Program of Study

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

Students following one of the social work specializations who have a master’s degree in a related field but have not earned a social work master’s degree or its equivalent at the time of admission may be required to take up to 12 credits of MSW-level coursework in order to ensure their familiarity with core concepts and perspectives in the social work knowledge base. The course(s) to be required will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the doctoral program committee in consultation with the student and his/her advisor.

A minimum degree of 43 graduate credits beyond the master’s degree are required, at least 36 of which must be earned in residence at UWM.


The program’s classroom curriculum uses a variety of approaches to convey content, including the following:

    • one required foundation course in the philosophy of science (SW 901);
    • four specialization seminars used to address broader themes by presenting them from the perspective of one of the concentrations. These include one seminar in criminal justice and three in social work. The latter include a class covering the life course model taught by faculty in Applied Gerontology (SW 945), a class addressing interventions research taught from within the Health and Behavioral Health concentration (SW 932), and a class on child and family well-being taught from the perspective of the Child and Family Welfare concentration (SW 791). Students must take the seminar in their area of focus, plus two others;
    • six standard classes on research methods and applied statistics, including one quantitative methods class (SW 951), one qualitative methods class (SW 952), at least two in-house statistics classes (SW 961, SW 962), and two additional classes in either advanced statistics or specialized research methods. These last two classes may be taken inside or outside the school;
    • three proseminars that cover specialized content relevant to research and teaching. These are a course in post-secondary teaching methods (GRAD 801) and two courses within the school on research ethics and grant writing (SW 990);
    • two practicum credits (SW 999) used to expand students’ skills in teaching and research. These are taken in connection with their first teaching assistant and research assistant assignments;
    • two electives, usually taken outside the school, in areas that strengthen students’ knowledge in their substantive areas of interest. Examples of courses taken on campus include a seminar on social psychology in the Psychology Department, a program planning course in public health, and a course on social inequality in the Sociology Department. Examples of courses taken through UWM’s cooperative enrollment arrangements with other campuses include a psychopharmacology course at Marquette University and a maternal and child health course at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Syllabi