PhD in Social Work | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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Our doctoral program in social work provides the nation and world with some of the profession's best scholars, teachers and researchers.

Brown School PhD students

The Brown School is a one-of-a-kind place to learn and grow as a doctoral student.

"For over half a century, our School has prepared social work scholars for impactful careers. Students are guided by multidisciplinary faculty who are passionate about providing individualized mentoring and training opportunities to prepare students to address our world’s biggest challenges. We invite you to learn more about what the Brown School at Washington University can offer you and your career in scholarship and impact."

—Melissa Jonson-Reid 
Director, Doctoral Program in Social Work 
Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor in Social Work


PhD in Social Work

Teaching &
Research Experience
Stipends &

The curriculum at the Brown School emphasizes substantive, theoretical and methodological preparation. Our program requires 72 units of credit, 21 of which can be transferred from your MSW program or a graduate degree from an allied field.

Your first year of study includes basic principles in research, statistics and measurement, as well as theoretical study and content to strengthen your social science knowledge-base. Your second year offers a more individualized program of study that is expanded to include a host of electives offered throughout the university. A curriculum plan is developed by each student and an advisor/mentoring team, focusing on an area of specialization. Following two years of coursework, an additional two years is reserved for work related to the dissertation.

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Vital and groundbreaking research is being conducted at over a dozen Brown School research centers, and you'll have access to the scholars forging the future of your field. Our faculty are top scholars and experts, and students receive the benefit of their mentorship and guidance.

The director of the program serves as the primary faculty advisor of all incoming doctoral students. During orientation, students receive a tailored list of additional Brown School faculty who may serve as substantive advisor(s), those who share mutual areas of research interest. At the completion of the first year, students officially select an advisor to mentor them in their chosen area of research.

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The PhD curriculum includes three units each of required teaching and research practica. These practica typically occur after the first semester in our program and round out the individualized curriculum plan.

Teaching practica ensure students are well-trained in substantive content and pedagogy as they prepare for independent teaching at the graduate level.

Research practica provide opportunities to engage in different aspects of the research process and increase a student’s capacity for completing independent research. Additional opportunities for research development are available within specific research fellowship programs, faculty laboratories and research centers.

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We are committed to providing our doctoral students full tuition scholarships, four-year stipends and professional development accounts. Additional funding is possible through research and teaching fellowships as well as other sources of internal and external support.

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We review all applications holistically, assessing an individual’s overall preparation for rigorous doctoral study. All of our applicants must meet the admissions requirements of the Graduate School at Washington University as well as the requirements of the Brown School PhD Program. The application deadline is December 1.

Application requirements include:

  • A clear personal statement demonstrating interest in research and scholarship
  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Master's degree in relevant discipline
  • Three letters of recommendation from faculty and colleagues
  • CV
  • Writing sample from your master’s program or professional portfolio
  • In some cases, TOEFL scores
  • NOTE: Due to COVID-19, the GRE is optional for fall 2020 applicants to the social Work PhD program
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