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Why a Ph.D. or a Doctorate in Social Work


Is a Ph.D. in Social Work Right for You?

If you are looking to become a member of faculty at a university, or join a research center addressing social and health problems, or are looking for advancement in leadership positions requiring research skills then the answer is likely yes.  

What Kinds of Careers do People with Ph.D.’s Have?

Since Ph.D. graduates are prepared in rigorous research methods and in pedagogy, most Ph.D.’s have research and academic careers. Many PhD graduates pursue post-doctoral fellowships to enhance the skills needed to have a research career.

Careers 

The federal government predicts a shortage of qualified faculty in social work, and every year the demand for faculty grows greater than the number of qualified graduates.

Ph.D. graduates have a variety of avenues to pursue their academic and research careers. 

  • Academic – Tenure track, research and teaching positions are available in all kinds of settings, including teaching-intensive and large research- intensive universities
  • Professional Researchers – Ph.D. graduates may also work in other settings, such as government agencies, independent research centers, and the military, where they will conduct research that informs practice and provide policy analysis, and data analyses that guides social programs.

Type of Degree Program:

  • There are many different types of PhD programs in social work and most programs offer course work within social work and in other disciplines.
  • Dual or joint or Interdisciplinary degrees – These programs offer, either as a part of their program or as the structure of their program, coursework and mentorship in both social work and another field of study.
  • Full time and part-time programs, on-line
  • Public or private institutions, rural or urban setting, residential or commuter campuses.

Is a DSW Right for You?

The foci and curricula for DSW programs vary from school to school but programs often emphasize advanced clinical or macro training for practicing social workers.

If you are looking for a program where the curriculum emphasizes advanced clinical or macro training for practicing social workers and does not have as strong of emphasis on research as most PhD programs, then the answer is likely yes.

What Kinds of Careers do People with DSWs Have?

Graduates of DSW programs are assuming leadership positions in community agencies and serving as advanced clinicians in clinical settings. Some graduates take teaching positions in academic settings. 

Careers 

DSWs graduates have a variety of avenues to pursue in their careers. 

  • Academic –Clinical teaching positions are available in all kinds of settings, including teaching-intensive and large research- intensive universities
  • Professional Social Workers – DSW graduates may work in settings, such as government agencies, community agencies, and the military, where they will provide advanced clinical services to clients and assume leadership roles in guiding mental health and social service programs.

Type of Degree Program:

  • There are many different types of DSW programs in social work. The foci and curricula for DSW programs vary from school to school. Some programs emphasize advanced clinical or macro training for practicing social workers. Some programs emphasize leadership training; other programs emphasize teaching.
  • Full time and part-time programs, on-line
  • Programs vary in their emphasis on research. Some programs require a dissertation; others do not. Some require a clinical internship; others do not.
  • Public or private institutions, rural or urban setting, residential or commuter campuses.

Learn more about DSW programs and their accreditation standards by visiting the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) website. Cswe.org