Skip to main content

PhD in Social Work Degree Requirements


The curriculum is oriented towards an evidence-based, multidisciplinary understanding of complex issues and problems, and emphasizes the varieties of translational research methods. Fifty-three (53) semester credit hours (SCH) are required for the Ph.D. degree: 44 hours in coursework and 9 hours in Dissertation Research. 

The Comprehensive Examinations

Students must pass a written examination and an oral comprehensive examination at specified time points in the degree plan.  Successful completion of these milestones is required to progress through the program.

Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation

After a student has successfully passed the written and oral comprehensive examinations, and all required coursework, s/he is responsible for organizing a Dissertation Committee, developing and defending the dissertation proposal, and successfully completing the dissertation. The Chairperson of the Dissertation Committee is the student's major advisor in formulating the dissertation proposal, conducting ongoing research, and preparing the final dissertation.

The dissertation proposal must provide a comprehensive overview of the proposed dissertation research study. The focus of the dissertation must be relevant to social work, social welfare and/or evidence-based social work. Dissertation research is organized around one or more testable hypotheses or may be exploratory in nature. The proposed dissertation must also be feasible in terms of the candidate's qualifications to complete the study, the data available, the resources required for the study, and a reasonable timeline for completion.

Students are required to follow all UH timelines and policies. All dissertations must be completed within five (5) years of passing oral comprehensive examination or students will be required to retake the oral comprehensive examination. Students must complete the dissertation within 10 years of the date of first enrollment in the doctoral program. It is recommended that students successfully complete the dissertation proposal defense no later than the fifth (5th) semester following the oral comprehensive examination. This then allows for five semesters to complete the entire dissertation before the  five-year deadline regarding the oral comprehensive examination.


The Ph.D. Program Academic Advisor and Director provide academic and faculty advisement, respectively, for students until a Dissertation Chairperson is chosen. Students are urged to consult with a wide range of faculty members on matters related to substantive research areas interest for their course of study.


Applicants who do not hold a master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.), or with a master’s degree in a different discipline, may pursue a program of study that leads to both the M.S.W. and the Ph.D. degrees. Students are prepared to practice social work, conduct research, and hold high level positions in administration upon graduation from the dual program. Applicants must submit separate applications and fees to both the M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs.

Upon acceptance, it will take approximately 3 ½ years to complete the dual M.S.W./Ph.D. coursework with an additional 6 months to two (2) years allotted for completion of the doctoral dissertation. The general GRE exam is the accepted graduate school entrance exam for both programs and applicants will need to plan ahead to ensure their scores are submitted before application deadlines. Dual degree students spend their first year focused exclusively on M.S.W. coursework.