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PhD in Social Work Online

Social work student meeting with family

Get started on your Journey


Building on the longstanding tradition of excellence in social work education, the Worden School of Social Service is proud to announce the addition of the online PhD in Social Work. This degree will have an emphasis on advanced social work practice and focus on preparing practitioner-scholars who bridge the gap between academic researchers and practitioners.

The PhD program is an academically rigorous program designed for professionals to earn their PhD in as little as three years full time. The online program requires a one-week summer residency each summer of study.

Social Work PhD degree plan and course descriptions can be found in the OLLU Graduate Catalog .

Employment Outlook

This program is ideal for students who have a desire to teach in Carnegie classified* baccalaureate, master's and R3 doctoral institutions --which make up the majority of CSWE** accredited institutions. PhD level social work faculty are in high demand in these types of institutions. The program is not appropriate for students with a goal of employment in a R1 or R2 doctoral university. This program is also a good fit for students who wish to advance their careers as social work leaders and administrators. The program aims to train educators who are especially skilled for employment within minority serving institutions.

Students will finish the program armed with an extensive repertoire of knowledge and theory and the ability to conduct research in practice settings. With this background, graduates of the program are in a unique position to contribute to the knowledge base about what interventions are most effective in addressing the needs of diverse populations

Student Teaching Assistantship

The mission of the PhD program at the Worden School is to prepare scholars for academic appointments in minority serving institutions. An important component of this is expertise in pedagogy. The PhD program will offer teaching assistantships that will provide students with the opportunity to gain experience in teaching at the university level while under the mentorship of Worden faculty.

Dissertation and Research

Students will complete four research courses ensuring their success as an academic who is skilled at using research to inform teaching and advanced social work knowledge.

Students will enroll in a three-semester dissertation sequence during the summer, fall and spring semesters of their third year in the program. Students will work with committee members to complete the required research project and three publishable articles required as part of the dissertation work. Students will then defend their dissertation at the end of the spring semester either via video conference or in person.

Program Design

  • 54-credit hours
  • Three-year program
  • Cohort model (first start beginning during the summer)
  • Fall and spring courses will feature a combination of synchronous (everyone online at the same time) and asynchronous class sessions
  • Summer courses will include a one-week, face-to-face classroom environment on OLLU's main campus in San Antonio

Admission Requirements

  • A MSW from a CSWE-accredited social work program
  • At least two years (three preferred) of post-MSW direct practice experience
  • Preferred licensure at the advanced clinical practice level
  • A graduate GPA of at least a 3.0 on a 4-point scale
  • Submit three recommendations from academic or professionals, who can attest to the applicant’s social work skills. (Request may be made through the application request form)
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) showing at least two (three preferred) years of post-MSW direct practice experience
  • A 3-5 page writing sample, APA formatted on a current social work topic of your choice, or an original, professional, solely authored and documented scholarly writing that demonstrates academic and critical thinking writing skills. Include a one-paragraph introduction to your writing sample that provides a context for the reviewer. Include a reference list (not included in the three pages).
  • Three letters of recommendation (academic or professional)
  • Interview required

*To learn more about Carnegie classifications, visit

**To lean more about the Council on Social Work Education, visit .