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

Ezekiel Dixon-Roman at his book launch and discussion in fall 2017.

Faculty & Research

New Institute in Critical Quantitative, Computational, & Mixed Methodologies

This month, Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) Associate Professor Ezekiel Dixon-Román, PhD, and others announced the launch...

Richard Gelles Receives SSWR Award

Faculty & Research

Richard Gelles Receives SSWR Social Policy Researcher Award

Richard J. Gelles, PhD, former dean of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), was honored for his distinguished...

Jeff Oppenheimer at ALS Association Dinner

Student Life

NPL Student Shares Advocacy Story at Annual ALS Dinner

“I bear witness to the strength of people who can’t move a muscle,” said Jeff Oppenheimer, addressing a gathering of...

Ram Cnaan of The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice

Faculty & Research

SP2 Professor Selected as Best Reviewer

Professor Ram Cnaan, MSW, PhD, director for the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research, was recently chosen as Best...

Discover More