The LSU School of Social Work believes that doctoral education in social work must involve first and foremost a passionate commitment to learning, and a specific commitment to the pursuit of new knowledge that can improve the lives of our client populations. The PhD in Social Work Program prepares the next generation of social work educators, researchers, administrators, and policy-makers to contribute to the creation of the knowledge base of our profession.
We prepare students above all else to conduct empirical research targeted at the pressing needs of our client populations and service systems. Social work practitioners must have the highest quality, up-to-date knowledge to strengthen the evidence base of their work, and it is the job of doctoral-trained social workers to provide this. The major educational outcomes for our doctoral students are:
- To learn about the historical and contemporary contexts of social work research, focusing on the nature of research questions posed and the methods used to address these
- To learn to critically analyze the quality and merits of social work research in a variety of substantive areas
- To produce original research relevant to the field of social work, including the framing of research questions, synthesis of the existing relevant literature, the use of appropriate methods to investigate answers to research questions, and the analysis, synthesis, and interpretation of data
- To translate learning to practice, especially through preparation for teaching beginning social work professionals.
LSU is home to the only independent social work doctoral program in Louisiana. It is an interdisciplinary degree in which students are expected to explore diverse areas and traditions of inquiry and use a variety of research methods, all the while keeping a sharp focus on the need for information to inform social work practice. It is important to note that ours is not an advanced clinical (DSW) program. The course of study in our doctoral program is completely oriented toward mastering the skills needed to design and conduct empirical social work research. Our students work very closely with faculty mentors, oftentimes directly with them on their on-going research. We have a diverse student body that includes students from several foreign countries and we encourage international applications.
Our faculty is well-equipped to effectively mentor doctoral student research. Major areas of research and scholarship expertise that our current faculty mentors provide our doctoral students include:
- Child welfare/child maltreatment/trauma
- Children's attachments to caregivers
- Substance misuse & interventions across the lifespan
- Juvenile justice
- School social work
- The personal and social circumstances of families receiving government support
- Social capital and poverty
- Vulnerable families
- Minoritized populations and communities
- At-risk youth
- Bullying & victimization
- Gay and lesbian youth
- Intimate partner violence
- Behavioral health & interventions
- Infant & child mental health
- Experiences of undocumented immigrants/refugees
- Health disparities
- Social welfare and social development
- Disasters and crises
- Changes/trends in family demographics
It is a good time to pursue a doctoral degree in Social Work. The profession increasingly demands evidence-based knowledge and expertise in research and evaluation. Recently, the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work, a national/international consortium of Social Work PhD Program Directors, completed a national study that found that Social Work Programs at virtually all levels in the U.S. face a tremendous shortage of doctoral-trained academicians in the coming years to fill the ranks of the social work programs in our colleges and universities. We need more social workers who are passionate about pursuing the answers to important questions affecting our client populations and eager to take on the challenges to improving social work practice and the well-being of our clients.
Doctoral studies are characterized by three major phases of work: coursework (completion of a minimum of 39 credit hours of coursework); the General Examination (an intense period of self-guided study and examination directed by a doctoral advisory committee), and the dissertation (the student’s original research, guided by a primary mentor and two other faculty committee members, minimum of 15 credit hours). It is expected that the period of study for the doctoral degree in social work will be three to five years, but not exceeding seven. The minimum total credit hours for the degree is 54.
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with typical liberal arts, social sciences, introductory statistics, and human biology courses
- An acceptable grade-point average in undergraduate course work (as evaluated by the School of Social Work and the Graduate School)
- A master's degree in social work from a CSWE accredited program or a closely related discipline. Preference will be given to applicants with the MSW. Graduate students without the MSW will be required to enroll in 3 hours of the social work course: SW 7004 Human Diversity & Oppression.
- A GPA in graduate studies of at least 3.00
- Completion of a graduate introductory statistics course with a grade of “B” or better
- Completion of a graduate introductory research course with a grade of “B” or better
- Other materials as required in the application instructions, inclusive of the applicant's individualized Statement of Purpose: Plan of Doctoral Study
Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are not a requirement for admission to the PhD in Social Work Program.
How to Apply
Admission to graduate study is a two-step evaluation process:
- The Office of Graduate Admissions determines eligibility for admission to LSU, and
- the academic department or college determines admissibility to the degree program.
Final admission to the University is subject to approval by the Office of Graduate Admissions. Prospective applicants to the PhD in Social Work program must submit the following documents:
- official transcripts
- a completed Application for Admission to the PhD in Social Work Program
- a completed Statement of Purpose: Plan of Doctoral Study
- a resume/CV
- three (3) letters of reference, one of which is academic
- two (2) scholarly professional writing samples that best illustrate your capacity for analytic and critical thinking
The Graduate School provides fellowships to social work doctoral students who meet specific eligibility requirements: Huel D. Perkins Doctoral Diversity Fellowships, Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Fellowships, and some external fellowships. If you would like to be considered for a Graduate School Fellowship, please review the eligibility requirements to ensure you have included all required application materials in your packet. The Graduate School fellowship application deadline is November 1. For all other (non-fellowship) applications, the deadline is February 1. Applications received by February 1 will receive priority in admissions decisions. Applications received after February 1 will be considered on a space-available basis.