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Online Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

The online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is designed for experienced social workers to become practitioner scholars in teaching and leadership and take on roles such as faculty members in social work programs and program directors, administrators, policy practitioners, and other organizational leadership positions within social service organizations.

UofL’s Doctor of Social Work program can help you make a real difference in your community and the world. If you’re an experienced social worker ready to make a difference, the expertly-designed DSW curriculum will help you develop the skills you need to educate, innovate and implement just practices that promote academic, organizational and community change.

The Doctor of Social Work is offered by the CSWE-accredited Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work and Family Science at the University of Louisville.

How Much Will I Pay?

Tuition & Aid    


  • Experience the advantage of earning your degree from an R1 research institution.
  • Gain hands-on experience by completing a teaching practicum as well as a leadership practicum.
  • Complete your DSW in as little as 3 years (or 8 semesters).
  • Set yourself up for a successful career—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Social worker employment is expected to grow 16% between 2016 and 2026.
  • Take advantage of the flexibility and convenience of 100% online classes and 24/7 access to learning tools as well as synchronous and asynchronous courses.
  • Learn from world-class, experienced Kent School faculty and build influential connections with your peers through small cohorts.


Stronger cultural knowledge and stronger base to work from—available fully online.


Earn your graduate certificate in just 14 courses (44 credit hours).


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Social worker employment is expected to grow 16% between 2016 and 2026.

Online learning  - Online Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

"This program transforms experienced professionals into scholars, teachers and organizational leaders positively impacting vulnerable and marginalized populations."


What can you do with a Doctor of Social Work?

The essential knowledge, skills and credentials earned from a DSW equips you to advance your career and succeed as a social work postsecondary educator and/or leader. Most postsecondary social work educators work in public and private colleges and universities, professional schools, and junior or community colleges.

The 2019-2029 occupational outlook for postsecondary social work educators is expected to grow 9% nationwide, which is faster than the average national occupation growth rate and have a median annual salary of $80,790 (bls.gov).

Other career opportunities available to Doctor of Social Work graduates include:

  • University faculty or administrator
  • Policy practitioner
  • Leader within social service organizations
  • Consultant

What is the difference between a DSW and a Ph.D. in Social Work?

The DSW is ideal for someone who wants to be an educator or take on a leadership position in a social service organization or within higher education. On other hand, a Ph.D. in Social Work will help students hone their research skills and prepare for conducting research while teaching at a college or university.

While you can become a faculty member with either degree, a DSW prepares you to become part of the education faculty with a central focus on teaching and service as opposed to research.


The Fall 2023 application deadline has been extended to May 12!

Students interested in applying for the Fall 2023 cohort now have until May 12, 2023, to submit their application materials.

Preferred Application Deadline* Term Start Date
February 1- Extended to May 12! Fall 2023 August 2023

Steps to Apply

  1. Complete graduate application
  2. $65 non-refundable application fee
  3. Submit official college transcripts from all previous institutions
  4. Complete DSW application checklist
  5. Complete DSW applicant information form
  6. Submit personal statement of goals for pursuing the DSW degree
  7. Submit Current Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  8. Submit 3 letters of recommendation
    • From individuals familiar with the applicant’s work and/or academic ability and performance such as current or former supervisors and instructors
  9. A writing sample demonstrating the applicant's writing and analytical ability

Send all materials to:
Graduate Admissions
University of Louisville
2211 S. Brook Street
Louisville, KY 40292

* The preferred deadline helps you complete the application process on time, be notified of acceptance and enroll before the term begins. We recommend you work on and submit your complete application in advance of the preferred deadline, as some application materials may take more time.


Admission Requirements

  • Master’s degree in Social Work
    • Master’s GPA of 3.0 (applicants with a master’s GPA of below 3.0 showing potential for success as demonstrated in their other submitted application materials and/or in the interview for admission into the DSW program will be given consideration for admission)
  • 3 years of post-master’s social work experience
  • An interview after review of submitted application materials

The online Doctor of Social Work is a 44 credit hour program that requires 6 credit hours of capstone coursework (2 courses, completed during the third, final, year of the program).

Year Semester Course List Hours
1 Fall SW 730: Social Service Leadership and Teaching & Learning: History, Philosophy & Current Practice 3
SW 731: Ethics, Equity, and Social Justice: Theory & Practice 3
Spring SW 732: Implementation Science, Program Development & Administration 3
SW 733: Continuous Quality Improvement, Data Driven Decision-Making, and Evidence Based Practice and Management 3
Summer SW 734: Research Methods 3
SW 735: Program Evaluation 3
2 Fall SW 736: Applied Social Service Leadership, Management & Practice 4
SW 737: Program Planning, Finance and Budgets 3
Spring SW 738: Social Work Teaching & Learning: Theories, Methods & Assessment 3
SW 739: Teaching in Social Work: Course Design, Instruction & Evaluation 4
Summer SW 740: Policy Analysis & Advocacy: Contemporary Issues 3
SW 741: Integrative Seminar & Qualifying Assessment 3
3 Fall SW 742: Thesis/Capstone Project 3
Spring SW 742: Thesis/Capstone Project 3
Minimum Required Credit Hours 44

Course Descriptions