In 2007, Penn became the first social work school in the country to offer the DSW as a practice doctorate. Before this there was no practice doctorate in social work. The PhD in social work and the DSW had both been offered as research-based doctorates that prepared people for careers as researchers and academics, and the two degrees were considered essentially interchangeable. By 2007 all the DSW programs had been discontinued or converted to PhD programs. We seized the opportunity to reinvent the DSW as a practice doctorate focused on preparation for leadership in practice and teaching, clearly differentiated from the research-based PhD.

Our rationale for starting the DSW program was three-fold:

1. There were not enough doctoral-level social workers to teach practice courses in BSW and MSW programs.

2. There was no option for social workers who wanted to continue their formal education beyond the MSW but for whom the research PhD was not a good fit.

3. There was a need for applied clinical research and social work practice knowledge that is relevant for and accessible to social work practitioners.

The University of Pennsylvania is accredited, as is our Master of Social Work program. There is no separate accreditation for social work doctoral programs.

Information about tuition and fees can be found here on the DSW Tuition page. Most students finance their DSW education through loans and personal resources. Our financial aid team, can help with questions related to loans. A limited number of partial scholarships are available for qualified DSW students.

The program is designed to be completed in three years, but it is possible to complete the degree requirements (coursework and dissertation) in as little as two years.

You need a desktop computer or laptop, equipped with a video camera with microphone, and a noise canceling headset You also must have a secure broadband connection.

There are two 5-day campus immersion experiences or residency periods – one at the start of the first year and the other the following summer.

Yes, eligible applicants to the DSW program must have the MSW degree and at least two years post-MSW experience.

No. We do not require entrance exams.

We will consider doctoral level credit for transfer.

The application deadline is February 15th. All admissions materials (including letters of recommendation) must be submitted by February 15th.

Decisions are generally out by the middle of April.

Yes, the DSW is considered a full-time program, although it is scheduled in a way that allows working students to complete it.

Many of our DSW graduates are combining social work practice and teaching. Some graduates have taken full-time teaching positions. Others have been successful in securing new positions they would not have been competitive for before earning their doctorates. Across the board, graduates report both tangible and intangible benefits from the knowledge they’ve gained and from the status and prestige that a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania confers. Meet some of our graduates here.

The online classes are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 7:00 to 9:00pm EST.

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