Phd in Social Work (or DSW)

Consider Featured Online Social Work Programs

Phd in Social Work (or DSW) Programs Currently Accepting Applicants
University of Southern California Doctor of Social Work (DSW) University of Southern California - Doctor of Social Work (DSW) - Study part time without attending classes on campus.
Simmons University Online DSW Simmons University - Online DSW - Complete in less than two years full time or less than three years part time. No GRE scores required.

Social work is an incredibly influential field in the U.S. Professionals that are interested in being providers of important services, advocates for social change, or researchers responsible for positively changing the field should consider PhD programs in the field of social work.

Students that choose the educational path for their learning experience can focus on the historical changes and developments in the field in an effort to educate upcoming social work professionals during their degree programs.

The PhD option for social work students can provide you with the experience and practice you need to pursue careers associated with growth and development in this field. Our team of educational experts has put together this guide to help you learn more about this program and what is requires of learners enrolled.

Consider a Featured Online Social Work Program

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*Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Typical Pre-Requisites for Entry

Different colleges may require applicants to meet varying levels of achievement and experience prior to being accepted. Through your search for the right program, you might find that there are options that accept graduates from Bachelor of Social Work programs and others that accept Master of Social Work graduates.

Some colleges with a higher enrollment rate may also require that applicants submit test scores from the Graduate Record Examination as a means for measuring a student's performance at entry. Completing the GRE prior to applying to PhD programs may open up more options for you in terms of which programs you qualify for.

PhD in Social Work programs that do not require the GRE may accept students based on factors such as undergraduate GPA or historical work experience. These are all factors that you can prove through documentation and proof of enrollment at the time of application submission.

If your chosen degree requires work experience in the field of social work, it could range between 2-5 years for most programs. Not all programs require work experience or the GRE, so you should research what each program requires in order to apply to options that best match your resume.

Phd in Social Work (or DSW) Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

Designed to prepare professionals to address social issues, top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s online Doctor of Social Work program can be completed in 28 months part time.
Click for admissions information.

Simmons University offers its online Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) — MSW required; no GRE required. The program prepares you to become a well-rounded scholar-practitioner through a curriculum focused on three key areas: inclusive leadership, advanced clinical practice, and teaching and education.
Click for admissions information.

Why Consider a PhD in Social Work?

The social work field is a constantly changing - indicating a need for versatile professionals that are ready and willing to change alongside it. The PhD in Social Work can teach students how to analyze their environment and find solutions for upcoming or unseen changes within social areas.

The PhD in Social Work can also create professionals that can train and prepare upcoming social work professionals for work in this changing field. Since the PhD program considers core subject areas such as social policy and research methods, you could utilize what you learn during it to adapt to change throughout your career.

As the population continues to grow, the need for more structured and provisional social work systems may be needed. In order to develop and test these systems, research specialists may be sought out by local and national government agencies.

In addition to research and education, this degree program can also provide you with the knowledge needed to manage and operate social agencies within your community. This added leadership component can be a major influencer for students considering a move into this degree program.

If you are the type of person that loves to help others or that is always looking for ways to make things easier for others, this could be the right program for you to choose. PhD in Social Work degrees help to prepare future educators and researchers in this field to make a difference within their communities of professionals, as well as in the social environment.

Online PhD in Social Work Options

Students that are prepared and eager to begin an online PhD in Social Work can find flexible programs at universities across the country. It is important to review all available programs prior to making the decision on which to enroll in.

Our Lady of the Lake University is currently a provider of online PhD programs in Social Work. From the onset of the program, you can expect to complete around 3 years of course work surrounding research and education in the social work field.

This program in particular requires that students already hold a Master's in Social Work, as well as 2 years experience working in the social work field. A large number of online PhD programs may require that you hold a minimum MSW and have some experience in the field.

Another online option for you to consider is located at Walden University. This online PhD program in Social Work offers specializations like Criminal Justice, Addictions and Social Work, Family Studies and Interventions, and Policy Practice.

This online PhD program also requires that applicants hold a MSW and provide proof of employment history for acceptance consideration. In total, this program can be completed in around 3 years for most students.

Phd in Social Work (or DSW) Programs Currently Accepting Applicants

Typical Courses for a PhD in Social Work Program

Since the online PhD program was designed for future researchers and social work educators, a lot of the curriculum may be focused on building skills for problem solving and policy practice. Courses like Design and Data Analysis for Researchers can provide you with insight into appropriate data collection procedures for research projects, as well as design measures for finding accurate and relevant results.

Theory for Applied Social Sciences can also be a beneficial course for students within this program. Since theory often dictates that processes by which professionals engage with clients in the field, future educators and research specialists can benefit from familiarizing themselves with various social theories.

One of the most commonly found courses in doctoral-level social work programs is Social Welfare Policy. The policies set forth for social work professionals often drive action and planning within all social fields, making it incredibly important for members of the social work field.

In this course you may be tasked with applying policy to common situations at work, reading case studies and analyzing proper use of policy, and defining policy according to what you have learned throughout the course. This course among many others can help bring together many of the practical and research-oriented topics learned during the PhD program.

Additionally, courses focusing directly on research such as Research Methods and Systematic Research for Scientific Inquiry may be included within your curriculum depending on your institution of choice. This is in hopes that students can leave their program with the skills needed to identify needs, suggest change programs, and test their theories through accurate scientific research.


The PhD program is unique for collegiate learners in that it often requires additional independent research as part of the overall degree requirements. While you search for online programs to enroll in, you should check in to the thesis requirements for each.

The thesis requirement can have varying directions at different universities, with most requiring an original research project that has been well-researched, designed, and completed prior to the end of your program.

Your university may provide a structured outline of what is expected, with instructional classes on how to meet each requirement during your PhD program. Others can provide one-on-one mentors that work with students as they develop their initial research question up until their final submission.

Some students in social work degree programs choose a current social problem that is easily researched and develop an intervention or social change model for presentation to their thesis review board. The work that you submit can be reviewed by an internal thesis review team, requiring that you defend your research during the review process.

Progression through the online PhD in Social Work program may include continuous work on your thesis project, with some programs requiring that you complete it over the course of 2-3 different classes. Universities typically offer you a lot of support and even mentors throughout the process.

Social Work Career Options

Once you have completed the journey towards your PhD in Social Work, you may be able to cash-in on your investment through a wide variety of careers in the social work field. An intriguing aspect about the PhD program is that it can help you gain access to careers in education, research, or even social work leadership.

Current job openings for PhD in Social Work holders can include Social Services Director, which can include leadership within certain sectors of community social work programs. This career may have different title variations such as Community Service Director and Family Service Director.

Colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations may also employ PhD holders to help educate students and professionals on various social work policies, procedures, and methods. This is one of the most popular sectors of employment for PhD graduates, since it can influence the success of social work professionals in the field.

At the government level, social work research may be a large component in the constantly changing social environment. PhD holders in Social Work can organization and implement research programs to find effective social interventions or services suggested for various social problems.

Regardless of which field you plan to pursue after graduating, the PhD in Social Work can provide you with valuable skills that can be applied in many diverse professional areas. Your engagement in this program can result in years of a fulfilling career within your community or beyond it.