Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
The University of Southern California Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program is designed to prepare scholar-practitioners to harness innovative solutions to solve real-world problems. Our goal is to bring social workers into the greater public discourse as they explore ways to create a stronger, fairer society and ensure basic human rights for people everywhere.
The program brings together students from a range of professional backgrounds to tackle the 12 Grand Challenges, an initiative led by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. Each challenge is tied to issues — social justice, family and child welfare and concerns for our social fabric — that drive social workers every day. Students meet these challenges head on with coursework, residencies and a capstone dedicated to finding a viable solution to one of the challenges. Students will formulate a plan and budget and pitch their big ideas to a panel of experts comprising thought leaders, faculty and venture capitalists.
Unlike a PhD in social work, which prepares scholars for careers in research and the professoriate, the DSW@USC is an online advanced practice degree program for working professionals who want to have a greater impact in their practice. Graduates of the program will be positioned to participate in and lead conversations at the highest levels about sweeping topics such as gun violence, foster care and homelessness.
The curriculum explores the following topics:
Understand organizations and how to facilitate organizational change.
Leading Public Discourse
Develop new ideas and perspectives in the public sphere working for the benefit of communities.
Innovation and Change
Study the latest research in transformative thinking and change management to predict the needs of clients and communities.
Focus on new technologies to evaluate theories and practices as well as how to implement them.
Data-Driven Decision Making
Create, implement and manage change based on collection and consideration of data.
As a DSW@USC student, you will complete 42 units of coursework focused on two primary content areas: (1) innovation and leadership and (2) advanced management practice in complex systems.
- Managing Innovation and Change in Social Work
- Leading Public Discourse in Social Work
- The Science of Social Work
- Informatics and Social Innovation
- Innovation Laboratory I/II
- Preparatory Scholarship for Capstone
- Leadership Capstone
- Leading and Managing Complex Systems
- Financial Management for Social Change
- Data-Driven Decision Making in Social Services
- Evaluating Innovation and Change
- Residency I/II
Each semester, you will engage in Innovations Laboratories, which implement a case study method designed to hone your leadership and management skills. You will incorporate models from your Managing Innovation and Change in Social Work and Leading and Managing Complex Systems courses to address one or more of the Grand Challenges.
Residencies and Capstone
You will attend two in-person residencies, which will take place during your third and sixth semesters. Each residency is six days, running from Sunday evening to Friday. Residencies are held in Los Angeles and Washington DC.
During your residencies, you will explore one of the Grand Challenges. In your first residency, you will identify a challenge that you will then research for your capstone. At the second residency, you will present your capstone project, a fully developed idea for tackling the challenge. The capstone takes the place of a dissertation.
Tuition & Admissions
Tuition and Fees
If you begin your studies in the 2016-2017 academic year, your tuition for the 24-month DSW@USC program will be approximately $72,744, not including fees.
Federal student aid is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. International candidates should explore funding options in their home countries. Many employers offer tuition benefits, including tuition reimbursement and low-cost loans. Based on each candidate's country of residence, they may also have access to education loans through private lenders.To discuss your funding options, contact an admissions counselor at 877-700-4679. For more information about federal financial aid, visit the USC Financial Aid Office webpage.
Upcoming Application Deadlines
We offer start dates throughout the year. Please refer to application deadlines below.
|Final Deadline||March 10, 2017|
|Classes Begin||May 8, 2017|
|Final Deadline||June 28, 2017|
|Classes Begin||August 28, 2017|
Prospective DSW students must hold a master’s degree. Successful applicants may hold an MSW from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program, or a related degree including but not limited to: Masters in Public Administration (MPA), Masters in Public Health (MPH), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Masters in Public Policy (MPP), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), or any professional doctorate.
Five years professional employment experience strongly preferred. Experience should demonstrate the following qualities:
- Strong oral and written communication skills
- Demonstrated leadership and management experience
- Potential for innovation and creativity
The following components are required to complete your DSW application:
Application Fee: There is an $90 application fee paid through the online application.
Resume: Upload your current resume to the "Employment Information" section of the online application. Your resume should specifically highlight your social work-related experience.
Statement of Purpose: Upload your Statement of Purpose to the "Supporting Documents" section of the online application. Your Statement of Purpose should be 5-7 pages in length and answer these questions:
- Describe your professional goals, and explain how having a DSW from USC will help you achieve them
- Discuss how your past academic and professional experiences have helped shape your ability to:
- Demonstrate innovation and creativity in your work
- Communicate with key stakeholders
- Lead and manage teams
- Collaborate with communities and professional networks
- Describe how your professional interests relate to the Grand Challenges of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.
Letters of Recommendation: Submit three letters of recommendation through the online application. Recommendations can come from academic instructors or professionals who have worked with you in a leadership capacity (paid, volunteer or internship.) Personal recommendations are not acceptable.
Official Transcripts: USC requires an official academic record from each post-secondary, regionally accredited school you have attended. Your school(s) can email official, password-protected electronic transcripts directly to email@example.com, or mail them to:
Application Processing Services
7900 Harkins Road
Lanham, MD 20706