MSW/PhD Dual Degree Programs

Master of Social Work (MSW) degree programs are most commonly paired with PhD programs in social work for MSW/PhD dual degree programs. These programs may take 4 to 7 years to complete and include plenty of field and research experience in a student's chosen area of interest within social work. Here we discuss some of the more common requirements for these dual degree programs.

Information for MSW/PhD Dual Degree Programs

Most MSW/PhD dual degree programs require a dissertation and prepare students for research-based careers in social work. Some programs may have an advanced standing track for students who hold a bachelor's degree in social work that requires less coursework for the MSW. Although coursework for these degree programs varies quite a bit based on a student's personal interests, below are a few of the more common course topics for these dual degree programs.

Quantitative Research

Students in the MSW/PhD dual degree program usually take at least one course in quantitative and qualitative research methods for the PhD portion of the program. Courses in quantitative research may focus on quantitative designs and issues specific to social work to prepare students to conduct and evaluate/analyze research in the field. Specific topics may include hypothesis formation, sampling, human subject protection and statistical/mathematical foundations.


Courses in interventions vary depending on if they are taken at the master's or doctoral level. Interventions courses at the master's level tend to focus on evidence-based social work practices and laying a foundation for field work and/or specific intervention courses at the advanced level, such as with families or adults. Those at the doctoral level usually focus on developing, designing and evaluating interventions and/or intervention research.

Social Welfare

MSW/PhD dual degree programs typically include a course that explores American social welfare programs and structures. Some of these courses may place an emphasis on the history and policy of social welfare from various perspectives, such as political, economic and social, while others examine debates and issues concerning social work and social welfare systems. These courses may also explore race and gender dynamics, issues of globalization and how to measure the effectiveness of programs.

Policy Analysis

Students usually take a course that discusses the analysis and/or development of social policy and aims to help students develop strong research techniques. Students learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different policy development and analysis methods, while also considering economic, political and structural factors. These courses may also include cost-benefit analysis and require students to critically examine proposed social policies.

Social Work Practice Theories

For the PhD portion of the program, students may take one or more courses in the theories of social work practice. Some of these courses may focus on the skills needed to develop social work practice and how to test theories to come up with alternatives. Other courses may give a broad overview of the subject and discuss the theory, process, outcome and evaluation of different intervention theories for individuals, groups and other populations.

Common Entrance Requirements

Most MSW/PhD dual degree programs in social work require students to apply to each program separately. At the master's degree level, applicants need to hold a bachelor's degree and may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement and/or have social work-related experience. At the doctoral level, students may need to have research and research writing experience, a course in statistics and/or meet a minimum GPA requirement. Most of these applications require official transcripts, GRE test scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume/CV and/or a writing sample.

MSW and PhD in social work dual degree programs include several research- and theory-based courses. Students in these dual degree programs must complete a dissertation and participate in field and research experiences.

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