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University of Southern California Doctorate of Social Work online

Develop real solutions to social challenges with a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) from the University of Southern California (USC).

About the program

  • Real-world preparation: Learn to develop practical, actionable solutions to the large-scale social challenges impacting vulnerable and marginalized populations.
  • Applied practice: Demonstrate your ability with an innovative proposal, prototype, or plan that offers feasible, communicable solutions to a critical social challenge.
  • Lasting impact: Graduate with an enhanced capacity to reduce socioeconomic barriers and other obstacles for children and adults worldwide.

About USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work 

Founded as an independent school in 1939, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work was the first to combine elements of casework, group work and community organization into an integrated model of social work practice. The school continues to innovate and evolve, offering a Master of Social Work (MSW) and Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) online.

Tuition and fees

Tuition and fees are subject to change and may increase each academic year. Tuition does not include student fees, technology platform licensing, or support services. Learners are also responsible for travel and accommodation costs related to any in-person immersions or residentials.

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As a learner, you’ll complete 42 units of coursework, focusing on problem definition, innovative design, and executive leadership in human service organizations and community contexts. You can select one of two program tracks:

  • The standard track: can be completed in 36 months. In the first six semesters, you’ll take two courses (six units) per semester. The final three semesters are reserved for your capstone project, during which you’ll take one course (two units) per semester.
  • The accelerated track: can be completed in 28 months. In the first four semesters, you’ll take three courses (nine units) per semester. The final three semesters are reserved for your capstone project, during which you’ll take one course (two units) per semester.
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The DSW@USC offers start dates throughout the year. Space in each cohort is limited. To be eligible, you must hold a master’s degree from a regionally accredited program, an MSW from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)–accredited program, or a professional doctorate. The admissions committee prefers five years of post-master’s professional employment that reflects strong communication, leadership, innovation, and creativity.

To complete an application, you will need to submit:

  • Your current résumé, specifically highlighting social-work related experience

  • Two writing prompts, including a statement of purpose and writing sample

  • Three professional or academic letters of recommendation

  • Official transcripts from each postsecondary, regionally accredited school

Capstone project

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The DSW@USC program is designed to provide a doctoral training experience that equips you to serve as an influential social change leader. To this end, you will complete a capstone project which, like a dissertation, will offer you the opportunity to demonstrate and apply knowledge gained throughout the program.

The capstone should take the form of a detailed and innovative business plan, large contract proposal, prototype, or organizational redesign plan, and solve a social issue connected with one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work. The final deliverable includes a written assessment and analysis, a prototype ready for public communication and implementation, and an oral defense.

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