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About the Doctorate in Social Work

The Tulane DSW program trains students for excellence in advanced social work practice and research.

The only degree program of its kind in the Gulf South, the Tulane DSW develops scholar-practitioners with superior skills in policy analysis, program design and evaluation, and applied research methods. Our graduates produce and disseminate cutting-edge social work knowledge through research, advocacy and direct practice.

The Tulane DSW program focuses on programs, policies and interventions that address the particular needs of populations vulnerable to social injustice, poverty and discrimination, while also exploring a broad range of social work practice areas.

For more information, please read our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

DSW graduates are professional leaders who:

  • Apply innovative and critical thinking to pressing social, economic and environmental problems, especially in urban areas.
  • Advance knowledge through research relevant to social work practice.
  • Collaborate with practitioners in an array of related disciplines.
  • Conduct action research in partnership with community organizations and group.
  • Communicate evidence-based social work knowledge through teaching and publication.

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 masters level. A recent study in the Journal of Social Work found that DSW degrees are becoming increasingly competitive with PhDs in Social Work.

DSW graduates also have access to a rich array of professional contacts through fellow students and the School of Social Work's extensive community partnerships and alumni network.


DSW courses are by Tulane School of Social Work professors and visiting faculty from a variety of social science disciplines, including social work, sociology, urban studies and psychology. Our visiting faculty are nationally renowned experts in their field, bringing with them expertise in grant-writing, program evaluation, academic publication and public policy.

Program of Study

The DSW curriculum consists of six semesters of coursework over two calendar years, followed by two semesters of dedicated work on the Advanced Clinical Project during the third and final year. Qualifying exams are administered during the sixth and last semester of coursework, and must be successfully completed in order to advance to candidacy for graduation.


During their first two years, students will take courses in social work theory, practice and methods. Each semester includes two courses and an independent study during which the student will work with an academic advisor to develop their Advanced Clinical Project concept.

DSW courses are be taught by Tulane School of Social Work faculty as well as select nationally prominent social work scholars. For a list of courses, please review our program of study.

For a list of Online DSW courses, please review the ​online curriculum​.

Classes taught by visiting professors will vary by year and their formats may be adapted to maximize offerings.

Class sessions meet primarily on weekends, with occasional evening sessions following the first year of coursework. Students also work closely with faculty mentors beyond class sessions to develop unique research agendas that correspond with their professional experience.


Semester Course Title Credit Hours
Fall Scholarship of Practice in the Policy Context 4
  Research Methods, Development & Implementation 4
  Advanced Clinical Project (ACP) Research 1
Spring Historical Approaches to Social Welfare 4
  Intro to Quantitative Methods for Services Outcome Research 4
  Advanced Clinical Project (ACP) Research 1
Summer Social Work Theory, Practice Models & Methods 4
  Intro to Qualitative & Interpretive Approaches to Human Inquiry 4
  Advanced Clinical Project (ACP) Research 1


Semester Course Title Credit Hours
Fall Designs for Clinical-Community Practice Research 4
  Advanced Clinical Project Dev. Seminar I 4
  Advanced Clinical Project (ACP) Research 1
Spring Applied Social Statistics 4
  Measuring Social Phenomena: Social and Economic Problems 4
  Advanced Clinical Project Seminar 1
Summer Qualifying Exams 4
  Advanced Clinical Project Dev. Seminar II 4
  Advanced Clinical Project (ACP) Research 1


Semester Course Title Credit Hours
Fall Advanced Clinical Project (ACP) Research 1
Spring Advanced Clinical Project (ACP) Research 1

Qualifying Examination

After completing the core curriculum, each student will be required to successfully complete a written Qualifying Examination in order to qualify for the rest of the curriculum and the advanced clinical project.

Qualifying exams are divided into three areas: Policy, Research and Theory.

Performance on the Qualifying Examination should demonstrate the student's knowledge of concepts, constructs, and major themes derived from the core curriculum and current social work literature.

Advanced Clinical Project

The DSW program utilizes an experiential approach to learning that incorporates apprenticeship, mentoring, active learning, and immersion in a community of scholars. In addition to applied instruction, students also engage in advanced clinical research in a practice area of their choice, culminating in a capstone project designed to expand, integrate, and evaluate the existing professional knowledge base for effective social work practice. Students may utilize their current professional position or tackle a new area of clinical focus for their Advanced Clinical Project.

Students are encouraged to develop a possible topic for their advanced clinical project early in their doctoral study. Once a topic has been selected, a three-member committee will review a formal proposal and provide feedback to the student. Final approval of the proposal as fulfillment of a requirement for candidacy for the degree is granted only upon fulfillment of all other requirements for candidacy, including 56 hours of required courses, passing the Qualifying Examination, and successful defense of the proposed project.