Social Work (PhD)

Admission Requirements

Interested applicants will want to view the PhD Admissions page, and our PhD Application Guidance reference to walk through the general application process. Materials are due December 1st of each year.  New cohort members can typically look forward to entry for the following Fall Semester.

Application materials include the following:

  1. Graduate Admissions Application 

  2. Doctoral program application

  3. Non-refundable application processing fee

  4. Official Transcripts

  5. Letters of recommendation

  6. Writing sample

  7. Personal statement

  8. Resume

  9. TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo  (if required)

The admission process involves the following:

  • Review of application materials by the doctoral admissions committee 

  • Admission committee interviews with those recommended

  • Recommendations of selected applicants are forwarded to the Graduate School 

*Note: Admission is typically limited to individuals who hold a Master in Social Work degree—i.e., MSW, MSSW—from programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or international equivalents. Two years of full-time post-master's degree experience is advised. However, applicants without a Master’s degree in social work, but with a Master’s degree in another related discipline are welcome to apply and will be considered on a case by case basis.

Program Requirements

Core Courses
Year 1/Fall
SW 729Pro Seminar I: Foundations of Scholarly Writing 1
SW 732Theory I: Philosophy of Science & the Development and Application of Theory in Social Work Research3
SW 733Foundation Research Methods3
SW 734Introduction to Social Statistics and Data Analysis 3
Year 1/Spring
SW 741Systemic Change: Identifying and Intervening in Issues of Social Justice3
SW 742 Theory II: Theory-Driven Analysis of Social Problems to Inform Practice & Social Welfare Policy3
SW 743 Advanced Research Methods3
SW 744 Applied Regression Analysis3
Year 1/Summer
SW 750Independent Study: Examination of Scholarly Literature 3
or SW 751 Independent Study: Mentored Research Experirence
SW 752Qualitative Methods: Design, Data Collection, and Analysis3
Year 2/Fall
SW 761 Advanced Scholarly Writing to Fund and Disseminate Resesarch to Diverse Audiences3
SW 765 Advanced Qualitative Research: Design, Data Collection, and Analysis3
SW 764Teaching in Social Work3
Year 2/Spring
SW 780 Pro Seminar II: Comprehensive Examination Preparation1
Elective or SW 750 or 751 Independent Study3
SW 781 Teaching Practicum3
Year 2/Summer
SW 799 Dissertation Prep6
Years 3 and 4
DOCT 600Doctoral Candidacy0
Minimum Total Hours56

The coursework consists of 56 credit hours, including 38 credit hours of core curriculum, 12 hours of individualized curriculum (i.e. independent studies and electives), and 6 hours of dissertation preparation. Six of the 12 individualized credit hours must be in research methods or statistics.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination evaluates knowledge and skill deemed critical prior to beginning the dissertation component. Students are eligible to write their comprehensive examination upon successful completion of all required coursework. A thorough description of the comprehensive examination details the following requirements: (a) eligibility, (b) students’ exam committees, (c) exam committee roles and responsibilities, (d) expected content of the exam, (e) length of exam and time allotments, and (f) evaluation of student performance.

Following the passage of the comprehensive examination, students are admitted to Candidacy status and proceed with their dissertation:

2nd Year: Summer : Dissertation Preparation (6)


The primary requirement of a dissertation is that it contributes to the knowledge base of the social work profession. It must represent independent work and be based on original research. Dissertation committees have at least four members and must include one member outside of the Kent School. If the outside member does not have a primary appointment as UofL faculty but is otherwise qualified, they may be granted ad hoc approval to participate. Dissertation information such as deadlines and preparation guidelines dictated by the University are at the Graduate School website. Please note semester deadlines and that the Request to Schedule Final Oral Defense form must be completed by the student. The required steps to complete the dissertation at the Kent School can be found in the Dissertation Guidelines .