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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work Program

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

We encourage you to visit our program and talk with our PhD Program Directorfaculty, and current students about your educational and professional goals. We look forward to hearing from you.


Testimonials from recent graduates:

Ayat J. J. Nashwa

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

Sarah Beck Buchanan

The College’s PhD program provided me with a great opportunity to learn from and work with a diverse group of faculty members who were supportive and interested in my professional development. Their varying backgrounds and perspectives provided opportunities for collaboration and offered new ideas for my own research. The program provided me with the foundation I needed to take the next steps in my career.
— Sarah Beck Buchanan

Matthew Moor

My experience in the College’s PhD program was phenomenal. I always found the faculty to be very supportive and encouraging, and they seemed to take a genuine interest in my progression. I was also appreciative of the fact that the program was flexible enough to allow for not only courses in other disciplines, but also minors and concurrent degree programs. The training, experience, and connections that I made during my time as a doctoral student have continued to serve me well as I progress into my academic career.
— Matthew Moore


Contact the PhD Program

Program Director: Gretchen Ely, PhD, geely@utk.edu

Administrative Specialist I, Sarah Browning. sbrowni2@utk.edu
PhD Program
The University of Tennessee
College of Social Work
301 Henson Hall
Knoxville, TN 37996-3333
(865) 974-6481


More on the PhD Program:

Admissions Information
Degree Requirements
Video on the Doctoral Programs