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University of Pittsburgh    
2019-2020 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Mar 26, 2023
2019-2020 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Doctorate in Social Work Program

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Social work doctoral education prepares people for leadership roles in social work research, social work education, social policy and planning, and administration. The goal of the doctoral program of the School of Social Work is to provide students with advanced research and policy analysis skills based on a foundation of social science theory and social welfare. The doctoral program is committed to the school’s mission to address human worth and dignity, social justice, and social equity for diverse populations. Program graduates will be able to conduct research that addresses social work and social welfare and policy problems and to disseminate knowledge to researchers, social work educators, social work practitioners, and policy makers.

The University of Pittsburgh has one of the oldest social work doctoral programs in the United States, awarding its first DSW degrees in 1949. In 1963, the program’s degree was changed to a PhD. Information regarding the Doctor of Philosophy Program is available online at

In addition to the description of the PhD in Social Work given below, doctoral students should consult the Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees in the General Academic Regulations section of this document.

Admission to Doctoral Program

Contact Information

Ms. Jessalynn Oliver
Office of Admissions
School of Social Work
Room 2104 Cathedral of Learning

Applications should be received no later than December 31 of each year. Admission to the program is on a full-time basis for the Fall Term only. The doctoral program is strongly committed to a policy of equal educational opportunity for people of all races, creeds, and ethnic origins.

Program Transfer Credits

Students who have earned doctoral-level credits at the University of Pittsburgh or at another accredited institution within seven years preceding entry to the doctoral program may be eligible for advanced standing. Advanced standing consists of awarding academic credit toward the degree for post-master’s work completed when such work is evaluated as entirely comparable. Official transcripts certifying graduate course work completed in a degree-granting graduate program should be submitted at the time of application. The maximum number of credits that can be transferred and accepted for advanced standing is 12.

See Allowable Credits in the General Academic Regulations section of this bulletin for more details on requirements for transfer credits.

Financial Support for Doctoral Students

Financial Support for Doctoral Students Doctoral students are supported in years one and two by research-based graduate student assistantships (GSAs), and in years three and four by teaching assistantships (TAs). Exceptional students with teaching experience and two years post -MSW experience may apply for our teaching fellowships (TFs). Both GSAs and TAs/TFs provide tuition remission and stipends for the fall, spring, and summer terms. There is a 20-hour-per-week work requirement.

Typically the student receives their GSA or TA support for four years as long as the student is making satisfactory progress toward the degree. If a fifth year is required, it usually is supported by adjunct teaching. Students also are encouraged to apply for predoctoral research traineeships and other awards.

Doctoral Curriculum Objectives

The program curriculum strongly emphasizes social problem areas, as well as coordinating themes in theory, research methodology, and social policy courses. The overall goal is to integrate the acquisition of basic advanced knowledge, methods of empirical testing, and application to real-world situations. Course materials draw heavily on several priority areas of social work concern, including aging, mental health, income maintenance, child welfare, women’s issues, child and family policy, and health services, and social justice. diversity issues.

By the time students have completed the program, they should have acquired the following:

  1. Knowledge of relevant social science theory
  2. Advanced skills in research methodology and statistics
  3. Advanced knowledge of social welfare policy (historical and contemporary) and policy analysis
  4. Knowledge of relevant fields of practice, theoretical and policy perspectives, and research findings
  5. Exposure to an interdisciplinary frame of reference through mechanisms provided internally by the doctoral program and externally through access to other disciplines and professions in the wider University

Although entering students are not required to have completed course work or other experience relevant to computer literacy, possessing basic computer skills will be an asset to students beginning the program.



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