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PhD Program Admissions Information

University of Tennessee, Knoxville Application & Admission

Students must apply to, and be accepted to, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville as well as the College of Social Work. A description of admission requirements for graduate admission to the University of Tennessee can be obtained below. Students must also have an MSW/MSSW degree in order to pursue our PhD program.

Application Deadline

The application for fall 2024 admissions will open August 1, 2023. The priority deadline for submitting an application is November 1st. The final deadline is December 1st. These deadlines apply to both domestic and international applicants.

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College of Social Work Admission Requirements

The PhD Program is designed for students who have earned a Master’s degree from an accredited school of social work and have post-master’s social work/social welfare practice experience. Applicants who do not meet these requirements will need to achieve equivalent credentials as specified by the PhD Admission Committee.

The Application Process

  1. Submit your application by completing the following at the Graduate School’s web site:
    • Graduate School online application
    • *$60.00 application fee (paid online at the time of your application submission)
    • Official transcripts of all previous academic work. Scanned versions of official transcripts of all prior undergraduate and graduate coursework must be uploaded with the online application. If you have attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville your UT transcripts will already be on file. If you do not upload your transcript(s) with your application, you must have your official transcript(s) mailed directly from the institution(s) to the Graduate Admissions office. Please keep in mind that doing this will delay the processing of your application.
    • Employment history (resume or vita)
    • Professional Questions (answered within the application)
      1. Why are you interested in getting a PhD in social work specifically at UTK?
      2. What are your career goals and how will obtaining a PhD enhance them?
      3. People with research-based PhDs typically seek employment in academic or research-oriented settings. Are you interested in obtaining a faculty position? If not, what type of job are you seeking? What regions or location do you see yourself living and working after graduation?
      4. A PhD is a research-based degree where students receive training in independent research skills. For those practicing social work at the PhD level, research is the means by which social work is practiced. PhD level research should adhere to and advance the values of the NASW code of ethics (service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, competence). Our College has a stated commitment to the values represented by the NASW code of ethics. How do you see your research contributing to the advancement of these values? PhD program and how it aligns with your five-year career plan.
    • Personal Statement (3-5 page well-edited document, uploaded to application)
      Introduce yourself to the PhD committee and describe how your professional strengths, experiences, and aptitude will contribute to your success in our research-based PhD program. Describe your previous experiences with research, your current research interests and how you plan to use the degree. Describe the experiences you will likely gain from being in a research-based PhD program and how it aligns with your five-year career plan.
      Note: You can upload this document before or after submission of the application.
    • Writing Sample (uploaded to the application)
      Submission suggestions: Papers from Master’s program, any professional writing including reports, literature reviews, papers you’ve co-authored, case summaries, advocacy letters, opinion papers, etc. (if you submit something that is co-authored please attach a document explaining your specific contribution to the writing). Note: This document should reflect your writing abilities. It can be uploaded before or after submission of the application.
    • References
      Provide the names and email addresses of three (3) references. Three letters of recommendation must be received before your application can be reviewed. Recommendations are an essential part of the admission process. The strongest letters of recommendation come from faculty members. If you don’t have a relationship with a faculty member please seek recommendations from professionals with higher level graduate degrees who have supervised or are familiar with your work such as lawyers or medical professionals. Personal recommendations will not be accepted.
    • International applicants also submit TOEFL scores.
      International applicants should refer to the Admissions for International Students page on the Graduate School’s web site for additional information.

* We are able to waive the $60 Graduate Admissions application fee for a select number of applicants, including those experiencing financial hardship. For information please contact Jennifer Scagnelli at

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