You’ve spent years learning from those you serve and gaining valuable social work experience. Now, extend your expertise into program management, applied research, nonprofit leadership, or university-based teaching. The Doctorate of Social Work degree (DSW) from Tulane University School of Social Work provides knowledge and leadership skills to design, evaluate, and implement effective programs and policies.
Tulane’s DSW program is for working professionals and maintains Tulane’s prestige and commitment to excellence. Our program provides:
- One weekend a month classes on campus
- Curriculum that enhances critical thinking, formalizes knowledge, increases capacity, and deepens understanding of research methods
- Advanced clinical research in a practice area of your choice, culminating in a project to expand, integrate, and evaluate existing professional knowledge
- Experiential approach that incorporates apprenticeship, mentoring, active learning, and immersion in a community of scholars
- Opportunity to learn and generate knowledge alongside top-tier faculty
- Development of a strong peer network, even over long distances
- Personalized support and resources to ensure student success
The Doctorate of Social Work curriculum emphasizes noting and building upon individual and community strengths. We teach a culturally relevant social work practice (CRSWP) that prioritizes the field’s responsiveness to cultural contexts and enables us to engage in and train on competent, ethical, community-led assessments and interventions.
You can maintain their current professional and personal responsibilities while continuing to grow in an individually-focused environment, accelerated curriculum, and experiential learning model. You can satisfy all degree requirements in three years without career disruption, and you may choose between on-campus or online options.
Mission, Vision & History
The Doctorate of Social Work program prepares students for excellence in advanced clinical and community practice and develops scholars who create and disseminate knowledge on social work with diverse populations, including those most vulnerable to social injustice, discrimination, and poverty – conditions that deprive people of access to economic, social, and psychological resources. Graduates will be able to expand, integrate, and evaluate the existing professional knowledge base for effective social work. To accomplish this mission, the program is committed to an experiential approach that incorporates apprenticeship, mentoring, active learning, and immersion in a community of scholars.
The DSW program extends the mission of the Master of Social Work (MSW) program by expanding on the existing skill set of MSW-level social workers. While both maintain commitments to vulnerable populations and social justice, the doctorate program expands the skill set procured in the master’s program and at least three years of full-time practice experience. Because the MSW is the terminal degree in social work, additional training is needed for those clinicians who want to extend their expertise into program management, innovative therapies, private practice, or university-based teaching.
With their unique blend of clinical experience and extensive training in clinical practice, DSW program graduates are well-suited for a variety of advanced professional positions, including management of social service programs and social work instruction at the undergraduate and master’s level.
The DSW develops leaders in clinical practice and teaching who apply innovative and critical thinking to pressing social, economic, and environmental problems, especially in urban areas, and collaborate with practitioners in an array of related disciplines.
What follows is a list of skills that the DSW program actively cultivates through coursework, clinical experience, internships, mentoring, research experiences, and other activities.
Organizational, Management, and Leadership Skills
- Strong oral and written communication skills
- Ability to identify problems, formulate alternatives, and promote change
- Knowledge of effective ways to supervise, direct, and guide, individuals in completion of tasks and fulfillment of goals
- Strong conflict management and resolution skills
Clinical and Practitioner Skills
- Advance knowledge through research relevant to social work practice
- Conduct action research in partnership with community organizations and groups
- Communicate evidence-based social work knowledge through teaching and publication
Policy Evaluation Skills
- Ability to understand the role, purpose, and nature of policy
- Expertise in analyzing the process of policy formulation and implementation
- Proficiency in identifying key policy actors and organized interests in policy actions
- Enhancing proficiency in:
- Troubleshooting problems and assessing policy options
- Developing an implementation strategy
- Linking project management and research results to policy actions
- Building support for policies
- Developing policy evaluation criteria
To prepare for an executive-level position, you’ll learn through a curriculum that fosters the critical thinking skills necessary to design, evaluate, and implement effective programs and policies. The DSW curriculum consists of six semesters of coursework over two calendar years, followed by one semester of dedicated work on the Advanced Practice Project (APP) during your third and final year. For one week during your first summer semester, you will meet with others in your cohort for an immersive learning opportunity in the dynamic city of New Orleans.
The program requires 56 credit hours and takes two and a half years to complete.
Advanced Practice Project
Each student develops their APP in collaboration with a faculty advisor, and it is most commonly an article for publication related to the student's practice area. Early in the program, a committee reviews a proposal and provides feedback to begin the process.
Our online DSW program employs innovative technology to ensure all students receive the full benefits of a Tulane education. If you elect this program, you will be part of monthly live sessions via synchronous classes. Our technology platform provides crisp and clear images and words, and students can always see each other and the instructor. You can expect personalized attention as you pursue your coursework. That includes tech support and virtual office hours with faculty.
Early in the program, students should identify an area of social work practice that will become their area of specialization. Each course provides an opportunity for students to broaden and deepen the area of specialization and integrate theory, practice, and research.
Students have the opportunity and are encouraged in many courses to exhibit their competence and further their integration of knowledge through the writing of scholarly papers and lecturing in regularly scheduled colloquia.
View the University Catalog for curriculum & course descriptions.
Refer to Tulane’s class schedule to determine the availability of courses in any given semester. All Tulane School of Social Work courses are identified with “SOWK” before the course number.
Tulane’s faculty includes nationally recognized scholars with an exceptional record of research, teaching, and service and represents the diverse opportunities in the social work profession. They value your experience coming into the program and help to ensure your success with support, mentoring, and networking.
See our full faculty and adjunct instructor list with their areas of expertise.
For resources specific to the DSW program, visit our Academic Affairs page.