Ph.D. in Social Work

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Ph.D. in Social Work

The Ph.D. Program in social work is research oriented and interdisciplinary in nature.


The Ph.D. Program in social work is research-oriented and interdisciplinary in nature. It prepares graduates for leadership positions as academicians and researchers, educators, policymakers, and senior-level administrators. Our program provides a focused and highly personalized student learning process with a knowledgeable and caring faculty. Students are challenged to grow as scholars and encouraged to use their experience as social workers to be exceptional in their scientific inquiry and examination. 

The goal of the Howard University School of Social Work doctoral program is to prepare doctoral graduates for research, the professoriate, and leadership in global and local communities. Graduates are expected to become architects of liberating structures in culturally diverse families and communities. We are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge through discovery, research, partnerships, innovative process, and other scholarly educational endeavors of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Graduates are expected to become architects of liberating structures in culturally diverse families and communities.  

The Black Perspective, the guiding philosophy of the School of Social Work, emphasizes training doctoral scholars to be sensitive to the development of knowledge for social work practice. The Black Perspective is used to guide the formulation and application of research that is responsive to oppressive and discriminatory systems experienced by African Americans and other groups. Additionally, the Black Perspective calls for sensitivity to the experiences of all oppressed and underserved groups and embraces an international dimension with special emphasis on Africa and the Caribbean.  

General Admission Requirements

Applicants will be evaluated holistically: GPA, letters of recommendation, statement of academic interests and professional goals, and an autobiographical statement that foregrounds your research interests. Interviews via Zoom may also be required. 

Students should consult the Howard University Graduate School (HUGS) for other requirements not indicated in this document. Official information for admissions requirements can be found here.  

A completed application should include the following: 

  • Master of Social Work (MSW) degree 
  • A minimum Graduate GPA of 3.0
  • Preferred two years of post-MSW social work experience
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate programs attended. 
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score for international students. 
  • Current curriculum vitae of your education, professional experiences, scholarly writings/presentations, and community services. 
  • Three (3) written letters of recommendation of which at least one graduate professor and one professional supervisor. 
  • Essay reflecting (a) your philosophy of social welfare/social work; (b) personal, professional, and educational goals; and (c) research interest. Please include information on how you intend to relate your professional and educational experiences to your future goals, and how you think this program will assist you (3 to 5 double-spaced typewritten pages). 
  • Your plans for financial support, as well as how you plan to finance your education. There are a limited amount of funds available through the Graduate School.   
  • Please adhere to the deadlines of FAFSA. Financial Aid is available through the University on the basis of need and academic performance in the form of federally supported student loans, not to exceed the cost of attendance.  
  • The School of Social Work offers a limited number of graduate assistantships, partial-tuition scholarships, and tuition grants on the basis of need and academic performance. 
  • Other relevant material you would like to submit as evidence of your ability to perform in the program including copies of published papers/sample of academic writing. 

The requests for admission far exceed the number of students who can be accommodated by the Program. The Doctoral Committee does not assess incomplete files. 

You are encouraged to begin the application process early as some of the items, such as transcripts and letters of reference may require additional time. From time to time you should check with the doctoral program office at 202-806-7300 regarding the status of your file. The deadline for applications is January 15.

Ph.D. in Social Work Degree Requirements

An applicant must have a Master's degree from an accredited School of Social Work. 

Candidates must complete 48 semester credit hours of course work, including 3 hours for the dissertation. A cumulative average of B is required for graduation. Additionally, students must earn a grade of B or better in all core courses and special-interest area courses. 

The curriculum of the doctoral program consists of four components: 

  • Core Curriculum 

  • Special Interest Area 

  • Electives, and 

  • Dissertation 

The core curriculum consists of nine courses. One course in the history and philosophy of social welfare, three theory courses (Individual, Group, Community and Organization), one course in Social Work Education, and four courses in advanced  research methods and statistics. All students are required to take the above-specified courses as the basis for their study in one of the special interest areas. 

Students are expected to take 12 credits in their chosen special interest area. The specific interest area courses are decided upon by the student, his/her academic advisor, and the Director of the Ph.D. Program. These courses may be taken outside of the School of Social Work, in other schools and colleges of Howard University, or in one of the Consortium of Universities in Washington, D.C. 

Six credits of elective courses are required. 

The qualifying examination  is taken at the end of the first year of study, after completion of 18 credit hours. The examination covers the course content in the first-year core courses. Emphasis is placed on the ability to synthesize knowledge. The student must pass the examination in order to continue in the program. 

The comprehensive examination is taken upon the completion of all the core courses and special interest area courses. Students are admitted to candidacy after passing the comprehensive examination and receiving the recommendation of the doctoral committee. The candidate is required to present and orally defend the proposal for subsequently a completed dissertation. 

A student should file for admission to candidacy on completion of most of the requirements of the Ph.D. Program except for the dissertation. The student should have also satisfied the GSAS writing proficiency requirements and a foreign language examination or an approved substitute. 

Residence Requirements

Students in the Ph.D. Program are required to spend at least four semesters in full-time residence, two of which must be consecutive.

Caution to Prospective Students

The Board of Trustees of Howard University on September 24, 1983, adopted the following policy statement regarding applications for admission: "Applicants seeking admission to Howard University are required to submit accurate and complete credentials, as well as accurate and complete information requested by the University. Applicants who fail to do so shall be denied admission. Enrolled students who as applicants failed to submit accurate and complete credentials or accurate and complete information on their application for admission shall be subject to dismissal when the same is made known, regardless of classification." 


Soleman Abu-Bader, Ph.D.
Director, Doctoral Program 
Inabel Lindsay Hall 
Howard University 
601 Howard Place, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20059 
(202) 806-7300