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Best Online Social Work PhD Programs
Top Online Degree Programs 2021

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Best Online PhD Social Work 02

If you love the field of social work, and you are already thriving in your career, going all the way can give you that extra boost. Achieving a terminal degree can put you at the top of the discipline, which will offer the achievement of many leadership roles including working as executive directors and teaching in post secondary institutions. So, if you are at this place in your life, you are probably already busy in your career and need an academic pathway that is flexible and convenient. Lucky for you, there are many best online phd social work programs that grant such flexibility. Many offer coursework that can be tailored around your already busy work schedules. In many cases, you can even use your already developed career as a part of your coursework. Rest assured, because this field is not going anywhere. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is projected to grow by 13 percent by the year 2029. 

Maybe you have just completed your masters degree in the field and are considering a Phd? Or maybe you have a bachelors and you are looking towards the future? We ranked for you the top 25 best online phd social work programs. We ranked them using the following metric:

  • Cost
  • Reputation
  • Student Success Rate

Take a look. You are bound to find something on this list that offers the key tenets of what you are seeking in an academic program. 

1

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania offers a doctorate in clinical social work that surpasses the expectations of this terminal degree. To achieve a degree at this level, students must have a master’s in social work, or social service program, submit applicable test scores such as GRE and TOEFL. As one of the best online phd social work programs, UPenn facilitates this best online phd social work program in a fulltime format. They have the privilege of saying they were the first, so now with an online format available working professionals can complete the doctorate in three years without taking a break from your career. This self paced doctorate has a mission to train students to implement and create innovative social work interventions, as well as conduct evidence based inquiries, and position themselves as experts. Graduates of this doctorate program engage in course and curriculum development and disseminate knowledge through teaching. There are two residencies required for this program. Each 5 days in length, classes are held online two nights a week for two-hours. 

Degree: Doctorate in Clinical Social Work

2

University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA

The University of Southern California has a Doctorate in Social Work and it is considered one of the best online phd social work programs. It is offered by the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. This advanced practice doctorate emphasizes social change and innovation for agencies, community leaders and business owners. This 42 credit doctorate is given entirely online, so that students can continue to practice work and examine their community needs. Students can complete the program on a standard or accelerated track, the standard track has students completing the course in 9 semesters and the advanced 7 semesters. This program requires students to complete a capstone project, that requires you to design and implement an actionable solution to one of the social issues facing today’s society. Some of the course students will complete this doctorate; Strategic innovation, data driven decision making, communication and influence for the social good, and design for social innovation. Each course upon completion is for the purpose of creating graduates who will be able to excel in senior executive roles, and public intellectuals. 

Degree: Doctorate in Social Work

3

Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH

Case Western Reserve University offers a doctorate of philosophy in social welfare; this degree is for social workers looking to transition their career from practitioner to educator. This full-time doctorate degree can be completed in two years of courses of study that introduces topics such as; philosophy of science and theory building, social statistics and data analysis, along with models of qualitative research. It is with the intention that graduates of this degree of study will generate a new knowledge on the programs and practices of society and social work. This is considered one of the best online Ph.D. social work programs. To be admitted in this program students must complete qualifying exams and have maintained a 3.0 in the master’s program. This is a dissertation required program, although students have an option for how it is delivered: traditional dissertation and three-page paper dissertation. A total of 37 credits of coursework is required plus 18 dissertation credits are required for graduation. 

Degree: Doctorate of Philosophy in Social Welfare

4

Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix
Phoenix, AZ

Arizona State University has an online doctorate in behavioral health. This best online phd in social work program is an advanced degree in healthcare. The entire course of study is 84 credit hours including a required 240 internship hours. This internship is important to the progression of the skills being taught in this program, as it is the opportunity students have to practice solving real-world problems. The online format allows professionals to obtain their doctorate while continuing to work in their field. Graduates of this program will qualify to hold positions as Health care administrators, healthcare manager, project manager, clinical manager, and healthcare executives. To be accepted into this program students must have a 3.0 gpa in the last 60 credits of their bachelors or masters program. Another amazing aspect of this program is the exceptional faculty passionate about educating the future of social work in the healthcare field. 

Degree: Doctorate in Behavioral Health

5

CUNY Graduate School and University Center
New York, NY

The doctorate in social welfare offered by the City University of New York Graduate Center. This comprehensive program is for those that want to advance, not only in their career but in their skills as a social worker. Seeking an online doctorate in social welfare will propel professionals from practitioners to experts. This program takes a full-time student five years to complete. It is accompanied by examinations and an end of the year dissertation. Each student has mile marker learning goals for each year that the faculty will consider their mission to make sure you reach them. Understanding social welfare as a broad specialized knowledge and discipline, the mastering of oral and written communication skills, and understanding professional ethics. As a doctorate candidate, it is understood that your position in the field is valued, each student should show a substantial and original contribution to their specialization. 

Degree: Doctorate in Social Welfare

6

University of Louisiana at Monroe
Monroe, LA

The University of Louisiana offers a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy that hits close to home on our list. Pun intended it is no secret that social work solutions deeply rooted in the home and the pathology of familial relationships. So it is no surprise this best online PhD in social work made it to the top ten on our list. This is a theoretical degree for those looking to further their position as an expert in their field. The Ph.D. is non-clinical so it will not meet the requirements for those that aspire to become eligible for licensure. Students will work in a cohort developing a supportive educational community that will hopefully become a promising network of professionals to glean from in the future. The entire course of study is given in a live-seminar in which participants are expected to participate. To qualify for graduation, students must complete all 60 credits, which typically can be finished in 3 years. 

Degree: PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy – Systemic Studies

7

Capella University
Minneapolis, MN

Capella University has a doctorate in social work program that is offered entirely online. This is considered one of the best online Ph.D. social work programs. This fast-paced deadline-oriented degree will prepare graduates to take positions as supervisors, educators, and experts in the field of social work. There are 62 coursework credits that complete the program, following a capstone project to graduate. Applicants must have a master’s degree and a 3.0 GPA, to be accepted into the program. Although this is an online degree there are residencies involved. Students will be asked to attend a professional doctorate research seminar. There are some extraordinary benefits to this degree, namely, graduates will qualify to work as clinical managers, college professors, hospitals, and clinical social workers. The complete course of study will shape how the leaders of social justice in social work practice impact all of humanity. As a graduate of this program, you will advocate, effectively communicate, use technology, and provide leadership for the betterment of diverse audiences in multiple formats. 

Degree: Doctorate in Social Work

8

Baylor University
Waco, TX

Baylor University offers a PhD in Social Work with a religion and faith-based focus integrated within the program. An entire course of study designed to develop leaders and educators, that will depend on research to address the complex issues of our humanity. This course of study is for individuals passionate about breaking into government and private agencies that have an impact on the social welfare of people all over the world. This is a cohort of 5-7 students with a plan of study to be completed in 10 semesters, there is 5-day session held on-campus at the beginning of the program. Following that all courses are held online through asynchronous learning. Candidates for the Ph.D. must complete a dissertation to be eligible to graduate. Acceptance into the program is rigorous, as most advanced degrees are, yet Baylor only accepts 7 students every two years. Students must display a specific interest in designing theory, enhancing research skills, with an impressive academic record. 

Degree: PhD in Social Work

9

Grand Canyon University
Phoenix, AZ

Grand Canyon University offers an organizational leaders doctorate in behavioral health offers an online option for this advanced degree. The entire course of study is 60 credit hours, students once accepted can transfer in up to 9 credits from another program. In this program, the focus is centered on reflecting on current theory and applications of theory as they occur in educational settings. Through original and academic organizational research students become experts in quantitative methodology. For the purposes of designing, collecting, and analyzing information for their dissertation. The exciting aspect of this online doctorate is the learn at your own pace format. Students are given coursework that must be completed within 8 weeks to move on to the next course load. Graduates of the Ph.D. will excel in positions in clinics, public health agencies, hospitals, and faith-based organizations. 

Degree: Organizational Leadership Doctorate in Behavioral Health – Quantitative

10

University of South Dakota
Vermillion, SD

The University of South Dakota has a PhD in health sciences offered entirely online, with occasional residencies. As one of the best online Ph.D. social work programs, this program incorporates four major themes: teaching, leadership, advanced practices, and scholarship. With a program format designed for professionals, this 75 credit hours program allows students to gain expertise while continuing to pursue a career in their fields. The degree requirements and qualifications are extensive, so the program offers trained Ph.D. health science advisors, to support the needs of all the incoming doctorate candidates. The course load is full of advanced coursework like; instructional design, ethical leadership, financing higher education, public policy, and addiction. Graduates can expect to work as educators and leaders within the healthcare industry. As a terminal degree program potential students are expected to have a master’s degree with excellent academic standing. Getting into a Ph.D. program requires a deep passion and resilience, similar to the qualities needed to become an expert in your field. 

Degree: PhD in Health Sciences

11

Barry University
Miami, FL

Barry University’s Ph.D. in social work is a part-time online program that is designed to create the new leaders of the social work profession. It is considered one of the best online Ph.D. social work programs. The entire course of study is 48 credit hours, students are able to take 6 credits each semester including a 20-hour in-person residency during the third and sixth semester of the program. The primary focus of this degree is to explore the link between the application of social work practice theory and the outcomes. So as to influence policy-making decisions in human service organizations and curate innovative ways for that information to be passed down to the communities that need it. Students will master courses like; theoretical and empirical foundations of trauma and resilience, the neurobiology of trauma, applied research, and trauma-informed interventions. In our society today educating social workers on how trauma informs most of the social issues in our society is a key aspect of this program and what makes it stand out. 

Degree: Ph.D. in Social Work

12

Simmons University
Boston, MA

Simmons University offers a Doctorate of Social work program that is offered entirely online. Applicants must hold a Master of social work from an accredited college to qualify for acceptance. This program is for professionals that aspire to a higher level of education and practice. The mission of creating a future for social work has been the driving force behind this program. They use advanced topics of inclusive leadership, advanced clinical practice, and teaching and education to cultivate a rigorous learning environment. Classes are held online live with other fellow Ph.D. candidates in a cohort-based model. The exciting aspect of this case is the diverse way of achieving this degree, students will have an option of choosing full-time or part-time enrollment. Not only can they choose their own method of learning but they can also choose several paths according to their interest after they complete the Ph.D. program. 

Degree: Doctorate of Social Work

13

University of Indianapolis
Indianapolis, IN

The University of Indianapolis Doctor of Health Science offers an online option for their degree for professional students. This best online Ph.D. in social work program is structured as a cohort model. This collaborative course of study emphasizes the benefits of collective progress. Attempting to mirror the structure of the public and private organizations that work to reverse the social injustice affecting all of humanity. Applicants into the program are required to have a master degree and two years of healthcare experience, prospective students may transfer in up to 9 credits from another accredited program. This program is online and flexible yet students must complete all the required course work in under seven years. To sum it all up this program is for social workers with a career track in the healthcare field, mental health families counseling, and working in public health and hospitals. Find more information on start times on the school website. 

Degree: Doctor of Health Science

14

University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY

The University of Buffalo offers a doctorate in Social Welfare delivered online in a part-time format. The degree takes up to 3 years to complete, this program also has some special guidelines, applicants must have a Master of social work and a certification/ license to practice as well. The entire course of study is 39 credit hours delivered through both synchronous and asynchronous learning. The core learning precepts of this program are rooted in trauma-informed practice application, leadership skills, and human rights. This program only has a fall start time and requires one on-campus orientation. All of the courses are taught by Ph.D. faculty members that are committed to helping advance experienced petitioners access to a client population. Students will also be introduced and have access to integrated state-of-the-art digital technologies as a way to excel in social work education. This program is a flexible option for professionals and graduates that are looking to enhance their concepts and evaluation of evidence-based treatments with vulnerable populations. 

Degree: Doctorate in Social Welfare

15

Houston Baptist University
Houston, TX

Houston Baptist University EdD in Executive Leadership in Mental Health and Human Services is completely online, requiring a master degree and research paper for acceptance into the program. This best online social work Ph.D. program is the pathway to becoming a mental health caregiver. Most social work master programs have a clinical social work track that evaluates theories behind the causation of some social disparities. Graduates of this program will have gained skills to develop and implement programs that can be effective in mental health institutions and community settings. The 63 credit hours of coursework is entirely online for students to complete, they will examine courses like; cultural competence, accountability, and measurement of current issues, mental health, and communities. The track of study will shape social workers into leaders that are expected to impactfully change the way mental health is handled in the neediest communities. 

Degree: EdD in Executive Leadership in Mental Health and Human Services

16

Regent University
Virginia Beach, VA

Regent University Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling & Psychological Studies – Human Services Counseling is only offered online, this is an exciting next step in the careers of most social workers. A key fact about this program is it’s unique approach to counseling is through the lens of the Christian faith. Choosing this program means tackling policies and practices that no longer work for the people in your communities for the better. The is a comprehensive study of mental health counseling, research, education, and psychological science. The entire course of study is 51 credits, students must complete all of them including a 150-hour internship of on-site human service work to graduate. This program is not open to anyone. To apply one must have obtained a master’s degree in social work, pastoral studies, or physiology while maintaining a 3.5 GPA.  While human services counseling is the primary focus there are many subsets to that track such as; life coaching, addiction counseling, grief counseling, international, research, and so much more. 

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling & Psychological Studies – Human Services Counseling

17

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Kutztown, PA

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania offers a doctorate in social work with all the online coursework and instruction, for student professional intent on continuing to work while accomplishing an advanced degree. Graduates of this program will qualify to hold positions as; human service administrators, non-profit directors, university faculty, leadership positions in healthcare, or as a researcher. This is considered one of the best online PhD social work programs. There are really an endless amount of opportunities for individuals with an advanced degree in social work. Some exciting key facts about this program are its ability to shape future leaders and change agents for the transformation education, for the purpose of continuing the mission for social justice. The classes are structured in a cohort, working on a partime schedule, with a two-course minimum for each session. There are several requirements for face to face sessions, as the program requires one week per term on campus. However, all coursework and instruction are delivered online. 

Degree: Doctorate in Social Work

18

Walden University
Minneapolis, MN

Walden University offers a phd in social work entirely online. This program is held for the purpose of elevating the career of passionate social workers. The program course load is rigorous, as is the application process. The learning goal reflects the immediate and future goals of social justice and impactful change for the betterment of all humanity. Although the program is online there are four academic residencies that students must attend. An exciting aspect of this course of study is the myriad of concentrations to choose from. Students are encouraged to choose a direction for the specialty it allows for Ph.D. candidates to focus in on one problem then solve it. Upon completion, Ph.D. candidates will be trained to utilize current research best practices, and theory to promote prevention and intervention strategies, ethical decision making, and understand that diversity has an impact. Students will seek jobs as professors, researchers, evaluators of the community leader. 

Degree: PhD in Social Work

19

Our Lady of the Lake University
San Antonio, TX

Our lady of the Lake University has a doctorate in social work given online, this best online Ph.D. in social work program is sending professionals out as expert practitioner-scholars. This best online Ph.D. social work programs emphasize 54 credit hours, 4 on-campus residencies during the summer after each spring semester. Classes are offered as a combination of asynchronous and synchronous style. Admission in the program is extensive. Applicants are required to have a master of social work, and two-years of direct practice experience, including having maintained a 3.5 GPA. This program is a great fit for those excited about moving on to become educators, yet this degree is equally applicable for those looking to continue in the field of public service. Students upon completion will have gained the skills to use theory-based research to contribute to the discussion about which interventions are most effective. 

Degree: Doctorate in Social Work

20

Institute for Clinical Social Work
Chicago, IL

The Institute for Clinical Social Work has a PhD in Clinical Social Work is a highly specialized graduate school with one sole purpose to educate clinician-scholars on the theory and practice behind clinical social work. What makes this program special is that the faculty staff and entire college have focused passions for clinical social work. The sole focus of the institution is to teach clinical social work. The graduate school is accredited to offer doctorate degrees in clinical social work. Furthermore, the curriculum is designed to welcome students to participate in their own cases. A dissertation is required for completion of this course of study, and the cohort and the faculty are ready to become a support system for students to be successful. Students will master courses like traditions of inquiry, Research methods, and psychodynamic of gender, race, social class, and much more. These are the detailed designed courses taught by professionals that will shape the experience of the student attempting to complete this degree. 

Degree: PhD in Clinical Social Work

21

Howard University
Washington, DC

Howard University offers a phd in social work. This is a prestigious historically black university. The school of social work is a major part of crafting the innovative minds needed to uproot diverse communities from underneath the oppressive weight of most social and civil injustice that occur, and that social workers are tasked to fix. The Ph.D. program offered by Howard is something they are very proud of, they have crafted an interdisciplinary experience for their students, using research and nature to show evidence of the injustices. The key aspect of this program is the faculty that is dedicated to providing a stellar learning experience for their students, this quality mentorship has proven to propel students forward and excel in their field. Applicants interested in this program must have taken the GRE. To qualify for graduation from this best online Ph.D. social work program, 48 credit hours must be completed, as well as maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the program. 

Degree: PhD in Social Work

22

Amridge University
Montgomery, AL

Amridge University offers a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy this best online phd social work program. This degree is offered through the school of human services this is a rigorous program, with a focus on research and helping students build a comprehensive demonstration to use their knowledge. The entire course of study is 60 credits, students can also include credits from their master degree and finish the program sooner. The format is an online delivery method that allows participants to continue to focus on the career path. An intensive examination of abuse addiction, cultural diversity, and research. For those interested in creating a dissertation this program will give you the opportunity to present and defend a dissertation upon the completion of all prerequisite courses. Graduates of this program will be able to use theory to evaluate techniques of counseling and discover how to apply professional counseling services. 

PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy

23

Ashford University
San Diego, CA

Ashford University’s PhD in Human Service rounds off our list of best online phd social work programs as a global standard for online learning. Some highlights of this program include their transfer credits; they accept up to 30 transfer credits towards the phd program. Which can also translate to on the job experience. Their delivery method is also something to take note of, students may take one class in a 6-9week block and still be considered full time. This kind of flexible program is what social justice workers need while attending an online at your own pace program that focuses on social justice as they relate to human services, can have a major impact and provide resources realtime for students passionate about their positions in the world as change agents. There are several specializations offered, mental health administration, or nonprofit management. Graduates of this program will qualify to work as child welfare services, community service director, or clinical service director. 

Degree: DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN HUMAN SERVICES

24

Rush University
Chicago, IL

Rush University has a PhD in health science within the scope of social work as a health service is a huge part of the clinical social work profession. The average course size is 8 -10 students so that the faculty and the graduate candidates can feel they are receiving personalized instruction. The length of the program can be complete in 4-5 years, depending on whether students choose to attend full-time or part-time. Getting a Ph.D. in Health sciences is the leg up a clinical social worker needs to advance their career into a specialization that is seeing a rapid rise in job positions. The major focus of this program is education, leadership and research, and statistical data. The entire course of study includes 54 credit hours that are required to be complete to qualify for graduation. All the programs are taught in an asynchronous format entirely online. 

Degree: Ph.D. in Health Sciences

25

Northcentral University
La Jolla, CA

Northcentral University offers a doctorate in marriage and family therapy. This online program is designed to be flexible and caters to students who already have a full plate. There is a myriad of specializations students can choose from in this program including: child and adolescent therapy, couples therapy, general family therapy, mental health administration, therapy with military families, and small business development and entrepreneurship. The entire program can be completed within the timeframe of 54 months. This includes a minimum of 60 credit hours and 20 distinct classes. There are many financial aid offerings available in this program, including select scholarships. One of the perks is you can start the program anytime, as long as it’s on a Monday. Marriage and Family Therapy PhD students will complete a practicum or internship in their local area under the guidance of a AAMFT Approved Supervisor or supervisor candidate. 

Degree: Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy

Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy

Achieving an online Ph.D. in social work is a personal choice. Certainly, you can advance your career without it, but the doors that will open to you will be immeasurable with this credential. Not to mention, the experience you will gain from undergoing such a program will impress employers. A social work Ph.D. online is a great fit if you are wanting to be in a leadership role in the field. This can include starting your own non-profit organization or agency, becoming a college professor that teaches social work and being in an executive director role in a number of organizations and/ or agencies. This is an excellent path if you are interested in setting the tone for the field and becoming one of the voices of authority on leadership and practice. 

How Do I Choose an Online Ph.D. Program for Social Work?

Choosing the best online Ph.D. programs for social work is no easy task. It might boil down to a program that is near where you live or intrinsically connected to the work you are already doing. There are, however, programs all over the country that can fit the bill, because they are online social work Ph.D. programs. Some of them require in-person residencies, while others are entirely online. It is good for you to consider what you need regarding flexibility so you can rule out some programs with in-person requirements. There are many where the majority of the coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format, making it easy to engage in your class requirements on your own schedule. Ph.D. in social work online programs are often designed with specific specializations that are emphasized, which can inform if it’s a good fit for your personal academic and career goals. Looking into online Ph.D. programs in social work will give you a lot of insight into the options that are out there and maybe even inspire you to take on a new career specialization. Social work Ph.D. online programs sometimes have a particular bent, whether they are social justice motivated or faith-based you want to be sure you understand what you are pursuing the program accordingly. 

How Much Can I Make with a Ph.D. in Social Work?

According to payscale, the average Ph.D. in social work salary is $76,000. That is no small potato! Not to mention, this is an average, so the scale goes way up and way down. It appears that medical social workers and executive directors make something around ninety thousand per year, and on the lower end, project coordinators make around fifty-five thousand per year. A social work Ph.D. salary is variable and can move up and down quite a bit. It’s good to keep that in mind when choosing the path that is the best for your lifestyle. We know that most people who are pursuing a career in social work are not in it for the money, but we all have to make a living. 

Related:

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25 Best Online Master’s in Social Work

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What Can I Do with a Social Work Ph.D.?