Ph.D. Admission

Applicants to the Ph.D. degree program must have an earned master’s degree in social work or a related discipline from an accredited institution, and they must demonstrate professional or practice-related experience that is relevant to their career goals.

Application materials

The application and all supporting materials must be submitted to Graduate Admissions online application system or, for international students, through International Admissions.

Required materials include:

  1. Current Curriculum Vitae.

  2. Three letters of reference, including at least 2 academic references, which reflect the referees’ familiarity with the applicant’s career goals and their fit with the purpose and demands of Ph.D. education. All letters should be submitted via the online application system.

  3. Graduate Record Examination scores reported directly by the Educational Testing Service to VCU.

  4. For foreign nationals whose native language is not English or who have not already earned a master’s degree in an English-dominant country, scores are required for either the Test of English of Foreign Language (TOEFL) (required minimum 100, internet-based) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (required minimum 6.5).

  5. Official transcripts submitted directly from each undergraduate and graduate college or university previously attended.

  6. Personal statement of career goals and plans.

  7. Writing sample thatevidences knowledge of theoretical and empirical literature and critical-thinking skills. Applicants must be the sole author of the writing sample.

Applications are accepted for admission and financial aid to those individuals whose complete application materials are received by January 15.

Application guidelines

Personal statement

The personal statement should describe your career goals and plans and their congruence with the doctoral program’s research-focused educational mission to develop scholars and leaders for social work and human services. How, for example, does your professional experience align with and inform your goals and plans for research in a specialized area of interest and how would a VCU Social Work Ph.D. help prepare you to meet those goals?

You might also choose to address other personal or professional motivating factors for pursuing a Ph.D., how your current situation will support the time and effort needed to succeed in the program, and any other factors that concern your readiness, qualifications and potential for successful doctoral work. The personal statement is typically 3-5 pages in length.

Writing sample

The writing sample should demonstrate capacity for critical and integrative thinking and for use of the scientific literature (i.e., to identify, synthesize and critique salient arguments with proper citation) and to present a clear, logical and compelling argument. Applicants must be the sole author of the paper.

Applicants are encouraged to submit a paper they submitted for an M.S.W./M.A. program if written within the past five years. If you do not have such a paper, you may prepare one on a subject that is relevant to Social Work (5-8 pages, typed, double-spaced).

Admissions review process

The School of Social Work faculty assess completed applications and make recommendations about admission. Their evaluations are based on applicants’ demonstrated capacity for critical and creative thinking; ability to synthesize and apply knowledge; clarity of expression; past and potential academic achievement; tenacity and motivation; and “fit” with the VCU Ph.D. program. Applicants who are moved to the second round of reviews are interviewed by a faculty member, either in-person or by video conference.

For more information about the VCU Social Work Ph.D. Program, contact (804) 828-1044 or

Non-matriculated students in Ph.D. courses

The Ph.D. Program has been pleased to occasionally allow non-matriculated students (those not admitted to a VCU Ph.D. degree program) to enroll in one course as a way of helping them assess their interest in doctoral education.

Those requesting enrollment should know that expectations are considerable for class preparation, course assignments and reading, as well as for in-class leadership and participation. Our classes are faculty-directed seminars that stress advanced critical analysis and open dialogue. Satisfactory performance as a nondegree-seeking student does not assure admission as a degree-seeking student.