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PhD Program Degree Requirements

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  1. All University requirements as stated in The University of Tennessee Graduate Catalog.
  2. A minimum of 67 semester credit-hours beyond the MSSW, including
    1. completion of 34 credit-hours of required course work,
    2. completion of 9 credit-hours of advanced electives, and
    3. completion of at least 24 credits of dissertation research.
  3. Successful completion of the comprehensive examinations.
  4. Completion and defense of the three research articles that constitute the dissertation.


The curriculum of the PhD program consists of required course work, electives, and mentored research opportunities. The foundation curriculum consists of 33 credit-hours in research methodology, statistics, advanced critical thinking, and college teaching methods. The electives consist of 9 credit-hours in related social and behavioral science areas.

The following is the required course work:

SW601, 602 Research for Social Work Practice I, II
3,3 hrs.
SW605, 606 Analysis of Social Work Data I, II
3,3 hrs.
SW626 Critical Thinking for Science and Research
3 hrs.
SW628 Critical Review of Research Literature
3 hrs.
SW608 Qualitative Research Methods
3 hrs.
SW603 Research III: Funded Research and Grant Writing
3 hrs.
SW630 Professional Development for Social Work Scholars I
1 hr.
SW675 Teaching Methods in Social Work
3 hrs.
SW665 or an approved graduate statistics course
3 hrs.
SW680 Professional Development for Social Work Scholars II
1 hr.
SW677 Teaching Practicum
1 hr.
SW678 Teaching Practicum II
1 hr.


A student working full time on the dissertation registers for up to 12 hours of Social Work 600 (Research and Dissertation) per semester after completing required and elective courses and passing the comprehensive examination..

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.

More on the PhD program:

About the PhD Program

Admissions Information

Degree Requirements

Video on the Doctoral Programs