What Is the Curriculum of a PhD in Clinical Social Work?

For students who are interested in pursuing advanced study in the field of clinical social work, a Ph.D. may be a worthwhile option. Continue reading to learn more, including what courses and requirements are typically part of these programs. Schools offering Clinical Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Clinical Social Work Ph.D. Program Overview

For students who already hold a degree in social work and are interested in continuing their studies, a doctoral degree can provide important advanced coursework. While many schools offer Ph.D.s in this area, some schools offer a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) instead. Many students complete these degree programs in order to pursue various careers that require a doctorate in the field. The majority of college professors and researchers hold a doctoral degree. Students who do not hold a master's degree in social work may be required to complete a joint degree program.

Most doctoral degree programs in social work last approximately two to three years and require students to complete advanced coursework, a comprehensive examination and a doctoral dissertation. Coursework includes core requirements and elective courses. Many doctoral programs may also include clinical internships or residencies. Some programs may offer specializations within the degree.

Coursework in these programs typically cover clinical topics, advanced psychology topics, welfare, and research methods. In some programs, coursework is offered at the beginning of the program, with the later years being focused on projects, papers, or dissertations. Some of the core courses that may be required in such a program are discussed later in this article.

Important Facts About Social Work Education

Online AvailabilityHybrid programs available
Continuing EducationRequired by most states to renew license
SpecializationChildren, poverty, elderly, trauma
PrerequisitesMaster's degree in social work, GRE scores, and previous experience in the field may be required
Median Salary (2019) $45,598 (all social workers)*
Job Growth (2016-2026) 16% (all social workers)**

Source: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Foundation Research Methods

This course focuses on the basic research methods that students will use when studying and practicing clinical social work. Statistical procedures, ethics, and technological advances are discussed. Students also investigate the variety of research designs and methods. The course stresses practicing ethical research methods.

Social Welfare Policy Analysis

This course introduces students to the ways in which social policy is affected by environmental forces. The policies of poverty and other social problems are examined, as are ways in which this policy is created and implemented. Students also discuss possible alternatives to traditional social welfare policy.


This course is designed to educate students on the development, testing, and use of a variety of measurement tools that are used in social work. The positive and negative aspects of both quantitative and qualitative techniques are examined. Scales, case studies, and data collection are also discussed.

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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