Doctoral Program

For 86 years, the School of Social Work at Wayne State University has been recognized nationally as a leader in producing highly competent practitioners as well as for developing innovative models in social work practice and social work education. Building on this rich tradition, our PhD program equips social work scholars to engage in research on contemporary urban issues and problems for the advancement of social work practice and social welfare policy. Our students are prepared to assume leadership positions as social work educators, researchers and agency administrators. Known for being the best economic value in terms of money expended and quality of education received, our advanced training program enables graduates to assume positions of leadership in the social work profession locally, regionally, and nationally.

The School of Social Work offers personalized attention in its new state-of-the-art building where students can come together for scholarly activities, advisement and socialization. Classified as a "doctoral university: very high research activity" by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, students are offered an intimate learning experience with the support of extensive resources only found at a large urban institution. Located in the heart of Detroit, our diverse faculty, students, and environment support the development of relationships across a variety of cultural, religious, ethnic and economic boundaries. Our doctoral program is lead by service-oriented faculty who provide personalized advisement and support geared toward maximizing degree completion and success.


  • ​The application deadline is December 1. Students start the following fall semester.

Degree options

The programs of study leading to a PhD in Social Work are designed to prepare students for leadership in social work research, teaching, clinical scholarship, and social welfare policy. Students are offered full- and part-time program options with evening, weekend and online class options. Students will complete intensive courses in research and theory in a cognate that include coursework outside of the School of Social Work based on their area of interest (eg. Public Health, Criminal Justice, Political Science). Additionally, students have the option to select from dual-title or interdisciplinary degree options noted below. Participation in a dual-title or interdisciplinary degree is not required. 

We also offer a Graduate Certificate in Research and Evaluation for those interested in learning advanced research and evaluation skills, need additional time to prepare their doctoral program application or wish to "test the waters" prior to admission into a doctoral program.


Doctoral applicants must have a minimum graduate GPA of 3.0. An MSW is preferred, but in some cases, an applicant may apply to a joint MSW/PhD program. Two years post-Masters experience is preferred. Application Information

Program requirements

The Doctoral Program leads to the Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (PhD) research degree. A minimum of 90 credit hours is required for graduation. Students are required to achieve and maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 throughout the program.


The Doctoral Program requires rigorous training in qualitative and quantitative research methods; advanced coursework in social work theory; completion of a cognate area in another discipline; mastery of specialized content areas; and the completion of a PhD dissertation. Full-time students may complete the degree requirements in four years. The part-time program permits students to meet the degree requirements within a five-year period. All students have a seven-year time limit to complete all requirements for the PhD degree. The seven-year period begins with the end of the semester during which the student was admitted to doctoral study. Learn more

  • Full-time program: The first two years of graduate study for full-time students are focused on core coursework in statistics, research methods, and social work theory at the micro, mezzo and macro levels. Students also complete at least nine credit hours in coursework in a cognate discipline (e.g., psychology, sociology, education, health, gerontology) associated with their area of research. These courses provide a foundation for PhD-level knowledge and skills and are assessed through qualifying exams in these core curricular areas. During the third and fourth years of the program, students will complete a one-credit Dissertation Seminar, any remaining elective courses and all of their dissertation credits. 
  • Part-time program: All required courses in social work and the student's cognate area are completed within the first three years of the part-time program. In year three, students will take the Research Practicum in the fall semester. The Comprehensive Qualifying Examinations are taken after completion of relevant coursework. During the fourth and fifth years of the program, students will complete a one-credit Dissertation Seminar, any remaining elective courses and all of their dissertation credits.


Stella Resko, PhD
PhD Program Director and Professor