PhD in Social Work Curriculum

The curriculum at the Brown School emphasizes substantive, theoretical and methodological preparation and requires 74 units of credit, 21 of which can be transferred from your MSW program. (Graduates of allied fields will have their transcripts evaluated on an individual basis for transfer credits.)

The remaining 53 units of coursework are typically spread over four semesters, or two academic years, leaving approximately two years for work related to your dissertation. See the student handbook for more information.

The first year of study includes basic principles in research, statistics and measurement, as well as theoretical coursework and content fortifying your social work and social welfare knowledge base.

The second year offers a more individualized program of study. A curriculum plan is developed by each student and advisor(s), focusing on an area of specialization. The program is interdisciplinary, requiring 15 credits of course work in the social sciences. Social science courses are selected that relate to the student’s developing area of focus. Advanced courses in research methodology, as well as research and teaching practica, also help build the student’s expertise as a social work scholar. Professional competence is assessed through a qualifying examination and successful completion of a research dissertation that follows either a traditional or a three-paper thesis model.

Sample courses available to doctoral students

  • Introduction to Advanced Research
  • Conceptual Foundations of Social Science Research
  • The Role and Use of Theory in Applied Social Research
  • Foundations of Data Analysis
  • System Dynamics
  • Data Management
  • Generalized Linear Modeling
  • Issues and Directions in Intervention Research
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling
  • Applied Linear Regression Analysis
  • Propensity Score Analysis
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Survival Analysis
  • Professional development seminars and teaching workshops
  • Skill-development labs
  • Elective courses taken in other departments throughout Washington University

Requirements for graduation

  • Previously obtained master’s degree
  • 74 credit hours (can include 21 master’s-level credits from relevant degree)
  • Two years of full-time doctoral coursework
  • Three teaching practica for course credit
  • Three research practica for course credit
  • Completion of an area of specialization statement and qualifying exam
  • Dissertation and oral defense