Who is eligible to apply to the PhD Program?

All PhD program applicants must have completed a Master’s in Social Work before enrolling in the PhD program. Current MSW students are welcome to apply if their degree will be conferred before they begin the PhD program. However, preference is given to applicants who have at least 2 years of post-MSW practice experience.

When are application materials due?

All applications must be complete and submitted by January 5th for the subsequent Fall term.

Can I begin my studies in January?

There are no January admissions. Students are only admitted for the Fall semester.


When and where are classes held?

All classes in the PhD program are held on Thursdays and Fridays in-person during daytime hours. Full-time students take three courses per semester and need to be available to take classes on both Thursday and Friday. Part-time students take two courses per semester and need to be available on Thursday and Friday as well. All classes are conducted in the School of Social Work, University of Maryland, Baltimore. No online courses are offered at this time.

Can I enroll part-time?

Yes. Students enter the program as either part-time or full-time. Full-time is 9 credits per semester (three courses). Part-time is six credits per semester (two courses). Students cannot enroll for fewer than two courses per semester. If possible, it is best to complete the program as a full-time student.

Can I take a course to “try out” the program before I am admitted?

Non-degree status is not granted to those who plan to obtain a PhD. We welcome you to visit our program for the day and sit in on a class if you wish.


How long does it take to complete the program?

Full-time students can complete the coursework in 2-3 years. Part-time students complete the coursework in an average of 3-4 years. The time for the completion of the dissertation depends on the nature of the research and the amount of time the student devotes to it. Our full-time students average 4 to 5 years to complete the program.

Is there a maximum time limit to complete a PhD?

You must achieve candidacy status within 5 years of admission to the PhD program. Becoming a PhD candidate requires completing all coursework, passing the comprehensive exam, and defending your dissertation proposal. You must graduate within 4 years of admission to candidacy.


What will my workload be like?

PhD coursework and program requirements are very different from MSW education. A PhD prepares you to become a research scientist and scholar, not a practitioner. Your coursework will focus primarily on learning research methods from both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Students spend 3 to 4 hours in preparation for every hour of class. A full-time student with a 20-hour Graduate Research Assistantship will spend 56 to 65 hours a week on doctoral studies. Completing a PhD is a major time commitment and may require sacrifice in other areas of life.

Can I keep my current job?

If you have a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA), you are not allowed to work for pay outside of the GRA. The GRA is provided so that you can focus on the PhD program, gain research experience, and complete the degree in a timely manner.

If you are a part-time student, you can work outside of the program. Given that the PhD program is preparing you to become a scholar, employment opportunities that allow you to build related skills are most compatible with program goals.

Can I take courses in other schools or programs?

Yes. Students are required to take at least one course outside the social work PhD program; students begin taking electives in their second year. Students may select their electives from doctoral-level courses offered in the School of Social Work, the other UMB schools, as well as academic departments on the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) or University of Maryland in College Park (UMCP) campuses (e.g., psychology, sociology, policy sciences). Elective courses from other institutions may also be acceptable. However, tuition remission is only available for approved courses within the University System of Maryland.


Are international students eligible to apply?

Yes! We welcome international students to apply to our program. Accepted international students would be eligible to apply for an F-1 visa based on enrollment in our program and funding through a Graduate Research Assistantship. 

Please visit our Office for International Services website for information pertaining to prospective students   

Are there any English language proficiency requirements?

All applicants to the PhD program whose native language and/or language of the home is not English are required to submit results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Our Graduate School also accepts official scores from the Duolingo English Test, which can be taken online and on demand. This guideline includes international students/non-native speakers of English who have completed a Master of Social Work or similar degree from a US college or university. 

Learn more about language requirements 

How are international students supported in the PhD program?

International students are offered the same financial supports provided to all full-time students (including Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) through graduation, health insurance, travel awards, and internal dissertation funding opportunities 

We also recognize that international students make significant sacrifices to come to the United States for their PhD. The PhD program’s International Student Association (ISA) is a student-led group to support the unique needs of international students. The ISA provides outreach and orientation to incoming international PhD students and sponsors events throughout the year to support and celebrate international students. 

The School of Social Work PhD program recently completed a successful fundraising campaign to specifically support international students. These funds will provide premium subscriptions to writing supports, additional travel awards, housing amenities, and other needs that are identified by the ISA leadership. 

The UMB campus also has several international student organizations that students are encouraged to join. 

Immigration Requirements 

International students who receive an offer of admission must obtain the immigration form required for the appropriate visa. Accordingly, each international student must certify that he or she has sufficient funds (exclusive of travel expenses) for university tuition, fees, books, supplies, and living expenses. The total amount required for educational and living expenses (based on current tuition and fees) is available from the UMB International Services Office. 


Please refer to the Graduate school website for information relevant to International Applicants: 


What kinds of jobs do students pursue after completing their PhD?

A PhD prepares you for a career in research and/or teaching. Our alumni have received job offers that include post-doctoral fellowships, research roles in federal government, think tanks, or industry, and faculty roles in Schools of Social Work and related fields.

How does the program help prepare students for the job market?

In addition to providing an outstanding education in research and teaching, we offer workshops in applying for jobs (academic and non-academic), submitting abstracts, and making presentations. The Graduate School also offers numerous workshops in career development.

Students are encouraged to attend the annual meetings of the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR), the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and other professional groups, and to present and publish their work. Travel fellowships are available to help cover expenses.

Does the program help with job placement upon graduation?

The PhD Program Director receives numerous job announcements, and these are posted and distributed to students nearing graduation.  Also, the School shares the vitae of graduating students at national social work conferences. Faculty members also help their students find jobs.

Interested in our PhD Program?