The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Doctor of Philosophy of Social Work Program


PhD Program Overview

Leading-edge curriculum

Nationally competitive fellowships and Tennessee Fellowships Program

Preparation for faculty& research positions across the nation & world

Collaboration with 2 world-class research centers

Full-time & part-time options


The goal of the PhD program is to produce highly-skilled social work researchers who can contribute to the knowledge base of the profession and disseminate this knowledge through the education and training of professional social workers. The purpose of doctoral education in social work is to foster an understanding and appreciation of the scientific method so that graduates can improve and extend the knowledge base of the profession through empirical research. Graduates of our program are prepared to assume leadership roles in social work education and research.


The first four semesters are spent taking 33 credit hours of required social work courses and 9 hours of electives in the following areas:

  • Research Methodology
  • Applied Statistics
  • Advanced Critical Thinking
  • College Teaching Methods

During the third and fourth semesters students take required and elective courses while working on the Comprehensive Examination. Electives can be selected from a range of courses offered in the College of Social Work and related disciplines such as psychology, sociology, statistics, and counseling psychology. The Comprehensive Examination consists of a scholarly paper written by the student to demonstrate knowledge of a specific specialized area and an integration of that area with the program's core content. Following successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, students focus on the development of their Dissertation Proposal, the completion of their dissertation research, and the successful writing and defense of the dissertation. The comprehensive examination paper is the first paper in the student’s three-paper dissertation.

It is expected that the required curriculum, electives and the comprehensive examination will be completed on a full-time basis. Dissertation research may be completed on a full- or part-time basis.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to qualified students in the form of fellowships, scholarships, and teaching and research assistantships. Graduate assistantships and other forms of assistance are awarded on the basis of merit and the availability of aid.


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Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System