Javascript is currently not supported, or is disabled by this browser. Please enable Javascript for full functionality.

Skip to Main Content
Columbia Campus    
2017-2018 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) 
  Jun 19, 2024
2017-2018 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) [Archived Catalog]

Social Work, Ph.D.

Return to Programs A-Z Return to: Programs A-Z

The PhD program focuses upon the preparation of social work scholars and educators through individualized and interdisciplinary advanced study.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate capacity to use empirical and theoretical knowledge across disciplines to analyze human behavior that is relevant to social work and social welfare.
  • Students will apply appropriately a range of methods in the design and implementation of community-engaged social and behavioral research.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to define appropriate research questions that are theoretically based.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge and skills in curriculum development, course planning, classroom management and principles of professional education.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge and skills in pedagogy.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge and skills in communicating and disseminating knowledge distinct from university teaching.


Admission to the PhD program is highly selective; only a small number of applicants will be admitted each fall semester. Candidates who possess both qualifications and career goals that are consistent with the focus of the program are highly sought. Requirements for admission include:

  • a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE accredited graduate program;
  • a grade point average of 3.50 or above for graduate-level work;
  • evidence of scholarly potential as indicated by three letters of reference;
  • a detailed personal statement that addresses: 
  1. applicant’s career goals, 
  2. how earning a PhD will help applicant achieve his or her career goals,
  3. why applicant wants to pursue a PhD at the USC COSW,
  4. what, if any, experience applicant has conducting research/evaluation (e.g., with a faculty member, for employment),
  5. applicant’s major research interest/focus,
  6. what personal and professional experiences have influenced applicant’s research interest/focus,
  7. how, if at all, applicant’s research interest/focus fits with the program’s emphases on community-engaged, trans-disciplinary research (i.e., team science) and leadership for social change;

Course of Study

The PhD program in social work is designed so that students can complete course requirements in two to three years. Students must enroll full-time during the first calendar year in residence.

The foreign language requirement (or its statistics or computer equivalent) may be met at any time during the student’s course of study, but not less than 60 days prior to the date at the student expects to receive the degree. Academic regulations are consistent with those that apply to other doctoral programs within The Graduate School.

Admission-to-Candidacy Examinations

Following successful completion of required course work, the student will take a qualifying examination in order to be admitted to candidacy. Examinations typically will take place after the second year of course work. While not course specific, the examination will require the student to demonstrate competence in the integration and application of content drawn from courses.


Within five years following successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the student must present a dissertation based on research that has been approved by a committee of professors in the major field and by the dean of The Graduate School. The dissertation must be successfully defended before an examining committee appointed by the dean of the college and approved by the dean of The Graduate School. The examining committee will consist of at least four members, one of whom must be from an academic unit other than Social Work.

Degree Requirements (61 Post Masters Hours)

Return to Programs A-Z Return to: Programs A-Z