Jun 19, 2024  
2014-2015 Graduate Catalog 
2014-2015 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Social Work Major, PhD

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The College of Social Work offers the Doctor of Philosophy with a major in social work.

The focus of social work education at the doctoral level is to foster the development of an attitude of scientific inquiry, knowledge of the scientific method, ability to extend the knowledge base of social work practice, and effective participation in leadership roles in social work education, research, and practice.

Upon completion of the Ph.D. program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate expert knowledge in a focused substantive area relevant to social work.
  • Conduct independent and original scientific research that advances knowledge in a substantive area.
  • Communicate scientific findings in an effective way to a range of audiences (from lay persons to other scientists).
  • Secure funding for a substantive research agenda.
  • Teach students the knowledge, skills, and values they need to be proficient social workers in a substantive area.

The courses are available only in Knoxville. Students and their committees can develop a plan for completing their research in Nashville based on the availability of dissertation resources. Students have the opportunity to work in the Children’s Mental Health Services Research Center as part of their training. The center focuses on services to children who have experienced mental health problems associated with abuse, neglect, violence and a variety of psychosocial problems.


The PhD program is designed for students who have completed a master’s degree in an accredited school of social work and have post-master’s social work/social welfare experience. Applicants who do not meet these requirements, but believe they have equivalent credentials should contact the director of PhD program for further information regarding admissions criteria.

Submit online application to the Graduate Admissions Office. Departmental applications may be downloaded at www.csw.utk.edu/phd.


A minimum of 66 hours beyond the master’s degree including the following.

  • Completion of 33 hours of required course work.
  • Completion of 9 hours of advanced electives.
  • Completion of at least 24 hours of dissertation research.
  • Successful completion of a comprehensive examination.
  • Completion and defense of the dissertation.

The curriculum of the PhD program consists of foundation course work, electives, and dissertation research. The foundation curriculum consists of course work in research methodology and statistics, critical thinking, grant writing, and pedagogy. Upon this foundation, students and their academic committees develop a plan of study consisting of course work in social work and other departments of the university.

Typically, the 33 hours of foundation curriculum and 9 hours of elective course work are completed during the first two years of study. Dissertation research usually begins in the second year and is continued in the third year of study. While it is generally expected that the course work will be completed on a full-time basis, dissertation research can be completed on a planned part-time basis.

Specific courses required are SOWK 601 , SOWK 602 , SOWK 603 , SOWK 605 , SOWK 606 , SOWK 626 , SOWK 628 , SOWK 630 , SOWK 631 , SOWK 632 , SOWK 675 , SOWK 676 , SOWK 677 , SOWK 678 , and SOWK 680 .


All doctoral students are required to pass a comprehensive examination that consists of a scholarly paper, dissertation proposal, and professional presentation. The examination is administered by members of the comprehensive exam committee and is designed for the student to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the major and cognate areas and the dissertation topic. In case of failure, the student may request a retake. The result of the second examination is final.


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