PhD Program Application Instructions

Welcome to our guide for applying to the PhD program. The application process provides you with the opportunity to fully present your past experiences, your current status, and your future plans as a doctoral student and social welfare scholar. The application materials are intended to give the members of the faculty a comprehensive picture of your qualifications for admission to the Social Welfare PhD Program.


Individuals are admitted to the program as first-year, full-time PhD students in Autumn Quarter only. The University of Washington does not accept transfer credits from other doctoral programs. 

Please pay careful attention to (1) the application materials, requirements, and instructions, and to (2) the description of standards of behavior. To avoid following outdated guidelines, please be certain to use only current year application materials.

All application materials must be uploaded by DECEMBER 1stWe cannot evaluate an application until all application materials are submitted.   

*NOTE:  The GRE is no longer a required component of the application.

Admissions Info:

Contact Us

All inquiries about the program and application should be sent to Shirley Chu at


Find answers to some of your questions at FAQ About the PhD Program.


Annual admission of new students into the Social Welfare PhD Program is limited, and the applicant pool tends to be quite competitive. Applicants who are selected for admission are those who have completed a Master's Degree in Social Work or a related field and whose scholastic achievement, previous experience, and aptitude for social welfare research and scholarship indicate the greatest promise for achieving the objectives of the program. Although an MSW is not required for admission, the Council on Social Work Education states the following: "Faculty who teach social work practice courses have a master's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and at least two years of social work practice experience" in order to teach foundation practice courses in accredited programs (EPAS 3.2.2). Thus, an MSW can be beneficial when doctoral graduates seek jobs in schools of social work. An effort is made to maintain a balance among the students that reflects a range of interests in social work and social welfare areas of research.

In general, properly qualified students who are graduates of the University of Washington or of other colleges or universities of recognized rank are eligible to apply to the University of Washington Graduate School.

Program Values: Diversity & Social Justice

The PhD Program recognizes the contribution to the intellectual and social enrichment of the program by students with diverse backgrounds. One area to address in the research and scholarship statement is information concerning personal history, family background, work experiences, and influences on intellectual development. This information should include cultural and educational opportunities (or lack thereof), social, economic, or physical advantages and/or disadvantages that you have experienced, and the ways in which these experiences have affected your life and decisions concerning social welfare research as a career goal. Include special interests and abilities, career plans, and future goals. Please describe life and work experiences in ethnic or sexual minority communities wherever appropriate in the application materials.

Another area to address in the statement and to ask the individuals writing your letters of reference to comment upon concerns social justice issues. Describe how your scholarship career goals and research objectives are informed by your vision of social justice. See the School Mission Statement and our PhD Social Justice web page for information about the school/program commitment to and goals for furthering for social justice.


Three policies with which all applicants to the School should become familiar should be carefully reviewed. The first is entitled Essential Skills, Values and Standards of Professional Conduct Important to Admission and Continuance in the School and Profession of Social Work. The next two are located in the Important University Policies section. The second is Academic Performance and Conduct Which May Result in a Review and Possible Dismissal from the School of Social Work. The last is the Unprofessional Conduct Law. All applicants should review these to attain an understanding of the qualities and professional behavior expectations.

Reasonable Accommodation

The School of Social Work meets the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for accessibility. Our application materials can be made available in alternative formats.

The University of Washington reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam era veteran in accordance with University policy and applicable federal and state statutes and regulations. The University of Washington is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education, and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation in the application process, contact the Disability Services Office  at: 206.543.6450/V, 206.543.6452/TTY, 206.685.7264 (FAX), e-mail at

Decision-making process

Faculty members on the PhD Program Committee make admissions decisions on the basis of the following: aptitude for social welfare research and scholarship as shown by articulation of social welfare research area(s) of concern to applicant and capacity to undertake such training and research, letters of reference, professional experience, commitment to diversity and social justice, institutional resources available to support the applicant's research, and scholastic achievement.




The "Application for Admission to the UW Graduate School" is submitted directly online to the Graduate School, and the School of Social Work materials are submitted through this online application.  (Fee $85; subject to change without notice.)
U.S. email:

Email for international applicants:


All forms must be downloaded, completed, and uploaded through the Graduate School online application. All files should be named with the following format: your lastname-initials-form name (e.g. lastname-ii-sswadmissionsform, lastname-ii-Univ-X-transcript). Place your last name and first initial on every page of all documents.

If the online system rejects your file, please try the following:

  • If the file is smaller than 1mb, use a different Browser.
  • Tell your scanner to scan papers as documents instead of images.
  • Scan in black and white.
  • Have your scanner save the file as a PDF.
  • Scan each document as a separate file.   

​If you have tried all of the suggestions above and you are still unable to upload your document, please send an e-mail to

  1. SSW Application Form
  2. GPA Workshop Calculations Form
  3. Curriculum Vitae
  4. Scholarly and Professional Statement
  5. Scholarly Writing Sample
  6. Unofficial Transcripts
  7. Letters of Recommendation
  8. Statistics Preparation Prerequesite 
  9. English Proficiency Scores (if applicable)

Download  the SSW PhD Application form. This form is completed, signed, saved as pdf, and then uploaded.  

By signing and submitting this form, applicants attest that they have read the read the Standards for Essential Abilities and Attributes, UW and Social Work Policies, and Washington State Administrative Code Related to Unprofessional Conduct.

Applicants fill out the GPA Worksheet. Two separate GPAs are calculated: undergraduate and master's degrees. If one of your schools uses a narrative transcript format, indicate that in the appropriate place on the form. Follow the directions on the GPA Worksheet.

Upload a full curriculum vitae that provides your relevant educational and employment history including the employer agency and address, your job title, and your dates of employment. If there is substantial discontinuity in your employment experience, please explain on a separate page attached to the resume. The curriculum vitae should also list all scholastic or related honors (with dates received), significant volunteer activities, membership in professional organizations, and all published work. In addition, include theses, papers presented at conferences, and other professional writings, such as institutional manuals.  

The scholarly and professional statement provides an opportunity for you to give your assessment of yourself as a suitable candidate for admission to the Social Welfare PhD Program. Since the program emphasizes both research and teaching, we are particularly interested to know your views about research in social welfare and about yourself in the role of researcher and scholar educator. Please be as specific as possible in answering the questions from the PhD Admissions Instructions document located on the right hand side of this page. Use no more than five (5) double-spaced typewritten pages.  Place your last name and first initial on every page of all documents.

Submit one example of your scholarly writing that provides evidence of your capacity to think analytically and critically, and to express yourself clearly and concisely, and that shows your readiness to undertake doctoral level work that reflects a concern with the advancement of social justice. If you submit a co-authored article, please select one for which you had major writing responsibility and indicate in an attached note the parts of the sample that reflect your input and work. The following are examples of appropriate submissions of scholarly writing: 

  • published article, chapter, book 
  • master's thesis 
  • unpublished research report, conference presentation 
  • term paper written in a graduate course 
  • training manual 
  • grant application 
  • legislative testimony.

Copies of an unofficial transcripts from each undergraduate and graduate institution attended must be submitted online as pdfs. (If you are admitted to the program and decide to accept the offer, you will then be required to provide official transcripts for the Graduate School of your master's degree institution.)

If you are enrolled in a graduate program at the time you submit your application, you must send updated transcripts or grade reports for computation of your grade point average upon completion of the degree.

[Recommenders SUBMIT ONLINE]

When you submit your application to the Graduate School, you will at that time identify at least three individuals (and their email addresses) who can provide letters of reference; four is the recommended number of letters and five is the maximum. The Graduate School system will then automatically send each person a notification of request for reference with individualized URLs for response. Those providing references can quickly and easily submit online in any of several formats.

At least two of the persons writing the references, should be academics or persons who can evaluate your capacity to perform independent scholarly study.

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 permits admitted students to review all pertinent documents in their records, including letters of reference. When you submit your list of names to the Graduate School, you will be required to indicate whether you waive that right. 

Students entering the PhD program must have successfully completed an introductory undergraduate level statistics course within the last five years. This requirement refers to courses that identify the learning of statistical theory and statistical methodologies as their main purpose and substantive content, as opposed to courses that might include some infusion of selected content on statistical methods.  It is not necessary to have already met this prerequisite to apply to the program. The prerequisite can be satisfied any time prior to entering the University. [See GPA worksheet for indicating fulfillment.]

The statistics prerequisite course should cover topics such as:

  • levels of measurement
  • probability theory
  • univariate statistics
  • positional measures
  • sampling theory
  • tests of means 
  • power tests for tests of means 
  • basic graphic expression and interpretation 
  • Chi-square tests of independence and goodness of fit 
  • bivariate correlation and regression

Students who have an interest in developing their statistical skills have the option of indicating their interest during the admissions process. The UW SSW is part of the UW Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences, which offers specialized coursework and certification for doctoral students studying advanced statistics. This Center offers the Blalock Fellowship to incoming doctoral students across the social sciences. If you are interested in being considered for this fellowship or the certificate program, please discuss in your Scholarly & Professional Statement how advanced statistical training could be beneficial for advancing your research goals. Please ask the people who write your letters of recommendation to also comment on your statistical, research and mathematical skills.  

The School of Social Work advises international applicants to submit the application to the Graduate School well before the due date because of the time required for processing international applications. Applications must be completed online (

An international student is anyone who IS NOT a US citizen or does not hold a US Permanent Resident Visa (i.e., "Green Card or Immigrant"). Individuals who hold a US visa, such as F-1 students, exchange visitors, or any other non-immigrant classifications are considered international applicants. International applicants must use the Graduate School website to determine eligibility for applying to the University of Washington and the School of Social Work PhD Program in particular.

See the Graduate School information for International Applicants  for detailed information.

Special Required Materials for International Applicants

  1. TOEFL score report: Request Educational Testing Service, PO Box 6151, Princeton, NJ 08541-6151, to forward your report using the institution code #4854. Score reports more than two years old (from the test date) are not valid. (See Graduate School website for instructions and exceptions.)
  2. University of Washington Statement of Financial Ability form. The form is available online to individuals who have successfully submitted an application to the Graduate School via the website.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

A satisfactory command of the English language is required for admission to the University of Washington Graduate School. Applicants who are not citizens of the United States on the date of admission and whose native language is other than English must meet the following terms and conditions. The TOEFL (or MLT) is required unless one of the specific exceptions listed in the Graduate School Memo 8 is met. Test scores must be less than 2 years old from the test date, and no waivers of this English competency requirement may be given. A minimum score of 6.5 (IELTS), 80 (TOEFLiBT), 500 (TOEFL), 237 (TOEFLC), or 90 (MLT) is required for application and admission to the School of Social Work PhD Program in Social Welfare.

Test of Spoken English (TSE)

The Graduate School requires that students achieve a score of at least 55 on the TSE (alternates: 26 on speaking portion of TOEFL8iBT, 7.0 on speaking portion of IELTS, 230 on SPEAK test at UW) before being allowed to teach. The School of Social Work expects most students to be engaged in a teaching assistantship at some time during doctoral studies; therefore, we require all incoming international students to take this test before or during their first year in the program.

For both the TOEFL and TSE, registration forms or previous score reports less than 2 years old may be requested from the Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ 08541; email at (See Graduate School Memo 15 for the University's policy.)

Financial Requirements

The US State Department of Justice and US Immigration and Naturalization Service mandate all schools to verify certification of adequate financial support from each international student. See the Graduate School website for the estimated the total cost of study. After an international applicant planning to study in F-1 immigration status has been admitted and pays the enrollment confirmation deposit, they will receive access to the UW I-20 request form in their application portal.

Graduate appointments awarded by degree programs are considered authorized employment. The School of Social Work works with students to ensure financial support in the form of 9-month research or teaching appointments or fellowships from within the University of Washington or from external sources for at least the first 4 years of the doctoral program. These appointments will satisfy the majority of the annual (12-month) financial requirement; international students are required to provide proof that they have supplemental support.