For social workers who want to deepen their clinical practice skills, make a greater impact as leaders in their field or train the next generation of social workers, online doctoral programs provide an accessible path for career advancement and personal growth.
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
The DSW@USC is a part-time Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program from the University of Southern California, designed for working professionals who want to achieve greater impact in their practice and incorporate new ideas into solving real-world problems. DSW@USC students build leadership and advanced management skills through coursework and residencies, and the program culminates in a capstone project in which students tackle a major social issue.
DSW versus PhD
Depending upon career goals, master’s-level social workers may choose to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work or a Doctor of Social Work (DSW). A PhD program is recommended for professionals seeking careers in social work research or academia. A DSW is an applied or advanced practice degree program recommended for professionals wishing to advance their clinical practice skills or lead social service programs or agencies.
Online Doctor of Social Work Programs
With a focus on advanced practice and leadership skills, the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) prepares students to advance their careers as expert practitioners, program or agency directors, trainers and policy makers. With DSW graduates earning $17,000 more per year than those with master’s degrees, online DSW programs also enable social workers to improve their earning potential as well as their professional expertise.
While some DSW programs require a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program, many DSW programs accept applicants who hold a master’s degree in any discipline from a regionally accredited institution.
Depending on the focus of the DSW program, additional admissions requirements may include:
- Two years of post-master’s practice experience
- A social work license
Common application requirements include:
- Application and fee
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of purpose
While coursework varies between programs, a CSWE task force has recommended that a solid DSW curriculum should:
- Build upon and expand the advanced practice skills gained at the master’s level.
- Deepen students’ knowledge of theoretical approaches to social work practice and problems.
- Explore the latest intervention strategies and their application in practice, program and community settings.
- Advance students’ practice, program and community evaluation skills as well as their knowledge of the latest research on evaluation methods.
- Prepare students to engage in practice-based research and to disseminate their acquired skills and knowledge through scholarly publications, presentations and professional leadership.
Choosing the Best Online DSW Program
When comparing programs, prospective students should consider the factors that distinguish top online DSW programs.
Accreditation: Program and university accreditation ensures that the program meets rigorous standards and that its degrees will be recognized by current and prospective employers. In the field of social work, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation is the accepted standard of excellence for bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. While the CSWE does not currently accredit doctoral social work programs, prospective students may reasonably consider schools with CSWE-accredited master’s programs to have the requisite faculty expertise and programmatic experience to deliver an effective DSW program.
Rankings: While rankings can be useful, if not definitive, tools for understanding the relative strengths of a program, applicants should note whether the ranking is for the school as a whole or for the individual program. Some rankings specifically rate online programs. While many online programs are identical to on-campus counterparts, some are not, and the on-campus ranking may not apply. Be aware that several factors — such as newness of a program — can affect rankings. It is also important to consider the source of rankings; focus on rankings produced by established, reputable sources.
Faculty: Social work practice constantly evolves to meet society’s changing needs. Faculty leaders in the best DSW programs drive that evolution through research, active involvement in the field and a willingness to mentor the next generation of social workers.
Live Classes: Connecting with faculty and fellow students is essential to an effective social work education. The best online programs offer live, face-to-face classes where students learn from the experiences of faculty and peers while probing society’s most complex issues.
2U-Powered Doctor of Social Work Programs
2U partners with top universities to offer their degree programs online, including Doctor of Social Work programs. Students in 2U partner programs benefit from the highest-quality online learning platform available, with access to an online campus from anywhere they have an Internet connection. University faculty lead all academic initiatives related to programs, including instruction and curriculum development.
created by faculty and available 24/7.
in a collaborative online classroom.
between students and universities.
at field placements or immersions.
from application through graduation.