PhD in Social Work Application Information

Ready to take the next step toward becoming a social work scholar, educator and policy expert? The application for the 2022 PhD in Social Work Program will be available by the end of August 2021. 

Our PhD students are more than social work researchers; we're social justice scholars, educators and policy experts whose work responds to today's most pressing community needs.

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PhD Information Sessions

Join us for an upcoming PhD virtual information session, where we will discuss the PhD program, career outcomes and the application process in more detail. If one of the scheduled dates does not work for you, please feel free to reach out to a GSSW Admission Ambassador for any questions you may have.

Applicant Requirements

To apply to the GSSW doctoral program, you must have one of the following:

  • a master's degree conferred by a school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
  • a master's degree in one of the social sciences and demonstrated evidence of substantial professional experience in the social work field

In addition, you must have:

  • a clear interest in developing advanced theory, policy and research skills in a substantive area relevant to the field of social work
  • a superior academic record in all previous work
  • the maturity, intellectual ability and readiness for advanced study

NOTE: the GRE is no longer required for admission into the PhD program. 

Two years of post-master's practice experience is strongly preferred, but not mandatory.

It is important to have proficiency in descriptive and inferential statistics. This knowledge is necessary for several of the required doctoral courses. An introductory course in statistical analysis and inference is available in the first quarter of study if needed.

PhD Application Deadlines

If you are interested in joining the fall 2022 PhD cohort, the application will be available by the end of August 2021.

  • Early Deadline: Sept. 15, 2021—Complete your application on or before our early deadline and we will waive your $65 application fee.  You will receive an admission decision on or before Nov. 1, 2021.
  • Regular Deadline: Oct. 15, 2021—Complete your application after our early deadline but on or before October 15 and you will receive an admission decision on or before January 1, 2022.
  • Final Deadline: Feb. 15, 2022—Applications completed after November 15 and before our final deadline will receive an admission decision on or before  April 1, 2022. Offers will be made on a space-available basis.

PhD Application Instructions

  • Transcripts

    You may submit unofficial transcripts for an initial review of your application. If admitted, you must provide official transcripts from all institutions attended before GSSW orientation day.

    Many schools issue transcripts electronically, either through their own web services or through vendors. If this option is available through the institutions you attended, request that your transcript(s) be sent to

    If your transcripts are being sent by mail, use the following address:

    Office of Admission
    Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver
    2148 South High Street
    Denver, CO 80208-7100

  • Resume

    Include with your application a PDF of your resume that includes the following information:

    • Name, mailing address and other current contact information
    • Areas of special interest
    • Education: institution(s), the dates you attended, your degrees (majors and minors). Begin with your most recent degree.
    • Continuing Education: List the continuing education experience that you have.
    • Paid Employment History: List your paid work experiences in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. For each position held, please provide the name of employer, location, beginning and ending dates, and a brief job description.
    • Volunteer Experiences: List your volunteer social work or human services experiences in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. Please provide the name of each agency or organization, its location, beginning and ending dates, and a brief description of your responsibilities and activities.
    • Honors and Awards: Identify any academic honors or awards that you received.
    • Professional Affiliations/Licensure: List any professional associations of which you are a member and any advanced certification(s) you received.
    • Research and Evaluation Experiences: List your research and evaluation experiences, including a description of your position, beginning and ending dates, and responsibilities.
    • Teaching Experiences: List all courses you taught; include the course title, level, beginning and ending dates, a brief course description and the educational institution at which it was taught.
    • Paper Presentations at Conferences: List the titles of papers you presented at national, state or other conferences over the last five years; include the date, conference sponsor and any co-authors or co-presenters.
    • Publications: List publications on which you are listed as an author, including journal articles, books, book chapters, technical reports, magazine or newsletter articles, contract or grant applications and program manuals. Please follow the style guidelines in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Sixth Edition).
  • Recommendations

    You are required to submit three letters of recommendation, preferably from academic, research or professional supervisors/colleagues.

  • Statement of Professional and Educational Intent

    The PhD Admission Committee considers your Statement of Professional and Educational Intent to be a significant part of your application. Respond openly and honestly to each section. The average statement length is seven pages. Double space your statement and put your name in the upper right corner of each page. The statement must be written solely by you without the use of an editor.

    Your statement should include the following elements:

    • Discuss your qualifications and readiness for pursuing doctoral studies in social work.
    • Describe the area(s) of knowledge around which you wish to concentrate your study and research.
    • Explain the social justice importance of your area of interest. In other words, how do power, privilege and oppression contribute to dynamics in your area of interest?
    • How does your personal, professional, or practice experience inform the area in which you plan to conduct research?
    • Describe any cultural, economic, or social challenges and opportunities that influence your lens and perspective in research.
    • Describe the professional or academic position you plan to pursue after your PhD and why you have chosen that career goal.
    • Explain why you feel this program would be a good match for you.
    • Identify any projects at GSSW, or at the University of Denver, in which you have an interest.
    • Discuss any other factors you feel are important in our evaluation of your application.
  • Example of Professional Writing

    Submit a sample of your writing completed within the past five years. This may be a published article, a manuscript prepared for publication, a re-worked paper from a graduate program or a newly prepared sample. The writing sample should demonstrate scholarship, command of literature, critical thinking and research skills. The paper must be a minimum of 10 pages, but preferably 10 - 18 pages, and must explore a topic relevant to social work knowledge. In evaluating this sample, we will examine evidence of scholarly writing skills, incorporation of relevant literature, mastery of research methods, analytic acuity, clarity of discussion and implications for social work.

  • Application Fee

    You can submit your $65 nonrefundable application fee in the online application. The fee can be paid using any major credit card or check.

You must submit an online application to be considered for our PhD program. If you are interested in joining the fall 2022 PhD cohort, the application will be available in mid-August 2021.

A completed online application includes:

International Student Application Requirements

We welcome applications from international students and value the diverse cultural perspectives you bring to our community.

If your native language is not English, you must demonstrate your English proficiency by attaching the materials listed below to your PhD application:

  • One of the following: test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS) results or Cambridge Assessment English (CAE) results
      • paper-based TOEFL score of 587, or Internet-based score of 95—the ETS Institution Code (TOEFL) is 4842
      • IELTS score of 7.0
      • CAE score of 185
  • Copy of passport
  • Financial verification form with a bank letter or other official verification showing how your tuition and living expenses will be financed.

Learn more about our international student community.

I attended the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work for my MSW because of its commitment to social justice in educating future social work practitioners. The rigorous curriculum, support of faculty and preparation for practice were the reasons I returned to complete my doctoral education.

Darren Whitfield, MSW ’08, PhD ’16, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and School of Medicine Read More
Darren Whitfield