Photo show three social welfare students. A Black woman with red jacket; white woman with checked jacket; Asian man with navy jacket

The joint MSW and social welfare PhD program prepares students to make significant contributions to social work education and the knowledge base of the profession.

Program Type

Master’s, Doctoral

Program Format

On Campus

Request Information

The goals and objectives of both the MSW and social welfare PhD programs reflect the department’s concerns with urban social problems, social and economic equity and well-being, cultural diversity, and the empowerment of individuals, families, organizations and communities to effect change. However, the joint MSW/PhD program extends preparation for practice in the MSW program into training for research in the PhD program.

As a result of rigorous PhD coursework and supervised PhD research, our doctoral graduates have gone on to succeed as independent scholars, policy analysts, and research scientists.

The joint MSW/PhD program offers two tracks — an advanced curriculum for students who hold a BSW earned within the past seven years from a CSWE-accredited program and a foundation track for those who do not.

MSW and Social Welfare PhD Program Overview

Objectives of the curriculum include:

  • Providing opportunities for advanced scholarship and research in social work, including partnerships with the wider community
  • Preparing scholars who demonstrate knowledge, skills, values, and ethics of the profession and who are able to serve as future leaders in social work academic and research settings
  • Preparing scholars competent in the development and advancement of knowledge in these disciplines, with particular emphasis on social work intervention as broadly defined

Outcomes and competencies expected of doctoral graduates include:

  • Knowledge of theories underlying intervention approaches used in the student’s discipline
  • Ability to critically analyze theories and knowledge development related to a specific content area
  • Understanding of how knowledge currently is and has historically been developed, disseminated and applied in each discipline and in relation to specific content areas
  • Familiarity with relevant policies, their rationale and their implications for practice
  • Capacity to design and conduct intervention research appropriate to the student’s area of interest, including the capacity to participate effectively in knowledge-building and in applying that knowledge to the development of effective interventions, programs or policies
  • Capacity to develop, utilize and disseminate quantitative, qualitative, mixed, epidemiological, and instrumentation research methods and statistical analysis with relevance to discipline-specific research
  • Furthering the knowledge base of the discipline by conducting research that addresses questions of direct practical relevance and questions involving broad theoretical issues, etiological and epidemiological concerns and large-scale social policy
  • Knowledge, values, ethics and skills essential to teaching and the preparation of future professionals, in addition to those relating to research, scholarship and leadership in the social work discipline

Advanced Curriculum

If your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree was earned from an accredited BSW program within the past seven years then you automatically begin in the advanced standing portion of the MSW curriculum and will have 34 credits to complete to earn the MSW degree. These 34 credits include a number of required courses. This includes three consecutive semesters of field placement. Courses that will satisfy MSW electives will be drawn from the PhD curriculum.

Students who qualify to begin in the advanced curriculum will complete all MSW requirements in the first year (three semesters), including one semester of summer study.

Professional Foundation Curriculum

Students admitted into the joint MSW/PhD program who have not earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited social work program within the past seven years are required to fulfill 24 credits in the professional foundation prior to the advanced curriculum.

The purpose of the professional foundation is to orient students to the profession and to provide a knowledge, values and skills base in preparation for the advanced curriculum. Coursework in the professional foundation is not included in the 34 advanced curriculum credits required for completion of the MSW degree.

Students who complete both the foundation and advanced curricula will fulfill all requirements for the MSW degree in two years (approximately six semesters), including two semesters of summer study.


Students who have, within the seven years of preceding admission, completed coursework that substantially duplicates professional foundation courses may apply to the MSW program coordinator for an exemption from the relevant courses.

In consultation with the major professor and as soon as possible after admission, each MSW-PhD student designs a program of study to gain the knowledge and skills appropriate to their educational goals.

MSW Program

Professional Foundation Curriculum
SOC WRK 640GSocial Systems and Social Work Practice
SOC WRK 662GMethods of Social Welfare Research
SOC WRK 665GCultural Diversity
SOC WRK 705Individual Behavior and Social Welfare
SOC WRK 708Social Work Methods I
SOC WRK 709Social Work Methods II
SOC WRK 750Social Welfare Policy Development and Implementation
SOC WRK 721Field Education I
MSW Advanced Curriculum
SOC WRK 711 Direct Practice I
SOC WRK 712Advanced Practice and Leadership in Organizations and Communities
SOC WRK 795Evaluation of Practice and Programs
SOC WRK 851Social Issue and Policy Analysis
SOC WRK 722Field Education II
SOC WRK 821Field Education III
SOC WRK 822Field Education IV
MSW Elective Courses satisfied by PhD curriculum

PhD Program

Upon successful completion of the required MSW courses, students will progress into the required PhD curriculum, in which they will complete the following:

  • One required foundation course in the philosophy of science.
  • Three specialization seminars that address broader themes on child and family welfare, health and behavioral health, and criminal justice practice and policy.
  • Six courses on research methods and statistics to advance their understanding in quantitative and qualitative research methods, design, and applied analysis.
  • Three pro-seminar courses that cover content relevant to ethics, grant writing, and teaching.
  • Two practicum credits to expand students’ skills in teaching and research.
  • Two elective courses in areas that strengthen students’ knowledge in their substantive areas of interest.