Frequently Asked Questions - PhD Admissions

How long does it take to get a PhD at Berkeley?

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

Do you offer a part-time PhD program?

No. The Social Welfare PhD Program is a full-time program. All doctoral students are expected to be enrolled full-time (12 units per term) until passing the Qualifying Examination.

I am interested in an advanced clinical degree in social work. Is your doctoral program right for me?

The Berkeley PhD in Social Welfare is a research degree. If you are looking for a doctoral degree oriented towards advanced clinical practice in social work, you might consider programs offering the DSW degree, which is not offered at Berkeley.

Do I need research experience before I apply to the PhD program?

Paths to doctoral training can be quiet diverse, but many applicants have held multiple research positions and/or long-term involvement in research prior to applying to the doctoral or combined program. Your application should clearly demonstrate all the ways in which you have participated in research processes and/or developed skills relevant for research.

What financial support is available for PhD students in Social Welfare?

Berkeley Social Welfare offers a competitive funding package for newly admitted doctoral students that will typically include three years of departmental support, plus an additional year of support from the Graduate Division Doctoral Completion Fellowship available upon becoming eligible.

Doctoral support packages normally include payment of tuition and fees (including student health insurance), plus an annual allowance for living expense support (currently estimated at $28,000 per academic year), funded through a combination of academic student employment as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) and/or Graduate Student Researcher (GSR), and university or departmental fellowship award(s). 

Details of funding support package offers are provided to admitted students upon acceptance. Doctoral students are also encouraged to apply for additional fellowships and extramural awards to support their graduate study as necessary. For more information please see our guide to Financing Your Graduate Degree.

Should I reach out to potential faculty mentors? How do I initiate a conversation about working with them?

Yes! We strongly encourage all prospective applicants to doctoral study to research and reach out to faculty who could possibly serve as mentors. The best way to initiate communication is by e-mail; browse our People pages for faculty contact information.

How do I find out which doctoral faculty are able to service as my mentor?

In your online application, you will be required to enter the name of the faculty member(s) you wish to work with, and whose research best reflects your interests. You will also be asked to briefly state why you chose these faculty members and why you chose them in your particular rank order. The list of Social Welfare PhD faculty advisers you may currently choose from may be found under "Faculty Adviser Choice" on the PhD Admissions Application instructions page.

What do you look for on the GRE scores?

There is no required minimum score on the GRE. Previous successful applicants have typically scored above the 70th percentile on the Verbal section, and above the 50th percentile on the Quantitative section.