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Doctoral Programs

The College of Social Work is proud to offer two doctoral paths to chose from. A Doctor of Social Work in Clinical Practice (DSW) and a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (Phd). See the chart below to explore the differences between the two offerings.

Which path is right for you?

Doctor of Philosophy
in Social Work (PhD)
Doctor of Social Work
in Clinical Practice (DSW)
FocusResearchClinical Practice
and Leadership
LocationIn-PersonOnline
Time3-4 yearsThree years with no career disruption
PhD Students at homecoming tailgate

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (PhD)

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work

The College of Social Work offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree with a major in social work. The goal of the PhD program is to train researchers to develop and disseminate knowledge that contributes to solving society’s most pressing problems. All students who are admitted to the program are offered a four-year financial package that includes a stipend, tuition waiver, and graduate student health insurance.
The PhD is a research degree where students take courses in research methods, statistics, grant writing, teaching preparation, and theory to prepare them for careers in research and teaching. PhD students take a mix of classes in-person with faculty on the Knoxville campus and virtually with faculty on the Nashville campus for two years. Once courses are completed, students work on their comprehensive exam and dissertation for an additional 1-2 or more years. The program is designed so that military students can complete it within three years. PhD graduates typically go into faculty positions in higher education and other research institutions.

DSW students standing under tree

Doctor of Social Work in
Clinical Practice and Leadership (DSW)

Doctor of Social Work (DSW) in Clinical Practice and Leadership

Geared toward working professionals, the DSW is an intensive accelerated program that enables students to satisfy all degree requirements in three years, without career disruption. The DSW program is a professional practice degree – designed to prepare students for advanced clinical practice and advanced practice leadership – and is offered in an online format where students who are full-time working clinical social workers can continue in their on-going clinical practice while studying to earn their doctorate degree.

While in the program, students complete two classes per semester across eight continuous semesters. All DSW students come to campus for one week each summer for a period of on-campus focused study.