Contact Us |  

Search form

Main Menu

PhD Admissions FAQ

PhD Admissions: Frequently Asked Questions

About the Social Welfare PhD Program

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?

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.

Do you offer spring admission?

No, we do not offer spring admission. We have only one application cycle each year, taking place between September and December for admission the following fall.

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.

How can I connect with current doctoral students?

Browse current doctoral students and candidates, their research interests, and contact information on our PhD Students page.


Admission Requirements

Do I need research experience before I apply?

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.


Application Process

How do I apply to the Social Welfare PhD Program?

All applicants to graduate study at Berkeley apply online through Berkeley Graduate Admissions. A separate application to the School of Social Welfare is not required. All required application materials are uploaded directly to the online application. See our PhD Application Process page for complete instructions.

Should I reach out to prospective faculty mentors? What's the best way to initiate a conversation about opportunities to work with them?

Yes! We strongly encourage all potential applicants to doctoral study to research and reach out to prospective faculty mentors. The best way to initiate communication is by e-mail; see individual Faculty Profiles

How do I find out which faculty are accepting doctoral students in the current admissions cycle?

In your online application you will be required to enter the name of the faculty 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. See the list of Social Welfare PhD faculty advisers you may currently choose from under "Required Application Materials" on the PhD Application Process page.

When are applicants notified of their admission status?

All applicants to the PhD Program and Combined MSW/PhD Program will be notified of decisions and offers of funding support in early February.

I am having technical trouble with the online application. Who should I speak to?

Technical issues with the online application should be addressed to the UC Berkeley Graduate Division Admissions Office at


Application Statements

What is the difference between the Statement of Purpose and the Personal History Statement?

The Statement of Purpose should address your aptitude and motivation for doctoral study in your primary chosen area(s) of specialization. You should show us how you think about your area of interest and explain the ways in which you are prepared to make a significant contribution to the field of social welfare and the profession of social work. The statement should explain the nature of the contribution you intend to make through the clarification of your career goals. Please also be specific about why Berkeley would be a good intellectual fit for you and focus more generally on your professional past and future. For more guidelines see Writing the Statement of Purpose from Berkeley Graduate Admissions.

The Personal History Statement should address your personal background and how it informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information such as: evidence of overcoming barriers, how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of how your work has promoted equity, assessment of how you intend to promote equity in your future work, evidence of initiative and leadership. For more guidelines see Writing the Personal History Statement from Berkeley Graduate Admissions.

What are the departmental-specific prompts for the Social Welfare PhD Statement of Purpose?

Please review the Statement of Purpose requirements on our PhD Application Process page.


Exams and Exam Scores

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.

What is the last date I can take the GRE for my application to be considered?

For admission for Fall 2019, the last date on which you can take the GRE and be considered for admission is November 19, 2018, two weeks before the application deadline. Test scores from later dates will not be accepted. Please note that your scores must be from within the past five years.

Where do I send the GRE scores?

Please send your GRE scores to UC Berkeley Graduate Admissions, Institution Code 4833. You do not need to send it to a specific department or school.

Can I submit my application if my official GRE scores have not been received?

Yes, but your official GRE score report must be received by the application deadline. After you submit your online application, you will still be able to log in and check the status of the receipt of your GRE scores.


Letters of Recommendation

From whom should I request letters of recommendation?

For applicants to doctoral study, recommendations from individuals who have supervised your research and scholarly work (e.g., research project supervisors, thesis advisors, professors) tend to be the most useful to our selection process and should comprise the majority, if not all, letters.

Can I send an extra letter of recommendation?

We will accept four letters, provided that they all are unique and different perspectives on your fit for our program. Our letter of recommendation deadline is strict; your letters must be received by the admissions deadline. You may decide to request an extra letter from a fourth recommender in order to ensure that at least three are received by the deadline.

Can I submit my application if my letters of recommendation have not been received?

Yes, but your letters of recommendations must be received by the application deadline. After you submit your online application, you will still be able to log in and check the status of the receipt of your recommendation letters.

My recommender is having trouble submitting the letter. What should they do?

Please ask them to contact us directly at


Student Support

How much does it cost to attend graduate school at Berkeley?

For the most current tuition and fee schedule, please visit the Registrar's Registration Fees.

Social Welfare PHD students are assessed "Graduate Academic Fees."

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

Berkeley Social Welfare typically offers a competitive financial support package for doctoral students that will usually include four years of funding support. Most funding packages generaly include fellowships for tuition and fees; academic student employment as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) or Graduate Student Instructor (GSI); and fellowship support for a living expense stipend. 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 Financial Support for Doctoral Students page.

Where do graduate students live? What housing is available for doctoral students?

Berkeley's location in the highly desirable Bay Area means housing costs can be high, especially for students. Begin exploring housing options as far in advance as possible. Most graduate students live in off-campus rental housing in Berkeley or one of the surrounding communities. University owned and operated housing is also offered on and off campus, for both individuals and families.


Berkeley Graduate Admissions FAQ

PhD Admissions Overview | PhD Admission Requirements | PhD Application Process