Academic Requirements

Course work: 36 credit hours of doctoral course work are taken in the 1st and 2nd years of the program and include:

  • 12 credit hours of 700-level social work courses, including Philosophy of Science, Social Work Pedagogy, Welfare State, and Proposal Development
  • 12 credit hours of approved 500-level or above research methods and statistics courses
  • 3 credit hours of an approved 500-level or above theory course
  • 9 credit hours of approved 500-level or above directed elective courses (3 hours of which may be used for an independent study)


Sample Course Schedule*

SSW PhD coursework

*Note: course schedule is subject to change according to the academic year in which students are admitted and other course scheduling considerations

Residency: Within the first year of matriculation, all students complete the School of Social Work’s residency requirement by completing a minimum of 9 credit hours in the Fall and Spring semesters.

Qualifying exam: Roughly one month after completing 18 doctoral-level credit hours of course work, presumably at the end of the 1st year, students write a six-hour, two-part qualifying exam. The exam assesses students’ knowledge of foundational content from the first year of course work (i.e., philosophy of science, theory, research methods, and statistics). Members of the Ph.D. program committee construct and evaluate the exam.

Graduate supervisory committee: Students form a graduate supervisory committee after the 1st year of course work.

Dissertation-related research*: 24 credit hours of dissertation-related research are taken in the 3rd year of the program and beyond and include:

  • 12 credit hours of research credit (SWG 792) taken during preparation and completion of the comprehensive exam and dissertation prospectus
  • 12 credit hours of dissertation credit (SWG 799) taken during preparation and completion of the dissertation

*Note: students do not have to maintain full-time enrollment during this time, but are required to be registered for at least 1 credit hour each semester of enrollment

Comprehensive exam: Students write and pass a comprehensive exam within 12 months of completion of the full 36 credit hours of required course work and after an approved graduate supervisory committee has been selected and approved. The comprehensive exam assesses students’ knowledge of their substantive area as well as preparedness for developing their dissertation prospectus. The exam is developed on an individual basis by the members of the student's graduate supervisory committee and is based on a reading list prepared by the student and submitted in advance to the committee. The exam typically consists of four sections: substantive, theory, methodology, and interventions/practice. Members of the graduate supervisory committee evaluate the exam.

Dissertation prospectus defense: Students submit a written dissertation prospectus in consultation with their graduate supervisory committee and orally defend it with their committee within 18 months of course work completion.

Dissertation defense*: Students submit a written dissertation within 5 years of passing the comprehensive exam and orally defend it with their graduate supervisory committee.

*Note: Ph.D. students are not to exceed 10 years of enrollment in the program from date of admission