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Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research
300 Airdale Road
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-1697
Phone: 610-520-2600
Fax: 610-520-2655

Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Ph.D. curriculum emphasizes theory and an unbiased approach to methods, and seeks to integrate the domains of social work and social welfare. Ph.D. students must complete 12 courses, including ten required courses and two electives. The required courses are designed to balance theoretical training with training in data collection methods and quantitative and qualitative analysis. Required courses ensure that each candidate leaves Bryn Mawr with the intellectual preparation essential to beginning a successful scholarly career in social work and social welfare. Electives provide opportunities for advanced study in a number of different areas. Students can take approved courses at the GSSWSR, enroll in a tutorial with faculty approval, and/or enroll in appropriate classes at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Bryn Mawr or at the University of Pennsylvania

  • Introduction to the American Social Welfare History and Policy
  • Applied Developmental Theory and Translational Research
  • Social Theory
  • Data Analysis I
  • Data Analysis II
  • Research Methodology I
  • Research Methodology II
  • Qualitative Inquiry: Methods
  • Qualitative Inquiry: Analysis
  • Pedagogy

In consultation with his or her adviser, each doctoral student designs a program of study that builds on the foundation established by the required courses. Electives provide opportunities for advanced study in a number of different areas.


When course requirements are nearly completed, students apply to the doctoral faculty for formal admission to candidacy for the degree. A supervising committee is then formed to evaluate the student’s performance on the preliminary examinations and to guide work toward the dissertation. The supervising committee consists of a Director of Work plus three additional faculty. It is chaired by a member of Bryn Mawr College’s faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Four (4) comprehensive exams will be given. Each exam is associated with completion of core course areas.


A qualifying paper is required as the preliminary exam. Students are examined orally by their supervising committee on the qualifying paper.


Before proceeding to the actual dissertation work, each student meets with their supervising committee to review a proposal summarizing the scope of the research and the method(s) to be followed. Once a dissertation proposal is approved by the supervising committee, students are expected to keep committee members informed of all substantial changes. All dissertation proposals must undergo review by the College’s Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects.


Once a dissertation is accepted by the committee, the student proceeds to the oral Final Examination on the content of the dissertation.

Enrolled Ph.D. students are expected to refer to the Ph.D. Operating Procedures for detailed information on the program.