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Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (PhD Program)

Program Overview

Preparing Scholars to Advance Social Justice
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work program’s goal is to create scholars who will develop and disseminate new knowledge about interventions, programs, and policies that will advance social justice and improve quality of life and well-being for vulnerable groups of people. Our program fosters deep understanding and appreciation of the scientific method and prepares graduates for careers as social work researchers, educators, and leaders.

Our Program offers:


The PhD curriculum includes required coursework, electives, and mentored research opportunities. Required coursework includes:

  • 34 credit-hours of research design, statistics, advanced critical thinking, and teaching methods
  • 9 credit-hours of electives in related social and behavioral science areas

All PhD students are required to pass the comprehensive examination and an oral defense of the research proposal after their second year of course work. The comprehensive examination consists of a major paper that demonstrates the student’s knowledge of a substantive area and the student’s ability to integrate that knowledge with the foundation content of the program. This paper is the first paper in the student’s three-paper dissertation.

We encourage you to visit our program and talk with our PhD Program Director, faculty, and current students about your educational and professional goals.

Student Testimonial

“I am so proud to be the first Jordanian person (among men and women) who has a PhD in Social Work from the U.S in the history of the country of Jordan. And it’s an honor to gain it from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After my graduation in 2014, I returned back to Jordan to work as an Assistant Professor at Yarmouk University in the north of Jordan. I am glad to apply what I learned in the west and modify it to fit the eastern culture and society.

Ayat J. J. Nashwan

Choose Your Path

Which doctoral program is right for you?

PhDDoctor of Philosophy Degree in Social Work

  • Four-year program with leading-edge curriculum
  • In-person, full time program
  • Learn from nationally-renowned, cutting-edge research faculty
  • Competitive funding package includes tuition waiver
  • Preparation for faculty and research positions
  • Collaboration with two research centers

DSW Online Doctor of Social Work Degree

  • Three-year online program
  • Advance clinical practice and leadership
  • Two classes per semester
  • One week per summer on the UT Knoxville campus
woman teaching a group of students

PhD Lunch & Learn
Tips for Applying to the PhD Program

October 20 | 12pm EST

Contact the PhD Program

For more information, or if you have questions that aren’t answered here on the website, feel free to contact us.

Learn more about the PhD Program