The mission for the Ph.D. program at CSU is to advance the art and science of Social Work through education, research, and the pursuit of social justice.
Our program offers
- State-of-the-art approaches to professional education for addressing critical social issues and transforming professional practice and social policy
- Interdisciplinary training and collaboration opportunities to enhance health and well-being across local and global community systems
- Flexible full-time and part-time programs of study
Each student works closely with their adviser and graduate committee to develop their own learning agenda and dissertation proposal. The student’s background, experience, personal schedule, and learning goals are considered when developing the program of study.
CSU’s Social Work doctoral program is part of the WICHE/Western Regional Graduate Program exchange.
Ph.D. Program Information
Admission and Application
The full-time and part-time programs start in Fall 2019.
Applicants must have the following:
- Master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.) or an allied discipline from an accredited institution
- A completed Statistics course within two years prior to admission
Note: We will give preference to applicants who have an MSW. Further preference will be given to applicants who have an MSW and at least 2 full years of post-M.S.W. professional practice experience.
Required Application Materials:
To be uploaded to the Graduate School’s online application during the application period:
- Official transcripts from each post-high school institution attended. To be official transcripts must be sent directly from the issuing institution to CSU. If the transcripts are in a language other than English, we require that certified translations accompany the transcripts. (Exception: Colorado State University transcripts do not need to be sent).
- Three letters of recommendation, at least one of which should be from a former professor and speak to the applicant’s ability to succeed in the Ph.D. program. The letters must be uploaded directly from the person recommending you to the Graduate School application site. You provide CSU with the email addresses of those submitting recommendations, and CSU then sends those people instructions on submitting the recommendation.
- Personal Statement that addresses your practice background, your reason for pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Work, and future goals. It should be between 3-5 pages double-spaced.
Also, please note:
- International students are required to score a minimum of 90 on the internet-based TOEFL exam. We do not accept the IELTS.
- WICHE/WRPG If you live in the Western United States Region outside of Colorado, and would like to apply for in-state tuition with WICHE/WRPG, please complete and send the WRGP Application Supplement Residency Form(PDF) directly to the department during the application period.
Please note: application requirements may be subject to change by our department, the Graduate School, and/or the CSU Office of Admissions.
Please note: Curriculum review is currently in the final stages. We expect an improved curriculum to be approved and available to prospective students by the end of the Fall 2018 semester. Questions may be directed to the program director.
The curriculum leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work combines a core curriculum in social work with outside coursework drawn from related disciplines, and includes thorough training in research methodology and data analysis. The curriculum allows the student reasonable flexibility in tailoring programs of study to his or her special area(s) of interest under the guidance of their advisor and committee.
Course Categories and Requirements
The curriculum includes 21 credits in the School of Social Work (including 6 teaching credits), 15 credits in research courses in the School of Education, 12-15 credits toward the dissertation, and 9 elective credits in a related discipline. Students complete a 57-60 hours of coursework beyond their M.S.W. Please remember that earning the Doctor of Philosophy degree involves considerably more than the completion of credits through coursework. You must also apply the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom towards the dissertation which represents a distinct, higher-level, and culminating effort.
Social Work Courses
Contemporary Issues in Social Work Education
Social Welfare Policy Interpretation and Analysis in the US and Selected Countries
Theoretical Analysis of Social Work Practice
Theoretical Foundations of Social Work
Supervised College Teaching (One undergraduate course, one graduate course)
Quantitative Research Methods
Qualitative Research Methods
Three Additional 3-Credit Research Methods Courses
Additional research courses may be in the School of Education or elsewhere in the University as approved by advisor. Please note EDRM courses are subject to change, please check with course catalog and advisor.
Applied Linear Models
Foundations of Educational Research
Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis
Qualitative Data Analysis
Analysis of Relationships
Quantitative Data Collection Methods/Analysis
Three 3-Credit Elective Courses
Interdisciplinary electives from the following departments: Economics, Education, Human Development and Family Studies, Psychology, Sociology, Political Science
Each student should have completed course work or demonstrate competence in research methods. A statistics course is required within the two years prior to admission. If the graduate committee determines the student does not have a sufficient background in certain areas, the committee may prescribe additional course work. Courses taken to meet these prerequisite requirements cannot be used to meet program requirements.
The prerequisite statistics course should be taken from an accredited university. Online courses are acceptable. It should be geared towards behavioral sciences. It does not need to be a graduate level course. An example of an appropriate class is STAT 311 offered through CSU and CSU Online. Please see the CSU course catalog for details of the course or contact the Ph.D. office if you have questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any prerequisites?
A master’s degree in social work or an allied discipline from an accredited institution is required. We will give preference to applicants who have an M.S.W. Further preference will be given to applicants who have an M.S.W. and at least two full years of post-M.S.W. professional practice experience. In addition, you must have taken a basic statistics course within the last two years prior to the beginning of your first term. The purpose of this requirement is to reacquaint you with the language used in research and statistics prior to beginning your Ph.D. program.
How many courses will I take each semester?
Your schedule will depend on the availability of courses and your own needs and constraints. There is no minimum or maximum course load for each semester. Generally, the most a student will take is 9 credit hours per semester and the average tends to be 6 credits per semester.
How long will it take to complete my Ph.D.?
There is no standard time frame in which students complete their Ph.D.s. The quickest it has been done is 3.5 years, but 5 years is more typical. You have up to ten years to complete the degree.
Do I need to have my research topic chosen before I begin the program?
No, you will have the opportunity to choose a topic with the help of coursework, literature review, and consultation with faculty members.
Is there funding available?
There is potential funding depending on several variables. There may be graduate assistant positions available through grants written by faculty members. In addition, the School of Social Work will offer one to two graduate assistantship positions. The application process will be highly competitive and will begin in the Spring. The application form for the graduate assistantship is available on the website under the “Forms for Current Students” tab.
How many students are accepted each year?
The program accepts under a cohort model. Between 5‐7 students will be accepted for the Fall semester of even numbered years.
Is there a possibility to complete my degree online?
At this time the Social Work Ph.D. courses are only available in‐person, on‐campus. There is a possibility that some Research courses and Electives may be taken online. It is expected that you will be able to attend courses on CSU’s campus.
Interdisciplinary Research Centers
Students have the opportunity to work with interdisciplinary research centers, including:
- Social Work Research Center—impacting children, youth, and families through data-driven decision-making, cross-system collaboration, and inclusive research.
- Prevention Research Center—promoting health and well-being throughout the lifespan.
- Center for Healthy Aging—promoting research, education, and community engagement around cutting-edge issues involved in healthy and successful aging.
- Center for the Study of Crime and Justice—focusing on criminological and criminal justice education, and engagement and research at the international, national, state, and local levels.
- Regional Economic Development Institute—aiming to understand, analyze, and inform economic development strategies in struggling rural and urban areas through engaged research.
- Institute for Research in the Social Sciences—aiming to connect and support social scientists with other researchers, as well as university, community, and industry partners.
Unique Funding Opportunities
Financial Aid and Scholarship Information
WICHE/WRPG Tuition Program
The Ph.D. program is also part of the WICHE/WRPG program that allows western state region applicants to apply for Colorado in-state tuition rates. Please see the links below for more information about the WICHE/WRPG program and for a CSU WICHE/WRPG application form to be sent with your Graduate School application.
- Information on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Western Regional Graduate Program
- Resident application form for the Western Regional Graduate Program (pdf)
GADE Program Scholarships
The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education (GADE) offers several scholarships for Ph.D. students in social work. Information for these can be found at GADE’s site.
As full members of the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education (GADE), the School of Social Work believes the purpose of the Ph.D. in social work is to prepare students to be scholars who function as “stewards of the discipline.” The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate articulated that a steward of the discipline is one who generates and critically evaluates new knowledge, conserves the most important ideas and findings that are the legacy of the discipline, understands how knowledge is transforming the discipline and the larger world, and communicates their knowledge responsibly to others (Walker et al., 2008).
School of Social Work Featured Faculty Research
Dr. Anne Williford
Ph.D. Program Director Dr. Anne Williford’s research focuses on identifying effective strategies to prevent bullying, violence, and peer victimization, and promote positive behavioral health outcomes among children and adolescents. Her recent research has investigated the impact of universal and targeted prevention strategies for youth violence in school, juvenile justice, and community settings. Read more Dr. Williford’s work to bridge the gap between bullying prevention legislation and effective K-12 policies.
Dr. Jennifer Portz
Dr. Jennifer Portz ’s research on public health, gerontology, and the use of technology interventions with older adults is funded through a Palliative Care and Aging Research Fellowship from the National Institute on Aging. She focuses on the development of patient-centered health information technologies (HIT) that can be used by older adults, their caregivers, and providers to effectively improve health decision-making, self-management, and health outcomes. Read more about Dr. Portz’s work to influence the development of health technologies, and improve the lives of seniors and their caregivers.
Dr. Becky Orsi
Dr. Rebecca Orsi’s research interests include outcomes for child welfare populations, including adopted children and children with special health needs. She also studies child maltreatment risk and protective factors at the community level from an ecological perspective. Through a partnership development grant, she is currently working to provide better trauma-informed training for parents of adopted and fostered children. Read more about Dr. Orsi’s research to investigate mindfulness for adoptive and fostering families.
Dr. Shannon Hughes
Dr. Shannon Hughes studies critical perspectives in mental health and advances social work leadership in psychopharmacology. Through a Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care grant, she is piloting an innovative program to build social connections among young adults experiencing depression and anxiety. She is also collaborating on the development, delivery, and evaluation of a curriculum for child welfare workers on psychotropic medications with youth in foster care. Read more about Dr. Hughes’ leadership in conducting a drug-free mental health care study to evaluate a new approach to mood-related distress.
Ph.D. in Social Work Learn More
Learn more about how you can tailor your program to fit your research and career interests.