PhD Program

Our PhD in Social Work Program

The Columbia School of Social Work’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program has produced many of the world’s most influential leaders in social work and social welfare scholarship since its inception in 1950. The program is offered by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and administered by the School of Social Work. It prepares candidates for careers as researchers, scholars and educators. Doctoral students can choose from three concentrations:
  • Advanced Practice
  • Social Policy and Policy Analysis
  • Social Policy and Administration (currently not accepting new applications)
Candidates will also take advanced social work courses and a wide range of courses offered in other Columbia professional schools. A PhD in Social Work candidate will complete approximately two years of full-time coursework, master content in a social work method, a related behavioral or social science, and a substantive field of practice, and prepare and defend a dissertation. To learn more about the concentrations, coursework, registration, and dissertation stages at Columbia School of Social Work, check out to the Doctoral Program Resource Guide.

PhD Program Resources

The deadline for the Fall 2024 PhD Program admissions process is December 15th, 2023. **The GRE is not currently required to be considered for admission.** If you are interested in learning more, you are welcome to review the presentation slides used in our recent PhD Program Information Session. The 2023–2024 PhD Candidates Booklet outlines the topics current PhD candidates are working on.

Questions? Head to our FAQ page or contact Director of Administration Jessica Troiano (; 212-851-2389) or the Associate Dean for Doctoral Education, Dr. Qin Gao (; 212-851-2227).

Are you a current PhD student at Columbia School of Social Work? For notices on upcoming events and job opportunities, check out our CourseWorks site.

Alumni Testimonials

Lucy CabreraLucy Cabrera (PhD’00), former President & CEO of the Food Bank for New York City: “I was already working at the Food Bank when I applied to Columbia’s doctoral program. I felt strongly that a PhD would help me strengthen the Food Bank’s work. That instinct proved to be accurate.”
Charles lewisCharles E. Lewis, Jr. (PhD’02), President, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Public Policy:My PhD is in social policy analysis. I eventually found my niche on Capitol Hill, where I had the opportunity to create the Congressional Social Work Caucus, and now there’s an institute to complement the caucus’s work. We strive to bring social work research to bear on federal policymaking.”
Matt EppersonMatt Epperson (PhD’09), Assistant Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago: “The most valuable aspect of my doctoral training at Columbia was the mentoring and hands-on research experience that I received working with Dr. Nabila El-Bassel and the whole Social Intervention Group team. Working with these top-notch researchers gave me a vast array of valuable experiences, including developing research designs and protocols, conducting pilot studies in real-world environments, and learning how to do grant-writing, all in the context of working within an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners. At the same time, SIG nurtured the passion that was driving my doctoral research: the need for making socially just changes in our criminal justice system.”
pal-webIpshita Pal, current doctoral student, Social Policy and Policy Analysis track: “The best feature of doing my doctoral research at the Columbia School of Social Work has been the incredible mentoring and research training I have received. Where else would you have the chance to collaborate with the top scholar in your practicum and have that work highlighted in the media, in policy advocacy materials by various non-profits and multinational organizations, and published in a peer-reviewed journal even before you graduate?”