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Graduate Studies Calendar 2023-2024 Program Descriptions Social Work SOWK Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Contact Information

Web page URL:
Program Number: 1.877.220.6945
Email Address:

1. Degree Offered

The PhD in Social Work is a research-based degree and is intended to graduate highly qualified social work researchers, administrative leaders, policy makers, and educators. The aim of developing such advanced scholarly and research skills is to equip doctoral students for future roles as leaders of the social work profession.

Please check the faculty’s website to determine the program location for the year that you apply.

2. Admission Requirements

In addition to Faculty of Graduate Studies requirements for Admission, the Faculty of Social Work requires the following:

a) A Master of Social Work or equivalent graduate degree from a recognized institution with a minimum grade point average of 3.50 on a four-point scale.

b) A program proposal which includes the applicant’s reasons for pursuing doctoral education in social work; educational goals and career expectations; prior research course work and reserach experience; and a research proposal outlining the research issue/problem the applicant hopes to investigate, the preliminary ideas regarding methodology, and the potential contributions to social work research, practice, policy, and education.

c) A minimum of two years full-time post-master’s social services practice experience.

d) A sample of written work, such as a published or unpublished scholarly paper or a professional report.

e) Two references, one of which should come from a person who can speak to the applicant’s academic performance and ability, and one professional/work reference.

f) For applicants required to present proof of proficiency in English, a minimum TOEFL score of 97 (Internet-based test with no section less than 20); IELTS score of 7.0 (Academic version with no section less than 6.0); a CAEL score of 70 (70 in writing and speaking; 60 in reading and listening); or a PTE with a minimum score of 68 (Academic version). This requirement can also be met by completing the Academic Communication Certificate with a minimum grade of “A-“ in academic writing and oral communication courses and “B+” in other courses.

Note: Completing a PhD degree does not qualify an individual to register with the Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW). Please visit ACSW website for additional information.

Requests to defer an offer of admission are not normally considered.

3. Application Deadline

Deadlines for submission of complete applications are available on the Future Students page:

4. Advanced Credit

Request for advanced credit must be made as part of the application process. Credit will not be given for coursework taken as part of another completed degree/diploma or for courses taken to raise the grade point average for admission consideration. Advanced credit may be granted for not more than the equivalent of 9 units.

5. Program/Course Requirements

In addition to Faculty of Graduate Studies requirements, the Faculty of Social Work requires:

A minimum of 27 units of course work. Required core courses include:

Note: Social Work 721 can only be taken once all other required (core and elective) courses have been completed.

Twelve units of elective graduate courses relevant to the student's substantive area of research. Electives may be taken outside of the Faculty of Social Work, depending on the student's needs and course availability. All courses taken external to the Faculty of Social Work must have prior approval from the student's supervisor, the PhD co-ordinator and the Graduate Program Director in the Faculty of Social Work.

Please note that not all courses are offered every semester. Students should consult the timetables and program curriculum plans located on the web for sequence and availability of courses:

Flexible Grade Option (CG Grade)

The Faculty of Social Work, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program will allow students to pursue the Flexible Grade Option (CG Grade) in doctoral courses offered by the faculty, with no exceptions.

Students may choose the CG grade for a course taken extra to load.

The use of the CG grade will not affect students' eligibility for internal awards.

6. Additional Requirements

Participation in student orientation sessions held prior to the start of the program is expected of students.

7. Credit for Undergraduate Courses

Credit for undergraduate courses will not be awarded.

8. Time Limit

As established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies (see Time Limits), maximum completion time is six years for a doctoral program. The expected completion time is four years for a PhD.

9. Supervisory Assignments

For incoming PhD students, the PhD/MSW Thesis Coordinator will act as the interim supervisor in cases where one has not been identified. Before the end of April of the first year, each student must designate a faculty member as permanent supervisor. The supervisor and student must select a supervisory committee no later than three months after the appointment of the permanent supervisor or fifteen months after the initial registration. Doctoral supervisory committees typically consist of the supervisor and two other members, one of whom may be external to the Faculty of Social Work.

Within the first two months of working together, PhD students and their interim and/or permanent supervisors are required to complete and submit to Student Services in the Faculty of Social Work the signed Checklist of Expectations for Graduate Students and Supervisors and the Intellectual Property Awareness checklist. These become part of the student’s permanent record. If a change occurs in supervision, a new Student-Supervisor checklist must be completed, signed and submitted to Student Services within two months of the change.

10. Candidacy and Required Examinations


Doctoral students must successfully complete all the required courses, their thesis research proposal and portfolio prior to the Written Field of Study Examination and Oral Field of Study Examination, which must be completed within 28 months of commencement of the program. For complete details of candidacy requirements, see the Faculty of Social Work’s Doctoral Candidacy Requirements.

Thesis Examination

For the Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations, see Thesis Examinations. In addition, the program requires:

Scheduling of the Examination
All members of the Supervisory Committee must have reviewed the student’s draft thesis document before an examination can be scheduled.

Composition of the Committee
The Internal Examiner must be external to the Faculty of Social Work.

11. Financial Assistance

Financial assistance may be available to qualified students. For information on awards, see Awards and Financial Assistance section, search the Graduate Awards Database, and consult with the Student Services Office in the Faculty of Social Work.

12. Other Information

A computer is required for all programs in the Faculty of Social Work.  Further information will be sent out to newly-admitted students in the summer term prior to the commencement of their studies.