Ph.D. in Social Work

Program Mission

The mission of the doctoral program is to educate social workers to use scholarship to promote human rights and social justice both locally and globally. The program strives to develop leaders who engage in collaborative and interdisciplinary scholarship that focuses on seeking solutions to social problems and the promotion of the well-being of people and communities.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of the program is to develop graduates who will become leaders in the profession of social work. The specific objectives of the program are to train professional social workers who will develop the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to educate social work students in all areas of practice; conduct research, which will advance knowledge in any or all of the many facets of the profession; analyze and contribute to the establishment of legislative and practice policies; and/or plan and develop new service modalities.

For more information

Contact Gregory Lawrence Farmer, Ph.D., director of the doctoral program, at 212-636-7081 or

CIP Code

44.0701 - Social Work.

You can use the CIP code to learn more about career paths associated with this field of study and, for international students, possible post-graduation visa extensions. Learn more about CIP codes and other information resources.

Admission/Application Process

Are you prepared to be a leader of change in social work education and research? Apply for the Ph.D. in social work program at Fordham University. We encourage applications from individuals committed to a tradition of learning, service, and social justice.


  • A master's degree in social work or in a closely related field with sufficient and relevant experience is required.
    • Candidates who are admitted without a social work degree may be asked to take an internship in a social work setting to gain the necessary base for advanced professional training and research.
    • A grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.5 in the master’s degree program is usually required for admission to the doctoral program.
  • A bachelor's degree in liberal arts from an accredited undergraduate program, with a GPA of at least 3.0.
  • Demonstrated capacity for satisfactory performance of advanced academic work as evidenced by published journal articles, book chapters, books, and/or reports.
  • Commitment to the values of the profession.
  • A career objective consistent with the goals and objectives of the program: leadership in teaching, research, policy, service, and practice development.

Application Requirements

  • Completed application form
  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts. Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools you attended are required.
  • Two professional (employment) references
  • Two academic references. If you do not have two academic references, you may substitute a third professional reference for one academic reference.
  • Complete Resume or CV
  • Publications, written reports, and presentations. Please submit copies of your written work that demonstrates your capacity for doctoral study.
  • Statement of career activities and plans. This brief essay should indicate why you are pursuing a Ph.D., explain your experience and scholarly interests, and state how the Ph.D. curriculum will help you achieve your career goals.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, including verbal, quantitative, and analytic writing scores, are required.
    • The school code for the Graduate School of Social Service is 2252.
    • The Ph.D. department code is 5001.
    • Further information on the GRE exam can be found at the GRE website.
  • Application fee of $75, payable by credit card via the online application page. If you must pay by check, please send a check payable to Fordham University to the address below.

Application Procedures

  1. All applications must be submitted online. Access to online applications can be secured by going to the school’s web page ( and clicking on the Ph.D. link under Academics. International applicants for whom English is not their first language are expected to have taken the TOEFL exam to demonstrate competence in English to pursue doctoral work. Transcripts from colleges and universities located outside of the United States may have to be evaluated by World Educational Services Inc.
  2. After the necessary transcripts, references, personal statements, and other documentation are reviewed by members of the admissions committee, an interview with one or more faculty members may be arranged. Interviews are not required for applicants to be admitted for doctoral studies.
  3. Applicants are informed of admission decisions by a letter from the director of the doctoral program as soon as a decision is made.
  4. Candidates who are accepted will be notified of the dates of registration by a letter from the director of the doctoral program.

Non-matriculated students may be permitted to take selected doctoral courses in order to assess their interest and capacity for doctoral work. Persons interested in taking courses on a non-matriculated basis must contact the director of the doctoral program to discuss their interest. Persons interested will be asked to complete an admission application and provide transcripts from the degree programs which the student attended.

Non-matriculated students may enroll in a maximum of two courses before they are admitted as matriculated students. No assurance of acceptance to the degree program is implied by permission to take courses as a non-matriculated student. If a student subsequently applies for admission and is accepted, credits for courses taken on a non-matriculated basis will be applied toward degree requirements.

Application Deadlines

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis beginning in the spring of each academic year. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their materials, including all graduate and undergraduate academic transcripts, in the fall semester to ensure early review. Applications will be reviewed until the incoming class is full.

The deadline for all applications, including supporting materials, is February 1 of the year the student plans to matriculate. Students are admitted in the fall semester only.

We encourage you to submit all materials via our online application. If you must send some items by mail, please send them to

Fordham University
Graduate School of Social Service

Office of Admission
113 West 60th Street, Suite 608
New York, NY 10023


Our Office of Admission is available to answer your questions and concerns throughout the application process. Please email us at or call 212-636-6600

The Ph.D. in social work program consists of 48 credits of coursework and a dissertation. Students complete all coursework in two academic years.

Course Title Credits
SWGS 7005Theories of Social Work3
SWGS 7700Survey Research Methods3
SWGS 7012Statistics I3
SWGS 7950Doctoral Foundation Seminar I3
SWGS 7605Social Work Education3
SWGS 7710Experimental Research Mtds3
SWGS 7002Adv Stat in Soc Welf3
SWGS 7960Foundations Seminar II3
SWGS 7781Poverty and Race3
SWGS 7004Philosophy of Science3
SWGS 7003Qual Meth SW Research3
SWGS 7800Research Practicum0
SWGS 7730Data Management & Analysis3
SWGS 7783Policy Analysis Seminar3
SWGS 7007Advance Social Work Practice3
SWGS 7801Teaching Practicum0
Two Electives 16
Comprehensive Exams
SWGS 0940Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations0
Total Credits48

Electives are any course with the subject code SWGS numbered 7000-8999 (of at least three credits).

Plan of Study Grid
Year 1Credits
SWGS 7781 Poverty and Race 3
SWGS 7950 Doctoral Foundation Seminar I 3
SWGS 7700 Survey Research Methods 3
SWGS 7012 Statistics I 3
SWGS 7960 Foundations Seminar II 3
SWGS 7004 Philosophy of Science 3
SWGS 7710 Experimental Research Mtds 3
SWGS 7002 Adv Stat in Soc Welf 3
Year 2
SWGS 7003 Qual Meth SW Research 3
SWGS 7605 Social Work Education 3
SWGS 7801 Teaching Practicum 0
SWGS 7005 Theories of Social Work 3
Elective 1 3
SWGS 7730 Data Management & Analysis 3
SWGS 7007 Advance Social Work Practice 3
SWGS 7800 Research Practicum 0
SWGS 7783 Policy Analysis Seminar 3
Elective 1 3
Year 3
Comprehensive Examinations 2
SWGS 0940 Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations 0
Year 4
Dissertation 2 0
 Total Credits48

​Electives are any course with the subject code SWGS numbered 7000-8999 (of at least three credits).


Each term the student is working on the comprehensive exams and the dissertation, SWGS 0799 Maint Matric - Mentored must be taken. Depending on the nature of the dissertation, completing the study may take longer than one year.


A faculty adviser is assigned to each matriculated student in the fall semester. At any time, students can request a change in their adviser. The faculty who serves as a chair for the student’s dissertation will serve as the student’s adviser. Students must meet annually with their adviser to complete the Academic Progress Form. The completed form must be submitted to the director of the doctoral program by March 31.

Role of the Adviser

Along with providing career guidance, the faculty adviser can help with concerns like those listed below:

  1. To help students understand the nature of the doctoral program, including degree requirements, grading, course sequencing, and requirements for electives and internship.
  2. To be available thereafter to the advisee in a consultant function regarding the course of study, including choice of specialization, career goals, and other issues about which students have concerns.
  3. To discuss with students possible topics for independent study, and to review and formally approve any independent study proposals prior to their submission to the committee. The adviser may also assist the students in locating mentors for independent study.
  4. To discuss with students possible internships, and to review and formally approve any internship plan prior to its submission to the doctoral program director. The adviser may also assist the student in finding preceptors for the internship.
  5. To meet with students and the Independent Study Committee or doctoral program director if there are questions about either the independent study or the internship.
  6. To be available to students should there be concerns over their academic progress. Advisers are expected to meet with the Doctoral Review Committee to present their perception of the student's academic situation.
  7. To be available to students as they develop an educational plan for the second year, including identifying appropriate electives. Some discussion of possible dissertation topics may also be considered.
  8. To meet with students if requested to discuss timing and advise about readiness to take the Comprehensive Examination.
  9. To be available to write letters of reference for students’ applications for scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and employment.

Program Objectives and Structure


The program of doctoral study consists of two major components: Coursework and dissertation. These integrated components are designed to teach students the knowledge and skills necessary for future leadership positions in policymaking, service development, education, practice, and research.

The program requires a minimum of two years to earn the 48 credits necessary for the degree. Students may take courses on a part-time or full-time basis. During the first two to four years of study, students complete 48 credits.

A primary objective of the Ph.D. program is to educate social work scholars and researchers. In support of this objective, the curriculum consists of two required courses in social statistics, four required research methods courses that cover quantitative and qualitative research methods, and a course on the philosophy of science.

In addition to the required courses, students may choose to enroll in additional research methods and statistics courses either in the Graduate School of Social Service or in other divisions of the University. All students are required to take at least one semester of an advanced research practicum in conjunction with their third or fourth required research methods course. During the practicum they will assist a faculty member in an ongoing research activity.

A major responsibility of all social work doctoral programs is to prepare graduates who will assume academic positions in social work education. In recognition of this responsibility, the Ph.D. program offers a course on social work education. In addition, all students are expected to take a one-semester teaching practicum in which they will assist a faculty member in the design, development, and delivery of a graduate-level social work course. Students who have the interest and expertise will have the opportunity to teach in the Graduate School of Social Service’s M.S.W. and B.A.S.W. programs.

Rounding out the coursework are elective courses and independent study, which give students the opportunity to individualize their education further and develop greater knowledge in particular areas. Students are expected to take some of their electives in other academic divisions of the University to broaden their perspectives on particular topics. To ensure integrity in the coursework, academic advisers assist students when they choose electives.

Upon completion of 48 credits and passing the doctoral comprehensive examinations, each student begins to work on developing a dissertation proposal. At this point the student assembles a dissertation committee that will review and approve the dissertation proposal.

After a successful proposal review each student continues to work with the committee, which oversees execution and completion of the dissertation research. The dissertation committee is chaired by a faculty member and includes two other members, one of whom is selected from outside the Graduate School of Social Service. Although the dissertation committee is formed officially after students pass all comprehensive examinations, students are encouraged to discuss dissertation ideas with faculty members while they are taking courses. This process should help students to identify possible committee members before they must begin to prepare dissertation proposals.

While in the dissertation phase, students are required to register each academic semester for the maintenance matriculation with mentoring course.


Students take 6 credit hours of electives offered in GSS's doctoral program or other doctoral programs at Fordham University. At times, after approval from the doctoral faculty adviser and the director of the doctoral program, a doctoral student may be permitted to take a master's level course.

In order to qualify for doctoral level credit, a course must:

  • Further the student's knowledge in the area of study or research reflected in their educational program.
  • Present material not covered in the student's previous education or other available doctoral level courses.
  • Involve an assignment agreed to by the instructor and the student that exceeds work required of master's level students.
  • Provide evidence of familiarity with prevailing theory and conceptualization of practice at a greater breadth, depth, and higher level of abstraction.

To meet the above criteria, the student must contract with the course instructor that these expectations will be met and must present to his or her faculty advisor, a written justification for taking the course.

If in the advisor's judgment the student's proposal fits into the student’s learning plan, the advisor recommends approval to the director of the doctoral program. The program director must authorize any independent study.

Six credits in elective courses are a required minimum. Students might wish (or may be asked) to take more electives to gain added knowledge in their areas of concentration and to have better preparation for the Comprehensive Examination.

Electives may be taken in other graduate departments of Fordham University with the advice and consent of the student's adviser, the director of the doctoral program, and the chairperson of the other Fordham University graduate department.

Academic Progress Expectations and Timeline

Completion of Coursework

Students are expected to complete course work in two years. Matriculated students are expected to be enrolled in three or four courses per semester. 

Completion of Comprehensive Examinations Paper

Students must complete this requirement within thirteen months of completing coursework. Students will be given two opportunities to complete this requirement.

Completion of a Dissertation Proposal

Students are expected to successfully defend a dissertation proposal within one year of passing comprehensive examinations.

Completion of Dissertation Research

Students are expected to successfully defend a dissertation within two years of successfully defending a dissertation proposal.


Students enroll in practicums to enhance teaching and teaching skills.

These courses have the same numbers as the internships. Zero-credit, one-semester practicums in research (SWGS 7800 Research Practicum) and teaching (SWGS 7801 Teaching Practicum) are required for all students in their advanced year of studies. In certain cases (when educationally indicated), extending over two semesters, students may earn up to six credits for practicums in research and/or teaching. Students interested in this option should consult with the program director and their adviser.



When educationally indicated, a student may take or be required to take a professional practice internship as a required elective. This internship will be undertaken to enhance and broaden a student's knowledge of and competency in a M.S.W. area where previous experience is inadequate. The internship may be required for all Ph.D. candidates who do not hold a master's degree in social work and for all international students without a comparable M.S.W. in order to provide them with a professional social work experience in a social agency setting. Where indicated by the student's goals and the educational plan developed, internships might include administrative or research experience. Internships may not be undertaken at an agency where the student is currently employed.

The internship shall be a zero-credit course for one or more semesters, a one-semester, three credit course, or a two-semester, six-credit course, carried out through the equivalency of one day a week over a semester (three credits), or over an academic year (six credits), or for a block of fifteen days for each three credits during the summer session.


  1. To enhance students' capacity for conceptualization through the formulation and testing of policy, program, or practice principles in a social work setting.
  2. To extend students' knowledge and competence in the application and analytical examination of theoretical concepts, differential interventions, or differential planning.
  3. To extend the student's opportunity for testing and developing innovative ideas.
  4. To extend the student's capacity to engage in social work theory building.
  5. To extend the student's ability to integrate areas of specialization and research.


Planning for the internship typically should take place during the beginning of the second semester of the first year, when the student and faculty adviser meet to discuss an educational plan. If internship is seen as part of the plan, student and adviser will identify the focus of the internship. The adviser or another faculty member may then serve as preceptor for the internship.

When an internship is required as a condition of program admission planning, it may commence at the onset of study.

Role of Internship Preceptor

The preceptor shall:

  1. Meet with the student to clarify the focus of the internship and insure that the student has all necessary information about the nature of internships and the proposal outline.
  2. Discuss the student's idea for the internship, work with the student on the plan in relation to the educational objectives, in collaboration with the student select the type of agency setting conducive to their attainment, and determine those methods to be employed in goal achievement.
  3. Negotiate with the identified agency about the student's placement, its objective, planned activities, and duration.
  4. Serve as liaison with the agency-based internship supervisor.
  5. Prior to the completion of the internship, consult with the supervisor and the student about the nature and quality of the internship experience.
  6. Collaborate with the student in designing an outline for the final paper, review the final paper, and grade the internship.

In consultation with the preceptor and adviser, the student shall write a proposal prepared in accordance with the Outline for Internship Proposals. After review with student first by the preceptor and then by the adviser, the proposal will be submitted to the director of the doctoral program for final approval.

If the director has questions about the proposal, the student and preceptor may be asked to meet for discussion. When modifications are necessary, there will be a subsequent review prior to approval.

Proposals for the internship should have the signature of the preceptor and the adviser, together with any additional comments they might wish to make.

Students taking the internship are required to register for one or all of the following courses:

Statistics Course Waivers

Students may waive Statistics 1 and/or Statistics 2 by passing waiver examinations.

Statistics I and II are required courses in the doctoral program. To avoid redundancy in students' education, qualified students are allowed to waive these courses. The waiver application must be submitted to the director of the doctoral program. The instructor(s) for the course(s) for which the waiver(s) is(are) requested will review the application(s) and decide whether the waiver(s) is(are) approved.

Please note that waivers do not apply to students who receive transfer credit, which is given at the time of admission. Waivers are for students who are not eligible for transfer credit, but believe they may have fulfilled the statistics requirement by having taken graduate-level courses. Students who fail Statistics I or Statistics II may not request a wavier in lieu of re-taking either course.

A student must take a data analysis course(s) outside of the Graduate School of Social Service to replace the credit hours for each of the Statistics I and II courses for which a waiver is approved. A data analysis course may be an advanced statistics course (e.g., Advanced Regression Analysis, Path Analysis, Structural Equation Modeling) or a course on qualitative data analysis (e.g., Content Analysis, Narrative Analysis, Linguistic Analysis).

Research design courses, either in quantitative or qualitative methods, may not be used to meet this requirement. The number of credits of advanced data analysis courses must be equal to the number of credits for which a waiver is received (i.e., 3 credits if only Statistics I is waived and 6 credits if both Statistics I and II are waived). Prior approval of the advanced data analysis course(s) taken in the event of a waiver of Statistics I and/or II must be obtained from the director of the doctoral program.

Waiver Criteria

To waive Statistics I or Statistics II, students must have received a grade of B or better in an equivalent statistics course. This course must have been completed within the past five years. Applications for all waivers must be verified by a check of the transcript by the director of the doctoral program. Students are notified of a decision as soon as possible so they can enroll in another course if they qualify for the waiver.

Application Procedure

  1. Applications are submitted to the director of the doctoral program for review. A separate application must be completed for Statistics I and for Statistics II.
  2. After verifying that the student has received a grade of B in a statistics course that was taken within the past five years, the director of the doctoral program will send the application to the statistics course instructor..
  3. The statistics course instructor will notify the student and director of the doctoral program of the decision.

Comprehensive Examinations


The student will demonstrate mastery of a substantive area of social work or social welfare and the ability to design an empirical study. Demonstration of that knowledge will require the student to integrate and synthesize empirical and theoretical knowledge; critically analyze the existing research, including substantive gaps and methodological weaknesses in the research; and discuss the implications of the study the design on practice and policy.

Successful completion of the comprehensive paper and all course work allows students to proceed to the dissertation.

Comprehensive Exam Paper

The student will develop a comprehensive exam paper. The student will work independently on the paper without consultation from any other person. The University’s academic honor code applies to this comprehensive exam paper. The guidelines on plagiarism, including citing sources, paraphrasing, and the use of direct quotations found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) should be followed. The paper will integrate policy, practice, theory, and research evidence concerning a substantive area of social work or social welfare. The paper will:

  • a) identify a substantive area of social work or social welfare
  • b) integrate discussion of the theories, policies, and social work practices associated with the identified substantive area of social work or social welfare
  • c) critically analyze the existing research, including substantive gaps and methodological weaknesses in the research
  • d) identify research question(s) critical for the advancement of knowledge in the identified substantive area of social work or social welfare;
  • e) develop a research proposal for an empirical study that addresses the research questions;
  • e) contain an appendix containing a systematic literature review focused on the identified research questions.

The comprehensive paper will be a maximum of 25 pages, not including the references and appendix.

Comprehensive Paper Proposal

Students will submit a proposal for the comprehensive exam paper. The paper proposal must be approved before beginning work on the paper. There are three deadlines for submission of comprehensive exam paper proposals: September 1, December 1, and May 1.

Students will receive feedback on the proposal within three weeks after submission. The paper is due four months after receiving approval for the proposal.

The proposal will include the following:

  1. Problem statement, description of the substantive area of social work or social welfare that will be the focus of the paper, and its relevance to social work
  2. List of references cited in the proposal in APA format

The length should be a maximum of three pages, excluding the reference list.

Comprehensive Paper Structure

The page ranges here are suggestions within the maximum of 25 pages, not including the references and appendix.

  1. Definition and scope of the topic (including main subtopics (1 to 2 pages)
  2. Synthesis of existing policy, practice, and empirical and theoretical literature (organized according to the subtopics) (14 to 17 pages)
  3. Strengths and limitations of the literature on this topic:
    1. Methodological issues
    2. Research questions addressed
  4. Future research (1 to 2 pages)
    1. Topics to be addressed
    2. Methodological issues to consider
  5. Research Proposal (3 to 4 pages)
    1. Research questions and study aims (1 to 2 pages)
    2. Methodology (using correct terminology throughout) (3 to 4 pages)
      1. Study design (including name of design, unit of analysis)
      2. Sample (including target population, study population, sampling plan, eligibility criteria)
      3. Measures (including independent variables, dependent variables, potential confounding variables, and other key variables)
      4. Data collection strategy
      5. Data analysis plan
      6. Strengths and weaknesses of the methods with respect to the study aims
  6. Practice and policy implications (1 page)
  7. Appendix
    1. References
    2. Systematic literature review using the table and guidelines in Appendix B

Oral Defense

An oral defense will be conducted within three weeks of the submission of the comprehensive exam paper.

Comprehensive Exam Paper Committee

The Comprehensive Exam Paper Committee will consist of two faculty members. The committee will be responsible for approval of the proposal, the final paper, and the oral defense.


  • Comprehensive exam paper proposal approval: The comprehensive exam proposal must be approved within one semester after completing course work.
  • Proposal revision: If the Comprehensive Exam Paper Committee requests revisions, these must be submitted within three weeks. A maximum of one revision is allowed.
  • Comprehensive paper submission: The comprehensive exam paper must be submitted within four months after approval of the proposal.
  • Comprehensive paper revision: If revisions of the paper are requested, these must be submitted within three weeks. A maximum of one revision is allowed.
  • Oral comprehensive exam paper defense : The oral defense will be conducted with three weeks of submitting the paper or revised paper if applicable.
  • Comprehensive exam paper decision: Students will receive a decision about the comprehensive exam within two weeks after the oral defense is conducted.
  • Note: The proposal and completed paper should be submitted to the director of the doctoral program by 5 p.m. of the due date.

Comprehensive Exam Paper Grading Rubric

Students must earn an average score of 3 to pass the comprehensive exam. A score of 4.5 or higher is a “high pass.” If students do not earn an average score of at least 3 on both the written paper and oral defense, they may submit a revision within one month.

The quality of the review/proposal is evaluated using the scale below, with 1 indicating the poorest and 5 indicating the highest possible rating. Descriptive anchors are provided to facilitate rating.

Instructions for Systematic Literature Review

Conduct a literature review on the specific topic and subtopics described in the paper. Specify the search terms you used, the bibliographic databases included in searching for the articles, and the eligibility criteria that you used for selecting the articles.

Include 10 studies. Choose the studies most relevant to your topic. If there are more than 10 studies, choose those that are most rigorous and recent.

NOTE: In the comprehensive exam paper, the systematic literature review does NOT include conducting a meta-analysis. Existing meta-analyses can be incorporated into the systematic literature review. The following should also be provided:

  • Search terms used
  • Bibliographic databases searched: Inclusion criteria for studies

Outline for Internship Proposals


The rationale should include statements indicating how the proposed internship matches the student's educational objectives and a full description of what will be studied, i.e., the content of the learning activities explaining how they will further the attainment of the student's objectives.


The plan for the proposed internship should include where, how, and with whom the student will be working in the agency. It should also include how the agency supervisor will confer with the student's preceptor. Discussion of the final paper as agreed upon by the student and preceptor must also be included.

Preliminary Bibliography

A preliminary reading list or bibliography based on initial exploration by the student and suggestions by the preceptor should be attached to the proposal.


  • April 15 for summer or fall internships (*summer internships will be registered as fall courses)
  • December 1 for spring internships

Examples of Possible Internships

The following examples are merely suggestive as to the type of internships that may be developed:

  • Student Interested in Education or Teaching: The internship could be developed in our master's program where the student could teach several sessions in a faculty member's course, develop and teach an entire course, perhaps in the continuing education program, provide field instruction, train new field instructors, or develop and conduct an in-service training program
    • Preparation for these assignments could involve the student in reading extensively about the theories of learning, pedagogy, androgyny, methods of instruction, evaluation of teaching programs, and in the substantive subject to be taught. The final paper could be an evaluation of student learning in a class or field situation, or a paper that shows an integration of the advantages or disadvantages of different methods and theories about teaching social work concepts.
    • If a student is interested in the principles of curriculum evaluation and building, the paper could reflect a synthesis and assessment of the best approach for teaching a particular substantive subject.
  • Student Interested in Policy or Program Development: The student could be placed in a city- or state-level office responsible for developing policies or new programs. The internship might be in a state legislator's office, a city or state office on aging, or a national voluntary agency with a policy division (e.g., NASW, National Home Caring Council, etc.) where the student might be assigned to work on various aspects of developing legislation and preparing the bill for submission to the legislature.
    • In such a setting, it might be sufficient for the student to be an observer, recording what transpires and thereby documenting, descriptively, the entire (or a major piece of the) legislative process.
    • The final paper assignment could then be a detailed analysis and evaluation, utilizing relevant theories of policy-making, decision-making, policy research, and/or program evaluation of what was done or not done.
    • Other opportunities for activities in this area might include the preparation of a position paper for a legislator reflecting a thorough policy analysis with anticipated and unanticipated consequences, or developing a social welfare needs assessment in a defined program area.
  • Student Interested in Research: The internship could take place with one of the research projects being conducted at this School's Research Center, the University Third Age Center, the University's Hispanic Research Center, or by an individual faculty member.
    • The student could be assigned a role in the research project or conduct observations of the complete research endeavor. The final paper could be a summary of the findings.
  • Students Interested in Direct Practice: The student interested in developing advanced knowledge and skills about new modalities of direct treatment could be placed with an agency known to be working with or testing the new modalities. The student could have a role in or just be an observer of such activities.
    • An example is a student interested in gaining insight into programming for the well elderly rather than the frail or ill elderly. The internship could be a community setting for seniors where the student becomes a "shadow" of the agency administrator or other program staff, to learn what programs are operating, the rationale for such programs, and to search the literature for existing content dealing with this target group.
    • The final paper might include a comparison and contrast in different types of programming, references to the literature and theory, as well as an evaluation and review of different practice approaches.



The final requirement for achieving the doctoral degree in social work is the completion and satisfactory defense of a research study which reflects the student's mastery of the research process, and which makes a contribution to knowledge. There are many models that a dissertation may follow. Copies of dissertations of GSS graduates can be accessed via the Fordham library database (Dissertations & Theses @Fordham). Dissertations are usually a highly detailed and technical investigation of some particular problem, concept, or method, carried out on either a quantitative and/or qualitative basis.

Whether quantitative or qualitative, the study should reflect:

  1. A defined source of data which allows one to generalize or develop a broader understanding beyond the particular cases being studied
  2. Use of a clearly defined research procedure
  3. Exploration of the interrelationship of key variables in a controlled or systematic manner. In all instances, the dissertation must represent an independent contribution to knowledge in the field of social work or social welfare. While the research may be part of a larger project undertaken by a team of investigators, the document offered for the degree must represent work for which the student has taken major responsibility in design, methods, research implementation, and interpretation.

Dissertation proposals for data analysis of an existing data set (for which study design, selection and operationalization of measures, and data collection have been completed) must meet exceptionally high standards for originality of the study aims, contribution to the field, and sophistication of data analysis.

In addition to constituting a contribution to knowledge, a dissertation is expected to demonstrate a student’s mastery of content in their area of specialization.

The student is expected to adhere to standards of scholarship and to demonstrate competence in appropriate problem, question, or hypothesis formations, development of design, data collection and analysis, drawing of sound conclusions and/or inferences, and preparation of an accurate and clear report. It is most important that students maintain professional standards for scholarship and research as delineated in the NASW Code of Ethics. Plagiarism is a very serious academic offense and materials quoted from other writers should be clearly attributed to the correct author. More information about acceptable social work academic practice in this area can be found in Szuchman and Thomlison (2012)*.

*Szuchman, L.T. and Thomlison, B. (2012) Writing with Style: APA Style for Social Work (4th Edition) Brooks Cole: San Francisco, CA ISBN-13: 978-0840031983

Dissertation Proposal

As the student proceeds through the course of study, consideration should be given to identifying areas or topics of interest that might be studied in depth in the dissertation research process. The student's faculty advisor, as well as individual course instructors, is available for discussion regarding this initial consideration of a research topic.

The proposal to be prepared for faculty committee review and approval should be a detailed description of the topic of study, in the context of existing knowledge, the methodology planned, and timetable. The faculty committee may require alteration in the proposal that has been developed in the seminar course. Students should consult Appendix F for an outline for the dissertation proposal. While the particular format of the proposal should be determined by the student and their committee, all items in the outline should appear in the proposal.

The student is required to choose a mentor/chair and other committee members with earned doctorates when the student first begins to work on the proposal. When the mentor and the student believe that the proposal is ready for the Dissertation Proposal Review, the review will be scheduled and the doctoral office notified of the time and participants.

The doctoral candidate shall prepare a proposal following the outline in the next section.

Dissertation Proposal Review

Students and proposal committees should review the University’s IRB procedures during proposal development. The student and dissertation chairperson will have to complete the CITI Protection of Human Subject online training before submission of study’s protocol to the IRB for review. To obtain the application forms and access IRB resources, the students will need to log in to Mentor IRB—this online system manages IRB protocols.

The University’s IRB website provides detailed information on how to access the Mentor IRB system.

A copy of the proposal must be distributed to the Dissertation Review Committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled proposal defense. This Committee consists of the candidate’s Dissertation Committee (mentor, another Fordham faculty member, outside member), an additional Fordham faculty member who has not been involved with the proposal preparation (this person is selected from the School’s faculty by the doctoral program director), and the director of the doctoral program (ex officio).

The Dissertation Proposal Review will be scheduled for two hours. The format of the proposal review will be determined by the Committee and the candidate. In general, the candidate will present the planned research. The candidate is encouraged to use visual aids (e.g., overhead projector or PowerPoint) and/or handouts. The formal presentation will be followed by a question and answer period between the members of the Dissertation Review Committee and the candidate. The candidate will then leave the meeting and the Dissertation Review Committee will have 20 minutes to come to a decision.

The decision (Accept, Accept with Minor Revisions, Accept with Major Revisions, or Reject) will represent the majority opinion of the Dissertation Review Committee. The chair of the Dissertation Review Committee will document the decision and distribute it to the other Committee members within one week of the defense. The Committee members may submit revisions to the chair within one week after receiving the written decision.

The chair will then provide the candidate with the written decision of the Committee. The chair may provide oral feedback to the candidate following the defense.

Other faculty members and students may attend the formal presentation and question-and-answer parts of the proposal defense as nonparticipating observers.

Dissertation Chair and Committee

The Dissertation Committee will continue to work with the student after the proposal is approved and accepted. In some cases, the student may want to have a non-faculty member on the committee because of this person's expertise in the topic or area of the research. If the person does not have an earned doctorate and is not a member of a university faculty, then such a person can be added as a fourth member of the committee.

The Dissertation Committee’s function is to assist the student in carrying out the research design and in the writing of the dissertation. As materials are developed, they should concurrently be submitted to the chair and to the other two members of the committee for review. The student may be required to make modifications in the design of the study as the committee advises. The chair may call meetings of the committee when indicated. The chair with the approval of other committee members also schedules the oral defense.

The mentor should inform the doctoral director at the end of each semester about of the progress of each student in completing their dissertation.

Dissertation Defense

When the chairperson, in consultation with other committee members, decides that the dissertation is ready for defense, they will arrange a time for the defense to take place. At least three weeks prior to the scheduled date of oral defense, final typewritten copies of the dissertation must be submitted to the Dissertation Committee chair and other committee members.

The chairperson of the Dissertation Committee serves as the chair of the defense meeting, guiding and focusing the discussion so that the student's scholarship and research abilities can be accurately and fairly evaluated.

When the student's defense has been completed, he or she will be asked to wait while the committee members confer and reach a conclusion as to whether or not the defense has been satisfactory.

The student will then be invited to rejoin the committee, be informed by the chairperson as to the committee's decision, and if indicated, be given a verbal explanation of the reasons for an unsatisfactory rating, areas needing re-doing or modifications, or other problems.

When the defense has been satisfactory, the approval form should be signed by all committee members, and given to the director of the doctoral program.

In cases where the defense has been unsatisfactory, the director of the doctoral program should be notified immediately. When a student's defense is rated unsatisfactory, or when major modifications are required, the chairperson should prepare a written statement outlining the reasons for the rating, areas requiring modifications, or other problems and make this available to the student as soon as possible.

Students may require consultation on methodological or substantive issues that are not available from the faculty at the Graduate School of Social Service. Students are responsible for obtaining any outside consultation necessary to complete the dissertation.

Final Preparation of Dissertation

After successful defense, when any necessary corrections have been made, the chairperson must give final approval that dissertation standards have been met. Following this final review, the student must prepare the dissertation to be deposited electronically. Instructions for this procedure are available from the director of the doctoral program. Dissertations must conform to the APA style manual. Each final copy should have a title page, an abstract of not more than 350 words and a statement of acceptance signed by all committee members. When the dissertation is deposited, students must complete a Survey of Earned Doctorates Questionnaire and prepare a separate abstract to be deposited with Social Work Abstracts.

Deadline for Dissertation Completion

Students have a maximum of eight to 10 years (for full-time and part-time students respectively) of active involvement as matriculated students in which to complete all work for the degree, including the writing and successful defense of a dissertation.

If a student is actively engaged in completing the dissertation and needs a brief extension of the deadline, that student may apply in writing to the director, who will review the request with the Doctoral Curriculum and Policy Committee, where a final decision will be made.

Outline for Dissertation Proposal

  • Table of Contents

  • Abstract

    • ​​250-word or less description of the proposal's goals and specific aims

  • Literature Review

  • Study Hypothesis

  • Problem Statement/Rationale

    • Should state in a clear, precise way what is the problem to be studied, why it is important, and how the proposed project will contribute to social work knowledge. The hypothesis or major questions to be answered by the dissertation should also be included.
  • Conceptual Framework/Theoretical Model

    • This very important section should provide a detailed review of the theoretical frame of reference being used in carrying out this study. Included must be a detailed review of the literature and research related to the topic. It should represent a synthesis of the state of the art in the topic area. References should be appropriately footnoted.

  • Proposed Methodology

    • ​​This section should include five subsections:
      • Data analysis plan
      • Sampling plan
      • Study design
      • Data collection plan
      • Measures

The student must describe the proposed research methods to be used in the study, including why they are believed to be appropriate approach. Also, the sources of data, the sampling procedure, and the limitations on generalizability of the study need to be defined. If a qualitative approach such as a case study is used, appropriate methodology should be specified as outlined in standard qualitative texts. The student should define the proposed sample size as well as the number of subjects who will be available. Any agreements that have been obtained that will assure access to the study sample should be specified.

In terms of the instruments, the variables in the study and how data on them will be collected, must be indicated. If using measures developed by others, the student should indicate how they were previously used, and any studies of validity and reliability, which have been done. If the student is going to construct his or her own measures, reasons why they are preferred should be stated; also, how it is proposed to pretest the measures, check for reliability, and for validity. Whenever possible, the student should provide as an appendix, a draft of the instrument, indicating why the data collection method chosen seems most appropriate to the task. When using a qualitative approach, the nature of interview guides should be specified ways in which authenticity and genuineness of the data is preserved.

The steps planned to be taken to assure the protection of human subjects in the study should be stated. The doctoral program’s administrative assistant should be consulted for all appropriate guidelines.

  • Plan for Analysis

    • ​​In this section, the plan for analysis of the data to be collected should be detailed. If statistical tests are to be used, the student should indicate tentative thoughts on what the approach will be as well as what tentative bivariate and multivariate analysis will be undertaken
    • Dummy tables for this may be used if desired. The student should be sure to show how the proposed analysis will answer the study questions (hypotheses) which have been posed. If content analysis of narrative data is used, the approach taken should be specified.
  • Timeline

    • A Gantt Chart detailing the major steps in the work and the approximate times of completion should be developed.
  • Supporting Documents

    • If proposing to work within an agency, a letter from the appropriate agency person, indicating the agency's willingness to give access to study subject and/or case records, should be included.

Examples of previous dissertations are available in the library. Social Work Research and Abstracts has a yearly review of all dissertations completed in the field of social work. Review of other appropriate abstracts and journals relating to the specific area may also be included.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Students will also be required to receive IRB approval before proceeding with dissertation research. Study protocols for IRB review are submitted electronically. Electronic submission is done on the University’s IRB website. All study protocols must receive IRB approval. IRB policies and procedures for determination of the type of review a particular study will require are found on the University’s IRB website.

Research Award

A research award is presented annually to a Ph.D. graduate that has prepared the year’s most outstanding dissertation. The awardee's name appears in the commencement program and includes an honorarium.


Any student graduating between August of the previous year and May of the current academic year is eligible to receive the award.


The chair of a student’s dissertation committee must nominate a student for the award and must submit to the doctoral program director an electronic copy of the student’s dissertation. Nominations for the award must be received by the doctoral program director by April 1.

Two faculty members named by the program director will review the submitted dissertations. They will inform the program director of their decision by April 15. The winner of the award will be announced at the School’s commencement exercises.


The faculty members will use the following criteria when making their decision:

  1. Originality and Contribution: The reviewers will consider the importance of dissertation's subject matter, the contribution the study makes to our knowledge base, and the significance of the findings for social work practice and/or social policy.
  2. Study Design: Factors including the design’s rigor, appropriateness, and implementation will be considered.
  3. Quality of Scholarship: How well is the study anchored in the extant literature? How well are the study’s conceptual and theoretical foundations developed?
  4. Descriptive Clarity: How well is the study rationale described? Are procedures, research questions, study rationale, etc. clearly described? Could the study be replicated readily?
  5. Depth and Breadth of Analysis: Is the student's thinking clearly explicated? Does the student consider a range of possible explanations? How well does the student develop the implications of the study and its findings, including its strengths and limitations?
  6. Written Quality of the Dissertation: Is the dissertation organized well? Does it follow acceptable formatting and style guidelines?

Blackboard Site

A Blackboard site has been set up for the program. Students are automatically enrolled on the site. Program announcements are distributed using this site. The site archives announcement, copies of previously used comprehensive examine questions, and a copy of the program manual.

Transfer of Credit

Up to six (6) credits can be accepted as transfer from another doctoral program.

All courses must be doctoral level courses taken within the last five academic years, and must be reviewed by the director of the doctoral program, in consultation with the Fordham course instructor, if indicated. Students should also submit catalog course description together with course outlines of those courses presented for transfer consideration.

Maintenance of Matriculation

To maintain their status as active students pursuing a Ph.D., students must be enrolled in coursework. If they are not enrolled in required or elective courses (e. g., they are studying for comprehensive examinations or they are in the dissertation phase of studies), students must enroll in SWGS 0799 Maint Matric - Mentored to maintain active student status.

If for personal reasons (e. g., serious illness) a student must withdraw from studies temporarily, the student may enroll in SWGS 0766 Maint Matric - No Mentor to maintain active student status. A student must have written permission from the director of the doctoral program to enroll in SWGS 0766.

If students do not enroll in coursework for two consecutive semesters and if they are not enrolled for maintenance of matriculation for each semester in which they are not enrolled in courses, they are not considered active students and they may be removed from studies. If such an action occurs, students must re-apply for admission to resume studies. Readmission is not guaranteed. Readmitted students may be required to repeat coursework or take additional coursework to complete degree requirements.

Auditing Courses

Students who are enrolled in coursework for credit may audit up to one course per semester. Generally, to audit a course, space must be available and the student must have the instructor’s permission. Instructors are free to set their requirements for students who are auditing their courses (e.g., specifying whether or not auditing students must complete course assignments or participate in course activities). Students who audit a course must enroll in the course as an auditing student. They will receive no grade for the course, but their attendance will be documented on their University transcript. Students who audit courses will not be charged tuition for audited courses if they are enrolled in other courses for credit. If they are taking no courses for credit, students who audit courses must be enrolled in SWGS 0799 Maint Matric - Mentored.

Leaves of Absence

Matriculated students may request leaves of absence for one or two semesters for a variety of personal, familial, health, and other reasons. Students must send a written request for a leave of absence to the director of the Ph.D. program. The request must state the reasons for the leave and must include any supporting documentation as requested by the director. The director, in turn, will respond in writing. Extensions of leaves of absence must follow the same procedure as described above. The time on leave will not be charged against the time limit within which a matriculated student must complete degree requirements and obtain a degree. Students returning from leaves of absence should contact the Ph.D. program director to discuss registration.

Withdrawal from Courses

A student who wishes to withdraw from a course should contact the director of the Ph.D. program. No financial penalty will be attached for withdrawals prior to the start of the semester. Withdrawal from a course after the semester begins will result in a “W” being recorded on the transcript. In addition, a student will be charged tuition for the course on a prorated basis according to the date of withdrawal.

Students who withdraw from courses after the semester begins should speak with their instructors in addition to contacting the Ph.D. program director.

The doctoral program is headed by a program director appointed by the dean. As in all University programs, the dean reports to the appropriate officer of Fordham University, the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Doctoral Curriculum and Policy Committee

The Doctoral Curriculum and Policy Committee is composed of the director of the doctoral program, five faculty members eligible to teach in the doctoral program, and a student member, who is elected by doctoral students. The committee meets periodically each semester to develop and monitor curriculum, as well as to formulate and review policies and procedures.

Doctoral Review Committee on Academic Progress

Faculty members of the Doctoral Curriculum and Policy Committee serve as a doctoral review committee on academic progress. A student is considered at risk if the student has one grade of C+ or lower. If a particular student is at risk, the faculty adviser is asked to discuss the issue with the student and develop an appropriate educational plan. If a student has more than one grade of C+ or lower, the student will not be permitted to continue in the program. The student can appeal this decision with the Doctoral Review Committee on Academic Progress.

A grade of F is equivalent to not having taken the course, and the course must be taken again in order to receive credit.

If a student obtains a C+ or lower in a course that has been retaken, this will be considered the second grade of C+ or lower in the program and the student will be dematriculated from the doctoral program.

Admissions Committee

The Doctoral Admissions Committee meets regularly throughout the academic year to review applications of incoming students. This committee is chaired by the director of the doctoral program; it includes up to four other faculty members, at least two of whom teach in the doctoral program.

How are the M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs different?

The M.S.W. is considered a terminal degree and prepares students for careers in direct practice, administrative social work practice, community organizing, and policy. The Ph.D. program prepares individuals for careers as social worker researchers within and outside academia and as an social work educators.

Do I need an M.S.W. degree to enter the program?

While having an M.S.W. is preferred, students are eligible to apply to the program with a master's degree in a related discipline (i.e., public health, psychology, sociology, economics, etc.). Students who do not have a background in social work may be required to complete additional coursework. 

Do you have a combined or joint M.S.W./Ph.D. option?


Can I attend the program part-time?

No. Students are required to maintain full-time enrollment. Students take 12 credits per semester or 24 credits per year for two years.

Do I need post-M.S.W. practice experience?

No. However, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) require those teaching practice courses to have post-M.S.W. practice experience. Individuals seeking to obtain faculty positions in a social work program are encouraged to get post-M.S.W. practice experience prior to completing the doctoral program. 

Do I need to take the GRE to apply to the program?

Yes. Students can contact the program director to request a waiver.

Will I be provided with financial aid?

Yes. Students receive a fellowship that covers full-time tuition. Funding is contingent upon satisfactory progress in the program and the ability to serve as a teaching or research assistant for seven hours per week.

How many students are enrolled in the program, and what kinds of backgrounds do they have?

The incoming cohort typically consists of eight to 10 students per year. At any given time, there may be 35 to 45 students enrolled in the Ph.D. program. 
Our students come from around the country and world. Students come with micro and macro practice experience, while other are pursing a doctoral degree directly after graduation from an M.S.W. program.

How long does it take to complete the Ph.D. program?

It is possible to complete the program in four years. On average, students take five years to complete the program.

Are classes held in person or online?

All classes are held in person. You will need to be available for one day per week to take classes. 

What areas of research can I pursue?

Students are able to work with faculty to pursue research in their area of interest. 

Will I get classroom (i.e. teaching) experience?

Yes, students will have coursework on teaching and need to complete a teaching practicum. 

What is the difference between a Ph.D. and D.S.W.?

A D.S.W. program focuses on social work practice, supervision and applied research, whereas a Ph.D. program's emphasis is scholarly and theoretical research and educational practices.

The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE) provides information valuable information on doctoral education in social work.

Does Fordham have a D.S.W. program?


What do graduates do with their doctoral degree?

Graduates have obtained tenure-track academic positions, served as administrators in city government, and with nonprofit social service agencies.