Education changes lives. Change yours. Change others'.

  • 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

  • Group of women in India

    Student Life

    The Economic Impact of India’s Self-help Group Movement

    Last January, Allison Russell, a PhD candidate in Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice spent 20 days in southwestern India traveling throughout the state of Karnataka and visiting Bangalore, Mangalore, and many small towns and villages in... 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.

Learn More
Admissions & Application

Admissions & Application

Admissions & Application

Review admissions requirements for the PhD program.

Learn More
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.

Learn More
Resources

Resources

Resources

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

Learn More
Contact Information

Contact Information

Contact Information

View contact information for Admissions and PhD program staff.

Learn More

SP2 News

Control Societies speaker series

Faculty & Research

Innovative SP2 Faculty-Founded Speaker Series Awarded Additional Year of Grant Funding

As part of an ongoing University-wide initiative to foster diversity and inclusion, the Excellence Through Diversity Fund, awarded annually by the Provost’s...

Christina Bach on Penn's campus

Faculty & Research, Alumni Stories

Oncology Social Workers: Navigating Health Care and Supporting Families

When Christina Bach tells people what she does for a living, they usually respond with, “Oh, I could never do...

Imrul Mazid

Student Life

Connecting Communities: NPL Student & AMCLI Fellow Reflects on Muslim American Nonprofit Leadership

For Imrul Mazid, a student in the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) program at Penn’s School of Social...

Catherine Wilsnack and Allison Werner-Lin

Faculty & Research, Alumni Stories

SP2 Alumna Earns National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Research Training Award Fellowship

For the last decade, Allison Werner-Lin, PhD, LCSW, associate professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), has...

Discover More