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Frequently Asked Questions About the Ph.D. Program

General Questions


What is the structure of the Ph.D. Program at the University of Minnesota?

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.

Why choose the University of Minnesota Ph.D. program in Social Work?

Do you offer distance, online or week-end options?

No, the Ph.D. program is a weekday program with courses offered during the daytime. Students should expect to be on-campus at least three days per week, if not more, for at least the first two years of the program.

Do you accept part-time students?

There is no formal, part-time program, though some students do work off-campus part-time and complete the program at a slightly slower rate. However, we do not encourage part-time study and give preference to students interested in full-time study and do not provide funding packages to part-time students. Full-time students are better able to engage in all aspects of the program and are more likely to complete the program.

Can I keep my full-time job while studying for the Ph.D. program?

Because of the rigorous demands of the Ph.D. program, most students are unable to work full-time and successfully complete the program. A Ph.D. program should be thought of similarly time wise to a demanding full-time job.

Does your Ph.D. Program offer advanced clinical training?

No. Our Ph.D. program does not focus on developing advanced clinical skills.

How long does it take to complete the doctoral program?

Our program is designed so that students can complete the program in 4 years, though most finish within 4-5 years.

What are the requirements for completing the Ph.D. program?

The Ph.D. program includes two years of coursework, examinations and the dissertation. Please see the Ph.D. Student Handbook for the specific requirements and timetables for completion.

How does an M.S.W. differ from a Ph.D. program?

An M.S.W. program is an advanced professional practice degree geared towards preparing social work practitioners for work in direct practice social work or community practice social work. Our M.S.W. graduates secure positions in a variety of areas, including clinical social work, case management/care coordination, advocacy, community organizing, planning, or leading. A Ph.D. program is a research degree that focuses on the development of advanced research, theoretical and teaching skills. Most of our Ph.D. graduates work in academia or research positions.

Do you have a joint M.S.W./Ph.D. program?

We have a very limited joint M.S.W./Ph.D. program is restricted to the most exemplary students. The purpose of this program is to produce top social work researchers who will have a high impact on knowledge creation in the field, and thus is geared towards students interested in an academic research career. This program allows students to complete their M.S.W. and Ph.D. program sequentially, though eliminating some of the time in completing both degrees.

Admissions Questions

What materials are required for the Ph.D. application?

All students are required to submit undergraduate and graduate school transcripts, GRE scores, a curriculum vita, an academic writing sample, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. All international students must also take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), with the exception of students who earned an academic degree in an English speaking country.

Is the GRE required? Are there any exceptions?

Yes, the GRE is required for all Ph.D. applicants. There are no exceptions.

What if I took the GRE more than five years ago?

The GRE is only valid for five years. If your GRE is more than five years old, you will need to take it again.

Is a master’s degree required? Does it have to be a Master in Social Work (M.S.W.)?

A master’s degree is required for admission directly into the Ph.D. program. While we do accept people with master’s degrees in other related fields, we strongly encourage applicants to complete their M.S.W. before applying to the Ph.D. program. An M.S.W. provides important theoretical and practice knowledge that is useful throughout the Ph.D. program. In addition, applicants should know that many social work departments will only hire faculty with an M.S.W. and at least two years of post-M.S.W. practice experience, which is another reason why the M.S.W. is valuable for applicants.

How hard is it to get into the Ph.D. program?

The Ph.D. program is very selective. Usually we accept less than 20% of applicants. Most applications are quite strong, so we have turn away many applicants each year who could potentially succeed in our program.

What is the profile of the incoming doctoral class?

We are looking for students who will be able to conduct meaningful scholarship upon graduation and will eventually become national or international leaders in developing the social work knowledge base and providing academic leadership in the field. Thus, we are looking for people who excelled in their undergraduate and graduate programs, have excellent GRE (and TOEFL) scores, have had meaningful social work or related professional experience, have participated in research projects and publications, have strong critical thinking and writing skills, and have a strong interest in a career centered upon social work scholarship.