PhD in Social Welfare

Gabriela Sehinkman headshot
female student with text Doctoral Student Spotlight
PhD student being sashed
female student with text Doctoral Student Spotlight
female student with text Doctoral Student Spotlight

Applications to join our Fall 2025 Cohort will open on September 1, 2024; the deadline to submit is midnight on December 1, 2024.

The PhD program is a research training program in social work/social welfare.  Doctoral students have the opportunity to engage with world-renowned faculty conducting cutting-edge research.

To learn more about our full-time and part-time study options, curriculum, nationally recognized faculty, student financial support and admissions process for the Fall 2024 cohort, we encourage you to review the resources on this website  and sign up for a virtual open house webinar below. Please note that the doctoral program does not mail any hard-copy information.

Virtual Open House Webinar Dates

June 2024

Thursday, June 6, 2024 at 2:00 PM until 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Register for the June Open House

August 2024

Thursday, August 22, 2024 at 4:00 PM until 5:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Register for the August Open House

September 2024

Monday, September 9, 2024 at 12:00 PM until 1:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Register for the September Open House

October 2024

Thursday, October 10, 2024 at 9:00 AM until 10:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Register for the October Open House 

Zoom set up and help

    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.

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

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


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


    • 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

    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 work education

    See the Course Descriptions

    Doctoral students have access to the Mandel School Ph.D. lounge / computer lab 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each student will receive a key to the room. Please note that students should always have their ID on hand when they are in the building after hours. Per the CWRU police department, they may be asked to show their ID to verify that they are permitted to be in the building.

    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 of social welfare. Findings from the faculty’s research are used by human service agencies globally, county and state governments, federal agencies, and governments outside the USA to improve practice and service delivery as well as to have an impact on 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 activities 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.

    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.

    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.