VCU Bulletins

Social Work, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


A minimum of 39 credit hours of course work beyond the master’s degree plus a minimum of 15 credit hours of dissertation research is required. The course work includes 27 credit hours of content common for all students, and 12 credit hours of concentration content in a substantive area. The Graduate School requirements for candidacy exams and dissertation committees apply to students in this program. Up to six credit hours may be granted for courses completed at another university. Full-time students ordinarily complete 18-20 credit hours per academic year. Other requirements are detailed below.

Common curriculum  
Curriculum that is required of all students consists of the following courses (27 credits):
SWKD 701 Quantitative Research Methods and Analysis I  
SWKD 702 Quantitative Research Methods and Analysis II  
SWKD 703 Philosophical Issues in Social Work Knowledge Building  
SWKD 704 Multiparadigmatic Qualitative Methods and Analysis  
SWKD 705 Multivariate Analysis in Social Work and Human Services Research  
SWKD 708 Social Science Foundations for Social Work  
SWKD 710 Social Work, Social Welfare and Social Thought  
SWKD 715 Development and Evaluation of Social Work Practice Theories and Models  
Note: Many courses in the common curriculum are completed prior to moving on to more specialized concentration course work.  
Concentration curriculum  
The concentration curriculum allows students to specialize in a substantive area and increase their relevant research skills. This concentration consists of at least 19 hours of course work, including advanced statistics and research courses, a directed research course designed to assist students in preparing for their dissertation research project and an integrative seminar. In addition to courses offered by the program, students are expected to enroll in appropriate courses in other schools and departments of the university with approval of their adviser.
Comprehensive exam/admission to candidacy  
Upon completion of all required course work, participants will take a comprehensive exam under the supervision of a Comprehensive Examination Committee. Through the comprehensive examination, students must demonstrate the ability to integrate the whole of their educational experience by adequately addressing complex questions pertinent to the current and developing knowledge base of the human service field. Successful completion of the comprehensive exam results in candidacy status for the Ph.D. degree.
After admission to candidacy, students proceed to propose, complete and defend their dissertation. This is done under the supervision of a dissertation committee. Students are required to maintain continuous enrollment of at least three credit hours per semester (excluding summer) until they have attained 12 hours of dissertation credit, after which they may enroll for as few as one credit per semester. The dissertation must represent independent research and should be based on an original question or hypothesis relevant to social work. Successful defense of the dissertation completes the requirements for the degree.

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Last update: 5/7/2012

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