2019–2020 Walden University Catalog (March 2020) 
    Dec 03, 2021  
2019–2020 Walden University Catalog (March 2020) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

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The Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is a postgraduate program designed to prepare students as advanced practitioners who employ action research to design, implement, and assess social work and social welfare programs and policies for suitability for the diverse needs of families, communities, and society. This program may prepare students to design culturally and contextually relevant social services; mentor others in their efforts to provide social services to individuals, communities, and society; and provide leadership and advocacy in the social work profession regarding needs of individuals and communities with schools, governments, health services, criminal justice systems, and mental health organizations.

The DSW program specifically differs from the PhD in Social Work because the development and training in the DSW is focused on providing advanced development for the practitioner-scholar. The PhD program is focused on developing scholar-practitioners for service as researchers, agency leaders, policy analysts, and educators.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this program, graduates will be able to:

  1. Apply current research, best practices, and theory-based prevention and intervention strategies to address social problems and needs of social groups.
  2. Address etiology and dynamics of social problems and social needs by using research in the field.
  3. Apply results from research and evaluation to improve prevention and intervention strategies in social work practice.
  4. Critically examine the history of social work, its mission, and its core values.
  5. Promote social change by collaborating with clients, various professional agencies, organizations, and communities to advocate for the needs of culturally diverse clientele.
  6. Design and implement culturally-responsive prevention and intervention strategies.
  7. Apply ethical decision making to social work research and practice.


Changing specializations may increase a student’s expected time-to-degree completion and cost.

Minimum Degree Requirements

  • Doctoral Writing Assessment
  • Professional Development Plan and Program of Study
  • Foundation course (3 cr.)
  • Core courses (25 cr.)
  • Research courses (10 cr.)
  • Specialization courses (15 cr.)
  • Elective course (5 cr.)
  • Completion of Doctoral Study
    • Doctoral Study Action Research Project (5 cr. per term; taken continuously until completion)
    • Quarter Plans
  • One face-to-face residency


Specialization Courses (15 cr.)

These courses are dependent upon the particular specialization. Please see the course list on each specialization page. Changing specializations may increase a student’s expected time-to-degree completion and cost.

Elective Course (5 cr.)

Students choose a course to support their Capstone research project.

Residency Requirements

  • Complete one residency face-to-face as soon as you begin your program; required before you begin your second research course (RSCH 8210 OR RSCH 8310).

Doctoral Capstone Research Project

Course Sequence

Students undertake courses in the following sequence.

Quarter Course Credits
1    3 cr.
   5 cr.
  Complete the residency face-to-face as soon as you begin your program; required before you begin your 2nd research course (RSCH 8210 OR RSCH 8310).  
2    5 cr.
   5 cr.
3    5 cr.
Specialization Course 1 5 cr.
4    5 cr.
   5 cr.
5 Specialization Course 2 5 cr.
  OR    5 cr.
6 Specialization Course 3 5 cr.
Elective course shosen to support Capstone research project. 5 cr.
7+   Continuous enrollment in 5 cr. per term for a minimum of 4 terms until completion

*Students take this course for a minimum of four terms and are continuously enrolled until completion of their doctoral study with final chief academic officer (CAO) approval. In general students are continuously registered in the dissertation/doctoral study course until they complete their capstone project and it is approved. This usually takes longer than the minimum required terms in the dissertation/doctoral study course shell.

To complete a doctoral study, students must obtain the academic approval of several independent evaluators including their committee, the University Research Reviewer, and the Institutional Review Board; pass the Form and Style Review; gain approval at the oral defense stage; and gain final approval by the chief academic officer. Students must also publish their dissertation on ProQuest before their degree is conferred. Learn more about the dissertation process in the Doctor of Social Work Guidebook.

Doctoral Writing Assessment

Students who start or readmit to doctoral programs at Walden University in the university catalog for academic year 2017 or later will complete the university’s required doctoral writing assessment. Designed to evaluate incoming doctoral students’ writing skills, this assessment aims to help prepare incoming doctoral students to meet the university’s expectations for writing at the doctoral level.

8-Year Maximum Time Frame

Students have up to 8 years to complete their doctoral degree requirements (see Enrollment Requirements). Students may petition to extend the 8-year maximum time frame, but an extension is not guaranteed.

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