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    May 29, 2023  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Social Work Major, PhD

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.

Campus Code

Knoxville Campus

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.

Admissions Standards/Procedures

  • 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.

Academic Standards

  • Typically, the 34 graduate credit hours of foundation curriculum and 9 graduate credit hours of elective coursework are completed during the first two years of study.
  • Dissertation research usually begins in the third year and is continued in the fourth year of study.
  • While it is generally expected that the coursework will be completed on a full-time basis, dissertation research can be completed on a planned part-time basis.

Credit Hours Required

67 graduate credit hours beyond the master’s degree

Required Courses

The foundation curriculum consists of coursework in research methodology and statistics, critical thinking, grant writing, and pedagogy.

Semester 1

Semester 2 (students can complete the asynchronous, virtual teaching certificate modules concurrently with the fall semester or during semester break)

  • SOWK 602  (3 credit hours)
  • SOWK 606  (3 credit hours)
  • SOWK 608  (3 credit hours)
  • *SOWK 677  (1 credit hour) (online or in person) with consultation - certificate modules must be completed through Teaching and Learning Innovation (TLI) prior to or concurrent with enrolling in 677, at least one certificate module must include inclusive teaching or equivalent inclusive pedagogy, students must also engage with the TLI to schedule a TLI consultation concurrent with their 677 course

Semester 3

  • SOWK 603  (3 credit hours)
  • SOWK 604  or SOWK 675  (3 credit hours) - or another approved research/statistics/substantive/teaching elective
  • SOWK 633  (3 credit hours)
  • SOWK 665  or approved advanced statistics elective (3 credit hours)
  • SOWK 678  (1 credit hour) optional

Semester 4

  • Advanced Elective (research methods, statistics, substantive area) 3 credit hours
  • Advanced Elective (research methods, statistics, substantive area) 3 credit hours
  • Advanced Elective (research methods, statistics, substantive area) 3 credit hours

Semester 5 - enrollment in dissertation hours

*Note: Teaching certificates completed through the UTK Teaching & Learning Innovation Center (Inclusive Teaching, plus an additional certificate of choice) are required concurrently or as prerequisites for teaching practicum.

Non-Course Requirements

  • Two self-paced teaching certificate modules
    • one must be from the Office of TLI, the Inclusive Teaching Certificate
    • the other can be a certificate of the student’s choice from those offered at Office of TLI
    • Two certificates plus completed practicum/consultation required for students to teach independently for the College
    • Certificates should be concurrent with or prerequisites for practicum. Practicum can be completed during regular semesters, summer semester, or mini-terms
    • Students are required to collaborate with the Teaching & Learning Innovation Center to complete the six-step consultation process** (Consultations | Teaching & Learning Innovation ( concurrently with the teaching practicum.
    • A second teaching practicum can be taken as an elective.
    • Students can partner with any full-time faculty in the College at either campus.
  • 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.
  • Completion and satisfactory defense of the dissertation.