Doctoral students are engaged in extensive academic and professional training through a focused offering of courses and a mentored research practicum. Our program requirements and curriculum content contain additional information.

Students in the classroom
Research Training

Program Requirements

To be eligible for the doctoral degree, students must satisfy the following criteria, in succession:

  1. Coursework: The doctoral curriculum consists of 16 courses (48 credits): eight core social work courses, three advanced methodological courses, three courses in a substantive area of expertise and two courses on preparing for entry into a career in academia. Full-time students normally take between 9-12 credits in the fall and spring semesters over two to three years. Required doctoral courses are offered every other year and are taken within the Silver School of Social Work.
  2. Qualifying Exam: Following the completion of the core courses, students are may begin working on the qualifying exam. The qualifying exam takes the form of a review paper of publishable quality. Students must successfully submit and pass the qualifying exam prior to defending a dissertation proposal.
  3. Candidacy: Upon successful defense of a dissertation proposal, students will enter the candidacy phase. Students must successfully defend a dissertation proposal within three years of completing the qualifying exam. Students should complete their dissertation no later than seven years after initial enrollment in the program.

Candidates for the PhD degree in social work must maintain continuous enrollment.

Note: The doctoral program does not prepare students for advanced practice in clinical social work or for licensure for social work practice in New York State. Students licensed as an LMSW or LCSW by the New York State Education Department may practice according to the guidelines of their particular license. Unlicensed students may not provide professional services in New York State unless otherwise authorized by state law.

PhD Curriculum Content

PhD Curriculum Content

Core courses are designed to ground students in social work as a discipline and profession. The core courses are also designed to ensure basic doctoral level competency in research methods and statistics. Students will begin their mentored research practicum in this phase.

  • Philosophy of Science and Knowledge Development
  • History of Social Work and Social Policy Analysis
  • Macro Level Theories in the Social Sciences
  • Social and Behavioral Intervention Research
  • Introductory Quantitative Methods
  • Introductory Qualitative Methods
  • Statistics I: Introductory Statistics
  • Statistics II: Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Applied Data Analysis

Students are required to take a minimum of three courses (a total of 9 credits) in their chosen methodological specialization track. Such tracks could be: advanced qualitative and data analytic methods, advanced quantitative and statistical methods, a combination of both methods, and mixed-methods. These courses provide additional training in research methods and advanced statistical analysis.  

Students will select one substantive area of expertise in which to specialize, in line with Silver’s strategic vision and the expertise and strengths of the school’s faculty. Students must take at least three courses (a total of 9 credits) in their chosen area of expertise. There are many areas in which Doctoral students may choose to specialize; below we list a few among others:

  • Mental health and clinical science
  • Global social welfare and public health
  • Children, youth, and families
  • Poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage

Doctoral students will complete two courses (a total of 6 credits) focused on developing competencies for entry and success in academia and social welfare leadership.

  • Teaching and Learning in Social Work
  • Dissertation Proseminar: Career Preparation

The research practicum is focused training designed to develop knowledge and applied skills for a successful career as an independent researcher and scholar. Students will work in collaboration with their assigned mentors on a clearly defined research project. Each student should have the opportunity to engage in the following types of tasks: research planning; study design; study implementation; data collection; data analysis; interpretation of findings; and dissemination of the results through publication in peer reviewed journals. See our Sample Mentor/Mentee Agreement Packet

Each semester, doctoral students will be registered and receive a formal Pass/Fail grade for the research practicum.

The qualifying exam will entail a choice between a systematic review or a comprehensive literature review of a given topic of interest. All students must pass a qualifying exam, which serves as an examination of what students have learned to date in the program and a determination of whether they are ready to engage in independent research. Successful completion of the qualifying exam also demonstrates that a student is able to adhere to accepted norms of scholarship and produce written work of publishable quality. 

In creating a dissertation proposal, students will choose a topic or research question to study, and will form a dissertation committee based on their research area interest and faculty area of expertise. Students will submit their written proposal to the dissertation committee and arrange for an oral defense.

The student, in consultation with their dissertation committee, will determine the appropriate structure and form of the dissertation. All dissertations will be evaluated on the quality and clarity of the conception, writing, presentation, evidence of scholarship and systematic inquiry, originality, and significance to the field of social works. Students will submit a written dissertation and also have an oral defense of their dissertation, which is open to the public.