- Program Goals
- Course Requirements
- Qualifying to Begin the Dissertation
- The Dissertation
- Student Advisor
- Financial Assistance
- More Information & Application Materials
Welcome to the PhD Program at the School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our highly rated program focuses on preparing students for careers in leading academic institutions and social service organizations, both in the United States and internationally. Located in one of the great public university settings in the world, our School features a talented group of faculty members with a wide range of subject area and methodological interests. Our faculty conducts cutting edge research on many types of social issues and programs. In fact, a recent study of social work research ranked us first in research publications among U.S. social work programs.* We also are home to the nationally renowned Children and Family Research Center, and we are proud to be housed in a new state-of-the-art building in the heart of campus.
Each year we accept a small but diverse group of students into our program. Our goal is to select talented students with research interests that fit well with those of our faculty members. This approach provides the best opportunity for students to receive sound mentorship as they develop their research and teaching interests. We provide competitive financial aid packages, and strive to provide all students with both research and teaching experience during their PhD study period. We also work closely with students in pursuing job opportunities once they have completed their study.
Our curriculum blends social work specific courses taught by our faculty exclusively for PhD students, along with a student-developed interdisciplinary focus area involving coursework in one or more allied disciplines. We offer a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative methods courses, and also have faculty members who specialize in mixed methods approaches to social inquiry.
We pride ourselves on being a very diverse and welcoming place for students, both within the University and in the broader Urbana-Champaign community. Usually about one-half of our PhD students come to the University from other countries, and Illinois has the largest number of international students among all U.S. public universities. We are committed to helping all of our students adjust to both academic and community life, and both our faculty and students will work with you to make sure this occurs.
The broader university community likewise provides great infrastructure to support your study and research. Illinois recently was voted the most “wired” university in the U.S., consistent with our unsurpassed computing facilities and information technology capabilities. In addition, our library is largest university library in the U.S.
The following pages provide more detailed information on our program structure and requirements. Please take some time to explore them, and also to review profiles of our faculty members elsewhere on our website. You can complete our program application online if you decide that our program meets your needs..
I recognize that choosing a graduate school is a difficult and sometimes confusing process, and that students often have a wide range of questions both about our program and PhD study more generally. I welcome any questions you may have about our program and whether it may be well suited to your needs (phone: 217- 244-5242 or e-mail at email@example.com.) I also can put you in touch with other faculty members and PhD students, and would be happy to work with you to arrange a campus visit.
I hope you will seriously consider PhD study at Illinois, and wish you the best as you move forward with your academic careers.
PhD Program Director
* Ligon, J., Jackson, D.L., and Thyer, B. (2007). Academic affiliations of social work journal article authors from 1999-2003: A productivity analysis spanning 25 years of social work scholarship. Journal of Social Service Research, vol. 33(3), 13-20.
- Critical thinking and the formulation of constructs, models, and theory
- Scientific and research methodologies appropriate to social welfare issues and social work practice
- Critical appraisal, synthesis and integration of knowledge from a related field which has relevance for policy and practice in social work and/or social welfare
- Independent research and development of programmatic lines of scientific inquiry
- Dissemination of knowledge through social welfare leadership, publications, and teaching
The minimum requirement for the degree is 60 hours of course work and research beyond the master's degree. Students with graduate degrees in related disciplines may be required to successfully complete additional course work. Decisions regarding additional course work will be made at the time of admission.
Core Social Work Courses
Emphasis on research as well as the theoretical foundations and knowledge base of social work are reflected in the core courses. The five primary areas of study are:
- Theories and issues in social policy and social policy analysis.
- Theories and issues in social work practice.
- Research and statistical competency.
- Specialization area, including dissertation research.
- Issues and competency in college teaching.
Doctoral students are required to take the following seven courses within the School of Social Work, which are specifically designed for doctoral students:
Social Work Practice Theories
National Social Welfare Policy
Design of Social Work Research
Quantitative Research Designs
This course is designed to enhance skills of doctoral students in social work through research collaboration with a faculty member. (Two semesters required)
Social Work Teaching Seminar
Professional Focus/Interdisciplinary Component
The doctoral student designates a professional focus area of study when admitted. Course work in social work and other academic and professional disciplines, as well as the dissertation, are planned around each candidate's focus.
All students are required to take a minimum of three units of course work outside the department related to their focus area. Outside courses should be selected to form a core of knowledge to support the student's competency in their area of specialization, and to aid in the development of a dissertation proposal.
Research and Statistical Competency
Each candidate is held responsible for competence in research methods and analysis. Students are required to take a minimum of three courses outside the School of Social Work in statistics and research methodology, which are appropriate for their area of specialization. These courses should provide evidence of research proficiency in the area of the dissertation. A minimum grade of B or better is required.
Research Qualifying Examination
The qualifying exam is taken after the student has completed at least eight units of academic credit beyond the master's degree and has a 3.0 GPA (B) or higher. The exam encompasses several areas central to social work research: philosophy of science, design, methods, analysis, and application.
After passing the qualifying exam, students begin work on their qualifying paper. In this paper, students critically review literature addressing an issue from their focus areas. In researching and writing the qualifying paper, students become familiar with theories and research, as well as the interventions and policies, associated with their focus areas. The final product demonstrates that they have achieved a level of knowledge sufficient to begin the dissertation stage of their programs. Students generally select a topic for this paper that will contribute to the literature review that will be needed for their dissertation work.
The research question for the student's doctoral dissertation generally is derived from the student's professional focus. The dissertation must involve original research that has significance for social work theory, practice, policy or administration. Students select a dissertation committee that oversees all aspects of the dissertation process, and helps the student to conceptualize and implement the dissertation project.
Each entering doctoral student is assigned a faculty as her/his academic advisor. The assignment of a student’s advisor is based on the focus interests of the student and those of a faculty member. A student’s academic advisor will work closely with the PhD Program Director in supervising the student’s progress during her/his first-year of study.
The student's advisor:
- Facilitates the student's identification of a professional focus plan;
- Facilitates the student's selection of relevant course work, and with the development of research interest; and
- Monitors the student’s progress through the program
We provide competitive financial aid packages for students admitted into the PhD program. These include research and teaching assistantships that typically also provide tuition waivers. Multiple year financial aid packages often are offered to students at the time of admission. The PhD Program Director will be happy to discuss these opportunities with you, and also will share information on the costs of study.
If you would like more detailed information on the program requirements described above, as well as other details about our program, please visit the Current Students page or contact the PhD Program Director.