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College of Social Work


Curriculum

Through individualized and interdisciplinary advanced study, the University of South Carolina College of Social Work’s doctoral program will prepare you for careers in research and higher education.

Building on the college faculty’s community-engaged research activities and Carolina’s transdisciplinary resources, our program is designed so that you can complete course requirements (61 post-master’s credit hours) in three years.

 

Program Overview

As a Ph.D. student in the College of Social Work, you’ll have a strong faculty support network each step of the way. Starting in your first year, you will be advised by a primary faculty mentor and a research assistantship supervisor. By your second year, your advisory committee will include a faculty member from a discipline other than social work, strengthening your transdisciplinary approach to research and leading to projects with greater collaboration and impact on people and communities. In addition to faculty support, you’ll find opportunities to engage with a strong community of committed students through student organizations and other student experiences.

Research Activities

To ensure graduates are prepared to tackle pressing social issues, our students participate in a variety of experiences to bolster research skills, such as:

  • Coursework (minimum of six research courses: four in social work and two elsewhere)
  • Supervised research assistantships
  • Supervised research practicum
  • Independent research for the dissertation

As one of only 32 public universities to earn the Carnegie Foundation’s top-tier designations in research activity and community engagement, the University of South Carolina offers you unparalleled opportunities for community-engaged research that cuts across disciplines. The College of Social Work is home to a number of research centers including The Center for Child and Family Studies and the Institute for Families in Society, where you can be directly involved in research, technical assistance and training. You may also join college faculty on collaborative research projects with colleagues from disciplines such as public health, psychology, business, nursing, medicine, sociology, criminal justice, engineering, pharmacy, education and more. You can participate in external partnerships that amplify the university’s impact on major state and national health and human service systems as well as international affiliations that extend our imprint on Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In addition, as a Ph.D. student, you’ll be invited to attend professional development seminars about writing for publication and funded grants. You will develop oral and written presentation skills by crafting peer-reviewed conference presentations and journal articles with faculty support. You will be expected to attend three research colloquia each year choosing from scores of opportunities offered across disciplines on the university campuses.

Instructional Development

Recognizing the program’s unique role in advancing the field of social work through preparing the next generation of educators, we offer unparalleled support to Ph.D. students to develop your teaching skills. Supervised experiences include developing a teaching practicum that builds on your previous teaching experience. For instance, if you are inexperienced, you might serve as a teaching assistant to a professor and practice class facilitation, course preparation and student assessment while if you are an experienced social work instructor, you might develop a new elective course with supervision from a faculty member. 

Instruction training from College of Social Work faculty is enhanced with resources from across the university campus. Partners in the College of Education offer “Principles of College Teaching,” a required course for the Ph.D. program, and The Graduate School offers a day-long instructor workshop for graduate students from across disciplines. Once you meet basic milestones, you will be eligible to teach in the college’s bachelor’s or master’s degree programs. As you gain teaching experience, you will be eligible to tap resources from the university’s Center for Teaching Excellence and develop a teaching portfolio to demonstrate teaching proficiency before graduation.

Degree Requirements

The doctoral program in social work is designed so that you can complete course requirements in two to three years. You must enroll full-time (10 credit hours per semester) during the first calendar year in residence in addition to working 15 hours per week during the academic year as a paid research assistant. The courses are intensive and focused, and delivered in small group seminars. Each course has a syllabus and course calendar developed by the instructor. 

Degree Requirements (61 post-master’s hours)

  • Intellectual Foundations of Social Welfare and Social Work Core (9 hours)
  • Research Methods Core (15 hours)
  • Education and Leadership Core (6 hours)
  • Professional Seminar (2 hours)
  • Planning and Design of Dissertation Research (2 hours)
  • Elective Courses (15 hours)
  • Dissertation Research (12 hours)

Total: 61 hours

The course requirements described above constitute the minimum expectations for Ph.D. students. However, dissertation chairs and committees may require you to take additional courses in preparation to carry out your dissertation research.

Typical Plan of Study: Year 1

A typical plan of study is listed below. Detailed course descriptions can be found in the University of South Carolina Graduate Studies Bulletin.

Year 1 (Fall)

Course No. Title Credit
SOWK 800 Intellectual Foundations of Social Welfare and Social Work I: Historical Roots 3
SOWK 850 Social Work Doctoral Professional Seminar 1
SOWK 890 Analysis of Social Work Data 3
SOWK 892 Design and Critical Analysis of Social Work Research 3

NOTES:
Waiver examinations for research methods and statistics courses will be available to students who can demonstrate competency in these areas. Students who successfully waive one or both courses will substitute elective courses.

 

Year 1 (Spring)

Course No. Title Credit
SOWK 801 Intellectual Foundations of Social Welfare and Social Work II: Modern Developments 3
SOWK 830 Community-Engaged Research for Social Welfare and Social Change 3
SOWK 850 Social Work Doctoral Professional Seminar (Repeatable: 2 credits required for the doctoral program) 1
SOWK 891 Advanced Analysis of Social Work Data 3

NOTES: 
Successful completion of SOWK 800 is prerequisite for enrolling in SOWK 801.

SOWK 872: Social Work Education Practicum and SOWK 889: Doctoral Social Work Practicum may be taken any time after the first academic year. They are not required prior to the qualifying examination.

The program's required statistics courses meet the university's foreign language requirement for graduation.

Typical Plan of Study: Year 2

A typical plan of study is listed below. Detailed course descriptions can be found in the University of South Carolina Graduate Studies Bulletin.

Year 2 (Fall)

Course No. Title Credit
SOWK 802 Intellectual Foundations of Social Welfare and Social Work III: Conceptual Model-Building 3
SOWK 811 Qualitative Methods of Inquiry for Social Work Research 3
SOWK 831 Leadership for Social Change 3
SOWK 894 Planning and Design of Dissertation Research (Repeatable: 2 credits required for the doctoral program) 1

NOTE:
Successful completion of SOWK 801 is prerequisite for enrolling in SOWK 802.

 

Year 2 (Spring)

Course No. Title Credit
EDHE 738 Principles of College Teaching 3
Elective Elective 3
Elective Elective 3
SOWK 894 Planning and Design of Dissertation Research (Repeatable: 2 credits required for the doctoral program) 1

 

Typical Plan of Study: Year 3

A typical plan of study is listed below. Detailed course descriptions can be found in the University of South Carolina Graduate Studies Bulletin.

Year 3 (Fall)

Course No. Title Credit
Elective Elective 3
Elective Elective 3
Elective Elective 3
SOWK 899 Dissertation Research 1-12

NOTE:
Successful completion of SOWK 894 (2 credits) and passing the qualifying examination is prerequisite for enrolling in SOWK 899. After completion of core courses, students must be enrolled for at least 1 credit of SOWK 899 during any semester in which they make dissertation progress or use university resources such as the library, computer facilities or faculty time. Students must complete a total of 12 credits of SOWK 899, including at least one credit during the semester of graduation.

 

Year 3 (Spring)

Course No. Title Credit
SOWK 899 Dissertation Research 1-12

 

Academic Regulations

Our program’s academic regulations are consistent with those that apply to other doctoral programs within The Graduate School. It is assumed that all required courses will be taken at the University of South Carolina. Under some circumstances and with the approval of a student’s adviser in consultation with the Ph.D. program coordinator, coursework taken from another doctoral program may be accepted in lieu of required or elective courses at Carolina. Courses must be taken in sequence unless the Ph.D. program committee grants permission to take a course out of sequence.

All course work to be applied toward the Ph.D. must be completed within 10 years prior to graduation. If you exceed 10 years in the program, special arrangements may be made with The Graduate School for the revalidation of over-age credits in courses given by the university, but the College of Social Work must approve each revalidation. Courses taken at the University of South Carolina in departments outside of the College of Social Work must be revalidated by the related department prior to approval by the college.

Examinations and Dissertation

Admission-to-Candidacy Examinations

Following successful completion of required coursework, you will take a qualifying examination to be admitted to candidacy. The examination typically takes place after the second year of coursework. The examination requires you to demonstrate competence in integrating and applying content drawn from required courses.

Dissertation

In the Ph.D. program, a dissertation proposal serves as the student’s comprehensive examination. Within seven years following successful completion of the comprehensive examination, you must present a dissertation based on research that has been approved by a committee of professors in the major field and by the dean of The Graduate School. The dissertation must be successfully defended before a dissertation committee appointed by the dean of the college and approved by the dean of The Graduate School. The dissertation committee will consist of at least four members, one of whom must be from outside the College of Social Work.