The online Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program seeks to admit aspiring social change leaders who meet our high standards for academic excellence and demonstrate a commitment to solving pervasive social problems.

We offer start dates throughout the year, and our admissions team accepts and reviews applications year-round. Space in each cohort is limited. We recommend that you complete your application as soon as possible so you are able to enroll in your preferred semester.

Please refer to the application deadlines below to determine when you would like to begin the program.

May 2020

May 2020 Admissions Deadlines
Deadline Date
Final Deadline March 11, 2020
Classes Begin May 18, 2020

September 2020

September 2020 Admissions Deadlines
Deadline Date
Final Deadline June 1, 2020
Classes Begin August 24, 2020


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 Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) or any professional doctorate.

Five years of professional employment experience is strongly preferred. Experience should demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Demonstrated leadership and management experience
  • Potential for innovation and creativity

Application Requirements

The following components are required to complete your DSW 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 statements of purpose to the “Supporting Documents” section of the online application. Your response to each prompt must be three pages long, for a total of six pages.

Your personal statement must be no more than three double-spaced pages in length, with 1-inch margins and 12-point Times New Roman font, and answer the following 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.

Your second statement must be no more than three double-spaced pages in length, with 1-inch margins and 12-point Times New Roman font, and answer the following question:

  • What single social problem keeps you up at night? Select a social problem you would like to solve over the course of your professional career, and describe this problem in behavioral terms. In other words, elaborate upon which behavior(s), and by whom, must change in order for this problem to be solved. Contextualize your discussion within at least one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work. 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work.

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 postsecondary, regionally accredited school you have attended. Your school(s) can email official, password-protected electronic transcripts directly to, or mail them to:

Application Processing Services
Suite 501
7900 Harkins Road
Lanham, MD 20706

Application fee: There is an $90 application fee paid through the online application.

Request Information

Anyone with an active faculty appointment (full-time or flexible) in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is by policy ineligible to apply for admission to the school’s Doctorate of Social Work program.