As a member of the SSA doctoral program, you will join a select group of outstanding students and scholars who advance an interdisciplinary approach to social work and social welfare scholarship. The program is designed to deepen students' mastery of both social science theory and research methods so that they are prepared to contribute to scholarly knowledge in innovative ways. The Ph.D. in social work opens doors to university-level research and teaching positions and high-level policy research. In the doctoral program, you have the flexibility of designing your own course of study in tandem with related disciplines across the University of Chicago. What makes SSA different is that our students receive the theoretical training needed to become applied social scientists.
The University of Chicago is a magnet for the world's leading scholars in the social sciences. As a doctoral student, you can participate in original research alongside faculty advisors in any of our University-affiliated research centers and programs, including:
Center for Gender Studies
Center for Health Administration Studies
Center for Human Potential and Public Policy
Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture
Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention
Human Rights Program
Urban Health Initiative
The diverse theoretical and methodological training of Crown Family School's faculty makes the doctoral program uniquely positioned to support a wide array of student interests. Current doctoral students study topics such as child welfare, urban education, health care, youth violence, poverty and inequality, urban politics, criminal justice, low-paid employment, immigration, child and family policy, and substance use and abuse. They research public policies, human service organizations, and social programs affecting diverse populations in the United States and globally: immigrants and refugees, racial/ethnic and sexual minorities, low-income workers, parents, children, and adolescents, and individuals with health and mental health challenges and special needs.
The Doctoral Program is flexibly structured so that students can pursue a curriculum matched to their individual interests. It is at the forefront of schools of social work that emphasize the role of social science theory and rigorous empirical methods in guiding the investigation of social problems and interventions. In consultation with a faculty advisor, each student develops a program of study that includes two years of coursework, a qualifying examination, a publishable pre-dissertation research project, and a dissertation thesis. Doctoral students also have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty in their research and to serve as teaching assistants or instructors.
Students in the program are encouraged to design a course of study that harnesses the strengths of Crown Family School and the wider University. Students take Crown Family School courses that explore the theoretical underpinnings of social work and social welfare scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and levels of analysis. Students also take courses across the university in such departments as Anthropology, Economics, History, Human Development, Political Science, Public Health Sciences, and Sociology, and in the professional schools of Business, Law, Medicine, and Public Policy. The Traveling Scholar Program enables doctoral-level students to take advantage of educational opportunities at other Big Ten Academic Alliance universities (btaa.org) without a change in registration or increase in tuition.
Crown Family School's Doctoral Program enjoys full access to a rich network of scholars, libraries, institutes, and centers that only a research university such as the University of Chicago can offer. Many of our students work with scholars at Chapin Hall, the Center for Health Administration Studies, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the Consortium on School Research, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, to name a few.
The Doctoral Program at Crown Family School is a Ph.D. program for people who want to have a career in research and teaching. We do not offer a DSW or provide specific clinical training for practitioners beyond the master's level.
Students attend the Doctoral Program full-time. They are required to take a minimum of fifteen courses: one on the history of the social work profession, five on statistics and research methods offered at Crown Family School and across the University, and nine additional substantive courses, at least three of which are in other departments or professional schools at the University of Chicago. It is expected that these three courses be in a single discipline or substantive area.
Students are expected to complete a pre-dissertation research project during their first two years of study. This project should be an empirical report, a critical analysis of the literature, or a theoretical piece, written while a doctoral student and submitted for publication in a journal or book.
Students must pass a qualifying examination that assesses their understanding of the historical foundations of social work as well as their understanding of core literature in two of eight conceptual domains informing their area of scholarship. The examination process includes a take-home, open-book examination completed during a one-week period at the end of the summer following the second year.
Finally, students are required to successfully complete a dissertation project. As the culmination of the Doctoral Program, the dissertation thesis reflects the student's ability to use theoretical knowledge and analytic tools to advance knowledge in a particular area of concern to social work and social welfare scholarship.
Because the time needed to complete the dissertation varies widely, the time required for completion of the Ph.D. program also varies. In general, students take from four to five years to complete all requirements. The following outlines a suggested plan for progress in the program.
Fourth Year and Beyond
Courses to meet degree requirements
Courses to meet degree requirements
Complete coursework by the beginning of the year
Complete qualifying exam by the beginning of the year
Dissertation data collection, analysis, writing, and defense
Doctoral Program Admissions
The University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice has been a leader in social work and social welfare scholarship since we helped establish social work as a field of scholarly inquiry in 1908 and our doctoral program in 1920. The University itself is home to six graduate and professional schools, offering Crown Family School doctoral students extraordinary opportunities for cross-disciplinary study and research.
The Doctoral Program is flexibly structured so that students can pursue a curriculum matched to their individual interests. The Crown Family School is at the forefront of schools of social work that emphasize the role of social science theory and rigorous empirical methods in guiding the investigation of social problems and interventions. In consultation with a faculty advisor, each student develops a program of study that includes two years of coursework, a qualifying examination, a publishable pre-dissertation research project, and a dissertation thesis. Doctoral students also have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty in their research and to serve as teaching assistants or instructors.
The Doctoral Program at the Crown Family School is a Ph.D. program for people who want to have a career in research and teaching. We do not offer a DSW or provide specific clinical training for practitioners beyond the master's level. We also do not have a part-time doctoral program.
Each year the Admissions Office receives about 100 applications. Of those 100, we expect to enroll approximately 8 students.
All students entering the Doctoral Program are offered a financial aid package that includes a stipend, full tuition, health insurance, and fees. A variety of financial resources are available to doctoral students to support travel to conferences and the preparation of manuscripts. Many Crown Family School doctoral students receive additional funding through outside training and fellowship programs.
Doctoral Fellowship Opportunities
Crown Family School students have been very successful in obtaining competitive fellowships such as the Illinois Consortium for Educational Opportunity Program Fellowships, Fahs-Beck dissertation fellowships, and the Center for Gender Studies dissertation awards.
IES Pre-Doctoral Training Program in Education Sciences
The Committee on Education offers a fellowship opportunity for incoming doctoral students in the social sciences, the Harris School of Public Policy or the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice with an interest in education research, funded by a federal grant from the Institute of Education Sciences. This program allows fellows to join an interdisciplinary cohort of students who follow a common program of courses, workshops, and a 2-year research apprenticeship while they are earning a Ph.D. in their respective discipline. Accepted fellows receive a five-year package of support that includes a full tuition waiver and a generous stipend of $34,000 annually, as well as access to additional funds to support travel and education-related research.