Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Online Programs | PhD Social Work Online Programs

Why Consider Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Online Programs?

Licensed MSW Social workers seeking advanced degrees might be interested in pursuing either Doctor of Social Work (DSW) online programs or PhD social work online programs. Online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs and online PhD Social Work programs offer two different academic paths for both continued education and professional development. The potential convenience and scheduling flexibility of distance learning may make achieving one’s educational goals feasible, especially since some online doctorate in social work programs are offered in accelerated formats that might suggest a three year time to completion. 

DSW Online Programs

Essentials of PhD Social Work & DSW Online Programs

PhD social work and DSW online programs are usually geared for the working professional seeking preparation for advanced clinical practice, clinical research and leadership. The DSW is a post-MSW degree, although the Master of Social Work is a prerequisite for acceptance into online doctorate social work programs, and also considered a terminal degree in social work. Online DSW programs differ from online PhD Social Work programs, although either might be available through distance learning. This type of format is usually one that enables students to satisfy their degree requirements without career disruption.

DID YOU KNOW? 65% of Social Work Postsecondary teachers hold a doctorate degree[i]

Online DSW vs. Online PhD Programs in Social Work

The two types of online doctoral degrees are the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work. Each one is considered an advanced degree although they have slightly different orientations.

What Are DSW Online Programs?

While the course content online DSW programs varies, the Doctorate of Social Work in clinical practice is typically oriented to individuals interested in advancing their clinical knowledge and potentially leading in clinical practice or social work policy. An online DSW program differs from the PhD in Social Work, as it is a professional practice degree, designed to prepare students to potentially:

  • Integrate social work behavioral science with other disciplines (psychopharmacology, psychopathology, intervention techniques)
  • Practice evidence-based social work
  • Provide leadership and develop social work evidence based models for standards of care
  • Inter professional education in social work

What Are PhD Social Work Online Programs?

Online PhD Social Work programs are also designed for working professionals and candidates who have earned their MSW degree from a CSWE accredited university; there may be exceptions where a student has earned a Bachelor's degree and is admitted, but not as common. Earning a PhD in social work online may prepare graduates for working in research and academia, as college-level professors or administrative directors[ii].  While the Doctor of Social Work has a clinical practice focus, the emphasis of PhD in Social Work online programs may be on:

  • Contributing to the profession through research, scholarly writing, analysis and thought leadership
  • Focusing your studies on a research topic that aligns with your interests (addictions, healthcare social work)
  • Gaining research methodologies
  • Weighing public policy issues

Potential Features of PhD Social Work and DSW Online Programs

Online is a delivery method that involves computer technology and Internet, however, not all Social Work PhD and DSW online programs are going to have the same exact format or curriculum. Here are a few things to consider if you are contemplating pursuing a doctorate in social work online:

RESEARCH:  While social work is a human-centered discipline, doctor of social work online degrees involve research, and one of the things that a web-based program has to offer is the virtual library. Many articles are available on the web, as well as videos, webinars and other useful study tools to enhance your learning experience.

100% ONLINE? You may find online social work PhD or DSW programs where the coursework is delivered completely through a course management system. However, you may also find partially online programs that include onsite visits (intensives, retreats, participatory learning experiences, a residency). Make sure that you know what you are getting into.

SCHEDULE: Typically, if a program is asynchronous, your courses are pre-recorded, and delivered via video or MP3 audio; access is 24/7 and you can hit pause and rewind. This means you might have a certain scheduling flexibility. If the delivery is synchronous, you may have to join live-streaming lectures.

INTERACTION: In DSW online programs, e-learners typically interact via online group discussion boards, emails, web chats and other digital tools that keep you connected to fellow classmates or professors. There is usually a tech support team as well. Online programs somewhat diminish the interpersonal aspect of learning but if your doctoral program has some campus requirements, you may feel like you are getting the best of two worlds.

Is an online DSW or PhD in Social Work Right for me?

Online DSW and PHD Social Work programs teach students how to apply the theory, knowledge, and research they are learning to potentially develop innovative approaches to social issues. Some of the other reasons an online DSW program may appeal to you are:

  • If you are considering a career in social work education
  • If you aspire to higher level administrative positions
  • If you are interested in researching or being involved with policy

Find Accredited Online Social Work PhD and DSW Online Programs

The Council on Social Work Education is the primary accreditor for social work education in the United States. While the CSWE does not administer DSW or PhD programs, an institution with either of these doctorates in social work programs online may only accept candidates who have graduated from an MSW earned at a CSWE-accredited school for social work.

Take the Next Step

If you have mastered the basics of clinical or advanced generalist practice, are licensed and have years of experience behind you, why not take the next step? Use what you know and what you hope to research to continue making a difference in the lives of individuals and communities. If all that is preventing you is that attending class on campus is too challenging with your current job requirements or geographical location, consider browsing sponsored listings for options in DSW online and PhD Social Work online programs. Once you have found (a) prospective graduate school(s), use our on-page navigation to initiate a dialogue through the ‘request info’ link.

sources[i] |[ii]

  • Accredited online university.
  • Capella University offers doctoral programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession.
  • Competency-based curriculum delivers both foundation knowledge and real-world skills, so that what you’re learning in your courses is immediately applicable to your career goals.
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