Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work

Challenging ideas and creative thinking are happening at KU’s School of Social Welfare, which is consistently ranked in the top 10 public university programs. The doctoral program prepares students to be leaders of the profession through advanced research, scholarship, and teaching. The school is known internationally as a prime innovator in the Strengths Perspective for social work practice. Doctoral students have played a key role in this exciting initiative.

Program Highlights

  • Creative, critical thinking about practice, policy, and theory
  • Quantitative and qualitative skills for research
  • Innovative scholarship and teaching
  • Student-centered educational approach
  • Financial support and mentoring for students
  • Full- and part-time enrollment options
  • Personal and community strengths
  • Appreciation for human diversity and global perspective
  • Social justice

Doctoral students become conversant with the excitement and creativity in the profession — how professionals come to know what they know, how they put that knowledge into practice, and how it affects consumers.

Consider Our Program

The Ph.D. program offers effective alternatives for building knowledge and inquiring into social work practice and social welfare policy. We are dedicated to educating scholars who can develop knowledge for the profession through quantitative, qualitative, theoretical, or conceptual analyses, and historiographic investigations. Demand for our Ph.D. graduates is high. Recent alumni are employed in teaching, research, and combined teaching/research positions at large and small universities.


Doctoral courses prepare students as scholars with conceptual and methodological sophistication.

  • The history and philosophy course focuses on the intellectual history, current status, and innovation of social work ideas, ideologies, and theories.
  • In the research sequence, students learn both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, designs, advanced modes of analysis, theory for research, and appropriate applications.
  • The policy/practice courses provide the opportunity to analyze policies of interest to the student and discover “best” practices as they affect a population. Students critically consider human problems, strengths, and strategies for change and transformation.
  • Qualifying papers and electives help students develop deep understanding in areas of special interest.
  • Seminars on teaching enable students to be effective educators.
  • The dissertation involves advanced and focused research into a topic selected by the student, based on quantitative, qualitative, historical, or other methods of inquiry.

Contact Info

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work Program

Twente Hall
1545 Lilac Lane, Room 107
Lawrence, KS 66045-3129
Ph.D. site
Chris Petr, Ph.D. Program Director
Vicki Mignot, Program Assistant
Why KU
  • One of 34 public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
  • 2nd in the nation for prestigious faculty Fulbright awards
  • 26 Rhodes scholars
  • Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
  • One of 9 public universities with outstanding study abroad programs. U.S. News and World Report