The Doctoral Program

Grounded in the recognition that direct practice and scholarly inquiry are complementary, Simmons's Ph.D. in Social Work prepares advanced clinical scholars for careers that significantly impact the direction of our profession. The Doctoral Program builds on our school's mission to contribute to the development of the social work profession in a multicultural society, to enhance the human service delivery system, and to work toward the goal of social justice.

Tamara Cadet

PhD in Social Work

download the PhD brochure as a PDF

Simmons's Ph.D. in Social Work is designed for experienced clinicians entering doctoral studies to develop applied scientific methodological skills to promote social justice and improving the health and well-being of individuals and populations. The Ph. D. Program is offered on a full-time basis, with all coursework offered on Thursdays during the regular academic semesters. No clinical practicum is required. A total of 45 credits (15 courses) are required for graduation. Other requirements include the teaching practicum, research practicum, and the successful completion of the dissertation. Students take three courses each semester with an option for a summer course over the first three years of the Program. In addition, a written and oral comprehensive exam, and the submission of an empirical paper to a peer reviewed scientific journal is required. The journal article submission demonstrates students' expertise in a substantive area, and must be completed before progress into the dissertation seminar. The comprehensive exam and paper submission usually occur before the end of summer between the second and third years of study. The dissertation requirement can be demonstrated through a traditional format, or a three-manuscript option. Students, therefore have the opportunity to graduate with a minimum of four peer-reviewed publications. Students are expected to complete the Program, including defense of the dissertation, in 4 - 6 years.


Coursework focuses on the philosophy of science and models of clinical social work practice, quantitative and qualitative research methods, the analysis of policy and practice trends, and the social work profession in interdisciplinary contexts. Students graduate as leaders, equipped with the comprehensive and cutting-edge knowledge that's required for solving complex social problems across a variety of professional venues. Our curriculum prepares experienced clinicians for advanced careers that significantly impact the direction of our profession, particularly in research and higher education. A total of 45 credits (15 courses) are required for graduation. 00Students make up the remaining 15 credits by taking elective courses.


The doctoral program seeks to advance student competence in teaching in a variety of ways. Simmons has been at the forefront of producing PhD students with training in adult learning and teaching experience. Students are required to take a course on learning and teaching, and participate in a teaching practicum.


Scholarly inquiry reflects a wide range of practice settings and research questions. The Doctoral Program advances student research competences through required and elective courses in qualitative, quantitative and statistical research methods. Students take five required research courses, exposing them to and providing skills in a variety of methodologies. In addition, students have opportunities to participate in research initiatives through practice and assistantships internal and external to Simmons.

Comprehensive Exam and Qualification into PhD Candidacy

Written Exam:
Qualified students will take a two-week exam on curricular content from required coursework. Each examinee chooses one of two questions from each course, completing a total of five questions.

Oral Exam:
Qualified students defend their written exam in an oral exam before a panel of PhD faculty members.

Qualified students will submit an empirical manuscript to a scientific peer reviewed journal approved by the examinee's adviser and doctoral program director. The manuscript must be submitted in accordance the journal's instructions.

Upon meeting the requirements listed above, the student will move into candidacy, and be eligible to participate in the dissertation seminar. The comprehensive paper represents a major transition point in a student's progress through the Doctoral Program.

The Dissertation

The production of a dissertation and its oral defense are major components in doctoral education. They are the final and most complete demonstration of the student's suitability to receive the PhD. The dissertation has three basic objectives:

1. To extend applied empirical and conceptual knowledge in a substantive area of concern to society.

2. To demonstrate the application of rigorous scientific methodology to the substantive area of study.

3. To articulate the applied relevance of social work scholarship and science to society, other disciplines, and social work practice, policy and research.

The doctoral candidate has two options for the format of their dissertation: Standard Dissertation or three-paper dissertation.

Current PhD Students

Detailed information is available to current PhD students in a dedicated section of our website.

A Rich and Varied Body of Knowledge

SSW doctoral candidates conduct thorough, thoughtful research, generating powerful dissertations. Some recent topics include:

  • Reclaiming and Constructing Identities: The Journey Out of Homelessness for Persons With Mental Illness
  • Self-perceived Unpopularity in Children and Adolescents: Its Antecedents, Characteristics, and Relationship to Later Maladjustment
  • To Hear and to Respond: The Influence of Zen Buddhist Meditation on the Practice of Clinical Social Work
  • Helpful and Unhelpful Interactions Between Professionals and Parents of Children with Cognitive Challenges: A Developmental Perspective
  • Adaptation and Transformation: The Transition to Adoptive Parenthood for Gay Male Couples
  • Young, Urban, Unwed Fathers: Depressive Symptoms, Problem Behaviors, and Psychosocial Correlates
  • El Sufimiento de los Colombianos en Nueva Inglatera: Como Salen Adelante (Suffering of Colombians in New England: How They Cope)