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Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (PhD Program)

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Prospective Students

Program Overview

Preparing Scholars to Advance Social Justice
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work program’s goal is to create scholars who will develop and disseminate new knowledge about interventions, programs, and policies that will advance social justice and improve quality of life and well-being for vulnerable groups of people. Our program fosters deep understanding and appreciation of the scientific method and prepares graduates for careers as social work researchers, educators, and leaders. Students must have an MSW/MSSW degree in order to pursue our PhD program.

Our Program offers:


The PhD curriculum includes required coursework, electives, and mentored research opportunities. Required coursework includes:

  • 34 credit-hours of research design, statistics, advanced critical thinking, and teaching methods
  • 9 credit-hours of electives in related social and behavioral science areas

All PhD students are required to pass the comprehensive examination and an oral defense of the research proposal after their second year of course work. The comprehensive examination consists of a major paper that demonstrates the student’s knowledge of a substantive area and the student’s ability to integrate that knowledge with the foundation content of the program. This paper is the first paper in the student’s three-paper dissertation.

We encourage you to visit our program and talk with our PhD Program Director, faculty, and current students about your educational and professional goals.

Student Testimonial

“I am so proud to be the first Jordanian person (among men and women) who has a PhD in Social Work from the U.S in the history of the country of Jordan. And it’s an honor to gain it from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After my graduation in 2014, I returned back to Jordan to work as an Assistant Professor at Yarmouk University in the north of Jordan. I am glad to apply what I learned in the west and modify it to fit the eastern culture and society.

Ayat J. J. Nashwan

Want to learn more?

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Current Students

Helpful Links and Resources

PhD Faculty and Staff

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Program Assistant
Katie Banks,

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Program Director
Dr. Gretchen Ely,