PhD Programs in Clinical Social Work

A clinical social work program at the Ph.D. level emphasizes research and theory. Check the prerequisites for enrolling in a clinical social work doctorate program. Review the curriculum for these programs, and find out if online learning options exist in this field. Explore job options for doctorate holders in clinical social work. Schools offering Clinical Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Are There Any Prerequisites for a Clinical Social Work Ph.D. Program?

Doctoral degree programs in clinical social work usually require you to already hold your master's degree in social work. Some programs also recommend that you have 2-3 years of postgraduate work experience in the social work realm. Many programs also set minimum requirements for grade point average and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

Prerequisites Master's degree in social work, 2-3 years postgraduate work experience, minimum GPA, GRE scores
Common Courses Behavioral theory, interventions therapy, social policy, theories behind trauma
Online Options Distance learning options available, but on-site residencies may be required
Mean Salary (2015) $69,030* (for postsecondary social work teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Skills Will I Develop?

A doctoral degree program in clinical social work integrates social work and counseling with advanced clinical research. Schools can award you with a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Social Work or a Clinical Doctor of Social Work; the two programs are very similar to each other. Some programs offer flexibility in the time needed to complete them. Programs may be completed in as quickly as three years or as long as nine years.

The coursework mixes traditional lecture seminars with clinical-based classes. You usually must complete a practicum, during which you can conduct case studies and treatment plans with clients involved in social assistance or healthcare programs. Some typical clinical doctoral degree-level social work topics include:

  • Contemporary issues in social work
  • Advanced research methods
  • Behavioral theory
  • Teaching social work
  • Interventions therapy
  • Social policy
  • Theories behind trauma
  • Dissertation workshop

Doctorate programs in clinical social work end with a dissertation, in which you must independently research a clinical question and write an original scholarly proposal analyzing your findings. You must then successfully defend your dissertation to receive your doctoral degree.

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

Distance learning options are available to you if you wish to earn your clinical social work degree online. Day-to-day instruction takes place entirely online, but residencies might be required about twice each semester. To participate in an online program, you might need a cable modem, a webcam and a headset to interact directly with instructors and students.

Other onsite doctoral degree programs are designed to offer some scheduling flexibility, holding classes only once per week, during the evenings or on the weekends. Some on-campus programs also offer classes that only meet one weekend per month.

What Job Opportunities Are Available?

With your doctoral degree in clinical social work, you can become a postsecondary teacher and researcher. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that postsecondary teaching positions were projected to rise 13% from 2014-2024, which was higher than average because of increasing numbers of students entering college ( According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for postsecondary social work teachers was $69,030 in 2015.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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