Online Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) Programs

What is a Doctorate of Social Work?

A DSW offers advanced training in a specific area of practice in social work. Students pursuing a DSW usually focus on social work administration and clinical social work. DSW degree programs offer students an opportunity to advance their career in social work and innovate the social work space. Candidates are prepared for leadership roles and are trained on innovation and management in areas of social work like social work administration, clinical social work, and child, family and school social work. Most DSW programs require a form of residency or dissertation that helps form skills towards advancing a candidate’s professional career.

usc-social-work
  • Earn a Doctor of Social Work online from USC in just 24 months of part-time study
  • The DSW@USC prepares you to pursue leadership and management roles in which you can help solve pervasive social problems.

Sponsored Online DSW Program

Do I need my MSW to get my DSW?

Requirements for DSW admission vary by university. Even so, candidates must have obtained a master’s degree in order to pursue a doctorate degree. Some programs require a MSW while others, such as our partner DSW@USC, require a master’s degree in similar areas of study such as an advanced degree in Public Administration (MPA), Public Health (MPH), Nursing (MSN), Public Policy (MPP), Business Administration (MBA), Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), or any professional doctorate.


MSW vs. DSW - Salary and Career

MSW vs. DSW Salary and Career
Degree Average Salary Popular Career Options
MSW $43,250 Medical/Public Health, Substance Abuse, Mental Health, Child Welfare, School Social Work
DSW $64,370 Leadership, Organization, Clinical Practice, Professor, Administrator

Salary information retrieved from O*Net Summary Report for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers and Social Work Teachers: Postsecondary


The average salary for individual with an MSW is $60,527 while the average salary for someone with a DSW is $86,070. A Doctorate of Social Work is an option for students wishing to pursue a career in leadership or organization in the social work space. A Master's of Social Work is a viable option for someone who wishes to study and concentrate on a specific field of social work and become a licensed social worker.

A doctorate of social work (DSW) demonstrates that you have a greater understanding of how to solve problems faced in the real world, such as bullying, child welfare, and poverty. DSW programs, including our partner DSW@USC, are designed for working professionals who wish to have a greater impact in their practice. A DSW degree may also take a MSW one step further for social workers who want to excel in their area of practice, expand their spectrum of career opportunities in social work, and/or become more aware of policies that can directly impact their practice.

Social Work Administration

Social work administration includes working at the macro level of social work. Rather than focusing on one client, social work administrators focus on the future and success of the practice as a whole. Popular social work administration jobs include those with family or social service agencies, child welfare departments, school settings, hospitals and home health care agencies, and probation agencies. Necessary skills for this line of work include active listening, organization, emotional intelligence, empathy, and critical thinking.


Clinical Social Work

Clinical social work involves utilizing methods of treatment and prevention to address mental illness. Clinical social workers pursue careers in a variety of settings to provide services and treatments to individuals, groups, and families. They apply their knowledge on analysis, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health.This social work career is known for its variety of roles and career paths. Popular careers in clinical social work include child, family and school, substance abuse, and medical social work. Necessary skills for this line of work include social perceptiveness, organization, cooperation, relaxation, and active listening.

Doctorate of Social Work vs. Ph.D. in Social Work

A Ph.D in social work is primarily a research-based degree while a DSW offers advanced training in a specific area of social work with a more hands-on experience. A DSW degree ensures that the qualified candidate will gain extended knowledge on problem-solving skills to help create and advocate for a better society. Ph.D social work candidates may conduct an extensive amount of research that provides advancement in social work careers.


Featured Online DSW Program

Featured Online DSW Program
School Name Classroom Setting Offline Mobile App Field Placement Team for Online Students Average Class Size
University of Southern California Live Offline Accessible Team Available Less Than 15

Sponsored Online DSW Program

Compare Online DSW Programs

All Online DSW Programs
School Name Classroom Setting Offline Mobile App Field Placement Team for Online Students Average Class Size
University of Pennyslvania Live Wifi Required No Team Less Than 15
University of St. Thomas Live Offline Accessible Team Available Less Than 15
University of Tennessee, Knoxville Live Offline Accessible

No Team

More Than 15

Requirements for DSW Programs

How long does it take to get a doctorate in social work (DSW)?

The length of a DSW program varies by which school you choose to attend. Some programs, like our partner DSW@USC, offers a part-time, 24-month program that includes completing a residency and capstone project. Other universities may offer similar part-time options or full-time enrollment tracks. Most DSW programs can take anywhere between two to five years to complete.

Is professional experience required to be accepted into a DSW program?

Most programs require a certain amount of professional experience in order to get accepted into the DSW program.

Are there full time DSW programs?

There are both full-time and part-time options offered, however, it depends on the university. Most programs are designed for professionals who work full time and participate in the program simultaneously.


All Online DSW Programs

University of Pennsylvania - School of Social Policy & Practice

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW)
Structure: Online with field education. Students must complete two in-person residencies.

Program Information
Program Length: Program can be completed in three years.
Program Start Dates: Fall admission only
Instruction Methods: Courses are taught online through synchronous models.

Admission Requirements

  • Hold a master’s degree in social work from an accredited social work degree program
  • Two years post-MSW practice experience.
  • GRE: Not Required

University of Southern California - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
Structure: Online with field education. Students must complete two in-person residencies.

Program Information
Program Length: Program can be completed in 2 years of part-time study.
Program Start Dates: Fall, Spring, and Summer admissions
Instruction Methods: Courses are taught online through synchronous and asynchronous models.

Admission Requirements

  • Students must hold a master’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or a related field.
  • Five years of professional employment experience is strongly preferred.
  • GRE: Not Required
Discover the online DSW program at USC, request more information from DSW@USC.

Sponsored Online DSW Program


University of St. Thomas - School of Social Work

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctorate in Social Work (DSW)
Structure: Online with field education (Students must attend a two-week on-campus residency each summer in St. Paul, MN)

Program Information
Program Length: The online DSW program can be completed in approximately 3 years-45 semester credits(15 courses required) Fall and Spring semesters each comprised of two successive, 8-week sessions
Program Start Dates: Summer admission only
Instruction Methods: Online synchronous and asynchronous instruction

Admission Requirements

  • GPA: Have a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for previous graduate work
  • GRE: Not Required

University of Tennessee, Knoxville - College of Social Work

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Social Work (DSW) in Clinical Practice and Leadership
Structure: Online with field education. Students must attend an annual week of on campus residency each summer devoted to intensive study and skills practice.

Program Information
Program Length: Students in the DSW program take two, 3-credit hour courses per semester for a total of six hours per semester over the course of eight continuous semesters,including summer, for a total of 48 hours of doctoral study.
Program Start Dates: Fall admissions only
Instruction Methods: Courses are taught online through synchronous and asynchronous models.

Admission Requirements

  • GPA: Minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for previous graduate work.
  • GRE: Have achieved a competitive score on the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE. The GRE must have been taken within the last 5 years.