The Online Doctorate of Social Work ProgramThe Online Doctorate of Social Work ProgramThe Online Doctorate of Social Work Program

An Accelerated Degree Offered by USCAn Accelerated Degree Offered by USCAn Accelerated Degree Offered by USC

Program Overview

The professional Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers an advanced practice doctorate in social change and innovation for agency and community leaders and entrepreneurs.

Unlike other schools of social work that offer advanced practice doctorates in clinical practice or teaching, we prepare experienced professionals to develop practical, applied solutions to large-scale social challenges that directly impact vulnerable, marginalized or otherwise disadvantaged populations.

As a student in our online doctorate of social work program, you will develop characteristics of both practitioners and scholars. By adopting the disciplinary habits of scholars through rigorous inquiry and use of methodological tools associated with leading and managing innovation and change, you will become an effective social change leader.

Our graduates are prepared to seek management or executive leadership positions that advance their careers in social work and related human service arenas. By leading national discourse about intractable issues affecting populations worldwide, they graduate from the program equipped to establish a legacy of social impact.

Grand Challenges for Social Work

The Grand Challenges for Social Work, as defined by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, are critical social issues that are facing today’s society. As a student in our online social work doctorate program, you will complete a capstone project that requires you to propose an innovative, actionable solution to one of the Grand Challenges:

  • Ensure healthy development for
    all youth
  • Close the health gap
  • Build healthy relationships to end violence
  • Advance long and productive lives
  • Eradicate social isolation
  • End homelessness
  • Create social responses to a changing environment
  • Harness technology for social good
  • Eliminate racism
  • Promote smart decarceration
  • Reduce extreme economic inequality
  • Build financial capability for all
  • Achieve equal opportunity and justice

Develop Solutions to Social Challenges

The final deadline for the January 2024 cohort is October 9, 2023.

Apply Now

Doctorate of Social Work: Curriculum Overview

As a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) student, you will complete 42 units of coursework focused on three areas:

  • Problem definition within the Grand Challenges for Social Work
  • Innovative design
  • Executive leadership in human service organizations and community contexts

The DSW degree may be completed along a Standard or Accelerated track.

The Standard Track (42 units):

  • Complete in 9 semesters (36 months).
  • Register for 2 courses (6 units) over 6 semesters.
  • Enroll in the Capstone Project for the last 3 semesters.

The Accelerated Track (42 units):

  • Complete in 7 semesters (28 months).
  • Register for 3 courses (9 units) over 4 semesters.
  • Enroll in the Capstone Project for the last 3 semesters.

Learn more about our curriculum.

Program Goals

The following goals shape all decision-making about the Doctorate of Social Work program’s curricula, admissions, assignments and policies. They also serve as a basis for devising measurable objectives for evaluating the program’s success.

  • The foundation for the Doctorate of Social Work curriculum and student academic products rests on three pillars:
  • Student academic work culminates in a substantive advance in practice or policy related to one of the Grand Challenges.
  • Aligning with the goals for a science of social work, the curriculum is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary and reflects diverse public- and private-sector perspectives on social innovation and organizational problem-solving in complex systems.
  • Courses emphasize bold action leading to scaling of programs, disruption or other changes that promote social justice and human potential.
  • Graduates will emerge as effective leaders in social work or allied fields, prepared to excel in senior executive management roles or social entrepreneurship.
  • Graduates will emerge as capable public intellectuals who exemplify the core values, ethical principles, and standards of the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics.

Become a Social Work Leader

To learn how you can advance your social work career with a Doctorate of Social Work earned online from USC, request information today.