DSW Program-at-a-glance

Doctorate in Social Work (DSW). This DSW program has been approved by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Exceptional preparation for teaching and leadership in teaching-intensive colleges and universities


  • Three-year curriculum; 45 semester credits (15 courses) required.
  • Cohort model: Students move through the program as a group, forming strong personal and professional connections
  • Online synchronous and asynchronous instruction
  • On-campus residency each summer in St. Paul, MN (2 weeks) (see Getting Started)
  • Fall and Spring semesters each comprised of two successive, 8-week sessions (see Sample Course Schedule)
  • "Banded" dissertation


  • MSW degree from a program accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE)
  • Minimum of two years post-MSW social work practice experience
  • Previous teaching experience in higher education (adjunct or full-time) - strongly preferred
  • Minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for previous graduate work
  • Three letters of recommendation attesting to capacity of student to do doctoral level work
  • Writing sample that demonstrates capacity for doctoral work
  • A personal statement that convincingly addresses the questions provided
  • Commitment to teach and lead in the social work profession as evident in letters of reference, personal statement and writing sample
  • START THE APPLICATION» (open between Sept. 1 - Jan. 15)



Frequently Asked Questions

The DSW is an advanced practice degree, and in the case of the St. Thomas DSW, the form of practice is education. Our degree is designed to prepare experienced social work educators and practitioners to teach and lead in higher education. The St. Thomas DSW has a strong emphasis on teaching pedagogy, curriculum development and the type of scholarship that faculty in teaching-intensive universities will be expected to produce throughout their careers.

The PhD is a research degree and PhD students are trained in rigorous research methods and pedagogy. Research-intensive universities (generally considered "Doctoral Universities" with moderate to high research activity as detailed by the Carnegie Basic Classification Description) will likely require tenure-track faculty to have a PhD, as this is the standard research degree and the expectation of their faculty is that they will be doing large-scale research. 

If there are specific schools you are targeting for employment, it is best to explore their specific hiring requirements before choosing which type of doctoral program is the best fit for you. Some universities will hire a combination of PhDs and DSWs (or other practice doctoral degrees) depending on their areas of expertise and needs at the program level, while other universities will require a research focused (PhD) degree only.

For additional perspective, the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE) provides the document, “Why a PhD or DSW?” that can be found HERE»  This webpage also links to a list of all GADE-member doctoral programs.

The St. Thomas Doctorate in Social Work program has been approved by our regional accrediting organization, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. At this time, doctoral programs – both DSW & PhD - are not accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). However, CSWE has announced its intention to start a DSW accreditation process in the future and plans to begin a pilot process in 2019. We are actively involved in these on-going discussions and anticipate pursuing CSWE’s practice doctorate accreditation once this accreditation process has been established.

The St. Thomas Doctorate in Social Work program's banded dissertation is a series of three critical works of scholarship that are linked by issue, theme, pedagogy, or population.  Learn more about the Banded Dissertation HERE»