During the first three years in the program, the School of Social Work requires full-time enrollment, defined as 10 or more credits per quarter during the autumn, winter, and spring quarters. Although students may register part-time starting in their fourth year, they must register for at least 10 credits during any quarter they hold a research assistantship (RA) or teaching assistantship (TA). Students are strongly advised to remain in residence while working on their dissertation. (See the Doctoral Degree Requirements for details.)    

The first year of the program is the most heavily prescribed, with required courses that must be taken in sequence and in combination. Starting In the summer following year 1, students take a comprehensive series of examinations covering the content of the first-year courses in methods, theory, and policy (approved by Social Welfare Faculty, May 2005).

During the second year, students have considerably more flexibility in selecting courses specifically related to their substantive and research methods interests. Students confer closely with advisors and members of their Supervisory Committee to choose courses relevant to their scholarly objectives. During the second and the third years, students research and write the required Qualifying Scholarly paper that serves as the written portion of the General Examination (approved by Social Welfare Faculty, May 2005).

Once all course requirements are successfully completed (the University of Washington Graduate School requires that doctoral students earn a minimum of 90 credits in order to graduate) and the Qualifying Scholarly Paper is approved by the Supervisory Committee, the Oral General Examination is scheduled, typically during the third year. After passing the Examination, the student is advanced to candidacy (PhC status)  and begins formally working on the dissertation prospectus, followed by the dissertation. Completion and successful defense of the dissertation are required before the PhD is conferred.

Required Courses

Consistent with the requirements for all courses offered at the School of Social Work (undergraduate, masters, and doctoral), all required PhD courses in the School of Social Work must include content on diverse populations, including the disadvantaged and oppressed. This includes, for example, content on people of color, women, gay men and lesbians, and persons with disabilities. In addition all courses should endeavor to include objectives identified in the Social Justice Learning Objectives (from the PhD Program Manual). The specific type or nature of the content (e.g.., readings, exemplars, exercises) and how it is introduced and integrated will likely differ across courses. In all cases, content on diversity must be in accord with course objectives and be visibly present in the course syllabus.

All required coursework (with the exception of the 800 tutorials) must be completed before or during the quarter in which the Oral section of the General Examination takes place.

The following courses are required of all students in the program and must be taken on a graded basis unless only offered as Credit/No Credit.  

Quarterly Schedule

For more information, see PhD Course Descriptions.

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PhD Program Milestones

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Elective Courses in the SSW

NOTE: Most electives are offered every other year in rotation.

  • Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research.
  • Advanced Topics in Data Analysis.
  • Social Movements and Participatory Action Research Methods.
  • West Coast Poverty Center Seminar Series
  • Research to Policy
  • Interdisciplinary Prevention Science: Children and Adolescents. Overview of developmental perspective examining factors that promote or inhibit health development at different stages and during transitions (focus on birth through age 21).
  • Promoting Well-Being among At-Risk Groups: guidance for Health promotion/prevention Research.

Statistics Track

The statistics track is largely built around a curriculum developed by the Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences (CS&SS). Students who complete the Statistics Track in Social Work have advanced training in statistics for social science research relevant to their own area of specialization. The CS&SS provides a document certifying that the student completed the Statistics Track.

Taking a coherent set of advanced statistical methods courses prepares students to work at the cutting edge of statistics and the social sciences.

Students complete four courses in social statistics with the grade of 3.3 or above in each course and attend two quarters of the CS&SS seminar, CS&SS 590.

For more information see Statistics Track.

Additional Course Expectations

In addition to required courses, students may also take tutorials (Soc WL 600) with faculty members during the advanced course work and the writing of the integrative Qualifying Paper (prior to the Oral General Examination). These tutorials should be well planned and include one or more written products.

Students are also encouraged to take additional courses (beyond those required) that bear on their substantive areas of interest. Courses may be taken in any department or school of the University but should ordinarily be at the 500 level or above. Students are encouraged to consult with their advisors or committee chairpersons, or the director of the program for advice and assistance in arranging courses of study in other schools or departments.