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School of Social Work

Ph.D. in Social Work

Established in 1946, our program is one of the oldest in the United States, and develops a mentoring partnership between nationally prominent faculty and students to promote knowledge and skills in theory development and community-based research. View some of our recent dissertation titles and see the biographies of current students.

Our graduates include internationally recognized scholars in diverse areas of study. Alumni go on to faculty and academic leadership roles in schools of social work around the world, as well as agency and program directors, and high-level servants in federal, state, and local government agencies. See where our Ph.D graduate go on to work.

Graduation ceremony with hood

Michael Lee receives his doctoral hood at the School of Social Work Recognition Ceremony.


Scholarship, research, and teaching which contribute to the knowledge base of social work and fosters a just, nurturing, inclusive society.

Program Highlights

  • Highly productive faculty. Collaborate with our faculty and research and training centers to conduct, write, and publish research in child welfare, aging, adult mental health, violence prevention, and social services development and delivery.
  • Generous funding for Ph.D. students. The majority of our students receive a three-year funding package which covers tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. Many students also secure dissertation fellowships, and we help many students secure assistantships for funding into their fourth and fifth years.
  • Teaching and professional development. Gain skills in teaching and curriculum development; many of our graduates go on to faculty positions in universities and colleges. We provide doctoral colloquia focusing both on current research and professional and career development.
  • Diverse student body. Our graduate students come from Minnesota, across the nation, and from around the world, giving the learning and research experience depth and breadth in lived experiences and perspectives.

Program Outline

Students take two years of coursework both inside and outside the School of Social Work, including required courses in research methods, statistics, theory, history, policy and teaching, as well as supporting program courses from across the university. Students typically complete their preliminary examinations and defend their dissertation proposal, and then complete their dissertation in their fourth or fifth year. More specifics of the program are detailed in the Ph.D. Student Handbook.

See Frequently Asked Questions About the Ph.D. Program.

Meet Our Current Ph.D. Students

Learn More & Apply

how to apply

How to apply to the Ph.D. program: an overview of application materials, what we're looking for in our applicants, and how to use Apply Yourself, the University of Minnesota's online application system.