woman with computer at desk

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Request Information

Quick Facts

years full-time
years part-time

Program Overview

The online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) gives current social workers the opportunity to further advance their skills with coursework of practice at the leadership or management level. While earning your DSW at the University of Kansas, you will build a framework of leadership best practices, develop a deep understanding of research implementation, and take away critical learning theories to the social work classroom.

The DSW focuses on creating a collaborative learning community that fosters scholars who are:

  1. Leaders in anti-oppressive social work in both agency and community contexts
  2. Experts in translational and implementation science
  3. World-class teachers and mentors

An emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion provides context for the classes and serves as a central component of course content. The program is centered on developing leadership and administrative skills, while simultaneously preparing graduates capable of engaging with communities and translating the research base of the profession in order to help agencies to understand and implement the best practices found in the social work and social science literature.

Finally, recognizing that many students pursuing a DSW wish to teach, a significant percentage of our courses are devoted to the theory and practice of teaching. That enables graduates to enter clinical faculty roles prepared to conduct their own classes, contribute to curricular development, and serve as skilled mentors and advisors to students.

The DSW Program is centered on developing leadership and administrative skills while translating the research base of the profession in order to help agencies to understand and implement best practices found in the social work and social science literature.  Additionally, a significant percentage of the courses are devoted to the theory and practice of teaching, preparing graduates to conduct their own classes, contribute to curricular development, and serve as skilled mentors and advisors to students.

In contrast, the PhD is focused on developing conceptual and methodological skills necessary for a career centered on conducting one’s own scholarly research agenda, as well as a career in higher education teaching.

DSW graduates are expert practitioner-scholars who: teach, supervise and mentor; assume leadership roles in social work practice settings; and generate and disseminate social work practice knowledge. DSW is being sought by employers as an indicator of preparedness for career advancement in agencies, government, and higher education.

According to the Council on Social Work Accreditation’s 2018 survey of social work education programs in the U.S., DSW graduates are primarily going into nonacademic administrative positions (22.9% of graduates) and private clinical practice (17.7%); however, tenure-track faculty positions at CSWE-accredited programs (15.6%) and nontenure-track faculty positions at CSWE-accredited programs (12.5%) are also first destinations. These are growth employment areas in the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of social workers in health care, mental health and substance abuse specifically is projected to grow 11 percent from 2021 to 2031. The DSW degree will offer a competitive advantage for those who wish to move into administrative positions within these settings.

Mean salary of exemplary employment positions are:

  • Medical and health services manager = $101,340
  • Social advocacy organization executives = $114,100 
  • Government agency Managers = $100,070

Additionally, employment (both part-time and full-time) of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2021 to 2031, also much faster than the average for all occupations. The median pay for social work teachers in postsecondary settings in 2021 was $71,010.

Thus, in terms of future growth, the job prospects of DSW graduates are more promising than many professions.

The DSW program is a flat-rate tuition rate of $1,000 per credit hour.

Students are responsible for funding their degree similarly to the MSW program. Students should complete a FAFSA if they are interested in applying for student loans.  

No, GTA and GRA positions will not be offered to students in the DSW program. The DSW is designed to be flexible enough to complete while employed so students do not have to forego a salary to complete the program.

Application Open Oct. 1 to Feb. 1


Liz Barton, Academic Advisor


Designed to Fit Your Schedule

Designed for working professionals, the program allows students to continue their work in the field while earning their DSW degree full-time.

Yes, the DSW is 100% online with classes held synchronously online every other Saturday in a block format.

The full-time program can be completed in two years, which requires nine credit hours each fall and spring semesters, plus additional capstone seminars during the summer and winter breaks. If you choose to attend part-time, you can choose between a 3-year or 4-year schedule

The program consists of 42 credit hours including a professional practice portfolio. 

Courses fall into five domains:

  • Ethical & Historical Frameworks
  • Leadership & Administrative Practice Knowledge, Theories, and Skills
  • Research & Inquiry
  • Pedagogy & Instruction
  • Capstone Portfolio Seminars

To meet the requirements of doctoral education in this practice degree, the DSW program requires the successful completion of a Capstone Project.  Because the DSW is not a research degree, the emphasis is not on conducting original empirical research and demonstrating mastery of research design and analytical methodologies. Rather, in the practice-centered DSW degree, the emphasis is on mastery of evidence-based academic literature in a particular area of social work practice and policy and the demonstration of knowledge, skills, and values in the implementation of those practices in existing community or agency practice settings. In the KU DSW, our emphasis is on demonstrating leadership in the implementation of knowledge for the betterment of clients, organizations, and communities. 

The Capstone project can take any number of forms, including but not limited to the following: A community change initiative, a pilot study, intervention development and evaluation, measurement development for outcomes evaluation, program evaluation, evaluation of a clinical practice model, or quality improvement related to practice, organizations, or community services. 

DSW Full-time 2-year Curriculum

The DSW program requires 42 credit hours to complete the degree. Visit the KU Academic Catalog for a full-time DSW Degree Plan.

Students should work with the DSW program director and their academic advisor for enrollment guidance for part-time plans of study.

Invest in your Future

Make your DSW a reality by knowing your estimated tuition, fees, and common expenses. The DSW degree offers a flat-rate tuition rate of $1,000 per credit hour.
campanile from above

Admission Requirements

The application is open Oct. 1 to Feb. 1.

Applicants who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply to the DSW:


  • A master's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program or a Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) accredited Master of Social Work Program
  • Minimum of three (3) years of clinical or macro practice experience beyond the master’s degree in social work
  • International candidates would need to provide evidence of English language proficiency through the TOEFL exam or the Applied English Center.


  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or above on a 4.0 scale
  • Master of Social Work GPA of 3.5 or above on a 4.0 scale 
  • A social work licensure is a preferred qualification but not required
  • The program would seek candidates who evidence strong oral and written communication skills, a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, leadership potential, and an interest in expanding their knowledge of leadership, pedagogy, and the implementation of evidence-based approaches in practice settings

Effective with summer/fall 2024 applications, any non-native English speaker applying to an online degree or certificate program must achieve Full Proficiency to be eligible for graduate admission. Please consult the English Proficiency Requirements for Admission to Graduate Study.

Application Requirements

The application is open Oct. 1 to Feb. 1. The online application gives you the ability to submit all supporting documents in one form and save your application in progress. You will be asked for the following, which will be required to complete the application:

  • Complete an online application 
  • Resume
  • Personal statement 
  • A writing sample
  • Three letters of reference from former instructors or colleagues positioned to comment on the candidate's ability to succeed in a DSW program
  • Official copies of both undergrad and graduate transcripts (find transcript instructions under "Application requirements" at grad.ku.edu/apply)


DSW Program Accreditation Information

CSWE’s Board of Accreditation (CSWE-BOA) is currently piloting the accreditation of practice doctorate programs. Although there are currently no CSWE-BOA accredited practice doctorate programs, in June 2020, CSWE-BOA approved and adopted the Accreditation Standards for Professional Practice Doctoral Programs in Social Work (.pdf). The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare has adopted the Accreditation Standards for Professional Practice Doctoral Programs in Social Work (.pdf) and is prepared to undergo accreditation once it becomes available. For information about practice doctorate program accreditation and the current pilot,  visit the Council on Social Work Education website.

Request DSW Information

Applications for the KU DSW program are open Oct. 1 to Feb. 1.

Let's Talk

Study Social Work at KU

KU's School of Social Welfare offers social work degree programs at undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels: BSW, MSW, DSW and PhD. Learn more.