leaders in the field. The school boasts several cutting-edge research facilities and a good track record of students getting their work published in scholarly journals. Special features in this program are:
Research fellowship to all full-time students
Day and evening classes
There is a dual program between NYU and East China Normal University in Shanghai. This is a great opportunity to study abroad in a cross-cultural environment.
Known as the Buckeyes, Ohio State University is a leading research institution with its main campus located in Columbus. In 2015, the U.S. News & World Report ranked them No. 16 in their national public universities ranking. In 2019, it is ranked as the No. 1 public school in the state. This is due to the university’s top programs, engaging initiatives, and student engagement. For instance, OSU is known for its high-performing sports teams, who produce strong athletes and students.
The goal of OSU’s Ph.D. in Social Work is to create scholars in translational research. What does this mean? This program focuses on theory-driven interventions, qualitative research methods, and strong writing skills. Some current research areas are:
Integrative body-mind-spirit practices
Afterschool programming for diverse youth
Admitted students are automatically accepted into the Doctoral Student Organization. This is a great place to meet other professionals and network.
The flagship university of the State University of New Jersey system is Rutgers University – New Brunswick. It is the largest institution of higher education within the state, with more than 70,800 undergraduate and graduate students. Rutgers offers more than 400 graduate programs among its 29 schools and colleges. The School of Social Work has offered flexible programs since 1766. The U.S. News & World Report ranks the school No. 17 of its kind in the nation.
Rutgers’ Ph.D. program in Social Work is highly selective, taught by top faculty who are nationally-recognized. Courses are not only taken within the School of Social Work but also with the Graduate School in New Brunswick. A total of 72 credit hours must be taken.
Competitive research funding awards available
Partnerships with reputable research centers
High job placement rate among graduates
Ph.D. students have access to both need-based and merit-based financial aid. In order to be considered, interested applicants should indicate so on their application.
Saint Louis University takes pride in its Jesuit history, being one of the oldest Catholic universities in the United States. SLU was founded over 200 years ago and was the first institute of higher learning in the West. Bishop Louis William DuBourg hoped to see a school placed west of the Mississippi to create young leaders who would be passionate about serving God. A modern-day Jesuit education is one that implements faith teachings in all academic programs. However, all faiths are welcome and there are several interfaith alliances on campus to take part in.
SLU’s 72-credit Ph.D. program in Social Work is broken into three areas: core courses, additional electives based on future research goals, and written exams in preparation for the dissertation. Several research opportunities and collaborative work experiences are available.
Research assistantships and merit-based scholarships
Teaching practicums at the undergraduate or graduate level
Transfer credit allowed
Generally, students will take three classes per semester. Courses are three credit hours each.
Enjoy the small college feel at Simmons University, located in the city of Boston. The university is named after its founder John Simmons, a wealthy businessman who believed in educating women so that they could gain meaningful careers. Although the university’s undergraduate education is only for women, the school’s graduate programs are co-educational. Classes are small at Simmons, with a total school enrollment of only about 4,000.
The Ph.D. in Social Work at Simmons is for experienced professionals who wish to dive deeper into research. It is offered both full and part-time, giving students the ultimate flexibility to complete the program between four to seven years. Key highlights include:
Optional summer courses
No required clinical practicum
All coursework is done on Thursdays, with full-time students taking three courses and part-time students taking only two.
Ranked the No. 11 best liberal arts college by the U.S. News & World Report, Smith College has been dedicated to providing women with the best well-rounded education there is. It is named after Sophia Smith, who decided to donate a large portion of her wealth towards a college. Today more than 7,000 graduate students have received a diploma from the college. Although its undergraduate education only focuses on women, both men and women can be admitted to its graduate programs.
Smith’s Ph.D. in Social Work follows a block plan schedule where students alternate between coursework in the classroom and actual research in the field. The program is composed of 90 quarter credit hours.
Clinical and research internships
Clinical teaching encouraged
Students will undergo two eight-month clinical internships. Research internships are 32-weeks in total.
Want to live in a busy city with several business opportunities? The University at Albany is the place to be, with more than 17,000 students enrolled in its undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees. As a large public research university, Albany offers more than 125 graduate programs, with research opportunities around the world. Albany also heavily emphasizes career development, with a variety of partnerships and mentors to guide students. Forbes has ranked Albany among its “America’s Best Public Colleges” ranking.
Earn your Ph.D. in Social Welfare in New York’s state capital. This highly international program focuses on issues such as marginalized people groups, mental health, and health disparities. Here are some highlights of the program:
Current alumni placed in notable positions
Research initiatives around the world in places such as China, Russia, or South Africa
Completion time: three years
If enrolling in the joint Master of Social Work and Ph.D. program, students only need to take 86 credit hours to earn both degrees, instead of 96 credit hours if they were to earn them separately.
Tulane University is a private university located in the city of New Orleans, LA. It began as a medical college when it was founded in 1834, but has grown to offer a variety of disciplines from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. Why choose Tulane? Tulane offers flexible degrees that are affordable, putting student needs first. Its Social Work programs have been operating since the early 20th century and are all accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Future professionals who are interested in both research and practice may find a Doctorate in Social Work to be the right program for them. This program develops scholar-practitioners through engaging coursework and a clinical project. It is offered on their New Orleans and the Gulf Coast campus. Other key features include:
One of the most affordable in the nation
This program is ideal for full-time working professionals, as students can either take it online or in-person on the weekends.
The State University of New York at Buffalo is the flagship university of the New York system. UB offers more than 320 graduate and professional programs. It is ranked the No. 1 public university within the state, and among the top 40 in the nation according to the U.S. News & World Report. Its world-class reputation is due to its talented students and dedicated faculty. Members of the UB community can be found partaking in fun city activities, on-campus events, and engaging in the latest research.
With the goal of promoting social change, UB’s Ph.D. in Social Welfare program takes an interdisciplinary approach to social issues. Applicants who already possess a Master’s in Social Work are welcome to apply. Main characteristics of this program are:
Completion time: minimum four years
Funding for the first three years
New Ph.D. students with excellent scholarship can apply for the Presidential and Schomburg Fellowships. More information is on their financial aid website.
The University of Alabama was the state’s first public institution of higher education and is considered Alabama’s flagship university. UA is often nicknamed “The Capstone,” which started in 1913 when the then-president stated that the university was the “capstone of the public school system of the state.” It is classified as a doctoral university with “very high research activity” according to the Carnegie Classification. UA boasts several scholars, including 56 Goldwater and 15 Rhodes Scholars.
Thanks to UA’s ideal location, students of the Ph.D. in Social Work program are able to practice what they have learned firsthand. This three-year funded program focuses on the field’s commitment to social justice through research and teaching. Some areas of research that the school has undergone are:
Aging and end of life
Economic and social barriers
Disparities in health, services, and social policies
Several students have published their work in scholarly journals with faculty, in addition to presenting their findings at national conferences.
Considered the most prestigious public university in Northern California and a top University of California school, the University of California Berkeley is a place with a rich history. It was established in 1868 after the Gold Rush. Other than groundbreaking research, UC Berkeley is known for its politically active students and faculty, with prominent grassroots political leaders every decade. The U.S. News & World Report ranks Berkeley the No. 1 Best Public University Worldwide, an incredible accomplishment.
UC Berkeley’s Ph.D. in Social Welfare focuses on research methodology. This program can be completed in about three years, with coursework taking the first two years and the dissertation taking the last year. Some areas of research include:
Community, Organizational and Policy Development
Violence and Victimization
Race, Class and Gender
A MSW/Ph.D. program is available to those who meet exceptional standards. Students will earn first a Master’s then continue on in the Ph.D.
Commonly ranked as the No. 1 school in the University of California system, the University of California Los Angeles is a bustling campus located on the West side of the city. The school first opened up in 1919 offering only two-year degrees. It did not award its first Ph.D. until 1938. UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs was established in 1994 and has almost 8,000 alumni. About 200 students are enrolled in the Social Welfare program.
UCLA’s Ph.D. in Social Welfare program is full-time and can be completed in about four years. Twelve credit hours are taken each quarter. If undergoing the MSW/Ph.D. advanced program, an additional year will be required.
Formal and Experiential research
Fellowships, financial aid, and travel grants available
Starting from the second year, interested students are eligible to apply for teaching assistantships. TAs will help with undergraduate and graduate courses.
The University of Chicago is proud to be an urban research university that was founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller, a prominent American businessman as well as a philanthropist. UChicago challenges conventional thinking and pushes for new insights through new research. The university has several partnerships with various laboratories. Ninety-one Nobel Prize winners have emerged from UChicago, a testament to the support the community gives to researchers. UChicago is tied for No. 3 in the nation overall according to the U.S. News & World Report.
UChicago offers a Ph.D. in Social Services Administration, designed for future social scientists in academia or research. This highly selective program allows students to research areas that meet their passions. Some sample courses include:
Cultural Studies in Education
Leading Teams in the Social Service Sector
Immigration, Law and Society
For only exceptional students, there is a combined Ph.D./AM program where students can earn a Master’s degree as well. One additional year is added to get a Master’s.
With its nationally-recognized programs, the University of Denver is a great place for students to discover their passions. DU is a private university that is located in the Rocky Mountain Region. As such, local scenery is something to be admired. The university was founded when the state was still growing and has therefore witnessed the city turn into a booming cosmopolitan location. Today, DU has several local connections, including the Four Corners Social Work program that focuses on helping Native American communities.
Earn your Ph.D. from one of the oldest programs in the nation to offer a doctorate in Social Work. This program is 21st century-focused, meaning students will engage in modern-day issues. The Ph.D. can be completed in about four years.
Fall, winter, and spring quarters
Average cohort size of six people
For the first two years, students will receive an assistantship covering tuition, a stipend, and healthcare. In years three and four, students will receive a stipend and a research or teaching assistantship.
One of the oldest public universities of higher education is the University of Georgia, which was founded in 1795. UGA is also the state’s flagship institution and boasts a high retention and graduation rate. Throughout its history, UGA has tackled a number of social issues, investing in meaningful research projects. It is estimated that in 2017, total research expenditure was about $455 million. UGA’s main campus is located in the city of Athens, but also operates four other locations within the state.
UGA has offered a Ph.D. in Social Work since 1990. This program focuses on research and teaching and is therefore ideal for those who wish to pursue academia. The Ph.D. is offered in the fall and spring, but students are able to take electives in the summer if they wish.
Graduate assistantship for up to four years
Maximum completion time: 6 years
Two years of post-MSW work experience recommended
UGA also has the Dean’s Research Assistantship Award where students will engage in 16 hours of weekly research with a faculty. The stipend amounts to approximately $20,000 for two semesters.
With all that the University of Houston has accomplished, the university is indeed a “powerhouse” for learning and research. UH was founded in 1927 but did not have a permanent campus until 1939. It currently boasts an overall student population of over 46,000. UH’s campus offers 29 research centers and 46 doctoral programs. The U.S. News & World Report ranks UH among the “Best Colleges in the U.S.” ranking for 2019. Other than studying hard, the UH community is also known to have fun, particularly once a year at their annual Frontier Fiesta spring festival.
The Graduate College of Social Work offers an evidence-based Ph.D. program in Social Work. This degree hopes to “build interdisciplinary partnerships in both research and practice,” meaning several of the program’s competencies focus on understanding knowledge holistically. Some common courses are:
Data Software and Analysis
Social Welfare Policy Analysis
This degree is offered part-time, full-time, and as a dual degree with the Master of Social Work program.
Since its inception, the University of Illinois at Chicago has always put people first. UIC was founded as several private health colleges that merged together. After World War II, the college created a campus on the Navy Pier, nicknamed the “Harvard on the rocks.” Eventually the campus moved and expanded, with its current campus having a total of 13 colleges. UIC is an innovative, diverse institution that is active in social issues. The Jane Addams College of Social Work has a strong commitment to underprivileged populations and works to create leaders for change.
Learn about a wide variety of current social justice issues during UIC’s Ph.D. program in Social Work. Students can choose from two research tracks: social planning, policy, and administration, or social work practice scholarship. There are three application deadlines:
August 1: application first becomes available
December 15: early decision deadline
February 15: final deadline
This Ph.D. program is offered on a full or part-time schedule. Full-time students will take at least 12 credit hours per semester. Part-time students will take less than that, averaging at about six credit hours.
Looking for a world-class institution with top teaching? The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has got you covered. Illinois is ranked as the No. 14 best public university in the nation. Since its founding as an original land-grant institution in 1867, Illinois has had numerous accomplishments. For example, it is proud to say that it invented the first graphical web browser. In addition, 24 alumni and faculty have won a Nobel Prize.
Illinois’ Ph.D. in Social Work is grounded in theory and social justice principles. A minimum of 64 credit hours will be completed beyond the Master’s level. Before completing the final dissertation, students will submit a qualifying paper to prepare them for the final product. Some available courses are:
Social Work Practice Theories
National Social Welfare Policy
Quantitative Research Designs
Upon permission by faculty, a student may pursue independent study where he/she researches a highly specialized topic. Sometimes this study may count for credit towards the program.
At the University of Kansas, students and faculty are truly members of the Jayhawk community. Founded in 1865, KU is the state’s flagship university whose research is proud to impact the state and the local community. KU’s main campus is located in the city of Lawrence, a place founded by abolitionists. Lawrence’s diverse culture attracts many and has been mentioned as a top place for college living. KU’s School of Social Work was established in 1937 and is known as a major research contributor to the field.
KU’s Ph.D. program in Social Welfare is designed to prepare individuals to positively impact policy through research and teaching. Training is in research, policy, theory, and teaching methodology. Key characteristics of this degree are:
Fall, spring, and summer terms
54 credit hours
Students encouraged to only take two courses per semester
The School of Social Welfare is highly funded and respected. Grants for training and research total as much as $6 million per year.
The University of Michigan is a highly ranked public research university with its main campus located in the city of Ann Arbor. It is the state’s oldest institution, originally founded in 1817 in Detroit. UMich operates 19 colleges and schools, including the School of Social Work that houses its Ph.D. program. The school has ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on several rankings by the U.S. News & World Report for the past several years. Overall, UMich has more than 100 graduate programs ranked in the top 10.
Earn a Ph.D. in both Social Work and Social Science at UMich. For the past 60 years, this program has grown to support future researchers and practitioners. It is a fully supportive program with several opportunities for scholarships and assistantships. They also offer opportunities to work with several research centers, such as:
National Poverty Center
University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center
The Institute for Social Research
The joint Ph.D. program offers to fund students for up to five years for assistantships such as teaching and research, stipends, tuition, and full healthcare. There are outside fellowships available as well.
Often called the U of M or UMN, the University of Minnesota is a land-grant public university that has the sixth largest enrollment in the nation. Its main flagship campus is located in the Twin Cities but also has four other campuses within the state. U of M is proud to have a strong impact on its community, giving off an estimated economic impact of $8.6 billion annually. Through breakthrough research, U of M faculty and staff aim to increase funding in order to solve world problems such as developing new methods to detect autism.
Get your Ph.D. in Social Work from one of the oldest programs in the country. This degree was established in 1946 and has the No. 20 highest research productivity among its faculty. Below are some key features:
Three-year funding w/ tuition, stipend, and health insurance
Gain teaching skills
Completion time: four to five years
This program follows the mentor model, where students will work closely with faculty that meet their research interests. U of M Ph.D. alumni has a good track record of having their work published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals.
As the University of North Carolina’s flagship university, UNC-Chapel Hill is committed to positively impacting higher education within the state. It was the first institution of its kind in North Carolina, officially opening in 1795. All students have access to a quality a liberal arts education and are encouraged to engage with their community. UNC-Chapel Hill is known to promote meaningful partnerships throughout the state, including working with patients through UNC-PrimeCare, a training program for graduate Social Work students.
UNC’s School of Social Work offers a Ph.D. program which is highly based on theory and research skills. Students will complete 45 credit hours, plus several hours of research and dissertation. Some courses that may be taken for credit are:
Measurement in Social Intervention Research
Development of Social Intervention Models
Longitudinal and Multilevel Data Analysis
Students can take a for-credit teaching seminar and practicum to enhance their skills working and mentoring students. This is especially good for future professors.
Located in the historic city of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania is proud to have prominent leaders and innovators as part of their alumni. Penn was established in 1740 when Evangelist George Whitefield envisioned a charity school. Although the school had a slow start, several years later thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s influence, the school was able to get enough support and fully take off. Today Penn is a modern research institution following a tradition of excellence. In the 2019 fiscal year, Penn had a total research budget of a whopping $1.02 billion.
Penn’s Ph.D. in Social Welfare develops critical thinkers who can engage in world issues. This program is grounded in the Penn Compact 2020 which emphasizes inclusion, impact, and innovation. The program can be completed in four years.
Teaching assistantships with master-level courses
Coursework during the first two years
Financial aid plus nine-month stipend yearly
There are outside fellowships, grants, and scholarships available for student funding. Interested applicants should go onto the individual websites to see application requirements.
The University of Pittsburgh was founded over 225 years ago in 1787, making it one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the nation. Currently, over 7,400 graduate and doctoral students are enrolled. Innovation is definitely a characteristic that defines Pittsburgh, with several of its alumni boasting incredible stories. From understanding DNA to finding a cure to polio, Pittsburgh sets the standard of what innovative research is. The Times Higher Education ranked it among the best five public universities in the country.
Since 1963, Pittsburgh has been awarding deserving professionals with a Ph.D. in Social Work. Due to its notable faculty and meaningful research, this program has been consistently ranked among the top ten in the nation.
Six to eight students accepted annually
Full funding for up to four years (tuition and stipend)
Master’s students eligible to apply
While earning their Ph.D. students can also get a certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. In order to do so, select coursework electives will be required.
The University of South Carolina has its roots before the Civil War, having been established in 1801. The school’s goal was to unite the citizens of the state during the American Revolution. After the war and a few natural disasters that took a toll on the campus, the school was finally able to grow. Today its campus is located in the city of Columbia and is considered one of the best universities in the state. Not only is it a “Best Value” public college according to Kiplinger, but its graduate programs are also listed in the top eight.
SC’s highly research-intensive Ph.D. program in Social Work prepares future workers for community-oriented research across multiple disciplines. Several alumni have been accepted into prestigious jobs upon completion of the program, including positions in government and research centers. Some centers that students may engage with are:
Institute for Families in Society
South Carolina Center for Gerontology
The I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice
Because the School of Social Work emphasizes student experiences, there are several opportunities on-campus, in the field, and internationally. For example, past students have had field placements in several economically developing countries.
Many will recognize the University of Southern California’s campus by its brick architecture and red and gold school colors. Known as the Trojans, USC is one of the most prestigious private institutions on the West Coast. USC is located in the heart of Los Angeles and offers students all the opportunities to explore a fun city while landing several job options. In 2018, The Wall Street Journal ranked USC seventeenth among a ranking of more than 1,000 universities. USC’s Social Work school is also consistently ranked among the best in the nation.
Considered one of the top programs in the nation, USC offers a Ph.D. degree in Social Work through the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School for Social Work. This program prepares professionals for top positions domestically and abroad. Key components of this program are:
Required two semesters of assistant teaching
Close mentorship with faculty
Six to nine students admitted yearly
All students admitted into the program will receive financial aid up to $200,000 for four years, with the condition that they maintain excellent academic standing.
The University of Tennessee, most commonly referred to as the UT Knoxville, is the state system’s flagship university. Across its 910-acre campus lies 11 colleges. Out of its over 900 programs it offers, over 530 of them are at the graduate level. UTK has several outreach programs, particularly in the field of Social Work. The university works to provide education for social workers within the state, as well as to work with agencies and policymakers to impact change. More than $3 million worth of work has been completed within the last year.
With the goal of “preparing scholars to advance social justice,” UTK’s Ph.D. in Social Work program is a competitive degree for ambitious leaders. Its curriculum focuses on advanced research methods in order to develop new knowledge for the field.
Strong mentorship from faculty
Four years of funding
Online courses available
The College of Social Work has close partnerships with the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service, as well as the Center for Behavioral Health Research.
Students at the University of Texas at Arlington come from all backgrounds and places. Known for having one of the highest diversity rates in the country, UTA boasts a global enrollment of over 59,000 students. The campus offers more than 300 organizations, service projects, and many opportunities for advanced research. In fact, The Chronicle for Higher Education Almanac listed UTA as the No. 5 fastest-growing public doctoral institution in the nation. The U.S. News & Report also ranked its graduate schools among the best.
Gain several hands-on research opportunities through UTA’s Ph.D. in Social Work. Alumni of this program have a successful track record of receiving research grants and publishing their work in scholarly journals. Key components of this program are:
Teaching placements after graduation
Conveniently located in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metroplex
Fall and spring semesters
Graduate teaching and research assistantships are offered to students enrolling in at least nine credit hours worth of courses. Twenty hours per week are required.
Students enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin are proud to be considered a Longhorn. They can be found engaging in the community, being active in on-campus clubs and sports, and working alongside faculty in research. UT Austin is home to more than 51,000 students from diverse backgrounds. The university is not only ranked for its excellent programs, but also for its affordability. In 2018, Kiplinger ranked UT Austin No. 8 in the country on its “Best Value Public Colleges” ranking.
The Steve Hicks School of Social Work at UT Austin, which offers the Ph.D. program, is a high- ranking school that is often considered among the top ten in the nation. Graduates will be prepared for careers in research and/or academia. Below are some key highlights to consider:
100% of admitted students receive financial assistance
Small cohort size (five students in 2018)
Students have access to various research institutes that directly impact the community. Some institutions include the Addiction Research Institute, Institute for Military & Veteran Family Wellness, and the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
The University of Utah, often called “the U,” is a public research university located in Salt Lake City. Members of the community enjoy the university’s Pac-12 athletic events, innovative projects, and sustainability initiatives. As of fall 2018, over 8,000 graduate students are enrolled. Outside of academics, students have the privilege of living in the capital city. In fact, Salt Lake City has been ranked the No. 5 “Healthiest U.S. City.”
The U’s Ph.D. in Social Work is a five-year, full-time program that is offered in the fall, spring, and summer. About nine credit hours per semester will be taken for the first two years. Check out these program highlights:
Teaching and research assistantships available with certain outside institutions
Summer terms after second and third year only
This program is now offered also online through distance learning. Students only need to come to campus for the first week of each semester during the first two years. Classes follow a synchronous model. Financial aid and research opportunities also available.
Although its main campus is located in the beautiful city of Seattle, the University of Washington is a global campus with worldwide impact. In fact, UW was ranked the No. 14 best university in the world by the 2018 Academic Ranking of World Universities. How was this possible? This is due to UW’s highly ranked programs and research innovation. Currently, there is about $1.35 billion worth of sponsored grants and contracts for research.
This Ph.D. in Social Welfare program prepares students for careers in teaching, public service, and social justice. This program has been operating since 1975. Most graduates end up working in academia.
Hands-on teaching roles
Curriculum based on a social justice framework
Median completion time: five years
For the first three years of the program, UW guarantees financial aid through a variety of means. However, students are also encouraged to find outside sources of funding as well.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the flagship institution for the University of Wisconsin system. Founded in 1848, it is considered a public land- and sea-grant university, priding itself on breakthrough research. For instance, the discovery of vitamins occurred on campus which started a catalyst for other groundbreaking knowledge. Annually, UW Madison has a research expenditure of $1.2 billion. As of the 2017-2018 school year, a little more than 1,400 doctorate students are enrolled.
Enroll in UW Madison’s Ph.D. in Social Welfare and learn about policy interventions for a variety of social issues. Its curriculum follows an interdisciplinary behavioral and social science perspective. Other than the opportunity to work in renowned research facilities, excellent training is given to students. Additional features are:
Strong financial support (teaching, project, and research assistantships, etc.)
Completion time: about four years
Two options: joint Master of Social Work/Ph.D. or Ph.D. only
Those outside the School of Social Work are eligible to gain a doctoral minor by taking nine credit hours.
Looking for a university that values diversity and community engagement? Virginia Commonwealth University is the perfect place – with its roots as a medical college starting in 1838, VCU has always been a community that strives for better. Many “firsts” have taken place here, with one of them being the first university to offer a school of Social Work in the South. Graduate Social Work programs at VCU are ranked the No. 25 best in the nation.
Since 1978, VCU has been offering the Ph.D. program in Social Work to advance social justice in the community. Through various coursework and hands-on experiences with institutes, graduates will gain the skills they need to master the field. Some sample courses are:
Social Policy Theory and Analysis
Measurement in Social and Behavioral Sciences
Time Series Analysis
Full-time students will generally complete 18 to 20 credit hours per year.
Washington University in St. Louis, most commonly referred to as WashU, is a private university in Missouri. The school was established by a merchant and pastor who wanted to meet the growing needs of higher education in the Midwest. At the time the city of St. Louis flourished with new immigrants, creating the need for the school. WashU gets its name after the first president, George Washington. In 2018, the U.S. News & World Report ranked it the No. 2 school in Social Work.
The Brown School at WashU houses its Ph.D. in Social Work program. The curriculum focuses on theoretical and methodological approaches to the field. This 72 credit hour program develops future scholars through coursework and hands-on practice. For instance, students will engage in both research and teaching practicums. Some courses that are available include:
Applied Linear Regression Analysis
The Role and Use of Theory in Applied Social Research
About 21 credit hours from the Master in Social Work degree can be transferred to the Ph.D.
Yeshiva University is a private Jewish institute of higher education that is located in New York City. It is proud to serve the Jewish community as a safe place to study one’s academic passions while practicing one’s faith. As such, students are encouraged to serve one another and the greater Jewish community. Although the majority of students on campus identify as Jewish either culturally and/or religiously, all backgrounds are respected here. The U.S. News & World Report ranks Yeshiva among its “National Universities” ranking for the best schools in the country.
Throughout the Ph.D. in Social Welfare degree, topics of education, research, practice, and social policy will be discussed. Sixty credit hours must be completed, with coursework taking roughly two years. However, the majority of the program will be hands-on in the field.
Independent study the second year
Financial aid available
Evening courses on Wednesdays and Thursdays
Outside research funding opportunities are available. Interested applicants must go to the individual websites to apply.
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