The PhD in Social Work is a full-time program of study designed to enable significant development of competency in social work values and ethics, theory, research methods, a substantive interdisciplinary specialization, and teaching.
Curriculum and Course Requirements
The PhD in Social Work program is a 63-credit plan with coursework to be completed in four semesters (two years). Specifically, we require a minimum of 27 credit hours in research methods courses, which includes quantitative and qualitative approaches, 12 credit hours in a specialization, 16 credit hours in core social work courses, and 8 credit hours in teaching methods and training.
Social Work Coursework (16 credits)
- SSW 901 Social Justice, Ethics, and the Social Work Profession
- SSW 902 Proseminar in Social Work
- SSW 903 Perspectives on Social Welfare Policy
- SSW 905 Contemporary Social Problems: Capstone
- SSW 910 Dissertation Seminar
Research Methods Coursework
Methods Review (4 credit hours)
- GRS SO 702 Sociological Methods
Quantitative Methods 1 and 2—Data Analysis (7 credit hours)
- SPH BS 704 Introduction to Biostatistics
- SPH BS 723 Introduction to Statistical Computing
Qualitative Methods 1 and 2—Investigative Methodologies (8 credit hours)
- SSW SR 906 Qualitative Research Methods
- SSW SR 907 Qualitative Data Analysis
Advanced Research Methods—Electives (8 credit hours)
Students take two courses in advanced research methods relevant to the student’s area of specialization.
To develop expertise in an area, students identify an interdisciplinary specialization organized around a population (i.e., children, immigrants and refugees, older adults), or social problem or social issue (i.e., poverty, housing, trauma, and health disparities).
Students take 3 courses (a minimum of 12 credits) in their chosen area of specialization, one of which is in theory.
Teaching Excellence Sequence
To foster teaching excellence among our graduates with specific fluency and teaching practices in social justice and cultural-responsiveness, the teaching sequence prepares future social work academics for excellence in the classroom. The teaching sequence introduces students to both practical and pedagogical aspects of social work teaching. Concurrently with the seminar, students will participate in a supported teaching practicum in a curricular area of interest.
Teaching Excellence Sequence Coursework (8 credits)
- SSW 908 Teaching Seminar
- SSW 909 Teaching Practicum
Advanced doctoral students also complete a minimum of two semesters of teaching as online facilitators and classroom instructors at the master’s level within BUSSW.
At the end of coursework (after the fourth semester), students take the qualifying exam. With an understanding of social justice reflected in core social work values, the qualifying exam assesses a student’s ability to conduct independent research in preparation for the dissertation. Accordingly, the exam focuses on three areas of expertise, including core social work knowledge and theory, research methodologies, and a student’s area of specialization.
The program is a full-time program designed to be completed within five years.
Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam, a student is accepted to PhD candidacy. Once in PhD candidacy, a student will have three years to complete the dissertation requirements successfully.
Doctoral candidates demonstrate their abilities to conduct independent and original research through the dissertation project. The dissertation may take the form of a traditional monograph or a three-paper format. Upon completion of coursework and all other pre-dissertation requirements, a student develops a prospectus in which the dissertation research is described. Students work with an advisor and the program director to identify an interdisciplinary committee. Approval of the dissertation proposal is obtained through an oral prospectus defense before the full committee. Candidates, upon completion of the dissertation, present themselves for a final oral examination before the full committee.
Program Data Dashboard
Check out Boston University’s PhD in Social Work dashboard to see our program’s career outcomes for graduates, admissions and enrollment data, and more.