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Boston College School of Social Work
Professor Thanh Tran

Associate Professor Stephanie Cosner Berzin is the Director of the BCSSW Doctoral Program in Social Work. Check out our blog to read more about about Stephanie Berzin discussing how intrapreneurship creates social impact.

Building Knowledge and Cultivating Relationships: Reflections from SSWR 2017
Rob Hasson III

Every January, the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) gathers for their annual program meeting. This year, I was fortunate to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana with several fellow doctoral students to present some of my research »

PhD Videos

Kyle Bourque, PhD '12

Kyle Bourque, PhD '12
Kyle discusses the dynamics that steered him towards a career as an Army social worker and eventually to doctoral education at Boston College School of Social Work. Watch video »

Charu-Stokes, PhD '12

Charu Stokes, PhD '12
Charu describes how Boston College School of Social Work gave her extensive support and mentorship, enabling her to take advantage of her rich international experiences and successfully complete her PhD on a related research topic. Watch video »



Students study full time and are usually expected to enroll in nine to twelve units of study each semester. Although diversity of backgrounds makes it difficult to predict, students are expected to complete the program in about four years. There are approximately two years of coursework and then the dissertation. Those in the combined MSW/PhD program usually require an additional year.

Curriculum Plans

PhD in Social Work Curriculum Plan 2017–2018 (PDF)
MSW/PhD Program Curriculum Plan 2017–2018 (PDF)
PhD in International Social Welfare Curriculum Plan 2017-2018 (PDF)

Research Training

Research training, both formal and experiential, is at the core of the program. Flexibility is provided to help students attain in-depth competence in a substantive area of social welfare. Students acquire expertise in applied social and behavioral science research methodologies that are especially appropriate for investigating critical policy and practice questions. This set of courses emphasizes analytic skills needed to understand, appraise, and advance knowledge in social work. With these tools, the student selects a specific area of specialization and develops relevant social and behavioral science expertise to conduct significant research in that area.

The learning process involves more than classroom instruction. Students are expected to work closely with faculty mentors in their roles as scholars and researchers. Given that the most important research questions benefit from the scholarship of an array of academic disciplines, students are encouraged to use the rich learning resources available in the Boston area.

Doctoral students come with diverse academic backgrounds and levels of preparation, and the program assists in identifying elective courses that can fill in gaps in knowledge needed to pursue advanced work. Rather than merely completing a set of courses, the program emphasizes knowledge acquisition. Students who demonstrate possession of such knowledge on the basis of prior work and proficiency examinations may be exempted from specific course requirements and encouraged to seek more advanced options. Review a list of current doctoral students for an idea of potential research projects and agendas.

Teaching Opportunities

Boston College offers several ways to involve students in the classroom prior to teaching their own course. First, students take the required class, Theories and Methods of Professional Education. Based on a strong theoretical base in the principles of adult learning, this course is designed to introduce the student to the theory and methods of professional social work education with a concentrated focus on course design. The next required opportunity is a Teaching Assistantship where PhD students assist in MSW classrooms and tutor students. Students can participate in the Apprenticeship in College Teaching Program, a University-wide initiative. Finally, students can register for a 1-credit teaching practicum or serve as an adjunct faculty member after defending their publishable paper.