With a sharp focus on building a unique, close-knit and trusting community of learners and faculty and an emphasis on the intricacies of research methodology and independent inquiry, the VCU Ph.D. in Social Work fosters a lifelong drive to innovate. And, in the process of discovery, our students develop the expertise necessary to share their work with colleagues, students and the world.

What we offer

Just as we believe the best social work practices and policies are founded on closeness and trust, so too should any program of study. Each year, we welcome not simply four to six new students to our program, but rather new colleagues and friends. Our commitment to a vibrant and unique community provides the fertile ground for the courageous, pioneering and illuminative research for which our students and faculty are renowned.

Our students are expected to add their own substance to the field of social work during their time here. Through the formulation of personal research, they make lasting contributions to the intellectual community. Through the opportunity to teach in our top-ranked B.S.W. and M.S.W. programs, they make lasting impressions on the next wave of social workers. And, through their own course work, research demands and teaching obligations, they're given a glimpse of what their professional lives will entail.

Program goals and outcomes‌

Our curriculum

Students will complete two years of course work that includes a common curriculum and a concentration curriculum. Upon completion of all required course work, participants will take a comprehensive exam in which they must demonstrate the ability to integrate the whole of their educational experience in the human service field. After admission to candidacy, students proceed to propose, complete and defend their dissertation under the supervision of a dissertation committee.

Faculty expertise and guidance

Students won’t be surprised to find the names of our faculty prevalent throughout current textbooks and prevailing social work literature. But students also quickly come to recognize that our faculty members aren’t speaking to them from just an academic mindset, but rather from their own field experiences and research conducted in communities throughout Richmond, the state and beyond.

We are leaders in:

  • Conducting community-based research that examines prevention and intervention services across the spectrum of human services organizations
  • Generating textbooks that enhance excellence in the classroom
  • Forging community and university partnerships that help address the complex social and economic challenges faced in an ever-changing world

Advising for Ph.D. students

Ph.D. students are paired with an adviser who follows them during their first year in the program. The adviser helps build students’ specialized areas of scholarly interest as they transition to Ph.D.-level work and help determine when students may become involved in other academic activities such as teaching, university programs and community service. At the end of the first year, students may continue with their adviser or select another consenting faculty member. Once students are admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, the chair of their dissertation committee serves as their adviser.

Visit us

Contact the Ph.D. Program to arrange a visit where you can learn more about our program.

Apply to the Ph.D. Program

In addition to submitting an online application through Graduate Admissions and completing the Graduate Record Examination, all applicants must provide three letters of academic or professional reference, official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended, a personal statement of goals and social work commitment, a current resume or vita, and a writing sample showcasing knowledge of social work theory and literature as well as critical-thinking skills.

Applications are accepted at any time; however, priority for admission and financial aid will be given to those individuals whose application materials are received by Feb. 15.

Learn more about the admissions process and requirements