There are three types of doctoral degrees in Social Work: an Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), which is designed to train students to become high-quality instructors in higher education institutions; a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) which is a research-focused path; and a Doctor of Social Work, in which students specialize in clinical practice. Social Work is a crucial area of the mental health field that assists individuals with a variety of issues to function as a normal part of society.

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Why Earn a Doctorate in Social Work

Earning a doctoral degree in Social Work is the best option for social workers who have plans of reaching the peak of their professional experience.

Among the many clinical social workers, who are fit to get a social work doctorate? Ideally, DSW programs are perfect for social workers who hold positions like:

  • Community Activists
  • Clinicians
  • Entrepreneur
  • Organization Leader

The online doctorate in social is a terminal degree allowing social workers to step into high-level positions such as:

  • Administrative Leader: With this position, you can shape how organizations like treatment centers, welfare agencies, or Employee Assistance Programs conduct social work programs. Usually, licensed clinical social workers in this level involve employing and firing social workers, overlooking long-term vision and planning, or maintaining budgets.
  • Clinical Therapist: Social workers with a doctorate degree can set up a private practice to provide counseling and therapy.
  • Policy Leader: If you get a doctoral degree in social work, you can work in policy and handle leadership roles both at the community and government levels.

Is there a difference between a Ph.D. and DSW?

Prospective students should understand that there is a difference between a professional doctorate in social work and a Ph.D. in social work. DWS is a practice doctorate degree including the practice at the management or leadership level. A Ph.D. on the other hand is more focused on developing a student to become a researcher.

Methodology

Here at Online-Phd-Degrees.com, we have chosen to list the 10 Best Online Schools for Doctor of Social Work (D.S.W.) degree programs in random order for your viewing pleasure. These ten institutions with online programs give individuals state-of-the-art online coursework and social work program in the social work discipline.

You’re sure to find a school that will meet your needs for online dsw programs steeped rich in the most up-to-date practices in Social Work and more. The following online degree components were considered:

  • 100% Online or Hybrid Availability; utilizing innovative learning and support through asynchronous and synchronous coursework, online resources and close communication with student support, faculty, as well as, online discussion boards with fellow students,
  • Accelerated classwork to accommodate working professionals and clinical social workers
  • Specialization options of the online doctoral degree are designed to instill intense knowledge in the field of Social Work practices,
  • Adheres to proper Accreditation,
  • Versatile degree program leading to advanced practitioners in a wide variety of fields, such as speech therapy, nursing, working with veterans, private counseling, school counseling, as well as, a teaching career or other advancements in leadership,
  • Federal Financial Aid Assistance,
  • May require on-campus attendance for workshops, clinical labs, or seminar experiences,
  • Prestige and notability as an online school according to reputable journalistic, positive student reviews, and other academic resources,
  • Offers various degree types pursuant to Social Work depending on your needs and career ambitions,
  • Advocates for emotional and physical well-being of others through Social Work.

To learn more, see our Methodology page.


Best Online Schools for Doctoral Degrees in Social Work

UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE KNOXVILLE

THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE

Program Standouts:
Revered as one of the finest and most popular online Doctor of Social Work online degree programs in the nation, the University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers a degree focused on Clinical Practice and Leadership.

This online doctorate in social work program is designed for working professionals and engages students in providing services to at-risk populations in a variety of settings.

Campus Location: Knoxville, TN

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400
  • Council on Social Work Education

Acceptance Rate: 77.8%

Retention Rate: 86%

Admission Requirements:
Working professionals who plan on getting into the doctoral program must submit a:

  • completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended including a Master’s Degree in Social Work representing a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher,
  • GRE scores, and three references,
  • applicants must demonstrate information technology skills,
  • TOEFL scores are required from applicants who use English as a second language.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Neuroscience for Clinical Practice
  • Psychopathology and Psychopharmacology
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I and II

Degree Outcomes:
This DSW from UTK involves intensive accelerated coursework that enables social workers to satisfy all degree requirements in three years, with minimal impact on their time.

Students gain highly enhanced methods of practice in clinical social work and develop an even stronger network of peers and professionals throughout their experiences as a UTK student.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE KNOXVILLE’S ONLINE DOCTORATE OF SOCIAL WORK DEGREE PROGRAM

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UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

Program Standouts:
The University of St. Thomas’ online Doctor of Social Work is another of the most celebrated social work Ph.D. programs in the entire country, and the school’s popularity is reflected in their impressive retention rate. The curriculum is designed to bridge a gap in the doctoral field of social welfare in order to focus on preparing social work graduates for college-level instruction.

Campus Location: Saint Paul, MN

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400
  • Council on Social Work Education

Acceptance Rate: 80.4%

Retention Rate: 88%

Admission Requirements:
Applicants for the social services online graduate degree must submit:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended including a Master’s Degree in Social Work degree representing a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher,
  • three letters of recommendation,
  • a writing sample,
  • and a statement about your reasons on enrolling the program.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Social Work Education
  • Pedagogies in Social Work Education: Theory and Practice
  • Career Development Practicum

Degree Outcomes:
A licensed clinical social worker who graduates from this outstanding web-based program are prepared to: develop the face of a scholar-practitioner, engage in life-changing teaching skills, pen for publication, and pursue social justice through leadership and service.

This collaborative program with St. Kate’s gives students only the most excellent opportunities and resources.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS’ ONLINE DSW DEGREE PROGRAM

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UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

university of southern california

Program Standouts:
According to the program website, which can be found below, the University of Southern California is hailed as the first among other elite research universities to offer a Doctor of Social Work degree in an online format. These programs prepare students to develop innovative solutions that solve real-world problems.

Campus Location: Los Angeles, CA

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Retention Rate: 96%

Admission Requirements:
For a school social worker who wish to enroll, applicants must submit a:

  • completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended including a Master’s Degree in Social Work degree representing a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher,
  • and GRE or GMAT scores.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Managing Innovation and Change in Social Work
  • Leading Public Discourse in Social Work
  • Informatics and Social Innovation

Degree Outcomes:
This coursework is specifically designed for students who are looking to significantly impact their practice.

Graduates are set to participate in and to lead conversations on boundless topics such as foster care, homelessness, and violence. These individuals have the ability to formulate strategic plans and pitch ideas to panels of experts.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S ONLINE DOCTOR OF SOCIAL WORK DEGREE PROGRAM

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UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

Program Standouts:
The University of Pennsylvania is an incredibly successful school, which is reflected in its outstanding, nearly 100% retention rate, as well as its challenging acceptance rate. This curriculum prepares all manner of social services professionals for directorship in cutting-edge social work practice and teaching.

Campus Location: Philadelphia, PA

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400

Acceptance Rate: 8.4%

Retention Rate: 98%

Admission Requirements:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended including a Master’s Degree in Social Work degree representing a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher,
  • three letters of recommendation,
  • and an application essay.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Social Work Theory
  • Applied Statistics
  • Clinical Practice I, II, and III
  • Leadership skills

Degree Outcomes:
UPenn graduates are sought-after social work doctors who are exquisitely trained and well-respected leaders, educators, and experts in this field.

The DSW program further prepares social work professionals to engage in a fulfilling, rewarding career path and make crucial research and practice contributions to the profession.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S ONLINE DOCTORATE IN CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK DEGREE PROGRAM

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WALDEN UNIVERSITY

walden university

Program Standouts:
Walden University is an incredibly successful online school that produces some of the finest distance education programs in the world. The online Ph.D. in Social work prepares students to become authoritative advocates for social justice and develop the ability to affect positive social change and address numerous challenges within the field.

Campus Location: Minneapolis, MN

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400
  • Council on Social Work Education

Acceptance Rate: 100%

Retention Rate: 50%

Admission Requirements:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended including a Master’s in Social Work degree.

Program Options:

  • Addictions and Social Work
  • Clinical Expertise
  • Criminal Justice
  • Disaster, Crisis, and Intervention
  • Family Studies and Intervention
  • Medical Social Work
  • Policy Practice
  • Social Work Administration

Degree Outcomes:
Depending on their area of specialization, Ph.D. students from Walden are able to achieve many different accomplishments in the field of social work.

Alumni have gone on to work as leaders in agencies and organizations, program directors, evaluators of social work practice and agencies, and supervisors in social work organizations.

LEARN MORE ABOUT WALDEN UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE DOCTOR OF SOCIAL WORK (DSW) DEGREE PROGRAM.

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BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Program Standouts:
Baylor University offers online students a Ph.D. in Social Work that is designed to develop leaders and educators who can “lead visionary social work education or service programs and conduct original research addressing complex social issues.” There is a specific focus on integration of religion and faith.

Campus Location: Waco, TX

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400

Acceptance Rate: 38.9%

Retention Rate: 91.6%

Admission Requirements:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended including a Master’s in Social Work degree,
  • GRE scores,
  • a statement,
  • a sample of scholarly writing,
  • a current résumé or CV,
  • and three letters of recommendation.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Theory and Model Development for Social Work Practice
  • Christianity, Ethics, and Social Work
  • Qualitative Research for Social Work

Degree Outcomes:
Graduates from Baylor University have the education and skill to serve in academic research and teaching positions in social work programs; and serve as leaders in the movement and private agencies around the world! Alumni have a keen understanding of the ethics, values, and practices of the social work profession.

LEARN MORE ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN SOCIAL WORK DEGREE PROGRAM.

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FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY

FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY

Program Standouts:
The Florida Atlantic University online Doctor of Social Work is intended to train “Scholarly Clinicians” in preparation for practice-oriented clinical leadership and critical thinking at the doctoral level. This highly accommodating and experience-rich curriculum works well with individual schedules while providing the highest level of education and social work programs.

Campus Location: Boca Raton, FL

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400

Acceptance Rate: 59.3%

Retention Rate: 79%

Admission Requirements:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended including a Master’s Degree in Social Work representing a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher,
  • GRE scores,
  • a personal statement,
  • a sample of scholarly writing,
  • a current résumé or CV,
  • three letters of recommendation,
  • and a criminal background check.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Clinical Social Work Research and Statistics
  • Evaluating and Interpreting Social Work Research
  • Clinical Social Work Supervision, Management, and Administration

Degree Outcomes:
Graduates from FAU social work online programs have gone on to assume leadership positions in a variety of positions and settings such as clinical practice, administration, and academia. A wide selection of coursework prepares alumni for the myriad roles involved within careers in social work.

LEARN MORE ABOUT FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE DOCTOR OF SOCIAL WORK.

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LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

liberty university

Program Standouts:
Liberty University is one of the most popular and highly-regarded online schools among many, offering a unique and exciting Ed.D. in Community Care and Counseling with several specialization options, social programs, and social work theoretical perspectives.

Liberty University’s curricula are founded on the mores and tenets of Christianity, giving students access to faith and religion in their coursework.

Campus Location: Lynchburg, VA

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400

Retention Rate: 55.5%

Acceptance Rate: 84%

Admission Requirements:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended,
  • a statement of purpose,
  • TOEFL scores are required from applicants who use English as a second language.

Program Options:

  • Marriage and Family
  • Pastoral Care and Counseling
  • Traumatology

Degree Outcomes:
Students learn, train, and prepare themselves to become outpatient therapists, trauma counselors, church counselors, and marriage and family counselors. Through Liberty University’s challenging coursework, these doctoral students have the knowledge and skill to become social justice advocates!

LEARN MORE ABOUT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE DOCTORAL IN COMMUNITY CARE COUNSELING DEGREE PROGRAM.

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THE INSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK

THE INSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK

Program Standouts:
This online program is revered as one of the finest Ph.D. in Social Work degrees available and is supported by an institution whose sole mission is to provide education in this particular field of study. Coursework incorporates advanced clinical practice, theoretical study, and research experience.

Campus Location: Chicago, IL

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400

Acceptance Rate: unavailable

Retention Rate: unavailable

Admission Requirements:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended with a Masters in Social Work degree representing a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher,
  • a current résumé and CV with relevant experience,
  • a statement of purpose,
  • three letters of recommendation,
  • and proof of current licensure.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Clinical Process and Technique: The Therapeutic Situation
  • Perspectives on Trauma and Neuropsychology
  • Traditions of Inquiry in the Social Sciences

Degree Outcomes:
Graduates of this program have an incredibly solid understanding of psychodynamic theory, clinical practice and various frameworks, and have applied for a clinical scholarship.

Each individual sharpens and enhances verbal and written communication skills to prepare for clinical reports necessary for presentation, documentation, consultation, and publication.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK’S ONLINE DOCTOR OF SOCIAL WORK DEGREE PROGRAM.

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KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY

KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY

Program Standouts:
The Kutztown University online Doctor of Social Work coursework prepares leaders and teachers via heightened leadership and transformational opportunities to dig deeper and develop themselves as highly regarded scholars and practitioners. The program is focused around assembling educators and leaders for professional career advancement.

Campus Location: Kutztown, PA

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission
    230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
    Chicago, Illinois, 60614-1413
    www.hlcommission.org, (800) 621-7400

Acceptance Rate: 83.1%

Retention Rate: 74%

Admission Requirements:

  • a completed online application,
  • the nonrefundable application fee,
  • official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities attended with a bachelor or a Masters in Social Work degree,
  • a current résumé and CV with relevant experience,
  • a statement of purpose,
  • and a five-page statement addressing the current state of knowledge.

Sampling of Coursework:

  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Leadership/Teaching Praxis I and II
  • The Social Work Teacher-Scholar I and II

Degree Outcomes:
Both undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to this superb online program that keenly develops individuals’ skills in instruction and leadership, as well as treats mental health disorders.

The advanced degree coursework was designed around working professionals so that students can actively improve their careers through scholarly research and practice.

LEARN MORE ABOUT KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE DSW PROGRAM.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to get a Master’s in Social Work to earn a doctorate?

To be eligible to enroll in a social work program, and before you start your school search, keep in mind that you need to have a Master’s in Social Work before you are allowed admission in a doctoral degree. Social workers should know that they also have to have a couple of years of field experience prior to getting a doctoral degree.

Are online doctorate in Social Work programs legitimate and acceptable to employers?

As you do your school search for your doctorate, check that your school of choice offers an online platform for their program. As you check school rankings, read the school’s website, ask your friends, or read other editorially independent information published to get you started.

It is equally important to confirm that the online program and university has earned a colleges and schools commission accreditation, as may be required.

Doing your own research to find the best higher education program for you goes a long way!

How long does it take to finish an online Doctorate in Social Work?

Although social work programs vary, full-time students for the Social Work doctorate programs can complete the course in three years. Part-time and online DSW programs that students attend at their own pace may take longer to complete.

Many schools today offer doctorate programs in Social Work online that follow similar formats to the in-person programs. Students complete the courses for the online programs, refer to the same resource guides for learning, and deliver a capstone project during the final semester.

Is a doctoral degree Social Work worth it?

As long as you conduct research and learn about trusted partner programs for social workers, a doctoral degree is totally worth it. Through Social Work PhD programs, you gain access to the tools and resource guides for advanced research methods that are useful in licensed clinical social worker practice.

Online doctorate graduates of Social Work programs lead to teaching jobs as school social workers who specialize in child welfare. Others become qualified for leadership positions that offer a more enriching professional experience and are some of the best-paid in the field.

Research-focused PhD students become involved in curriculum development work in the academe. They also become qualified for consultancy and publication in non-academic settings.

The US Labor Statistics predicts that the need for social workers to grow 12% within the years 2020 and 2030.

Are Social Workers required to be conversant in mental health issues?

Licensed clinical social workers are frequently exposed to diverse populations and situations that require them to blend professionalism and compassion to do their job. As such, general knowledge of mental health, as well as the prevention and intervention strategies to treat mental health disorders, can definitely prepare students for a doctoral program and practice in the field.

Ph.D. students engage in-depth discussions in this subject in a coursework that includes the social sciences and the policies pertaining to social welfare. At the undergraduate level, Social Work students are generally required to complete courses in human behavior, sociology, and psychology.