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PhD Program FAQ

The DSW is a professional practice degree designed to prepare students for advanced clinical practice and advanced practice leadership. Some DSW graduates may go into clinical faculty roles. The curriculum is offered in an online format where students who are full-time working clinical social workers can continue in their on-going clinical practice while taking classes.

The PhD program is a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree with a major in social work. The PhD is a research degree where students take courses in research methods, statistics, and theory to prepare them to conduct independent research. PhD graduates are prepared for faculty positions in higher education and other research careers. PhD students take classes on-campus in Knoxville for two years and then work on their dissertation.

In social work, the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits Bachelor’s and Master’s programs. There is, however, no accreditation process for either PhD or DSW programs at this time. That said, the quality of programs is typically dependent on the quality of the school or college of social work in which they reside. The UT College of Social Work PhD program is a member of the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education (GADE) in Social Work.

Our PhD program is designed where students can complete it in 3-4 years.

No, we do not require the GRE. However, it is optional. Students who have already taken the GRE are encouraged to submit their scores with their application package. The institution code for UT is 1843.

Yes, it is expected that social work PhD students will enter the program having already completed their master’s degree in social work.

No, post-master’s practice experience is not required. However, two years of post-master’s practice experience is required of faculty who teach clinical/practice courses. This post-master’s experience does not have to be full-time employment. So, students who enter the program without the two years of post-master’s practice experience may choose to work part-time to gain this experience while completing the PhD program.

All applicants to the PhD program must begin with the UT Graduate School Application, then choose the social work PhD option, and then that will automatically lead into the College of Social Work application. You do not need to contact the program prior to submitting an application.

Applicants must submit all transcripts, a personal statement, three reference forms from faculty members or graduate level professionals, a writing sample, and a resume. There are also questions to answer within the application. There is also a section within the application where applicants can explain extenuating circumstances (i.e. a failed class), if needed. Additional requirements for international applicants can be found at the UTK Graduate School.

Yes, the application fee is $60 and this is set by the Graduate School. If this fee is a hardship for an applicant, the applicant can reach out to the College of Social Work [] for information about application fee waivers.

Yes, students who are accepted to the program must pay a seating fee of $100 to hold their spot in the program. Once the student enrolls, the fee will be applied to their account balance. More information about the fee is provided upon admission.

Yes, it is necessary for everyone – including UT graduates – to apply for admission to the UT Graduate School and admission to the PhD program. Please be sure to list UT Knoxville as a prior institution on your application.

If accepted, you will receive correspondence from the UT Graduate School and the College of Social Work. Notifications of acceptance are typically communicated during the first few weeks of the spring semester.

Typically, we have more applicants than we have available spots in the program. When this occurs, some admitted applicants are placed on a waitlist. If an applicant moves from the waitlist to being offered a spot in the program, then the applicant will be contacted by an admissions coordinator. The program cannot provide waitlisted applicants any additional information about the waitlist.

Each new cohort of PhD students begin their course study in the fall semester.

Students must complete 67 semester hours beyond the master’s degree. This includes 34 hours of required coursework, 9 hours of advanced electives, and a minimum of 24 hours of dissertation research.

Yes, all accepted PhD students receive a graduate research assistantship package that include tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. Students have the option of adding a spouse or dependents to the insurance plan. Students are responsible for paying for some fees and their textbooks. In exchange for this compensation, students work 20 hours a week doing research under faculty supervision.

Yes, the College of Social Work welcomes international applications to the PhD program. International students are eligible for the graduate assistantship funding and other opportunities. International students may have to submit scores on the TOEFL or other scores to indicate English fluency. Information relevant to international students can be found both at the UTK Graduate School and the Center for Global Engagement.

If you’re unable to locate the answers to your questions here on the College website, please email for more information.