Students in the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice doctoral program are among 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, students have the flexibility of designing their own course of study in tandem with related disciplines across the University of Chicago. What makes Crown Family School different is that our students receive the theoretical training needed to become applied social scientists.
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.
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
Each year the Admissions Office receives about 100 applications. Of those 100, we expect to enroll approximately 8 students. The application for the Doctoral Program opens in September. Only complete applications will be considered. Applicants will be expected to have:
A submitted application with $75.00 application fee, paid in U.S. currency, by bank draft or postal money order. This fee is most easily paid online with a credit card as part of the application process. Personal checks are accepted only if written by a United States bank. This fee is an official requirement for admission, and international governments will approve the release of funds for this purpose. The fee is non-refundable and does not apply toward tuition or other charges. If you have received a fee waiver form by attending an admissions event, please complete the fee waiver form on the online application and enter your fee waiver code.
Transcripts from all previous institutions;
Applicants who have completed their post-secondary education at a college or university located outside of the United States are expected to have earned a baccalaureate-level degree or its equivalent. Applicants are also expected to have completed some prior social work experience before applying for admission. International academic credentials, including courses taken, grades received, and degrees granted, should be sent directly to the Admissions Office by the issuing institution. If this is not possible, copies in the applicant's possession may be acceptable if they have been certified by the proper school authorities. Applicants may not validate their own documents. The class or division of the degree must be stated if this is the customary method of reporting the quality of academic work. If the Admissions Office is unable to complete a degree verification based on the documentation submitted, the Admissions office reserves the right to require a credential evaluation by an approved outside agency.
Applicants may submit unofficial transcripts for the application review process. Transcripts should be accompanied by the institutional grading and credit system information, which is most commonly found on the reverse side of paper transcripts. If your institution does not provide digitized transcripts, applicants may upload scanned paper transcripts to the online application. Please make sure to include the reverse side with the grading and credit system information.
If college work is incomplete at the time of application, a final transcript must be sent when final grades and degree conferral have been recorded.
A Comprehensive Resume or Curriculum Vitae;
4 letters of recommendation;
We especially value letters from former professors or academic advisors. References should be qualified to speak regarding your ability for graduate study, preferably those familiar with your academic ability or research skills.
No more than four letters of recommendation may be submitted.
4-page candidate's statement that addresses the following topics:
Indicate your reasons for applying for doctoral study, covering the following points:
a) this program seeks to develop scholars who will assume leadership positions in higher education; reflect on how you will make use of and contribute to scholarship in the field;
b) describe your plans for study, including a specific statement of your academic areas of interest;
c) given your interests, why do you think this program is a good fit for you?
d) briefly describe your career plans; and
e) (optional) provide other information useful for the admissions committee, such as explaining inconsistencies in your academic record. Statements are typically 3-4 single spaced pages.
Please do not submit a statement longer than 4 single-spaced pages.
Academic Writing Sample;
Doctoral applicants are required to submit an academic writing sample of no more than 25 pages. Papers written for an academic audience (class paper, journal manuscript, book chapter) are preferred. The committee uses the paper to evaluate the strength of the applicants writing quality, conceptual/analytic thinking skills, empirical skills, and other qualities relevant to doctoral training. We realize that applicants may not have a writing sample that fits all of these criteria; please submit something that you feel represents your interests and capacity to engage in rigorous doctoral studies.
The GRE requirement has been suspended for the Autumn 2022 application cycle.
English Proficiency: Applicants to the graduate schools and divisions of the University of Chicago must submit proof of English language proficiency unless they meet the waiver criteria outlined below. This policy applies to all graduate programs; the score level required for admission varies by program. Only the TOEFL iBT or IELTS Academic tests are accepted as proof of proficiency.
English has been a primary language of communication and schooling for you since childhood; or
You were enrolled for at least one academic year in full-time status in a course of study at an accredited English-medium post-secondary institution in one of the following countries or territories within the past ten years: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, the United States.
Education in English-medium institutions in other countries or territories does not qualify for the exemption.
The minimum required score for the TOEFL is 104 overall (IBT) with a sub-score of 26 in each category. The minimum required score for the IELTS is 7 overall, with sub-scores of 7 in each category. Check the TOEFL and IELTS sites for more information about the test. The results of the test will be sent to the University by the Testing Service. Applications will not be given final consideration until the results of the test have been received. The University of Chicago Institutional Code for TOEFL is 1832; the department code for Crown Family School is 95.
Note to graduates of the University of Puerto Rico: Because the language of instruction is not English, graduates of the University of Puerto Rico will be required to take an English examination.
We do not require an interview.
Additional documents may be required at the request of the admissions committee.
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.