PhD in Social Work

Strong Outlook for Social Work Faculty Positions and Job Placement
There is high demand for PhD social work graduates, particularly in academia because of an increase in BASW and MSW programs in Iowa and nationwide. We have a proven track record of placing our students in these positions.

Our PhD graduates become leaders in education, research and government. All of our PhD graduates have obtained employment within one year of graduation, with about 75% of our graduates obtaining teaching or research positions, and about 25% obtaining policy, administrative or practice positions.

Substantial Mentoring by Nationally-Recognized Scholars
Our faculty are nationally recognized, in publications such as Gerontological Social Work, Child Welfare, Family Violence, Diversity & Social Justice, and Community Development. Our PhD candidates work with faculty to develop an individualized program of study based on their unique educational and career goals. Our small program gives students the opportunity to develop close working relationships with faculty during their doctoral studies at Iowa. For example, in their first year, students complete a mentored research practicum and a mentored teaching practicum.

Our PhD program is a four-year, research-intensive program. It is highly interdisciplinary by design, with students completing several courses in one of four disciplines: Sociology, psychology, education or public health. By taking courses in other departments, our graduates are able to see social problems through multiple lenses. We think our focus on interdisciplinary study is attractive to prospective employers, allowing our graduates to form broader professional networks and to produce novel scholarship to tackle social problems. For more information about our curriculum, please click here.

Financial Support
We award students a minimum of three years of financial support at the time of admission. Financial support consists of 100% tuition, health insurance, and a monthly stipend.

The School of Social Work also provides annual travel funds for students to attend conferences and a dissertation award to support their dissertation research. Besides the school support, doctoral students work with their mentors to apply for other internal and external dissertation awards. For more information about financial support, click here.

Part-time Program
A small number of applicants may be admitted to the PhD program on a five-year basis. The five-year program is ideal for professionals who already work in the social work field and want to pursue an advanced degree while they continue working. Unlike the four-year program, the five-year program does not provide financial support.

Combined MSW/PhD Program
The combined program was designed specifically for applicants who have taken coursework in research and statistics and who have post-BSW social work-related practice experience. Applicants with a strong interest in or plan to conduct research after graduation are encouraged to apply. Students who are interested in teaching in a school of social work in the United States should know that two years of social work employment completed post-BSW or post-MSW is a requirement to teach social work practice courses in CSWE accredited programs, and many U.S. schools of social require the MSW for all members of their faculty. Applicants who are uncertain about their post-graduation career plans should apply to the MSW only for the upcoming academic year.

Prospective PhD students apply online. Applications are due February 1. In addition to the application, you will need to provide unofficial transcripts from all educational institutions, your resume, an example of scholarly writing, a statement of purpose and three letters of recommendation.

For applicants to the combined MSW/PhD program, you will need to complete the application process for both the MSW Program and the PhD Program.

Contact Us
For questions about the:

PhD program (e.g., curriculum, funding, faculty strengths), email the director of the PhD program, Miriam Landsman at

The Combined MSW/PhD program, email Kate Kemp, Program and Admissions Administrator, at

The application process and forms for the MSW and the PhD degree, email Tomeka Petersen at