Degree and Course Requirements

The minimum requirement for the degree is 64 hours of course work and research beyond the master’s degree. Students with graduate degrees in related disciplines may be required to successfully complete additional course work. Decisions regarding additional course work will be made at the time of admission.

PhD students conduct research and analyze policies on issues of importance to society, and will be prepared for university-level teaching and for social work research upon graduation. The School works closely with PhD graduates in pursuing job opportunities.

Complete information on all degree requirements for our graduate programs is listed on the UIUC Programs of Study website, found by clicking the button below.

Degree Requirements

Emphasis on research as well as the theoretical foundations and knowledge base of social work are reflected in the generalist courses:

  1. Theories and issues in social policy and social policy analysis
  2. Theories and issues in social work practice
  3. Research and statistical competency
  4. Area of specialization, including dissertation research
  5. Issues and competency in college teaching

Course Numbers and Descriptions

Doctoral students are required to take the following seven courses within the School of Social Work, which are specifically designed for doctoral students:


SOCW 575: Social Work Teaching Seminar

Doctoral seminar on social work education and the pedagogy of college teaching. Topics include history of social work education, competencies for social work education, course development, principles of active learning, use of diverse instructional methods for teaching and assessing learning, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. The course has a required practicum component where students receive structured mentoring in some aspect of teaching in a social work class.

SOCW 579: Social Work Practice Theories

Presents theories for social work interventions with individuals, families, groups, and communities and organizations; critically analyzes different theoretical frameworks for such interventions; and examines the conceptual links between theory, process, outcome, and evaluations.

SOCW 585: National Soc Welfare Policy II

This course is intended for students in the Ph.D. program in Social Work. This seminar focuses on policy research, implementation, and evaluation. Students apply policy analysis skills developed in SOCW 584 by conducting a policy research project on a policy issue of their choice. In addition to the policy research project, seminars include discussions of theoretical and empirical issues related to policy implementation and evaluation. Discussions will address both program administration issues and intergovernmental relations.

SOCW 593: Applied Qualitative Research

Provides a doctoral level overview of contemporary qualitative research with an emphasis on applications. Through readings, discussions, and assignments students will be introduced to: the history and philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research; research designs, methods and analysis used in qualitative research; criteria for rigor in qualitative research; the application of qualitative research to addressing contemporary social issues; technical and professional issues including the use of computer programs in qualitative research and grant writing. Students will begin to elaborate their own research interests through critical reading, discussion and various applied and written assignments.

SOCW 595: Quantitative Research Designs

Provides a doctoral level overview of quantitative designs and conceptual issues in social work research. It presents a framework for structuring the statistical analysis and systematic evaluation of the efficacy and effectiveness of social interventions in achieving desired outcomes for diverse populations. Although the purpose is not to emphasize statistical training, the course will reinforce the learning of basic concepts, mathematical foundations, and assumptions underlying advanced applications of statistical description and causal inference.

 SOCW 594: Individual Research

This course is designed to enhance skills of doctoral students in social work through research collaboration with a faculty member.

Proposal Outline for SW594 Individual Research

Guidelines for SW 594 Individual Research

This two-semester sequence is designed to provide students with a supervised, “hands-on” research experience with a faculty member. The student’s project may involve student- or faculty-initiated research (e.g., work on a new or ongoing project such as funded research). The primary objective of the research practicum is to strengthen students’ ability to synthesize different phases and components of social work research. The key, therefore, is for students to be involved in as many aspects of the research project as possible (e.g., articulation of research questions, literature review, selection of sampling techniques, formulation of design strategies, development of instruments and other methods of data collection, data analysis, interpretation of results, and research report writing).

The proposal outline for Individual Research will be approved and signed by the student, and the student’s faculty supervisor. It will be filed in the student’s academic record in the School of Social Work.

SOCW 599: Dissertation Research (12 Hours)

Additional Guidelines for Developing the Individual Research Course Projects

Student Advisors

Each entering doctoral student is assigned a faculty as her/his academic advisor. The assignment of a student’s advisor is based on the focus interests of the student and those of a faculty member. A student’s academic advisor will work closely with the PhD Program Director in supervising the student’s progress during her/his first-year of study.

A Student Advisor:

  • Facilitates the student’s identification of a professional focus plan;
  • Facilitates the student’s selection of relevant course work, and with the development of research interest; and
  • Monitors the student’s progress through the program.

Required Courses Outside Social Work

Professional Focus/Interdisciplinary Component

The doctoral student designates a focus area of study when admitted. Course work in social work and other academic and professional disciplines, as well as the dissertation, are planned around each candidate’s focus area.

All students are required to take a minimum of 12 credit hours of course work outside the department related to their focus area. Outside courses should be selected to form a core of knowledge to support the student’s competency in their focus area, and to aid in the development of a dissertation proposal.

Research and Statistical Competency

Each candidate is held responsible for competence in research methods and analysis. Students are required to take a minimum of 12 credit hours outside the School of Social Work in statistics and research methodology, which are appropriate for their focus area. These courses should provide evidence of research proficiency in the area of the dissertation. A minimum grade of B or better is required.

Guidelines for Independent Study


Independent Study is an integral part of doctoral education through which students may pursue individualized, specialized and in-depth learning on a subject. It is not a substitute for formal coursework.  On occasion, doctoral students are unable to enroll in course work that meets the outside course work requirements. In these cases, an independent study with an outside graduate faculty member may be appropriate to meet an outside focus area course.  In these situations, the student would register under an independent study course number with that department. The independent study proposal needs to be signed by the student, the outside graduate faculty member and submitted to the PhD Program Director for approval. It will be filed in the student’s academic record in the School of Social Work.  Students may substitute only 8 hours of independent study units in lieu of general course requirements either in the Outside Research/Statistics, the Outside Focus Area component or in any combination of these two areas.

Guidelines Intended to Aid Students in Developing Independent Study Courses

Credit/No Credit

Required courses cannot be taken for “Credit/No Credit,” (i.e. pass/fail). Students may use the credit/no credit option for electives.

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