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Plan of Study

Stages of Study

Doctoral study is divided into three stages. The first stage generally covers work leading to the Master of Social Work. Persons admitted without the Master of Social Work must enroll full-time and complete all requirements for the Master of Social Work degree before beginning doctoral coursework.

Students who already hold the MSW start at the second stage of doctoral work. Requirements include the core courses, possible electives within the College of Social Work and at least 15 hours of courses in related disciplines, organized around the student's area of specialized study. Successful passing of a written qualifying examination and the approval of a dissertation proposal complete this stage.  

The third stage of doctoral work involves the design, completion and final defense of the dissertation.

Full-time and Part-time Study

A full-time student enrolls for a minimum of 12 semester hours per term. However, an optimal full-time load is considered to be 14 hours per term, in order to complete the program within 3 years. 

The option of beginning the program on a part-time basis is available to holders of the Master of Social Work. Initially, a part-time student may take less than 12 hours of credit per term, usually 6 per term. Part-time students will be expected to start their programs of study with the core courses especially designed for the Doctoral Program in Social Work. There are no special course offerings in the College of Social Work for PhD students in the summer session.


A minimum of 9 semester hours must be earned in each of two consecutive terms at UIC. (Summer semester registration of 6 credits can count toward residency.) Students must begin their residency no later than the fall semester of their second year in the program. Subsequent to completion of the residency year, work may continue on either a full- or part-time basis. All residency requirements must be completed before proceeding with the implementation of dissertation research. All requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work must be completed within seven years of admission to the doctoral program. 

Selection of Courses

The program is interdisciplinary and has a strong research emphasis. Anthropology, economics, education, sociology, psychology, women's studies, public health, urban planning, law, industrial and labor relations, political science and business management are among the areas that often are of particular interest to students pursuing advanced education in social work. Students may take courses at both campuses of the University of Illinois system-Chicago and Urbana-Champaign. Also available in order to meet special course interests are the resources of other institutions of higher education that are members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation Traveling Scholar Program (including the Big 10 schools and the University of Chicago ). The Jane Addams College of Social Work offers a number of required core doctoral courses. Beyond these courses, faculty advisers will help students to select specific courses inside and outside of the college in order to provide a unified plan of study based on the substantive interests and career goals of the students.

The PhD core requirements include courses in: 

  • Analysis of Social Work Practice Approaches
  • Quantitative Methods in Social Work Research
  • Social Welfare Policy Analysis and Development
  • Social Work Research Models and Knowledge Development I, II
  • Social Welfare History
  • Dissertation Proseminar

Course selection and educational planning are mainly guided by the student's choice of an area of specialized study within one of the two tracks noted earlier. Examples of areas of specialization include selected facets of child welfare and kinship care, family violence, corrections, HIV/AIDS, social policy for the aged, program evaluation, violence prevention and treatment research. An individualized study plan provides a wide variety of possible combinations. It should be noted that the program does not offer a doctorate in advanced clinical practice. Students are encouraged to select and develop an area of specialized study and a related dissertation topic early in their course of study. The dissertation topic should have significance for social work theory, policy or practice within a social justice framework.

Descriptions of the PhD Courses can be accessed here.