Program Format

The Penn Experience

The Penn DSW curriculum offers working professionals an Ivy League experience wherever they are. Courses are taught through a combination of synchronous (real-time) online interactive video instruction and periodic on-campus immersion. The degree can be completed in as little as two years but the typical time to degree is three years.

The Campus Experience

Students begin the program with a five day immersion experience on Penn’s Philadelphia campus at the start of the fall semester (late August/early September). During this residency period, students attend their first classes and participate in a variety of activities that immerse them in the Penn experience and prepare them for the DSW program. Students come to campus for one more five-day residency period in the summer following the first year. Students who are able to travel to campus more often are invited to do so to use the library, meet with faculty, and take advantage of other campus resources and activities.

The Classroom Experience

Classes meet online two evenings each week for two hours. Students and faculty log in on their personal computers or devices from wherever they are. The real-time online video conferencing format allows everyone to be seen and heard at all times, closely approximating a physical classroom experience. Students are in class for the first two years of the program; in the third year, students participate in a Dissertation Seminar Series that provides support and structure as they complete the last stages of the dissertation.

The curriculum is designed to bridge theory, practice, and research, and prepare students for teaching. Students are actively engaged in learning about and critiquing the latest developments, discoveries, and best practices in evidence-based social work practice and teaching. Classes are taught by Penn faculty and renowned visiting faculty and clinician experts from across the country. The dissertation provides an opportunity to gain deep knowledge and become a content expert in a particular area, as well as contribute to the social work knowledge base.

The Penn DSW Graduate Experience

Our graduates are sought after social work doctors—highly trained and respected experts, educators, and leaders who engage in fulfilling, rewarding work and make important contributions to the profession.

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