Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work

Major: SW
Degree Awarded: Ph.D.
Unit: GK
Program Webpage:

Program Information

The Commonwealth's first doctoral program in social work offers the opportunity for academically motivated master's level social workers to continue their studies at the doctoral level.

Application to the Doctoral Program

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

School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies
Graduate Admissions
University of Louisville
Houchens Bldg., Suite 105

Louisville, KY 40292

  1. Completed Graduate Admissions Application
  2. Application for Admission to the University of Louisville Ph.D. 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. M.S.W., M.S.S.W., 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 School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies

Doctoral Admission Requirements

Students are expected to hold master’s degrees in Social Work, i.e. M.S.W., M.S.S.W., from programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), or international equivalents. Two years of full-time post master's experience is advised.

Academic Policies

Four-year policy: Doctoral students are expected to have taken their comprehensive exam by the time they are in the program four years, and complete the program in four additional years.

Data Analysis and Writing Policy: Doctoral students in the Kent School of Social Work may not arrange for anyone to analyze their data or write parts of their dissertations; rather, they should consult with their committee members if assistance is needed. Students may ask professional editors or others to edit their writing for grammar and other canons of writing.


Course # Description
Credit Hours
SW769-01 Advanced Research Design & Analysis I
SW770-01 Advanced Research Design & Analysis II
SW771-01 Advanced Research Design & Analysis III
SW756-75 Professional Seminar I
SW758-75 Professional Seminar II
SW764-01 Teaching in Social Work
SW759-01 Theory I: Change Theories in Social Work
SW760-01 Ethics, Social Work, and Society
SW755-01 Theory II: Theory Development
SW757-01 Theory III: Advanced Analysis of Social Welfare Problems
SW773-01 Advanced Measurement in Social Work Research
SW772-01 Advanced Qualitative Research
SW762-01 Research Practicum
Individualized Studies and Dissertation Hours
Individualized Studies SW797-01 Independent Studies (2 required)
SW763-01 Teaching Practicum
SW799-01 Dissertation
Total Credit Hours Required

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 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.


Adrian Archuleta

Associate Professor

Anita Barbee


Crystal Collins-Camargo


Anna C. Faul

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Lesley Harris

Assistant Professor

David Jenkins

Professor, Dean

Karen Kayser

Dr. Renato LaRocca Chair of Social Work Oncology

Thomas R. Lawson

Director of International Programs

Bibhuti K. Sar

Director of Ph.D. Program in Social Work

Riaan van Zyl

Associate Dean for Research