Social Work (PhD)

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work
Unit: Kent School of Social Work (GK)
Department: Social Work
Program Website 
Academic Plan Code(s): SW_ _PHD

Program Information

The PhD program in social work at the Kent School of Social Work, a joint program with the University of Kentucky's College of Social Work, prepares academically motivated master's level social workers to take on teaching, research, administrative, and policy analysis positions.

The program focuses on building research, teaching, and analytic competencies through courses on social (work) theories, advanced research design and analysis, teaching, ethics, special topics seminars, guided research practicums and independent studies.

Students have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of nationally recognized faculty within the school and university with expertise in the areas of social and child welfare, child & family well-being, gerontology, health & mental health, justice & criminality, school social work, substance abuse and international social work.

Along with coursework, students are guided in developing expertise in an area of social sciences research.  Areas of research have included an examination of social and health disparities, social work interventions, predictors and risk factors for substance abuse, long-term effects of maltreatment and trauma, and evaluation of training programs, to name just a few.

Students are also mentored and supported on becoming a faculty member, and balancing research, teaching, and service as they prepare for their future career.

Graduates of our program have gone on to work as faculty members in schools of social work nationally and internationally as well as in a variety of other research, administrative and policy positions.

Admission Requirements

To apply to the doctoral program in social work send the following materials by January 5 to: 

Graduate School
Graduate Admissions
University of Louisville
Houchens Building, Room 105
Louisville, KY 40292
  1. Completed Graduate Admissions Application

  2. Application for Admission to the University of Louisville PhD in Social Work Program

  3. Official transcripts from each college/university attended, and documentation of the receipt of a master's degree in Social Work, e.g. MSW, MSSW, from a CSWE accredited program or international equivalent.

  4. Official report of GRE scores

  5. Three recommendations (at least two from academicians)

  6. Application fee

  7. A current resume

  8. A sample of scholarly writing

  9. A personal statement of career goals, research interests, and reasons for pursuing doctoral studies (no more than 3 pages).

The admission process involves the following:

  • Review of application materials by the doctoral admissions committee
  • Admission committee interviews with those recommended
  • Recommendation to the Graduate School

Students are expected to hold a master's degrees in Social Work—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.

Program Requirements

Core Courses
SW 769Advanced Research Design and Analysis I6
SW 770Advanced Research Design and Analysis II6
SW 771Advanced Research Design and Analysis III3
SW 756Professional Seminar I1
SW 758Professional Seminar II1
SW 764Teaching in Social Work3
SW 759Theory III: Conceptual and Theoretical Model Development3
SW 755Theory I: Philosophy of Science, Theory Development & Ethics3
SW 782Advanced Qualitative Research II: Data Analysis & Reporting3
SW 757Theory II: Advanced Analysis of Social Work Problems3
SW 773Measurement and Theoretical Model Test3
SW 772Advanced Qualitative Research I3
SW 762Research Practicum3
Individualized Studies and Dissertation Hours
Individualized Studies9
Minimum Total Hours56

Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to provide a format in which students can demonstrate their abilities to apply and integrate the whole of their educational experiences by adequately addressing complex questions pertinent to social work's current and developing a knowledge base, and their individual research areas.

A student is eligible to take the comprehensive exam upon successful completion of 50 credit hours of core and individualized course work. Students are expected to provide answers that integrate knowledge from all required courses.

Following the passage of the comprehensive exam, students are admitted to candidacy status.

Doctoral Dissertation

After admission to candidacy, students proceed to propose, complete and defend their dissertations. The dissertation must represent independent research and should be based on original research questions or hypotheses.

This process includes a) a concept paper, b) a formal proposal, and c) conducting the research and writing the dissertation. Dissertation committees have at least five members, one of whom is from the University of Kentucky.