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PhD Curriculum and Degree Requirements

2016-17 Doctoral Student Handbook

2. PhD Curriculum and Degree Requirements

2.1 Degree Requirements
2.2 Program Outcomes
2.3 Required Coursework
2.4 Independent and Group Study Courses
2.5 First Year Competency Exam
2.6 Area Statement
2.7 Qualifying Examination
2.8 Dissertation

2.9 Time-to-Degree


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.


2.1 Degree Requirements

To be granted the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare, students must satisfy all of the following requirements:

  1. 1) Complete a course of study in the school and related departments of the University specified by the school, designed to achieve proficiency in the areas of social work theory, social welfare policy and/or administration, history and philosophies of social welfare, and social research methods.
  2. 2) Pass qualifying examinations indicating proficiency in the areas mentioned above.
  3. 3) Pass an oral examination before a committee appointed in accordance with rules of the Graduate Council.
  4. 4) Be admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy according to procedures established by the Academic Senate.
  5. 5) Complete a dissertation dealing with some problem of significance to the field of social welfare and of such character as to show power to prosecute independent investigation.
  6. 6) Spend a minimum of at least two years of graduate study in residence at the University of California, Berkeley.


2.2 Program Outcomes

Berkeley doctoral students become proficient in research methodology and experts in their area of interest, and ultimately demonstrate scholarly competence by publishing their dissertation. Students successfully completing the PhD in Social Welfare are able to:

  1. 1) Demonstrate mastery of a broad base of knowledge in social welfare.
  2. 2) Demonstrate mastery of a deep base of knowledge of their subject area.
  3. 3) Demonstrate their capacity to make an original contribution to the field of knowledge in their subject area.
  4. 4) Demonstrate capacity to engage in the activities required of a productive research career (e.g., research, publications, presentations, grant writing, etc.)


2.3 Required Coursework

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. All of the required coursework listed below must be completed prior to the Qualifying Examination.


Coursework in Statistics

Doctoral students are required to complete a minimum of 16 units of coursework in statistics prior to taking the Qualifying Examination. Courses recommended to satisfy this requirement are listed below. Students entering the program with significant previous coursework or background in statistics should consult with the doctoral chair to determine an alternative course of study.


Social Welfare Coursework

SOC WEL 279: Seminar in the History and Philosophy of Social Welfare - Taken in fall of first semester in doctoral program. Must be taken for a letter grade.
SOC WEL 287: Research Methods and Techniques in Social Welfare
SOC WEL 289A: Research Resources and Processes - Must be taken for a letter grade.
SOC WEL 295: Dissertation Seminar


Elective in Qualitative or Quantitative Research

This elective is required before taking the qualifying examination. While it is usually taken in the second year, a qualitative research elective may be taken in the first year before completion of the required statistics sequence. Students are encouraged, though not required, to take statistics or research methods courses throughout their doctoral studies.

Open the tab below to see the list of courses currently approved by the Doctoral Curriculum Review Committee as research electives. Students may request approval of a course not on this list by bringing a syllabus to the Chair of the Doctoral Curriculum Committee.

Electives in Qualitative & Quantitative Research

Be sure to check with the offering department to make sure a course in which you are interested will be offered in any given semester.

African-American Studies
AFRICAM 201A: Interdisciplinary Research Methods of African-American Studies
AFRICAM 201B: Qualitative Research Methods of African-American Studies

ANTHRO 169B: Research Theory and Methods in Socio-Cultural Anthropology (Ethnology)
ANTHRO 211A (UCSF): Ethnographic Methods
ANTHRO 250J: Ethnographic Methods

City and Regional Planning
CY PLAN 204A-D: Analytic and Research Methods for Planners
CY PLAN 280B: Advanced Methods: Qualitative Research

EDUC 228A: AQualitative Methodology
EDUC 271B: Theory and Methods in Qualitative Research
EDUC 271G: Research Methods in Educational Leadership: Qualitative
EDUC 273A: Qualitative Evaluation and Research
EDUC 274A: Measurement in Education and Social Services I
EDUC 275G: Hierarchical and Longitudinal Modeling
EDUC 276A: Models and Methods of Evaluation
EDUC 280C/280D: Research Apprenticeship: The Conduct of Ethnographic Inquiry

INFO 272: Qualitative Research Methods of Systems and Management

Interdisciplinary Studies Field
ISF 189: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research Methods

Public Health
PB HLTH 201F: Community-Based Research and Interventions to Promote Health
PB HLTH 218B: Evaluation of Health and Social Programs
PB HLTH 219A: Qualitative Research
PB HLTH 219B: Advanced Methods: Interview and Questionnaire Design
PB HLTH 219C: Community Based Participatory Research
PB HLTH 219D: Introduction to Survey Methods
PB HLTH 219E: Intro to Qualitative and Multi-Method Research
PB HLTH 231A: Research Methods for Health Services
​PB HLTH 240A: Biostatistical Methods: Advanced Categorical Data Analysis
PB HLTH 240B: Biostatistical Methods: Survival Analysis and Causality
PB HLTH 241: Statistical Analysis of Categorical Data
PB HLTH 242C: Longitudinal Data Analysis
PB HLTH 245: Introduction to Multivariate Statistics
PB HLTH 251D: Applied Epidemiology Using R
PB HLTH 252: Epidemiological Analysis
PB HLTH 293.19: Applied Econometrics

Political Science
POL SCI 239: Selected Topics in Methodology: Qualitative

PSYCH 205A/205B: Psychological Statistics and Analysis

Public Policy
PUB POL 279: Research Design and Data Collection for Public Policy Analysis

SOCIOL 272D: Quantitative Statistical Research
SOCIOL 272F: Interview Methods
SOCIOL 273D: Advanced Seminars in Research Methods- Quantitative Statistical Research
SOCIOL 273E: Participant Observation
SOCIOL 273F: Interview Methods (advanced)
SOCIOL 285 (UCSF): Qualitative Research Methods

STAT 151A: Linear Modeling: Theory and Applications
​STAT C261: Quantitative/ Statistical Research Methods in Social Science


Elective in Social Science Theory

PhD students are required to complete coursework focused on basic discipline social science theory, and are required to enroll in at least one course.  At the discretion of the committee chair, students may use independent study units (SOC WEL 296) in the examination theory area toward the satisfaction of this requirement. The chair of the qualifying examination must verify that this requirement has been satisfied before a student may apply for the examination.

Open the tab below to see a non-exhaustive list of sample social science theory coursework offered at UC Berkeley. Students may request approval of a course not on this list by bringing a syllabus to the Chair of the Doctoral Curriculum Committee.

Electives in Social Science Theory

Be sure to check with the offering department to make sure a course in which you are interested will be offered in any given semester.

ECON 100A&B: Economic Analysis-Micro & Macro
ECON 101A&B: Economic Theory-Micro &Macro
ECON 202A&B: Macroeconomic Theory

EDUC 211A: Development, Learning, and Instruction in Cultural Context
EDUC 211B: Social and Emotional Development
EDUC 211C: Advanced Human Development and Education

Political Economy
POLECON 100: Classical Theories of Political Economy

Political Science
POL SCI 209A: Comparative Political Economy
POL SCI 280A: Public Organization Theory

PSYCH 234A: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theory
PSYCH 234B: Theories of Child and Family Therapy
PSYCH 234C: Theories of Community Intervention
PSYCH C240A: Biological & Perceptual Development
PSYCH 240C: Cognitive Development
PSYCH250B: Perspectives in Personality
PSYCH 260A/B: Proseminar Course in Social Psychology
PSYCH 290: Various Seminars

Public Health
PB HLTH 201A: Social & Cultural Perspectives in Public Health
PB HLTH 201C: Health, Behavior, and the Family
PB HLTH 202A: Social Movements and Public Health
PB HLTH 202B: Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Health Status
PB HLTH 202F: Advanced Social and Cultural Theory

Social Welfare
SOC WEL 210B: Infant Development
SOC WEL 210C: Aging Processes
SOC WEL 293: Social Welfare Theory

SOCIOL 201: Sociological Theory
SOCIOL 202: Advanced Study in Sociology Theory
SOCIOL 202A: Classical Sociological Theory
SOCIOL 202B: Contemporary Sociological Theory
SOCIOL 202C: Systematic Sociological Theory


2.4 Independent and Group Study Courses

Independent Study/Research tutorials and small group seminars are particularly helpful to the preparation required for your qualifying examination. 

SOCWEL 296: Individual Study for Graduate Students
Individual Study (aka independent study) units are taken with specific faculty when working on your Area Statement, and any project undertaken before advancement to candidacy. 

SOCWEL 298: Group Study for Graduate Students
Most elective graduate seminars for doctoral students in the School of Social Welfare are offered under the broad course designation SOCWEL 298-Group Study for Graduate Students. Topics will vary from term to term. If four or more students are interested in pursuing a particular topic, they may ask a faculty member to offer a seminar.

How to Arrange an Independent Study Course

1. Download the “Petition for Independent Study/Independent Research Proposal" form.

2. Complete the top portion of the form and bring it to your faculty supervisor.  Discuss your proposal, negotiate topics, assignments, the number of units to be earned, grading option, and number of hours per week you expect to be working with your faculty supervisor.

3. Once you and the faculty supervisor have signed the form, turn in the form to the Graduate Programs Advisor (GSAO Joshua Dullaghan) in 120 Haviland Hall.

4. The Graduate Programs Advisor will e-mail you the Class Number for the SOC WEL 296/299 course assigned to that faculty member.

5. Enroll in SOC WEL 296/299 units through CalCentral using the Class Number provided.

Independent Study forms are due by the Friday of the 3rd week of instruction for the fall and spring semester. They are due one week prior to the Summer Session Add Deadline.
Late additions are not allowed. 


2.5 First Year Competency Exam

Students will be required to demonstrate mastery of a broad base of knowledge in social welfare at the end of the first year in the program. During the summer following the first year in the program, students will be required to complete a comprehensive exam based upon knowledge gained in SW 279 and SW 289A. Students will be given one-week to complete the written exam. The exam will be graded by a committee of doctoral faculty, blind to the student. 

Students who do not pass the exam (C- or better) will be recommended to the Graduate Division for academic probation; they will have an opportunity to re-take the exam at the end of the following Fall semester. Students who do not pass the second exam will be subject to dismissal from the program by the Graduate Division.


2.6 Area Statement

Prior to the Qualifying Examination all Social Welfare doctoral students are required to complete and submit an Area Statement. 

In the Area Statement, students are expected to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge in an approved social problem area. The statement should distill students’ knowledge of (a) the scope and significance of the social problem, (b) theories about the root of the social problem, (c) empirical evidence relevant to understanding and solving the problem, and (d) implications for social welfare research, practice, and policy. 

The Area Statement should synthesize evidence relevant to the social problem with theoretical and methodological rigor - and build a solid foundation for an extended body of academic work. The topic should be broad enough to provide the student with a strong foundation in an area of study - and deep enough to support a specific research agenda. The Area Statement is not a descriptive literature review for a single research project; instead, it is a theory-grounded synthesis of research - one that makes a compelling case for addressing a critical gap in knowledge in a future program of research.  

The Area Statement Chair and Committee

The Area Statement Chair collaborates with the student to determine an appropriate (a) topic, including level of scope or focus (balancing breadth vs. depth concerns), and (b) general length for the Area Statement. The Area Statement Committee is composed of the Area Statement Chair and two other committee members (including the future Dissertation Chair). Two of the three Area Statement Committee members must be senate faculty in the School of Social Welfare. The entire committee must approve the Area Statement before submission, and serve as committee members on the student’s qualifying examination. 

Area Statement Timeline

Students typically begin drafting an outline for the Area Statement during the second semester of their first year in the program. Students should develop a bibliography of relevant works during the Spring semester and summer months of Year I in the doctoral program. In the Fall semester of Year II, students should enroll in Independent Study (SOCWEL 296) units with their Area Statement Chair and begin drafting the Area Statement. Students are expected to complete the Area Statement by the end of the Fall semester, Year III and take the Qualifying Exam by the end of the Spring semester, Year III.


2.7 Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination is administered by the Graduate Division on behalf of the Graduate Council. Committee membership and the conduct of the examination are accordingly subject to the Graduate Division’s review and approval.

The Qualifying Examination in Social Welfare is a three-hour oral exam addressing your mastery of knowledge related to the Area Statement. The Qualifying Exam is administered by the Area Statement Chair and Committee. 

Social Welfare doctoral students are expected to take the Qualifying Exam by the end of the Spring semester, Year III.  

Considering both the written materials and your performance in the oral examination, the committee reports the results to the Graduate Division. When passed, this examination marks your completion of required course work, mastery of a field of study, and readiness to proceed to the dissertation. In the event of a not-pass for the exam, and with committee approval, you may repeat the examination, no earlier than three months after the first examination unless an exception is approved by the Associate Dean of the Graduate Division.

Eligibility to Take the Qualifying Exam

To be eligible to take the Qualifying Exam, you must:

1. have completed all coursework required for the Social Welfare PhD degree;

2. have satisfactorily completed the Area Statement;

3. have at least a B average in all work undertaken in graduate standing, and have no more than one grade of ‘Incomplete’ on your academic record;

4. have formulated a Qualifying Examination Committee of Academic Senate faculty members eligible to serve on higher degree committees; and

5. be registered and enrolled for the semester in which the exam is taken or, if it is taken during the winter or summer intersessions, be registered in either the preceding or the following semester (the exam may be taken up to the last day before the beginning of the next term).


Eligibility Period for the Qualifying Exam

Per Graduate Division policy, once an application for admission to the Qualifying Examination is approved by the Graduate Division, the program has 18 months to administer the examination. Eligibility continues if the student fails on the first attempt but is recommended for reexamination. If the student does not take the examination during the 18-month period, he or she must file a new application.


Applying to Take the Qualifying Examination

At the start of the semester in which you plan to take your Qualifying Examination, you should contact the Graduate Programs Advisor to discuss the process in detail. In addition to completing any outstanding eligibility requirements, it is YOUR responsibility to:

1. Coordinate a common date and time between you and your Qualifying Examination committee to hold the Qualifying Examination.

2. Reserve a room in Haviland with the Receptionist & Scheduler (120 Haviland) for a 3-hour timeslot to hold the Qualifying Examination.

3. Submit the “Application for Qualifying Examination” to Graduate Division at least three weeks prior to the examination.

Students must apply to take the Qualifying Examination no later than three weeks before the examination date, to allow the Graduate Division time to review and approve the application. Students must list on their applications at least three subject areas to be covered during the examination.

Approval of the proposed committee by the Graduate Division is absolutely required before the exam may take place. An examination held before the student and the committee members have been notified by the Graduate Division of admission to the Qualifying Examination will not be accepted, and the committee will need to wait for approval and administer an approved examination.

For information checklists and other required application materials for the Qualifying Examination please seee Academic Resources.


Qualifying Exam Committee

The Qualifying Examination is conducted by a committee of Academic Senate faculty members proposed by you in consultation with your adviser, and approved by the Dean of the Graduate Division. Per Graduate Division policy the Qualifying Exam Committee must include:

  • Chair
  • One Academic Senate Representative chosen from outside the department
  • At least two Additional Members.

For doctoral students in Social Welfare, the Area Statement Chair and Committee are functionally the student’s Qualifying Examination Chair and Committee, subject to the following requirements:

  • The majority of Qualifying Examination Committee members (at least 50%) must be Social Welfare faculty members of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate.
  • Your Area Statement/Qualifying Examination Chair cannot serve as your Dissertation Chair.
  • There cannot be Co-Chairs for the Qualifying Exam.
  • If a student is reexamined, the committee for the second examination must be the same as for the first exam.

Qualifying Exam Results

Following your examination, the Chair of the Qualifying Examination coordinates the voting process, collects votes and signatures, and submits the form to the Graduate Programs Advisor.

All members of the Qualifying Examination Committee must be present to vote on the exam and each member is expected to vote on the student’s performance during the entire examination. The Committee should make every attempt to reach a unanimous decision. The report should reflect the student’s performance on the exam. It is not appropriate to add conditions to the examination verdict related to the dissertation topic, how the research should be conducted, who should be the chair, or how the student will be supported during the research phase.

The grading options possible for the Qualifying Examination are described below:

The committee agrees that the student has satisfied the qualifying examination requirement and there is no split vote.

Partial Failure:
A partial failure occurs if the Qualifying Examination Committee votes unanimously that the student passed some topics but failed others. In this instance, the following apply:

  1. 1) A second and final examination is required.
  2. 2) The chair of the committee must write a letter to the student with information about his or her performance (pass or fail) on each of the three subject areas covered during the examination with a copy to the Graduate Division.
  3. 3) The committee may choose to examine the student on all topics or only on those failed during the first exam, but must communicate its decision to the student and the Graduate Division in the letter regarding the student’s performance.
  4. 4) The retake must be scheduled no earlier than three months after the first examination unless an exception is approved by the Associate Dean of the Graduate Division.  A third exam is not permitted.

Split Vote:
If the exam results in a split vote, the committee chair must request, and each committee member must write, a detailed assessment of the student’s performance for submission to the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council. The committee should only inform the student that the matter was sent to the Administrative Committee for a final decision. The student has neither passed nor failed the exam until the Administrative Committee decides the results.

Total Failure:
A total failure occurs if the Qualifying Examination Committee votes unanimously that the student failed the entire examination. The committee either: 1) recommends that the student take a second and final examination on all examination topics, or 2) does not recommend reexamination, which will result in the student’s dismissal.

If a second and final examination is recommended, the following apply:

  1. 1) The committee must submit its “Report to the Graduate Division on the Qualifying Examination” with its recommendation,
  2. 2) Committee membership for the student’s retake must be the same as for the first exam,
  3. 3) The department must wait three months after the first examination before scheduling the retake unless an exception is approved by the Associate Dean (Graduate Services: Degrees, 318 Sproul Hall #5900),
  4. 4) A third examination is not permitted. If the committee wishes to suggest preparation for the second examination through additional course work or special tutoring, this must be communicated to the student in writing with a copy to the Graduate Division.

If the committee does not recommend a reexamination, the consequence of which is a recommendation to the Graduate Division for the student’s dismissal, a written explanation by the committee chair must accompany the completed “Report to the Graduate Division on the Qualifying Examination” and be sent to Graduate Services: Degrees, 318 Sproul Hall #5900.


2.8 Dissertation

Your dissertation is the final demonstration of your scholarly, research, and professional abilities during your doctoral studies. It should provide an original contribution to knowledge in the field.

Dissertation Committee

Your Dissertation Committee is required to have:

  • A Chair or Co-Chairs 
  • One Academic Senate Representative chosen from outside the department
  • Addtional Members.

Additional Members may be added to meet the requirement that at least half of the members of all higher degree committees must be members of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate in the student’s degree granting program.

Your Dissertation Chair cannot be the same person who served as your Area Statement/Qualifying Exam Committee Chair. 

You are required to meet with your dissertation committee to consider your prospectus following your qualifying examination and before you begin your research. This meeting should occur within one month of the qualifying exam or as soon as is practical. The meeting is an opportunity to identify and correct possible problems in your research design and clarify your committee members' expectations, thus ensuring a feasible plan.

We recommend that the content of this meeting include (but not be limited to):

  • Agreement that the dissertation prospectus is “approved.” (Additional meetings may be required if the prospectus is not approved.)
  • Discussion regarding the role of each member on the committee.
  • Discussion regarding data access, permissions, human subjects, and analysis.
  • Discussion regarding timelines for completion.
  • Discussion regarding communication among and between committee members concerning student progress and standards for completion.

If you and your dissertation chair agree that sufficient discussion with your committee has already occurred, you may request that this requirement be waived by submitting a statement to this effect, signed by both you and your dissertation chair, to the Doctoral Committee Chair for approval. Further meetings during the dissertation phase are strongly encouraged; you should continue to consult regularly with your committee members and keep them informed of the progress of your work. They can also assist you should you wish to publish or present parts of your dissertation.


Preparing and Filing Your Dissertation

In order to protect faculty from the pressure of rush reviews and students from unreasonable delays in feedback, the Doctoral Committee has established three weeks as the expected time between a committee member's receipt of a draft and its return to the student. You should, however, discuss this matter with your committee chair to determine if scheduling constraints will make an alternate time period necessary.

Social Welfare doctoral candidates planning to file a dissertation should provide a completed draft to all of their committee members at least two months in advance of their anticipated filing date.

Additionally, you should check with your committee members to determine if this is sufficient time; it may not be.  You should also anticipate that you will be asked to make at least one round of revisions.

After you have written your dissertation, formatted and assembled it correctly, and obtained your final approval signatures, you are ready to file it with UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division. No additional "oral defense" of your dissertation is required, although students are strongly encouraged to offer a brief oral presentation or poster of their dissertation findings at the annual Haviland Scholars Day celebration held every spring in the School of Social Welfare.


2.9 Time-to-Degree

The time it takes to obtain the PhD degree will generally vary according to your previous preparation, your progress in the program, and the nature of your dissertation research. 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. This is known as "normative time." “Normative time” refers to the elapsed time (calculated to the nearest semester) that students would need to complete all requirements for the doctorate.

For Combined MSW/PhD students, normative time is 12 semesters.

Social Welfare doctoral students who have not taken their qualifying exams by the end of their 8th semester, or who otherwise fail to make normal progress, may be recommended to the Graduate Division for academic probation. Once placed on academic probation, Graduate Division gives students one semester to take their qualifying exams. If the exams have not been taken by the end of this time period, the Graduate Division may give students an additional semester of academic probation upon their advisor’s recommendation.

If students have not taken their qualifying exams by the end of the 12th semester, they are subject to recommendation for dismissal from the program by the Graduate Division. Academic probation may be waived upon the recommendation of the student’s adviser if extenuating circumstances prevail.


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