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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work


What will I learn?

The Ph.D. in social work prepares students to conduct research that contributes to the knowledge base of social work, to become leaders in the profession, and to teach social work in postsecondary educational institutions.

Individualized and Interdisciplinary Curriculum

The program allows students to develop a coherent program of study with opportunities to pursue their own scholarly interests. These interests are pursued through a core social work curriculum, a concentration (sociology, psychology, education or public health) and a social work focal area (e.g., family violence). Students may take focal area courses in any college or department at the University of Iowa. The median time to degree is four years.

The School of Social Work provides a supportive environment with substantial opportunities for mentoring and interaction with faculty members. Throughout Ph.D. studies at the University of Iowa, the school assists students in developing a program of study based on their unique educational and career goals. There are many opportunities to work closely with faculty members in a mentoring environment. In the first year, students complete a mentored research practicum with a faculty member and a mentored in-class teaching experience. During the second year, students choose a faculty member to guide them through the comprehensive examination and dissertation process.

Students complete required course work, research, and teaching practicum; pass a comprehensive exam; write a dissertation; and defend it in an oral exam. Their work includes courses in one of four outside disciplines sociology, psychology, public health, or education to assist them in preparation for the comprehensive examination and dissertation defense.

Students who enter the program with a M.S.W. are granted 30 s.h. credit; they must complete an additional 52 s.h. for the degree. Individuals with master's degrees in related disciplines (for example, psychology or sociology) may choose to earn a Ph.D. in social work without first earning the M.S.W. Credit from a related master's degree may be applied to the Ph.D. degree program, as determined by the School of Social Work.

Which department am I in?

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Study options

Full Time (4 years)

Tuition fees
US$30,549.50 per year
Start date

Expected August 2023


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

240 Schaeffer Hall,

University of Iowa,



52242, United States

Entry requirements

For students from United States

Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree from a Regionally Accredited American College or University, or an equivalent degree from another country; A minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00, or the foreign equivalent. English Language Requirements: IELTS score of 7.0, with no subscore less than 6.0; PTE minimum score of 68 with no subscore less than 58; TOEFL scores below 100; a score of 550 or higher on the paper-based (PBT) version of the test, or a score of 81 or higher on the Internet-based version of the test (iBT).

For international students

A U.S. bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or an equivalent degree from another country as determined by the Office of Admissions with a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00.

English Language Requirements:

An IELTS (International English Language Testing System) total score of 7.0, with no sub score less than 6.0.

TOEFL score requirements with score of 81 or higher on the Internet-based version of the test (iBT) and newly admitted graduate students who present iBT scores below 100 on the PBT.

TOEFL score requirements with score of 550 on Paper-based test (PBT) and newly admitted graduate students who present TOEFL scores below 600 on the PBT.

*There may be different IELTS requirements depending on your chosen course.


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