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Doctoral Program

PhD in Social Welfare

Berkeley Social Welfare develops doctoral scholars who challenge conventional wisdom and make significant contributions to the field of social welfare and the profession of social work through excellent research, teaching, policy development, and administration.

Our doctoral graduates are prepared to tackle the most difficult social problems we face, contributing to new knowledge in areas as wide-ranging as poverty, severe mental health, racial and ethnic inequalities, and health. They form a cadre of researchers who are developing new ideas about service systems that can help children, families, and communities to develop and thrive.

With over 300 graduates of our doctoral program, our School produces top-notch professors and researchers for some of the best social work schools and policy centers throughout the country and around the globe.


Doctoral Study in Social Welfare

Doctoral students in Social Welfare pursue an individualized program of work tailored to their intellectual interests and aligned with specialized research areas of faculty mentors and supervisors. In reviewing applications to our doctoral program, we seek to determine whether the applicant’s particular objectives can be met in our program and at Berkeley.

Click on a link below to learn more about the specialized research areas at Berkeley Social Welfare and the faculty currently conducting research in these areas:

Systems of Care for Children/Families/Elderly
Focuses on the provision of services to meet the developing needs of children, families and the elderly. Spectrum of needs include safety, health, education and well-being.

Behavioral Health and Prevention/Intervention
Focused on advancing understanding of mental, emotional and behavioral health problems. Emphasis on informing prevention, intervention and recovery services.

Community, Organizational and Policy Development
Addresses macro-level issues in developing systems and policy. Emphases include social security reform, service delivery systems and international comparative studies.

Violence and Victimization
Designed to advance understanding of violence and inform strategies that promote safety. Specific emphases include bullying, self-harm, domestic violence, crime and social conflict.

Health and Healthcare Disparities
Addresses how population groups differ in health, access to care and quality of care. Focuses on social and economic opportunities that help explain why some groups are healthier than others.

Race, Class and Gender
Specializations above are woven together by cross-cutting population emphases — on race/ethnicity, gender/sexual orientation/sexual identity and socioeconomic class.


Program of Work

Berkeley Social Welfare’s doctoral program is designed to inspire independence and originality of thought in pursuit of knowledge. Students design their academic pursuits in consultation with individual faculty from the School of Social Welfare and additional distinguished departments across the Berkeley campus. 

Doctoral course work includes seminars in research methods, statistics, theory and other related courses, along with individual tutorials with faculty. Required courses for doctoral students focus primarily on research methodology. In addition, students enroll in elective courses, seminars, and independent tutorials useful for mastering selected fields of study, preparing papers and bibliographies for the qualifying examination, and developing competence in research methods. Students are also encouraged to select courses from the rich and varied offerings in other University departments.

A minimum of three years is necessary to complete the program (two years of full-time course work and one year for the dissertation) although most students require a longer period. In Social Welfare, it is expected that all doctoral students will complete the PhD degree within 10 semesters, having taken the Qualifying Exam by the end of the 3rd year and filed the dissertation by the end of the 5th year.


Applying to the PhD Program in Social Welfare

Research at Berkeley Social Welfare

Student Funding