Ph.D. in Social Welfare

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About this Program

The Department of Social Work at the University of Mississippi offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Social Welfare. Its curriculum is designed to train students to become competent scholars and applied practitioners who advance knowledge and provide leadership in addressing issues pertinent to at-risk and vulnerable populations.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • People who are economically disadvantaged
  • Sexual minorities
  • People who are homeless
  • People suffering from mental illness
  • Older adults
  • Children
  • People with disabilities
  • Refugee and undocumented persons
  • Survivors of abuse and trauma

On this Page…

    Program Information

    Program Type

    Master's Program

    Area of Study

    Health and Social Services


    3 years


    Ph.D. in Social Welfare

    Program Location




    Required Credit Hours


    Program Requirements and Application Process

    Find the program requirements for the Ph.D. in Social Welfare below. For more information, please see the graduate course catalog online and the PhD Program in Social Welfare Doctoral Student Handbook.

    Admission Requirements

    To apply to the Ph.D. in Social Welfare, students must submit:

    • A completed application to the University of Mississippi Graduate School
    • Evidence of an awarded baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university.
    • Evidence of an awarded master’s degree in social work from a CSWE accredited program, and a minimum of two years of post-MSW professional experience is recommended (this can include Micro, Mezzo, or Macro practice experience)*
    • A cumulative grade point average (last 60 hours) of at least 3.0 at the baccalaureate level and at least 3.2 at the graduate level is required; however, a higher grade point average is recommended
    • Personal statement of purpose. A double-spaced, typed statement of approximately 4–6 pages should describe the candidate’s interest in pursuing a doctoral degree in social welfare, areas of research interest, academic and professional goals, and how joining the graduate program will help the candidate meet these goals.
    • Three (3) letters of reference. At least one should be an academic reference (e.g., professor); two others can be professional (e.g., colleagues and supervisors at agency) who are familiar with the candidate’s academic qualifications and potentials to be successful in a doctoral program.
    • Academic (preferred) or professional writing sample. Submit a sample of the candidate’s recent (no more than 2 years prior to the submission date) written work that demonstrates his/her writing and analytic skills, including, but not limited to, a term paper, thesis, publication, capstone paper, professional report, and policy brief. Writing samples should be written in English, but there are no specific formatting requirements.
    • Resume or curriculum vitae.
    • International students whose first language is not English must submit a TOFEL score that is 79 or higher on the Internet Based Test.

    Student prospects who have not earned a MSW degree or who do not have 2 years of post-MSW professional experience can still be considered for admission. However, the PhD Admissions Committee will review and consider such applications on a case-by-case basis.

    To be considered for a graduate assistantship (GA),  a completed application must be submitted by March 1.  

    Application Deadline

    Application deadline for all applicants is April 1.

    The program consists of 54 post-MSW credit hours. The requirements include 21 hours in a substantive core area of social work; 15 hours of research methods and statistics; and 18 hours of dissertation research. Additional requirements for the degree include students passing a Comprehensive Exam.

    Social Work Core Courses

    • SW 701: Colloquium I (3 hours)
    • SW 703: Topics with At-Risk Populations (3 hours)
    • SW 704: Theories and Research in Neuro and Behavioral Science (3 hours)
    • SW 706: History of Social Welfare (3 hours)
    • SW 708: Colloquium II (3 hours)
    • SW 709: Policy Analysis (3 hours)
    • SW 713: Special Topics (Substantive Elective) (3 hours)
      • Students can take this course as an elective, or another graduate level course as an elective from another academic unit. 

    Research Methods and Statistics

    • SW 702: Research Design in Social Work (3 hours)
    • SW 705: Applied and Inferential Statistics (3 hours)
    • SW 710: Issues and Research Problems in Social Work Interventions (OR Intermediate Statistics (3 hours)
    • SW 711: Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research (3 hours)
    • SW 712: Advanced Statistics (3 hours)


    • SW 797: Dissertation (Minimum of 18 hours)

    The following types of positions are available through the University for the employment of graduate students.

    • Graduate Instructor: This is an appointment to serve as the primary instructor of an undergraduate course. Such courses will generally be multi-sectional and the graduate instructor will be supervised by a regular faculty member.
    • Graduate Teaching Assistant: This is an appointment to serve as a proctor for a laboratory or discussion session, or as a grader. A teaching assistant is not responsible for assignment of final grades in a course.
    • Graduate Administrative Assistant: This is an appointment to perform various types of administrative or service tasks for an academic department or university office or program.
    • Graduate Research Assistant: This appointment is made by an academic department, research institute, or faculty member (having a funded research project) to a student to assist in performing various types of research activities.

    Graduate Assistantship Appointment Letters

    The terms of individual appointments will vary by department. It is the responsibility of the administrative head of a department to state in writing the terms of appointment for graduate assistantship positions.

    The letter should provide information regarding the following conditions, where appropriate:

    • The title, percentage time, and period of the appointment;

    • The stipend level for the above period and the availability of supplemental fellowships,

      including conditions for receiving a tuition scholarship;

    • The minimum and maximum course enrollment during the appointment period;

    • Evaluation procedures and required grade point average and performance requirements for continued employment;

    • Procedure for reappointment;

    • Deadline for acceptance of the assistantship offer;

    • Assistantships are usually subject to taxation and must be declared as income;

    • Date on which the appointee is required to report for work duty or training.

    Performance Evaluation

    For all Graduate Instructors, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and Graduate Administrative Assistants, depending on the role, a supervisory faculty or staff member may be designated by the department.

    The supervisor is responsible for evaluating their performance. Evaluations and recommendations may be provided by the supervisor to the assistants on an as-needed basis during the appointment period.

    • For Graduate Research Assistants, a faculty supervisor will prepare a performance evaluation at mid-term and/or at the end of each semester.
    • Graduate Instructors will be evaluated by university-wide student-teacher evaluation surveys, which will be reviewed by the Department Chair.

    These evaluations are used to help the student develop their teaching/research/administrative skills and for decisions regarding reappointment.

    For additional policies and procedures for graduate assistantship administration, check Section 2 of the GPC HandbookPolicies related to financial aid and the employment of graduate students.

    The PhD in Social Welfare program in the Department of Social Work at the University of Mississippi is committed to nurturing the next generation of social work educators and researchers so that they contribute to the creation of the knowledge base of our profession and positively impact the lives of our client populations.

    The overall learning outcome objectives for doctoral students are as follows:

    • To become leaders in examining and addressing the needs of diverse, vulnerable and at- risk populations.
    • To contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge about social work interventions.
    • To demonstrate mastery of a broad knowledge base in social work and develop expertise in a specialized field of study germane to each student’s research interests.
    • To be able to design and effectively carry out quantitative, qualitative, and/or mixed methods research investigations.
    Saijun Zhang

    We're here for you!

    We're here to answer any of your questions about the Ph.D. in Social Welfare. Don't hesitate to reach out!

    Saijun Zhang

    Associate Professor of Social Work and Ph.D. Program Director

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