The online DSW program prepares experienced professionals seeking leadership or management positions to develop solutions to large-scale social problems. We accept applications from aspiring social innovators from a variety of professional backgrounds, including business, public administration, public health, public policy, nursing, and marriage and family therapy.
As a student, you will study concepts related to innovation, leadership and advanced management practice during weekly online classes and two in-person residencies. The program culminates in a capstone project in which you present and pitch your original solution to a pervasive issue affecting society, such as homelessness, violence or poverty.
After earning your Doctor of Social Work from USC, you will be prepared to advance your career and establish a legacy of social impact as you initiate positive change and lead national discourse about key issues affecting populations worldwide.
While enrolled, you will explore the following topics:
Organizational Leadership 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.
Technological Fluency 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
Leading and Managing Complex Systems
Financial Management for Social Change
Data-Driven Decision Making in Social Services
Evaluating Innovation and Change
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 12 Grand Challenges an initiative led by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. 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. Visit the Tuition and Fees page to see a complete breakdown of your DSW tuition and fees.
DSW@USC students are eligible to apply for certain types of funding. Visit the Financial Aid page to learn what's available and the process of applying for financial aid.
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.
In addition to loans, DSW@USC students may be considered for USC scholarships. Visit the Scholarships page to see what's available.
Upcoming Application Deadlines
We offer start dates throughout the year. Please refer to application deadlines below.
Upcoming Application Deadlines: January 2018
October 27, 2017
January 8, 2018
Upcoming Application Deadlines: May 2018
March 9, 2018
May 7, 2018
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 must be five to seven double-spaced pages in length, with one-inch margins, and 12-point Times New Roman font 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
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: