The Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. in social work provides master practitioners with rigorous research training and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration with world-class research centers. Graduates are positioned for advanced careers in academia, healthcare and human service agencies, and other fields. The Program prepares scholar-practitioners to develop new knowledge, engage in applied research, and advance social justice and the field of social work.

Tamara Cadet

PhD in Social Work

download the PhD brochure as a PDF

The Ph.D. in social work is designed for experienced practitioners to develop applied scientific methodological skills and to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and populations. The Ph.D. program is offered on a full-time basis, with all coursework offered on Thursdays during the regular academic semesters. No clinical practicum is required. A total of 45 credits (15 courses) are required for graduation. Other requirements include the teaching practicum, research practicum, and the successful completion of the dissertation. Students take three courses each semester with an option for a summer course over the first three years of the program. In addition, a written and oral comprehensive exam, and the submission of an empirical paper to a peer reviewed scientific journal is required. The journal article submission demonstrates students' expertise in a substantive area, and must be completed before progress into the dissertation seminar. The comprehensive exam and paper submission usually occur before the end of summer between the second and third years of study. The dissertation requirement can be demonstrated through a traditional format, or a three-manuscript option. Students, therefore, have the opportunity to graduate with a minimum of four peer-reviewed publications. Students are expected to complete the program, including defense of the dissertation, in 4 - 6 years.


Coursework focuses on research methods, theory, philosophy of science, clinical practice, policy, and teaching. A total of 45 credits (15 courses) are required for graduation. 0

Year 1
Total credits = 18


  1. Quantitative Scientific Methods
  2. Introduction to Statistics, Data Analysis and STATA
  3. Philosophy of Science


  1. Social and Behavioral Theory
  2. Introduction to Multivariate Statistics
  3. Critical Analysis of Clinical Practice 

Year 2
Total Semester Credits = 18 Total cumulative credits = 36


  1. Qualitative Scientific Methods
  2. Integrating Public Policy Issues and Outcomes Into Social Work Research
  3. Survey Research Methods 


  1. Qualitative Data Analysis
  2. Comparative Social Work Macro Practice Models*
  3. Intervention Research 


  1. Teaching Practicum/Independent Study **(no credit)

Comprehensive exam and paper submission requirements***(no credit)

Research Practicum**

Year 3
Total Credits = 9 Total cumulative credits = 45


  1. Dissertation Seminar (1.5 credits)
  2. Teaching and Learning
  3. Elective course such as Advanced Methods, Logistic Regression or Secondary Analysis of Data  
  1. Dissertation Seminar (1.5 credits) 
***All courses are three credits unless noted


The Ph.D. program prepares students to become talented and effective educators. They receive formal training in the pedagogy of adult learning — in the classroom and through a teaching practicum — and are offered opportunities to teach with our seasoned professors.


The Ph.D. Program advances student research competencies through required and elective courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods and advanced statistical analysis. Students are required to take five research courses. In addition, students have opportunities to participate in research initiatives through practice and assistantships, internal and external to Simmons College.

Comprehensive Exam and Qualification into PhD Candidacy

Qualified students will take a written and oral exam on curricular content from required coursework. Qualified students also will submit an empirical manuscript to a scientific peer-reviewed journal approved by the faculty. Upon meeting these requirements, the student will move into candidacy, and be eligible to participate in the dissertation seminar.

The Dissertation

Successful completion of the dissertation will demonstrate the candidate's ability to join the academy as an independent scholar. Specifically, the candidate will demonstrate empirical and conceptual knowledge, the ability to apply rigorous scientific methodology to a substantive area of study, and the capacity to articulate the applied relevance of the findings to the field. The doctoral candidate has the option to complete a traditional dissertation or three-paper dissertation.


Current PhD Students

Detailed information is available to current PhD students in a dedicated section of our website.

A Rich and Varied Body of Knowledge

SSW doctoral candidates conduct thorough, thoughtful research, generating powerful dissertations. Some recent topics include:

  • Reclaiming and Constructing Identities: The Journey Out of Homelessness for Persons With Mental Illness
  • Self-perceived Unpopularity in Children and Adolescents: Its Antecedents, Characteristics, and Relationship to Later Maladjustment
  • To Hear and to Respond: The Influence of Zen Buddhist Meditation on the Practice of Clinical Social Work
  • Helpful and Unhelpful Interactions Between Professionals and Parents of Children with Cognitive Challenges: A Developmental Perspective
  • Adaptation and Transformation: The Transition to Adoptive Parenthood for Gay Male Couples
  • Young, Urban, Unwed Fathers: Depressive Symptoms, Problem Behaviors, and Psychosocial Correlates
  • El Sufimiento de los Colombianos en Nueva Inglatera: Como Salen Adelante (Suffering of Colombians in New England: How They Cope)