We rank the best online PhD degrees in social work.
A PhD is one of the greatest degrees you may obtain in social work. While this degree level does not result in a higher level of licensing, doctoral graduates can further develop their careers and prepare for professions in leadership, administration, and advanced clinical practice in government, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
Doctorate social work programs help graduates achieve leadership positions in social work education. Doctoral degrees are considered the norm in academia across all sectors.
An online PhD in social work degree is an option for busy professionals who would find it extremely difficult to integrate on-campus classes into their work and family lives.
Prospective students can pursue a PhD or a doctorate in social work (DSW). The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) has historically been a more popular choice regarding doctoral-level education in social work since the PhD is regarded as a research degree, whereas the doctor of social work is considered a practice doctorate.
However, when the era of evidence-based practice took root in the clinical world in the early twenty-first century, the DSW program gained ground.
DSW students may specialize in social work leadership, advanced clinical practice, or social work education. Similarly, PhD candidates could designate a concentration in mental health or child and school social work. Compared to PhD degrees, DSW programs frequently provide more advanced clinical internships.
Bottom Line: Neither degree has ever been superior to the other, and today both are practice doctorates. If a school offers both degrees, students should expect the PhD program to be the more research-intensive alternative, which is the leading modern distinction.
Only candidates with a master’s in social work are typically accepted into an online PhD or DSW doctoral program. Additionally, most institutions have criteria that the master’s degree must be from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited program.
A PhD or DSW doctoral degree often requires three years of clinical social work practice experience.
Prior to admission, doctorate online programs also typically require:
Key Point: Some online PhD in social work and online DSW programs may also require a personal interview with admissions officers.
The average time to earn an online doctor of social work degree is 4-6 years, while some institutions provide quicker, accelerated routes. The length of the program varies depending on how quickly each student finishes their dissertation and final project. Online graduate programs typically require 45 to 60 credits.
The cost of online social work doctorates varies on several factors. Most colleges and universities charge more for out-of-state students. However, some schools offer flat-rate tuition, which means that in-state and out-of-state students pay the same per credit cost.
Technology costs are another important expense that typically only affects students who take classes online rather than in person.
The typical cost per credit for an online doctor of social work degree is between $300 and $2,000. The range for total tuition for students should be $13,000 to $120,000.
Today, students have cheaper doctoral program in social work options. They are offered by some of the country’s most prestigious schools that prepare students best for professional settings, and produce the most competent clinical social worker with advanced practice leadership abilities.
Take a look at some other in-demand affordable degree rankings. Busy professionals can earn an affordable online degree in numerous fields.
Different online DSW and PhD in social work degree programs differ in their curricula and differ according to the graduate student’s career goals, which are often structured based on a specialization.
Here are some of the most common courses you might encounter in online social work doctorates.
Students in this course study and analyze the most recent advancements in the industry while learning leadership skills as well as difficulties social workers may face in the field.
This course allows students to learn about the procedures and organizations involved in developing and carrying out public policy as a social worker.
Students learn how to develop budgets and manage resources as a social worker for diverse social projects at the micro, mezzo, or macro levels.
This course teaches future social workers the psychological and pharmaceutical challenges and procedures.
This course examines how theory, research, and scholarly work have affected social work practice and policy.
Yes, finding an accredited and affordable quality online PhD in social work or DSW degree program is possible.
The typical cost per credit for an online doctorate in social work degree is between $300 and $2,000. This means that the range for total tuition for students should be $13,000 to $120,000.
Luckily there are many affordable online doctoral programs to choose from, especially in social work.
A growing number of highly reputable universities have hybrid or fully online doctoral programs in social work. These programs are perfect for busy graduate students trying to manage their time and balancing coursework, career, and family demands. This makes an affordable online PhD program especially attractive.
Luckily, there are ways to ensure that an online Phd in social work or online DSW degree program is as affordable as possible.
The cost of online social work doctorates varies based on several factors. Most colleges and universities charge more for out-of-state students. However, there are some schools that offer flat-rate tuition, which means that in-state and out-of-state students pay the same per credit cost.
Earning an online PhD in social work or online DSW degree as opposed to a traditional on-campus doctorate degree makes it possible to save money on expenses like housing, transportation, and certain campus fees.
Online PhD programs also make it possible to continue working in your field, which means you can complete your degree program while still earning a living. This can ultimately reduce your dependence on student loan debt.
Earning an online degree in social work is a great option for busy professionals who want to continue their education while juggling work and family life.
If affordability is a particular concern, and it is making you reluctant to pursue a PhD or DSW in a social work degree program, you may be able to take advantage of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and loans.
For more information, visit the Federal Student Aid website. It is especially important that you choose an online program that is accredited in order to qualify.
Many schools offering an online PhD or DSW in social work also have assistantship opportunities for their graduate students. Assistantships may give teaching opportunities in exchange for tuition waivers and a stipend. Each school is different, so check into the online social work doctorate degree program you are interested in.
Bottom Line: Affordable online PhD and DSW in social work programs are possible when you factor in things like in-state tuition, financial aid, grants, and assistantships.
The following graph depicts the average salaries of similar occupations to Child, Family, and School Social Workers in the U.S.
Source: U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
Tuition + fees
Walden University is one of the most commonly seen universities in online rankings. Walden offers more than 100 online programs leading to certification, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. The university’s programs are known for their affordability and accessibility.
The affordable online PhD in Social Work at Walden University costs only $625 per credit hour. Students in the PhD program can tailor their degrees by choosing one of three specializations: Advanced Clinical Practice and Supervision, Impact Leadership in Social Work Administration, or Social Work Education. The curriculum includes a four-day residency and a research project that represents the culmination of the student’s learning.
All degree and non-degree programs at Walden are geared toward empowering students to make a difference both in their professional sectors and in their larger communities.
Walden University is great for students who:
Are too busy with work and personal lives to attend traditional classes.
Walden University might not be ideal for students who:
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Sacred Heart University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Sacred Heart University, a top Catholic-based university, is praised for its dedication to academic quality and state-of-the-art technology. Students are pushed to be creative by the more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctorate, and certificate programs available.
SHU offers an affordable online PhD in Social Work, costing only $840 per credit hour, for working professionals. This degree focuses on training students to pursue careers in academic research, teaching, and social services. Students complete a one-week immersion program to help with their dissertation. Students focus on social work education, research, policy, leadership, and racial justice.
The sense of camaraderie is the best thing at this university.
Sacred Heart University is great for students who:
Want to enroll in medium-sized classes, enjoy sports, and are academically motivated.
Sacred Heart University might not be the best fit for students who:
Seek a university with a lively nightlife.
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Our Lady of the Lake University is one of America’s top 4-year, private technical, coed universities. This is a commuter campus that offers several bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees that are available online.
OLLU is recognized for providing comprehensive and affordable degree programs, including an online PhD in Social Work. This particular program specializes in educating PhD students to work in minority institutions, whether through teaching, research, or service. The curriculum includes a dissertation defense and summer courses focusing on social work education and research topics.
OLLU is praised for promoting spiritual, personal, and professional growth via high-quality, cutting-edge undergraduate and graduate education
Our Lady of the Lake University is great for students who:
Seek for individualized attention.
Our Lady of the Lake University might not be the best fit for students who:
Don’t want to study religion as religion-based courses are part of OLLU’s curriculum.
Tuition + fees
Simmons University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Simmons University provides an immersive digital campus, which was created to support the next generation of leaders, offering them a transformative Simmons education in a format that works for them. The country’s first clinical social work school was founded at Simmons University, which is well-known for this.
The online PhD in Social Work, costing $1,125 per credit hour, is considered one of the most affordable, considering the school’s reputation for excellence in social work education. The PhD program includes theory, social welfare policy, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and more. Students will work closely with a faculty mentor who will support their research goals during their final project.
Simmons University offers students the advantages of a small college campus combined with the unrivaled prospects of a big university.
Simmons University is great for students who:
Enjoy small classes, a close-knit community, and are cooperative and ready to collaborate with peers on any project.
Simmons University might not be the best fit for students who:
Are opposed to attending a school for women.
Tuition + fees
University of Southern California’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Southern California has one of the lowest admission rates on the list, which means that this is one of the most challenging universities to gain admission. USC’s vast options for multidisciplinary study and collaboration with top academics in cutting-edge learning facilities make it an anchor institution in Los Angeles.
The online Doctorate of Social Work at USC is one of the best degrees for students looking to enroll in doctorates with flat-rate tuition fees. Students can choose between a Standard Track and Accelerated Track. Both programs are estimated to cost $85,890, which is reasonably priced considering the quality of instruction you’ll receive.
The Design Laboratory for Social Innovation I and II, which includes a financial management course, will require students to employ models from their courses to address one or more of the 12 Grand Challenges in social work.
USC offers more than $640 million in scholarships and financial aid, boasting one of the largest pools of aid in the nation.
The University of Southern California is great for students who:
Are academically competitive and driven. There are excellent academic requirements and a thriving social scene in USC.
The University of Southern California might not be the best fit for students who:
Want a college-town environment.
Tuition + fees
Capella University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Capella University, a recognized online institution, offers a tailored learning approach that can hasten your professional achievement. Capella University offers a distinctive self-paced degree option called FlexPath that lets students go faster through the content they already know and spend more time learning what they don’t, giving them even more flexibility.
Capella University’s online Doctor of Social Work costs $975 per credit hour, making it one of the cheapest doctorates for clinical social workers. In contrast to most DSW programs, students in this program must attend professional doctoral project development seminars. This chance gives them a head start on their program by boosting their self-assurance and critical thinking abilities.
The flexibility it gives to students is Capella’s greatest strength. Capella allows students to have a self-paced learning structure, which enables them to complete one course and go on to the next whenever they’re ready.
Capella University is great for students who:
Want to enroll in fully online programs.
Capella University might not be the best fit for students who:
Need direct, one-on-one interaction as the college only offers online courses.
Tuition + fees
University of Pennsylvania’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
An Ivy League instutution, the University of Pennsylvania consistently ranks high in the global prestige department! With a 6% admission rate, UPenn expects its applicants to be top, if not #1, in their classes. The high-quality education at UPenn is not only limited to traditional on-campus courses but can also be experienced through their online school.
UPenn’s online Doctor of Clinical Social Work, with a $1,108 per term fee, is one of the most affordable online doctorates. Distance learners participate in synchronous online courses on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for two hours. Clinical theories, social statistics, trauma-informed theory, and therapies are included in the first-year curriculum.
The dynamic and thriving environment is teeming with creativity, innovation, and the arts!
The University of Pennsylvania is great for students who:
Are highly motivated academically and eager to get involved in the community. UPenn is a very competitive school designed for students with great attitudes toward their studies.
The University of Pennsylvania might not be the best fit for students who:
Are not passionate about what they want to pursue, as they can become lost in the sea of resources and academic rigor.
Tuition + fees
University of Tennessee’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Tennessee began as a small college in the Southwest Territory and has expanded into a flagship university and a top public research facility. UT Knoxville benefits the state through research and service by educating its residents, fostering its culture, and improving people’s lives. According to UTK, they are the epitome of quality in instruction, analysis, scholarship, creative work, involvement, and outreach.
UTK has been educating social workers since 1942 and has a history of excellence that national rating organizations have acknowledged. The affordable online PhD in Social Work at UT is a fast-track program designed for working professionals and trains its graduates for advanced clinical practice as social work leaders. The DSW program’s advanced clinical social work curriculum, which emphasizes evidence-based practice, clinical science, applied research, and clinical leadership, is a distinguishing feature.
The hands-on faculty of UTK is its best feature. Students can expect to have individualized attention, despite their medium-sized classes.
The University of Tennessee is great for students who:
Thrive in a diverse environment.
The University of Tennessee might not be the best fit for students who:
Easily give in to the party atmosphere.
Tuition + fees
Tulane University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Tulane University has a long history of being at the forefront of ground-breaking research. Tulane was initially established as The Medical College of Louisiana in 1834 to educate New Orleans doctors in the fight against cholera and yellow fever. Today, Tulane University offers over 200 degree programs.
Tulane’s online Doctor of Social Work offers an affordable tuition fee of $1,195 per credit hour. This online DSW program has a seven-semester completion time, flexible scheduling for working professionals, a low student-teacher ratio, and knowledgeable teachers actively engaged in the profession. Evidence-based practice, portfolio planning, practice models and theory, quantitative and qualitative research techniques, and curriculum creation are all used in the curriculum.
Tulane stands out as a top university not only for its dedication to academic excellence but also for its dedication to improving society.
Tulane University is great for students who:
Care about academics but enjoy letting loose occasionally. Tulane is a very cooperative and pleasant university.
Tulane University might not be the best fit for students who:
Are shy. People at this school are quite open-minded and willing to try new things.
Tuition + fees
University at Buffalo’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University at Buffalo is the most comprehensive campus in the SUNY system and a top-ranked public research university in the United States. Students and professors of the highest caliber are drawn to the University at Buffalo, which strengthens and enriches the university’s vibrant academic community.
The Doctor of Social Work doctoral degree expands on “trauma-informed and human rights (TI-HR),” which is the School of Social Work’s defining foundation. Other features of this degree include “implementation science,” which converts social work research into best practices for the best treatment. This program will assist you in building a strong, professional network and is geared toward working practitioners with access to clients.
In-state students pay $800, while out-of-state students pay $1050. Although all necessary coursework can be finished online, a four-day orientation on campus is needed.
The best feature of the University at Buffalo, in addition to their high caliber of academics, is the diverse student body and vibrant campus community.
The University at Buffalo is great for students who:
Thrive in large-sized classes and do not need constant one-on-one attention from their advisors.
The University at Buffalo might not be the best fit for students who:
Are not committed or willing to put in a lot of effort and those who enjoy taking small classes.
Tuition + fees
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Kutztown University in Pennsylvania is committed to enriching people’s lives by providing high-quality degree programs at affordable prices. With more than 130 areas of study, applicants are sure to find something for them. And to better serve non-traditional students, KU has extended its campus online.
The online Doctor of Social Work at KU costs only $699 per credit hour, making it one of the most affordable doctorates online. While students can complete coursework online, they must travel to the campus to fulfill the on-campus residency requirements at the start of each term. Graduate students study research techniques, social work scholarship, preventative and intervention strategies, mental health, child welfare, and praxis in addition to a dissertation.
The devoted faculty. Students are motivated to learn since the lecturers are enthusiastic about what they do.
Kutztown University in Pennsylvania is great for students who:
Desire to be a part of an inclusive community that values diversity.
Kutztown University in Pennsylvania might not be the best fit for students who:
Prefer to study in a major city or somewhat close to a big city.
Tuition + fees
California Baptist University is a top-tier faith-based university. The university believes that no students are the same and that everyone has a different purpose. To help students achieve personal and professional goals, CBU emphasizes a Christ-centered educational experience that incorporates academics with spiritual and social development opportunities.
The online Doctor of Social Work at CBU costs only $988 per credit hour, making it one of the most affordable DSW degrees. This program has three categories: (1) Christ-centered justice, (2) community participation and social innovation, and (3) global leadership. It is intended for social work practitioners who aspire to go into higher education, leadership/management, social work research, community wellness, and mental health. Students gain focus on research, social work entrepreneurship, leadership, and project development/implementation.
CBU is great at providing support and encouragement to its students through one-on-one advising and personal coaching.
California Baptist University is great for students who:
Are willing to commit to their studies and to God to establish their careers while maintaining a biblical worldview.
California Baptist University might not be the best fit for students who:
Want to attend a party school. CBU is a very conservative institution.
Tuition + fees
Barry University is a Catholic institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition. The academic community at Barry University is dedicated to providing students with the best possible undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. Barry is committed to fostering personal and societal growth through educational opportunities.
Barry’s online PhD in Social Work, costing $1,125 per credit hour, is a part-time online program created to train future leaders in trauma-informed leadership and practice. The foundation of the online PhD curriculum is leadership and practice informed by and trained in trauma. The theory and results of advanced social work practice are examined in the coursework.
The scholarship opportunities at Barry University are vast and varied. Doctoral students receive scholarships throughout their candidacy.
Barry University is great for students who:
Thrive in small environments and want to have personalized degree programs.
Barry University might not be the best fit for students who:
Want to become part of a big sorority or fraternity.
Tuition + fees
University of Kentucky’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Kentucky is a very large public research university ranked top in several rankings for its online degree programs. UK offers over 300 degree majors that lead to bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. As part of the school’s mission to help non-traditional students obtain a degree, the University of Kentucky created an online campus that offers the same academic rigor as its on-campus programs.
UK’s online Doctor of Social Work is for social work practitioners who want to advance as a leader in the industry. Students can choose one of four concentrations: Military Behavioral Health, Administrative Leadership, Clinical Social Work, or Social Work Education. This DSW degree program emphasizes research, theory, and practice, including a Core Plus series.
The program costs $715.50 per credit hour. Students applying to the UK’s DSW degree program are automatically considered candidates for scholarship opportunities.
The diversity of programs offered by this school is its strongest feature.
The University of Kentucky is great for students who:
Values solitude and prefers intimate settings for learning.
The University of Kentucky might not be the best fit for students who:
Want less diversity. Given the location, the school has a varied student body.