Apply to the Doctorate in Clinical Social Work Program
Applicants for admission to the Doctorate in Clinical Social Work Program at the School of Social Policy & Practice must meet the following criteria:
- Hold a master’s degree in social work from an accredited social work degree program;
- Have three years post-MSW practice experience.
We do not grant social work course credit for life experience or previous work experience.
Applications must be submitted by February 15th.
Your admissions process begins with submitting your application online. After creating an account to start your application, you will be able to return to your application as many times as you wish before submitting. You can track the status of your application, including the receipt of letters of recommendation and any other supplemental materials, at any time by logging into your account.
You must submit a resume as part of your online application.
Applicants are required to complete an application essay, responding to the following questions:
- What factors have contributed to your decision to pursue a doctoral degree in social work at Penn, and what do you expect to gain through advanced studies?
- Describe a challenging case or professional situation that you have encountered, where you were in the role of social work practitioner, supervisor, administrator, or teacher. Discuss how you used a conceptual/theoretical framework and how you assessed and intervened in this situation.
- Discuss an issue that you wish to explore in-depth through your doctoral studies. Include in your discussion how your exploration of this issue may contribute to the social work knowledge base.
Submit a sample of written work that reflects the applicant’s abilities as a writer and demonstrates potential for doctoral study.
Applicants must submit transcripts detailing all undergraduate and postgraduate study via the online application. This includes coursework conducted at an applicant’s degree-granting institution(s) as well as in study abroad programs and at institutions out of which an applicant may have transferred. Applicants should upload copies of their official transcripts (i.e. not screenshots from a student record or student grade system) that clearly display their name, dates of enrollment, the names of all courses in which they enrolled, and the credits and grades awarded for each class. Applicants should not mail hard copies of transcripts to the School for purposes of application review.
ATTENTION INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS:
Transcripts reflecting more than two semesters of study at institutions based outside of the United States must be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by a third-party evaluation service such as WES or Educational Perspectives, or another NACES-accredited member. This applies even if the studies were conducted in English and even if the transcript is printed in English.
Applicants with these international transcripts should upload their university-issued transcripts into the online application and order their official, third-party evaluations sent to the School of Social Policy & Practice. Please note that these international transcripts cannot be considered official until they have been evaluated and that their respective applications cannot be reviewed until the evaluations have arrived in the Admissions Office.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of Recommendation
Each application requires three letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation should be submitted directly to the online application.
You are required to have one academic reference and at least one reference from a supervisor of your clinical work.
Standardized tests are not required for the DSW program.
All students will be asked to complete a recorded video interview prior to submitting the application. You will be asked to record your answer to four questions and will have time to both practice recording and prepare for the questions prior to recording your video interview. We would advise planning to spend approximately 20 minutes distraction-free to complete the recorded video interview process.
You will need to complete the interview portion of the application in either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. You can complete the interview on any laptop or desktop with a functioning webcam and microphone.
On occasion, applicants will be asked to interview after application submission. Since your interviewer is responsible for anticipating questions from the faculty reviewer and/or the Admissions Committee who ultimately makes the final decision on your application, there are various reasons an interview may be requested.
Although there is little preparation needed for the interview, you may want to consider the following:
- Review your personal statement and writing sample (if applicable) and be prepared to discuss what you wrote;
- Prepare questions to ask the interviewer;
- Be on time (sign into Zoom a few minutes early);
- Dress professionally (wear what you feel is appropriate for a job interview);
- Consider what you feel you bring to the program;
- Relax and be yourself.
This interview will be with a member of the admissions or academic program staff and last 25 to 40 minutes. At this time, all interviews will occur virtually via Zoom.
Upon notification of acceptance for admission to the University, you are required to submit a nonrefundable $300 to reserve your spot in the class. The deposit due date is provided with the offer of admission. The deposit will be credited to your account upon matriculation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the DSW and how is it different from a PhD?
In 2007, Penn became the first social work school in the country to offer the DSW as a practice doctorate. Before this, the PhD in social work and the DSW had both been offered as research-based doctorates that prepared people for careers as researchers and academics, and the two degrees were considered interchangeable. By 2007, all the DSW programs had been discontinued or converted to PhD programs. We seized the opportunity to reinvent the DSW as a practice doctorate focused on preparation for leadership in practice and teaching, clearly differentiated from the research-based PhD.
Why does social work need both the PhD and the DSW?
Our rationale for starting the DSW program was three-fold:
- There were not enough doctoral-level social workers to teach practice courses in BSW and MSW programs.
- There was no option for social workers who wanted to continue their formal education beyond the MSW but for whom the research PhD was not a good fit.
- There was a need for applied clinical research and social work practice knowledge that is relevant for and accessible to social work practitioners.
Is the program accredited?
Currently, no DSW program is accredited but the Council on Social Work Education has started their process for accrediting programs. Their estimate is that it will take four years before programs reach accreditation status. Learn more.
What is the cost of the program and is there financial aid available?
Information about tuition and fees can be found here. Most students finance their DSW education through loans and personal resources. Our financial aid team can help with questions related to loans. A limited number of small scholarships are available for qualified DSW students.
How long does it take to complete the program?
The program is designed to be completed in three years, but it is possible to complete the degree requirements (coursework and dissertation) in as little as two years.
What technical equipment do I need to have for the online classes?
You need a desktop computer or laptop, equipped with a video camera with microphone, and a secure broadband connection. We also recommend a noise-canceling headset.
How often do I need to be on Penn’s campus?
There are two 5-day campus immersion experiences or residency periods – one at the start of the first year and the other the following summer.
Can I transfer credits?
We will consider doctoral level credit for transfer.
When can I expect to hear if I’ve been accepted?
Decisions are generally out by the middle of April.
Is this considered a full-time program?
Yes, the DSW is considered a full-time program, although it is scheduled in a way that allows working students to complete it.
What jobs does the DSW program prepare students for?
Graduates report both tangible and intangible benefits from the knowledge they’ve gained and from the status and prestige that a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania confers. Many of our DSW graduates are combining social work practice and teaching with some taking full-time teaching positions. Meet some of our graduates here.
When do I need to be in class for the online classes?
The online classes are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 7:00 to 9:00pm EST.
The Doctorate in Clinical Social Work degree program is offered by the University of Pennsylvania, an institution of higher education authorized to confer degrees and certificates conferring academic credit under applicable laws of the United States.
Students who are interested in participating in the program from countries other than the United States are advised that each jurisdiction may have its own laws and regulations governing online educational programs, and some jurisdictions may not recognize course credit or an online degree awarded by the University as satisfying local requirements for professional licensure, employment qualification, or other purposes. Before enrolling in this program, prospective students should investigate their jurisdiction’s treatment of foreign online programs to ensure that participation in this program will meet their objectives.
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