clinical social work
Become an advanced social work practitioner and educator without interrupting your career.
The Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW) Program allows ambitious, MSW-prepared social workers to advance their education in just three years—without putting their careers on hold. Become a clinical expert, inspired educator, and real-world scholar through a convenient blend of online evening classes and on-campus immersion experiences.
Learn more about the DSW program and the SP2 experience.
Ready to experience SP2? Learn more about the application process.
Join us for an upcoming in-person or virtual event.
Thank you for your interest in the Doctorate in Social Work program at the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. The Penn DSW curriculum offers working professionals an Ivy League experience wherever they are. Our graduates are sought after social work doctors—highly trained and respected experts, educators, researchers, and leaders who engage in fulfilling, rewarding work and make important contributions to the profession. Many of our DSW graduates are combining social work practice and teaching with some taking full-time teaching positions.show more
Courses in the DSW program are taught through a combination of synchronous (real-time) online interactive video instruction and periodic on-campus immersion. Classes are taught by Penn faculty and renowned visiting faculty and clinician experts from across the country. Students are in class with the same cohort for the first two years of the program; in the third year, students participate in a Dissertation Seminar Series that provides support and structure as they complete the last stages of the dissertation. The dissertation provides an opportunity to gain deep knowledge and become a content expert in a particular area, as well as contribute to the social work knowledge base.
I have been an MSW for 30 years and a licensed clinician and social work scholar for over 25 years. After having written 18 books and over a hundred articles and book chapters and mentoring and teaching MSW and doctoral students, I am excited to assist DSW students in deepening their understanding of the field, improving their practice, and furthering the field through leadership positions. Now, more than ever, social worker leaders are needed in the movement towards social justice.
Jacqueline Corcoran, PhD
Director, Doctorate in Clinical Social Work Program
“The dissertation provides an opportunity to gain deep knowledge and become a content expert in a particular area, as well as contribute to the social work knowledge base.”
The SP2 Difference
The nation’s first social work doctorate focused exclusively on practice
A hybrid format designed for busy working professionals
Renowned faculty from around the world leading cutting-edge courses on clinical practice, research, and teaching
INVISIBLE – leave blank
The opportunity to conduct dissertation research on a pressing clinical social work issue under guidance from world-class faculty
A diverse global alumni network
Flexible Hybrid Format
The Penn DSW curriculum offers working professionals an Ivy League experience wherever they are. Courses are taught through a combination of synchronous (real-time) online interactive video instruction and periodic on-campus immersion. The DSW degree can be earned in as little as two years but typically takes three years to complete.
The Campus Experience
Students begin the program with a five-day immersion experience on Penn’s Philadelphia campus at the start of their first semester (late August/early September). During this residency period, students attend their first classes and participate in a variety of activities that immerse them in the Penn experience and prepare them for what’s to come. During the fall of year two, students return to campus for an additional four-day residency. Students able to visit campus more frequently are invited to use our library, meet with faculty, and take advantage of Penn’s other campus resources and activities.
The Classroom Experience
Classes meet online two evenings per week for two hours. Students and faculty log in on their personal computers or devices from wherever they are. Real-time video conferencing allows everyone to be seen and heard at all times, closely approximating a physical classroom experience. Students are in class for the first two years of the program; in the third year, students participate in a Dissertation Seminar Series that provides support and structure as they complete the last stages of the dissertation.
The DSW curriculum bridges theory, practice, and research, and prepares students to teach. Students actively engage in learning about and critiquing the recent developments, discoveries, and best practices in evidence-based social work practice and teaching. Classes are taught by Penn faculty and renowned visiting faculty and clinician experts from across the country. The dissertation provides an opportunity to gain deep knowledge and become a content expert in a particular area, as well as contribute to the social work knowledge base.
DSW program faculty are here to help you shape your specific area of expertise, drawing on their own decades of scholarship, teaching, and experience in areas as diverse as mental health, health care services in vulnerable populations, trauma and abuse, and child well-being.
The Penn DSW curriculum is designed to engage students in high-level learning that challenges them to think methodically, critically, and creatively about social work theory, practice, pedagogy, and research.
Students are required to complete 12 course units, a first-year on-campus immersion, a second-year on-campus immersion, a dissertation, and a dissertation defense.
The program begins with a two-semester foundation that spans clinical theory and research and ends with a core course on trauma-informed interventions. Concurrent with their coursework, students complete a dissertation workshop that guides them through the first stages of their dissertation. Near the end of the year, students are matched with a dissertation chair who shepherds them through the remainder of the dissertation process.
- SWRK 8040: Methods of Inquiry: Quantitative Research Methods (1CU)
- SWRK 8120: Clinical Theory I (1CU)
- SWRK 8150: Dissertation Seminar I (1CU)
- SWRK 8050: Methods of Inquiry: Qualitative Research Methods (1CU)
- SWRK 8130: Clinical Theory II (1CU)
- Supervision (1CU)
Year 2 curriculum continues with specialized, applied courses that cover clinical content and teaching preparation. This second and final year of coursework culminates in two electives selected by the student cohort completed as a group. Students also continue their dissertation work under the direction of their dissertation committee.show more
- SWRK 8140: Applied Statistics (1CU)
- SWRK 9040: Teaching (1CU)
- SWRK 9020: Trauma (1CU)
- Family Based Interventions (1CU)
- SWRK 9060: Race, Culture and Identity (0.5CU)
- Leadership (0.5CU)
- SWRK 9110: Social Construction and Social Work Practice: Transforming Dialogues (0.5CU)
- SWRK 9200: Advanced Topics in Social Work Practice (2 electives)
- XXX Topic 1 (0.25CU)
- XXX Topic 2 (0.25CU)
During the third and final year of the program, students complete, defend, and deposit their dissertation. There is no formal coursework during this year, but students participate in a dissertation seminar that provides structure and support and keeps them moving steadily toward their defense. Note that some students are able to complete the dissertation in as little as two years.
Paul Starling, DSW’11
“The DSW cohort model created lasting relationships, many of which are still intact today. My dissertation research has motivated me to investigate the development of a nature counseling model involving passive experiences in nature for people struggling with life issues.”
In collaboration with dissertation mentors and later, with the dissertation committee, students begin developing a dissertation topic during their first semester of the program. Through close mentoring and a tightly structured process, students complete an original work of scholarship that contributes to the clinical social work literature and knowledge base. The dissertation engages students in deep study and positions them as knowledge experts in their content area.
Students have a variety of options for deciding how to answer their research question. These include systematic/scoping reviews, quantitative designs (including intervention studies and surveys), qualitative studies, and data-driven development of treatment manuals. Please see the DSW Handbook for additional detail.
The Finished Product
The final product may be in the form of a traditional chapter-style dissertation or two publishable articles. All DSW dissertations are published on Scholarly Commons, the University of Pennsylvania’s open-access repository for scholarly work. This ensures that knowledge produced by our students is readily available and accessible for front-line social work practitioners and others who are seeking information on a particular topic.
The Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW) 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.
Ready to join the DSW community?
SP2’s 2023 Commencement highlights need “to improve the well-being of all people”
Themes of joy, humanity, and justice took center stage at the 2023 Commencement of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). In an evening ceremony at the Palestra on Saturday, May 13, graduates and their families and friends heard from SP2 Dean Sara S. Bachman and Commencement Speaker Amber Hikes, MSW’08, before cheering on the presentation of graduates across SP2’s five degree programs.
SP2 celebrates five accomplished changemakers at Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Five distinguished alumni of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) spoke about their aims of creating justice, community, and hope at the 2023 SP2 Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The evening event on Thursday, May 11, marked the fifth year that the School has honored alumni through the SP2 Hall of Fame.
Faculty & Research
SP2 students and faculty research prevalence of depression among low-income women
The importance of addressing depression among low-income women in multiple contexts is a theme of recent research by April Ivey, GRS’22, Professor Jacqueline Corcoran, and others at Penn’s School of […]
Administrative Coordinator, DSW Program
215 573 7133