Applying to the PhD in social work program

Applications are evaluated based on potential for independent research and knowledge development in social work. While preference is given to applicants with post-master’s work experience, there is not a set amount or type of experience required, and all of the applicant's previous experiences and career goals are considered.

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Application Deadline: December 2, 2022

Before you begin, gather the required application materials:

Unofficial transcripts

Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended (including the University of Minnesota). Please see the Graduate School's transcript instruction page for information on submitting transcripts with your application.

Applicants must have a master’s degree in social work, social welfare, or a related field, preferably from a school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Applicants may be enrolled in a master’s program when they apply for the PhD program, but the program must be completed before they begin doctoral studies. Master’s degrees in related disciplines are considered, but students may be required to complete some MSW coursework as a condition for enrollment.

Test scores

We accept Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores (taken within the last five years) and recommend them for applicants who cannot demonstrate a strong background in research, writing, and statistics; however, GRE scores are not required. If you are an international student and English is not your native language, you must demonstrate English language proficiency through one of the University’s acceptable means of verification.

The Graduate School has more information about GRE tests and scores, and English-language proficiency tests and scores.

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Your CV should list your educational history, including dates of degree conferral, and relevant employment history, including job titles, agency names, dates of employment, and whether jobs you list were full-time, part-time, or internships. Also list your research experience, publications, presentations, teaching experience, leadership experience, service to the community, and any honors or awards.

Personal statement

Submit a statement, not exceeding four pages, which explains your research interests and career goals. Please address the following two topics within this document.

  1. Research interests
    In this essay, discuss the specific social welfare problems or questions you are interested in researching during your doctoral program. We welcome a broad variety of research problems or questions, including those geared to helping the social work profession better meet the needs of a diverse society. Explain the potential social impact of your research ideas and how your research may contribute to knowledge in the field of social work/social welfare. Also describe your past or present research training or experience and explain anything else you would like us to know related to your preparation for doctoral study. If there is a particular faculty member with whom you wish to study, please give that person's name and explain why you want to study with that person.
  2. Career goals
    Describe your overall career goals and explain how doctoral study, research, teaching, and leadership align with your goals.

Writing sample

Provide a scholarly writing sample that was written for a public or professional audience. Your sample should provide evidence of your ability to effectively conceptualize and communicate complex ideas and demonstrate clarity, organization, and appropriate use of grammar and style. Scholarly writing samples may include: sole-authored manuscripts, course papers, and papers prepared for academic conferences. If your writing sample was co-authored, please articulate your contributions to the writing process and highlight the portions that you wrote. Informal examples of writing, such as newspaper articles or PowerPoint presentations, are not acceptable writing samples.

Diversity Statement

Submit a statement, not exceeding two pages, which identifies the distinctive qualities, characteristics and life experiences you would contribute to the School of Social Work. Your diversity statement can include, but is not limited to:

  • Your contribution to student body diversity
  • Your contribution to the doctoral learning community
  • How your research interests relate to diversity issues
  • How your career plans include diversity and equity components
  • Your history of overcoming obstacles to achievement

Three letters of recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required. Your references should be professionals who are able to comment on your potential for research and scholarly activity. At least one letter, if not two, should be from a current or former professor. At least one current or former professor should have a PhD and speak to your ability to complete a PhD program.