Education changes lives. Change yours. Change others'.

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.

SP2 News

School of Social Policy & Practice sign on the Caster Building seen with pink azaleas.

Student Life, Alumni Stories

SP2 Mentor Collective Connects Students with Supportive Alums

Navigating the student experience at a rigorous Ivy League institution like Penn – and planning for what comes next—comes with...

Jennifer Prah

Faculty & Research

New Director of the Ortner Center

Dean Sara S. Bachman is delighted to announce the appointment of Jennifer J. Prah, Amartya Sen Professor of Health Equity,...

Michael Nutter and Lisa Nutter

Faculty & Research

Michael and Lisa Nutter to Launch Economic Mobility Initiative at SP2

In the United States, economic inequality is among the most pressing social issues of recent decades. The country’s wealth gap, which...

SaraKay Smullens

Alumni Stories

SP2 Alumna Receives Society for Social Work Leadership’s 2021 Kermit B. Nash Award

SaraKay Smullens, a 1965 alumna of the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at Penn’s School of Social Policy &...

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