Education changes lives. Change yours. Change others'.

  • Melissa Skolnick-Noguera

    Student Life

    ‘Cultural Storytelling is Necessary in Order to Change Policy’: Q&A with PhD Student, Leeway Transformation Awardee

    After earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) in 2012, Melissa Skolnick-Noguera sought to bridge her research and experience in social justice and policy with... Read More

  • Allison Russell

    Student Life

    PhD Student Takes on Changing Discourse Around Aging

    According to recent Census Bureau projections, the U.S. population will reach a transformative milestone in the year 2030. By then, all baby boomers will be 65 or older— and consequently, one in every five U.S.... Read More

  • Marquisha Lawrence Scott

    Student Life

    Support on the Ground: PhD Student Examines Where Faith Organizations and Social Work Intertwine

    Faith-based organizations often offer tangible forms of aid through initiatives such as disaster relief efforts and financial assistance programs. But as Marquisha Lawrence Scott, a PhD candidate at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice... Read More

Social problems are complex. The University of Pennsylvania PhD program in Social Welfare is designed to develop leaders in academia and research to identify both problems and potential solutions. We work hard to foster scholarly energy, collaboration, and creativity.

Most of our graduates go on to faculty posts in Schools of Social Work and Social Welfare. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of social workers is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.” As a growing academic field, multiple job offers are common.

Our graduates also are prepared to assume, as some have, positions in government, international organizations, research firms, and think tanks.

Grounded in the core components of Penn Compact 2020 – inclusion, innovation, and impact – the PhD program in Social Welfare educates a new generation of researchers, teachers, and leaders.

Our program is structured so that students can earn their PhD in four years.

  • Coursework is completed in the first two years. In addition to learning fundamental content and research skills at SP2, our PhD students can take courses in virtually any department at Penn.
  • The last two years are dedicated to gaining research and teaching experience while completing the dissertation. The typical student has multiple publications upon graduation and has teaching experience at the master’s level.

Our graduates are prepared to step confidently into their productive futures.

Director's Welcome

Director's Welcome

Director's Welcome

Read a message from PhD Director Dr. Femida Handy.

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Admissions & Application

Admissions & Application

Admissions & Application

Review admissions requirements for the PhD program.

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Curriculum

Curriculum

Curriculum

Coursework is designed to provide students with core knowledge and skills as well as the opportunity to develop an area of specific expertise.

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Resources

Resources

Resources

Resources for current PhD students include dissertation forms, additional funding opportunities, family matters, graduates' employment, and academic job market candidates

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Contact Information

Contact Information

Contact Information

View contact information for Admissions and PhD program staff.

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FAQs

FAQs

FAQs

View frequently asked questions about SP2's PhD program.

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SP2 News

AJ Ortiz

Student Life

MSSP Partners with CHILD USA to Offer Social Science Fellowship Program

The Master of Science in Social Policy (MSSP) program at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2) has partnered...

Vet students listen to instructor

Student Life

Penn SP2, Penn Vet Develop Dual Degree Program

Interdisciplinary education is the bedrock of new academic programs forming at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn...

Faculty & Research

Penn on the World after COVID-19

Penn on the World after COVID-19 is a joint project of Penn Global and Perry World House. In this series,...

Black Lives Matter sign

Student Life

Message to the SP2 Community, August 27, 2020

Dear Members of the SP2 Community, Again, another appalling tragedy. The unnecessary and tragic shooting of Jacob Blake, the subsequent demonstrations,...

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