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

Typically, the Social Work PhD program requires GRE scores for every applicant. In the current application cycle, GRE scores are optional. This is a temporary waiver due to COVID-19. We still accept GRE scores and recommend them for applicants who cannot demonstrate a strong background in research, writing, and statistics, but it is not required.

Please note that we only accept Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores taken in the last 5 years.

If you are an international student and English is not your native language, submit official English-language proficiency Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores.

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)

List relevant educational and employment history, including job titles, agency names, and dates of employment. Also list publications, presentations, teaching or research experience, and any honors or awards.

Personal statement

Consists of two sections, to be answered in one document.

  1. Research interests
    Discuss the specific social work and social welfare problems or questions you are interested in researching, and how such research might contribute to knowledge in the field of social work/social welfare. The admissions committee welcomes a broad variety of research problems or questions, including those geared to helping the profession better meet the needs of a diverse society. Also describe your past or present research training or experience, and how you see research as part of your future career goals, and feel free to discuss other aspects of your research interests that you would like the committee to know about. 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
    Address overall career goals, and how doctoral study and work relates to them, including how teaching and research fit with stated goals.

Writing sample

Samples of scholarly writing that provide evidence of your ability to effectively conceptualize and communicate complex ideas, demonstrating appropriate clarity, organization, and use of grammar and style.

Scholarly writing samples may include: sole-authored publications, manuscripts, presentations prepared for academic conferences, and course papers. 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 identifying 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 history of overcoming obstacles to achievement
  • How your research interests relate to diversity issues
  • How your career plans include diversity and equity components

Three letters of recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required from references who are able to comment on your potential for research and scholarly activity, as well as the quality of your professional practice. At least one letter, if not two, should be from a current or former professor.