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PhD in Social Welfare

PhD Admissions Webinar!
Click on the links below to learn about our PhD program and admissions process:
Webinar Slides
Webinar Audiorecording

Berkeley Social Welfare’s doctoral program is designed to inspire independence and originality of thought in pursuit of knowledge. Students design and pursue an individualized program of work tailored to their intellectual interests and aligned with specialized research areas of faculty mentors and supervisors from the School of Social Welfare and additional distinguished departments across the Berkeley campus.


Doctoral coursework includes seminars in research methods, statistics, theory and other related areas. 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 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 Combined MSW/PhD Program option is also available specifically for individuals who possess a strong interest in and exceptional capacity for research and scholarly work; and who wish to pursue a continuous program of graduate study leading to the MSW and the PhD degrees.

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.

Research Areas

Click on a link below to learn more about Berkeley Social Welfare research areas and the doctoral 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.

PhD Admissions | Resources for Current Students