PhD in Social Welfare

Four doctoral students standing together

“I chose MSASS for numerous reasons—its faculty, its national ranking, the part-time PhD format and the generous tuition assistance offered. However, the school’s commitment to research, diversity, and student success is what really solidified my decision to enroll.”

—Cheryl Appline, cohort 2017

Applications to join our cohort starting fall 2019 are due Dec. 1.

Founded in 1952 as one of the first doctoral programs in social welfare in America, the PhD program at the Mandel School is designed to develop leaders in social work research, policy and teaching.

The PhD program is a cornerstone of the school, offering doctoral students the unrivaled opportunity to engage with world-renowned faculty, cutting-edge research and a creative curriculum—all within a supportive environment committed to student success.

In response to the different needs and interests of our students, the Mandel School both full-time and part-time formats. The doctoral program is on-campus only.

  • 43 credits of required and elective coursework
  • Passing a qualifying exam
  • 18 hours of dissertation credits
  • Completion of a dissertation

Full-time

  • Two years of coursework (4 semesters)
  • Eight courses per year—four courses in the fall semesters and four courses in the spring semesters

Part-time

  • Accommodates social work professionals who are balancing employment commitments and PhD study
  • Three years of coursework (6 semesters)
  • Six courses per year—three courses in the fall semesters and three courses in the spring semesters

What are classes like?

Our PhD curriculum emphasizes the creative and evaluative knowledge and skills necessary for an independent inquiry, critical thinking, research and theory. Both the full-time and part-time formats are structured to maximize interaction among students, as well as between students and faculty.

Our curriculum and professional development opportunities are focused on assisting students to achieve competencies in research, theory, teaching and leadership. Student performance on the four competencies is assessed annually as part of our faculty’s review of students’ activities and accomplishments.

Course content includes:

  • Philosophy of science and theory building
  • Theories of human behavior
  • Advanced research design
  • Statistics
  • Measurement and data analysis
  • Qualitative research models and methods
  • Integrated research seminar
  • Social welfare policy
  • Theory and evidence base of social work practice
  • Social work education

See the Course Descriptions

What’s the research about?

Mandel School faculty members are nationally recognized for leadership in research and scholarship and boast an extensive portfolio of funded research.

Their high-ranking levels of productivity and groundbreaking research impacts upon diverse fields of social work, transforming individuals and communities all over the world. Our five interdisciplinary research centers tackle society’s most difficult and complex issues—from urban poverty to youth violence to trauma and adversity—and investigate and foster the implementation of innovative and evidence-based practices.

Our faculty’s work covers the lifespan from prenatal to the elderly, with studies on both the micro- and macro levels. Findings from the faculty’s research activities continue to be used by human service agencies, county and state governments, and federal agencies to improve practice and service delivery and to impact public policy.

There are many opportunities for doctoral students to become involved with faculty research projects and activities. Full-time students receive a four-year research fellowship, which provides individualized training in social work research methods with a faculty member closely matched with the student’s research interests.

In addition to the research fellowship, students can apply for a mentorship in research, which provides stipends for students to work with faculty mentors on research projects. Additionally, students can serve as staff on faculty members’ funded grants or serve as research assistants at one of the Mandel School’s research centers.

How can I get involved in teaching?

Our doctoral program provides formal coursework on social work education and teaching mentorships, which allow doctoral students the opportunity to develop knowledge of the history and current context of social work education and skills in education program design, curriculum development, and the delineation and assessment of educational objectives.

Students have an opportunity to participate in seminars on teaching offered by the University Center for Innovations in Teaching Excellence. Students can serve as adjunct faculty who teach courses in our master’s degree program in our on-campus, intensive weekend and online teaching formats. Doctoral students typically leave the program with a teaching portfolio that can be used as a strong foundation for employment applications and interviews.

What kind of professional development is available?

Our program enjoys a diverse and talented faculty committed to doctoral education who have close working relationships with doctoral students. Students work individually with a faculty mentor throughout their doctoral training:

  • Hands-on experience in various phases of the research process
  • Learn and practice teaching skills
  • Develop and give presentations for national professional conferences
  • Active involvement in writing and publication

In addition to coursework, there are a variety of supports for career development and preparation for leadership in the profession:

  • Regular workshops on class and conference presentations and professional writing and publications
  • Colloquia and workshops on research methodology
  • Practice and preparation for job interviews
  • Colloquia presentations of completed dissertation research.

We consider this individual investment in our doctoral students an investment in the future of the social work profession.