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Welcome to the PhD Program

Help Build Our Profession Through Scholarship

The University of Alabama’s social work PhD program prepares social work scholars who develop and disseminate knowledge.

Our PhD program prepares leaders in social work scholarship, research, and teaching. The curriculum addresses theory, research methods, and the critical evaluation of social work policies and practice.

Students in our PhD program benefit from small class sizes, a supportive learning environment and excellent resources. Located less than hour from the Birmingham metro area and surrounded by rural counties, UA’s School of Social Work is the destination for research focusing on the following areas:

  • Matters of racial and social justice
  • Disparities in health, mental health, services, and social policies
  • Economic and social barriers
  • Aging and end of life
  • Child welfare/well-being


The goals of the PhD program are to

  • provide a rich, supportive environment that enables a group of students with diverse backgrounds and interests to pursue and attain their scholarship and professional goals
  • prepare social work scholars committed to social justice, advocacy, and the social work profession, and its clients
  • equip our students to make their research meaningful and useful
  • prepare students to translate research for use by relevant stakeholders
  • prepare graduates as successful educators of future social workers

Why Our PhD in Social Work?

Earning a PhD in social work from UA prepares you to solve important social problems with research and to teach future social workers, with guidance and mentoring from nationally and internationally known scholars.

Our students gain knowledge in

  • quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • statistics
  • practice theory
  • social welfare history and policy
  • social work education

Faculty research areas include the following:

  • Aging and end of life
  • Child maltreatment and child welfare
  • Health and mental health
  • International social work
  • Social welfare policy

Our core PhD courses are offered Mondays and Tuesdays during the day on campus in Tuscaloosa. As part of our course of study, PhD students work closely with faculty researchers who are national experts in their fields and who have a wide range of research interests.

PhD students also benefit from our program’s student-focused environment. We provide dedicated work space, computing facilities, and access to funding supportive of your career development.

PhD Curriculum

Our PhD program is notable among social work doctoral programs for the range and depth of its research foundation courses and electives. In addition to coursework, Ph.D. students are exposed to research and teaching experiences, publish with faculty in leading journals, and present research findings with faculty at national conferences.

Start the Admission Process

Start exploring our program. You’ll find that our commitment to excellence in graduate education is reflected by our doctoral students’ excellent completion rates and success in securing faculty and research positions in social work programs throughout the country.

Students must meet admission requirements for the UA Graduate School and the School of Social Work.

The application deadline for each cohort is February 1 for enrollment in the Fall semester. However, applicants are strongly encouraged to apply by November 1 (or as soon after that date as possible) in the year previous to which admission is sought to maximize opportunities for fellowships and other funding. Applications that may be competitive for University fellowships and other University-level funding opportunities will be forwarded to the appropriate admissions committees for further review. All remaining applications will be reviewed after Feb. 1. Applicants are notified by email by the PhD Program Director of the recommendation to admit. Applicants will be contacted by the Graduate School regarding the final admission decision.

When Should You Apply?Deadline
Spring admission for fall startFebruary 1

Graduate School Financial Aid

Students receive three years of funding, which includes tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. Some financial aid is also available from the School of Social Work, including the Ben Avis Orcutt and the Leslie J. Shellhase endowed scholarships, which are administered by the PhD program.

Financial aid commonly takes the form of graduate teaching, research assistantships, special grants or fellowships.

Start Earning Your PhD Today

Our PhD in social work could be within your reach. We encourage you to explore our program, learn about our faculty and speak to the PhD Program Director Dr. Debra Nelson-Gardell if you have questions.