15 Best Doctorate In Social Work (DSW) Online Programs In 2025 | Schools, Requirements, Cost

Are you seeking the best Doctorate in Social Work online programs, schools, requirements, and costs? Worry not, this article has outlined the top online DSW programs and all other necessary details you need to know. Stay with me!

We’ll carefully discuss all you need to know about DSW. Carefully read through to grab the highlights.

See the table of content below for a glance.

The Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is a professional doctorate in social work, most often offering high-level training in an expert area of practice, including but not limited to; nonprofit organization, leadership development, and social justice.

The DSW usually focuses on clinical practice or nonprofit administration. The DSW is related to, but also different from the more traditional PhD, a more research-oriented degree for social workers who wish to further their careers in academia or research settings.

A holder of a DSW is referred to using the formal title of ‘doctor’.

What Is A Doctorate Of Social Work?

A Doctorate of Social Work offers high-level training in a specific area of practice in social work. Students seeking a DSW usually focus on social work administration and clinical social work.

Furthermore, DSW degree programs offer students an opportunity to advance their careers in social work and innovate social workspace. In addition, candidates are equipped for leadership roles. They are trained on discovery and management in areas of social work like social work administration, clinical social work, and child, family, and school social work.

Lastly, most DSW programs require residency or dissertation that helps form skills towards advancing a candidate’s professional career.

Do I Need My MSW To Get My DSW?

Requirements for DSW admission differ by university. However, candidates must have obtained a master’s degree to pursue a doctorate degree.

Some programs require an MSW while others, such as our partner DSW@USC, require a master’s degree in related areas of study such as an advanced degree in Public Administration (MPA), Public Health (MPH), Nursing (MSN), Public Policy (MPP), Business Administration (MBA), Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), or any professional doctorate.

What Are The Requirements To Study A DSW Program?

To be eligible for a PhD or DSW program, applicants must have received a master’s degree in social work, or in certain cases, a master’s degree from an allied field from an accredited college or university.

Admission into a doctoral social work or social welfare program also requires the candidate to provide prior transcripts showing academic excellence, including an acceptable grade point average (GPA).

Besides Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores and recommendations, doctoral candidates are expected to showcase their capacity for advanced academic work, dedication to research, and strong writing and analytical skills. International students must take and submit the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score.

How Long Does Getting a Doctorate In Social Work (DSW) Take?

The duration of a DSW program varies by which school you choose to attend. Some programs, like our partner DSW@USC, allows an accelerated 24-month program that includes completing a residency and capstone project.

Other universities may offer similar part-time options or full-time enrollment tracks. Most DSW programs can take two to five years to complete.

What Can You Do With A Doctorate Of Social Work?

Doctorate degrees in social work opens the door for a number of careers in the field of social work. Some examples include:

  • Administrator
  • Clinical Director
  • Clinician
  • Clinical Social Worker
  • College or University Professor (PhD)
  • Executive Director
  • Human Services Director
  • Licensed Social Worker
  • Nonprofit Executive
  • Researcher (PhD)
  • Senior Social Worker

How Much Does Social Work Professors Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, social work professors who teach and those who merge teaching and research make an average of $71,670 per year. Those in the top 90th percentile make upwards of $111,150.

See also  17 Scholarships for Indian Students in USA | 2025

What Should I Expect From An Online Doctorate In Social Work Program?

Social work is a practical field, which is why experience is vital. Therefore, students must examine the program’s structure to ensure that it will meet their needs.

However, the course often offers virtual classrooms and require occasional on-site meetings. Generally, PhD students explore advanced theoretical concepts, while those earning a DSW online pursue more practical objectives through applied learning coursework.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Social Work

  • Advanced Research Methods and Statistics: This is usually a requirement for earning a Ph.D. in social work online, this course highlights research over the hands-on practice in the field. Through the coursework, students learn advanced skills in data collection and analysis, research design, and problem formulation. Furthermore, it stresses analytical thinking abilities, preparing students for their dissertation to conclude the degree.
  • Social Science Theories: This course explores both traditional and contemporary social science theories, essentially through professional publications on the practice of social work, field journals, and public policy literature. Hence, students expand existing theories to influence policy reform and social justice in the public service field.
  • Grant Writing: Grant writing is essential for productive social workers. Students in this course locate, draft, budget, track, and administer grant funding opportunities. This is especially valuable to aspiring nonprofit directors, community organizers, and top executives in any field.
  • Teaching in Higher Education: This course mixes universal skills in pedagogy, curriculum development, and instructional design with teaching methods specific to social work. Therefore, students learn to lead a college-level course in social work, and topics emphasize an industry-relevant curriculum aligned with evidence-based social work principles.
  • Social Welfare Policy Analysis: This is a research-intensive course, social welfare policy analysis reviews the current state of social welfare policy in the United States. Students conclude this course with a practical policy study in which they pose questions and plan hypotheses in a focus area of their choice.

Are Online DSW Programs Accredited?

At all other degree levels of social work, scanning for a program that is accredited by the CSWE is important. However, DSW programs are not accredited by the CSWE because the organization focuses on accreditations that equip students for professional social work practice, which extends to the master’s level.

Nevertheless, students can gain access to quality of programs through the Commission on Educational Policy (COEP) and Commission on Accreditation (COA).

Prospective students are to search for a regionally accredited school with a strong reputation.

Additionally, while it is not an accrediting organization, the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE) is an organization that has designed procedures and policies that programs should follow. GADE membership alludes to the rigor and processes of the DSW program, and many schools choose to affiliate themselves with GADE. Students can use GADE’s website to see schools.

The World Scholarship Forum has outlined a list of accredited schools with a strong reputation below.

15 Best Doctorate In Social Work (DSW) Online Programs in 2025

Information was gathered using the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database. From an initial pool of 50 schools. Furthermore, this ranking was narrowed down to 10 under our ranking method where factors like;

  • In-state graduate tuition rates
  • Accreditation status
  • Reputation
  • Graduation rate
  • Employability index

15. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

USC’s online DSW program was the first among elite research universities to offer a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree online.

The program (known as DSW@USC) stars live online classes taught by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work faculty. The live classrooms utilize breakout rooms, live chat, and document sharing, designed to foster close, intimate discussion.

In addition, to live classes, students are expected to attend two in-person residencies, which take place during their third and sixth semesters. Each residency is six days, it spans from Sunday evening to Friday.

Residencies are held in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The program brings social workers into the greater public discourse as they examine and construct ways to deliver basic human rights to people and build a just society.

Unlike a PhD in social work, which prepares scholars for careers in research and the professoriate, the DSW@USC is an online advanced practice degree program aimed toward working professionals who want to have a greater impact in their practice.

Graduates of the program are taught to engage and lead conversations on sweeping topics such as gun violence, foster care, and homelessness.

See also  Rocket League Unblocked For College Students Online | 2025

Visit School

14. Walden University (Minneapolis, MN)

Walden’s PhD in Social Work online degree program helps students prepare to practice at the biggest level of the social work field as a researcher, college-level educator, or administrative leader.

The challenging curriculum helps students to analyze advanced theory and explore some of the most pressing and cutting-edge issues in social work today. Hence, students adjust their studies with their interests by choosing one of eight specializations: Addictions and Social Work; Clinical Expertise; Criminal Justice; Disaster, Crisis, and Intervention; Family Studies and Interventions; Medical Social Work; Policy Practice; and Social Work Administration.

Four face-to-face academic residencies support the learning experience by allowing students to cooperate with professors and colleagues, build a social and professional community, and enhance their ability to affect positive social change.

A Master of Social Work (MSW) is a requirement for the PhD in Social Work program. As graduates of this program, students can become lifelong contributors to the profession through research, scholarly writing, and thought leadership.

Visit School

13. Baylor University (Waco, Texas)

Baylor University offers an online PhD degree program through the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. The program uses high-definition video conferencing technology to provide students with a simulated classroom experience.

Students will need to visit the campus for an introductory five-day session, and once again before the program concludes. Baylor’s PhD program helps build leaders and educators in the social work field.

Students can expect to take courses such as Christianity, Ethics, and Social Work, Religious and Cultural Diversity, Quantitative Research for Social Work, Statistical Analysis for Social Work, and both a research and teaching practicum.

Baylor’s program will take students approximately three to four years to complete.

Visit School

12. University of St. Thomas – School of Social Work

Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) from the University of St. Thomas is an online course with field education Students must attend a two-week on-campus residency each summer in St. Paul, MN.

You can complete the online DSW program in approximately 3 years-45 semester credits(15 courses required) Fall and Spring semesters each comprised of two successive, 8-week sessions.

To gain admission, you must have a minimum cumulative grade-point of 3.0-4.0 in the previous graduate work.

Visit School

11. The University of St. Thomas (Saint Paul, MN)

The University of St. Thomas offers a three-year online DSW program that equips students for university-level teaching and advanced higher education positions.

Students complete coursework online, except for two-week residencies that take place yearly on campus during the summer sessions.

During the fall and spring each year, students are to complete two 8-week courses. Classes include History of Social Work and Social Work Education, Roles and Responsibilities of the Professoriate, Mission and Purpose through Curriculum Development, Social Work Theoretical Perspectives, and a teaching practicum.

Students are to complete 45 credit hours to graduate.

Visit School

10. Capella University

Capella University confers an online DSW program that prepares social workers for leadership and educator positions in different workplace settings.

Students can expect to take on a doctoral research seminar, a residency experience, and a doctoral capstone project. Sample courses include Leadership and Management in Complex Social Systems, Advanced Social Work Policy and Practice, and Advanced Social Work Practitioner as a Leader of Social Change.

Tuition: $4,296 per quarter – information provided by the University.

Visit School

9. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville

This academic and research degree centers on using the scientific method to develop the social work field in terms of education and practical applications.

The school has a relationship with two world-class research centers, including the Center for Behavioral Health Research, and creates a synergy with students and real-world professionals who are part of the faculty at the university.

Students don’t need a campus residency for this program. Furthermore, the degree requires 66 semester credit hours of coursework beyond a graduate degree, three research articles, a sequence of comprehensive exams, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Critical Thinking for Science and Research, Research for Social Work Practice, and Professional Development for Social Work Scholars.

Tuition: $12,724

Visit School

8. University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina offers an online DSW alternative This degree has a goal of leading the charge on transdisciplinary community-engaged research

Also, the program develops social workers into scholars and leaders who are ready to engage the field in various disciplines and on different issues.

Furthermore, you’ll find that the college also focuses on social justice and has several ongoing research projects that work on diversity and family studies.

Students are to complete 60 credit hours of coursework.

See also  10 Best Court Reporting Schools In The World | Ranking

Sample courses include Design and Critical Analysis of Social Work Research, Community-Engaged Research for Social Welfare and Social Change, and Intellectual Foundations of Social Welfare and Social Work: Historical Roots.

Tuition: $11,454

Visit School

7. Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University confers an online DSW alternative. This degree is for social work professionals who have an interest in doing research in the field to change social environments for the better.

Moreso, it is an interdisciplinary program and is currently the only one of its kind in Louisiana.

Like many other social work programs, it demands campus residencies during the summer; the rest of the work is to be completed in a student’s own community and on their own time.

Students can expect to complete 45 credit hours of coursework, research projects, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation.

Tuition: $10,814

Visit School

6. University of Alabama

A comprehensive online DSW alternative comes from the University of Alabama as its research-based Ph.D. program in the field.

It is a comprehensive degree that encompasses a variety of experiences for students that they may get nowhere else.

Furthermore, students can expect to complete 73 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a teaching practicum, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation.

Sample courses include Social Work and the Welfare State, Concepts and Theories of Social Work Practice, and Multivariate Dependence Methods.

Tuition: $10,470

Visit School

5. Kutztown University

Kutztown University confers an online DSW program that is geared towards social workers who are interesting in advancing their careers and their understanding of what social work is in the current American climate.

All students study part-time, allowing them to continue in their current profession without much disruption.

Like many other programs, this degree requires some teaching practicals, which is done in an experiential format, enabling students to get a feeling for what their new career might entail.

Additionally, students are to complete 60 credit hours of coursework, research projects, attend a conference to which they submitted their research, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation.

Sample courses include Research Methodology, Social Work Leadership, and the Social Work Teacher-Scholar.

Tuition: $9,618

Visit School

4. University of Houston

In this online DSW program, students are trained in the analysis and implementation of research, given a chance to take part in work environments, and given all the tools necessary to take on leadership roles after graduation.

Furthermore, this online degree is also available to students in a full-time or part-time plan of study, enabling them to choose how much time they devote to their education.

Students are to complete 53 credit hours of coursework, research projects, a teaching practicum, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Statistics and Data Analysis, Social Welfare Policy Analysis, and Teaching in Higher Education.

Tuition: $9,519

Visit School

3. University of Albany SUNY

The University of Albany SUNY is a leader in social work doctoral programs. Nationally renowned for graduating some of the best-known social workers in the field today, the program continues to generate goodwill by offering an online version of its traditional degree to students from all over the country.

The school is best known for its research focus, including diversity and minority health disparities, homeless LGBT youth, and addiction.

With a campus residency every session that lasts just one weekend and the capacity to choose between full-time and part-time study, this program is best for students who are passionate about research and educating the next generation of social workers.

Students are to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a research project, cognate area, independent study, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation before graduation.

Sample courses include Social Welfare Policy, Application of Advanced Methods in Social Welfare Research, and General Reading in Social Welfare and Social Work.

Tuition: $9,223

Visit School

2. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers four concentrations: Sociology of Crime and Deviant Behavior, Domestic Violence, Social Inequalities, and Health, Families, and Communities. This degree is perfect for students interested in going into research or academia after graduation.

The program requires weekend residencies every semester, but apart from that, all other coursework is transmitted via asynchronous methods.

Also, students are encouraged to take on an assistantship, although it is unnecessary for graduation.

Students must complete 60 credit hours of coursework, research projects, a comprehensive exam, independent study, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Social Policy and Research Analysis, Theoretical Criminology, and Design and Conduct of Social Services.

Tuition: $6,368

Visit School

1. Florida Atlantic University

A cheap online DSW comes from Florida Atlantic University, which had commenced the program in 2016, making it the first DSW program in the state of Florida.

This part-time degree is designed specifically for working professionals in mind. Courses are delivered both in traditional and online formats, with just one orientation residency required for graduation.

Students are taught in a scholar-clinician model, meaning that students tackle the concepts and theories discussed during the courses as both academics and practitioners.

This degree requires 60 credit hours of coursework, a research project, clinical practice, and a capstone project for graduation.

Sample courses include Theories and Epistemology of Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice, Social Work Pedagogy, and Evaluating and Interpreting Social Work Research.

Tuition: $4,831

Visit School


In summary, DSW degree programs offer students an opportunity to advance their careers in social work and innovate social workspace. In addition, candidates are equipped for leadership roles. They are trained on discovery and management in social work like social work administration, clinical social work, and child, family, and school social work.


We Also Recommend

#Doctorate #Social #Work #DSW #Online #Programs #Schools #Requirements #Cost

Leave a Comment