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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 seven required courses and five 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.

  • Social Welfare History
  • Theories of Mind, Personality, and Self in Society or Social Theory
  • Data Analysis I and II
  • Research Methodology I and II
  • One advanced statistics or methods course

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. Many students take both Social Theory and Theories of Mind, Personality, and Self in Society, with one fulfilling a requirement and the other counting as an elective. Other electives offered in the Ph.D. program include Economic Thought and Economic Inequality, Developmental Theory and Research: Child and Adolescent Well-being, Qualitative Analysis, The Science of Research Synthesis, and Teaching Learning Initiative in Pedagogy. In addition, with the permission of instructors, doctoral students can arrange tutorials in areas not covered by existing courses and can enroll in selected M.S.S. courses with enhanced expectations. Finally, students can enroll in relevant electives offered in the Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences at Bryn Mawr and at the University of Pennsylvania.


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. After admission to candidacy has been approved, students must pass preliminary examinations before proceeding to the dissertation. These consist of three written exams (four hours each) on the following fields:

  1. Social Work and Social Welfare: Past and Present
  2. Social Research
  3. Social or Behavioral Science Theory

A paper is also required on Social Work Practice (either Social Policy and Program Development or Clinical Theory and Research). Students are examined orally on the three written examinations and the paper.


Before proceeding to the actual dissertation work, each student meets with her or his 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.


Dissertations must be submitted by a specified date in order to qualify for the award of May or December degrees. These dates are stated annually on the Academic Calendar, and may vary from one year to another. After the dissertation has been received by members of the supervising committee, it is either accepted or rejected with recommendations for revision. 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.