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.

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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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SP2 News

Jennifer Prah Ruger

Faculty & Research

Health Equity in a Time of Global Crisis

We’ve all seen the graphs. Italy and Iran’s numbers are peaking; Taiwan’s is relatively flat. In the United States, a...

Tenting in Los Angeles

Faculty & Research

New Report: Impact of COVID-19 on Homelessness

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to kill more than 3,400 people experiencing homelessness across the United States, according to new...

Headshot of Johanna Greeson

Faculty & Research

SP2 Associate Professor Testifies at City Council Hearing on Missing and Exploited Children

In a moving testimonial, Johanna Greeson, PhD, spoke before the Philadelphia City Council’s Children and Youth Committee during their recent...

Ben Jealous

Faculty & Research

Q&A with Ben Jealous, former NAACP head turned tech investor

Ben Jealous has accomplished a great deal in his 47 years. The former—and youngest ever—head of the NAACP managed the Mississippi’s Jackson...

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