PhD Program FAQs

As an overview to the Columbia School of Social Work’s doctoral program, we present the following Frequently Asked Questions. 

Who is eligible to apply for the doctoral program?

To be eligible for the CSSW Doctoral Program, an applicant must have:

  • A master’s degree in social work (strongly recommended for the Advanced Practice track) or a related discipline.
  • Excellent undergraduate and graduate academic records.
  • Demonstrated competence to undertake independent research.
  • For those applying to the Advanced Practice method, a minimum of two years of post-Masters direct practice experience is strongly preferred.

What are the program requirements?

Successful completion of the Doctoral Program requires approximately two years of full-time coursework followed by more concentrated work on an original, scholarly dissertation that contributes to and advances knowledge in the field of social work. Before proceeding to the dissertation, doctoral students must pass a qualifying comprehensive examination demonstrating mastery in integrating social science theory and research methodology within the student’s chosen field of substantive interest.

What does the curriculum consist of?

The curriculum comprises two to three advanced social work method courses at CUSSW, as well as courses in research methodology, statistics and the social sciences taken both in CUSSW and at various graduate divisions of Columbia University.

What is a typical doctoral program course load?

While much of the program is highly individualized, all students will be enrolled in approximately two full-time years of course work, plus time for tutorials, research projects, examinations, and dissertation work. All students also conduct an intensive individualized research practicum, or a research assistantship, in conjunction with a current faculty research project. For the complete descriptions of courses and program policies, go to Doctoral Program Resource Guide (PDF: 83 pages), which offers Sample Student Schedules.

How many students are typically enrolled in the program, and what kinds of backgrounds do they have?

Around 40 students are enrolled in the Ph.D. program. Approximately one-third of our students self-identify as members of groups traditionally underrepresented in academia. International students represent 30% of our student body. While the majority of students have a master’s in social work, many others have master’s degrees in related disciplines such as economics, education, and public policy.

What kinds of careers do graduates typically go into?

The majority of our graduates accept positions conducting research and/or teaching in universities and research institutions throughout the world. Other graduates choose to join governmental organizations or think tanks that conduct relevant social policy research and analysis. A few opt to re-enter the social services field in an executive capacity.

I still have questions, who should I contact?

For more information,please contact the associate director of the doctoral program, Jessica Troiano (; 212-851-2389) or the doctoral program chair, Dr. Qin Gao (