Walden’s Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program is one of the few programs of its kind offered online. Created to help you change your world and the world of others, the online DSW program can prepare you to become a recognized leader in your field and help you gain the skills to develop sustainable solutions for today’s most pressing social issues.

This doctoral program prepares you to be an authoritative advocate for social justice. Enhance your ability to address societal challenges and make an even greater difference in the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. The Doctor of Social Work program includes eight specializations so you can align your studies with your personal interests.

Featuring a curriculum based on the latest research and best practices in social work, Walden’s online DSW program provides ample opportunity for relevant, hands-on learning. As a Doctor of Social Work student, you participate in a four-day residency that gives you the chance to expand your clinical capabilities, network and socialize with peers, and meet one-on-one with Walden faculty. The culmination of your studies is an action research project in which you put your knowledge and skills to work to address a real-world problem in your agency or community.

The online DSW program at Walden allows you to expand your practice to new populations and pursue leadership roles in social work agencies and organizations. With this DSW degree, you can advance your career while making a significant and positive impact on public welfare in various settings, including schools, government agencies, and mental health organizations.

Aligned with Walden University’s mission of social change, this social work doctoral program allows you to:

  • Develop expertise in a particular area of social work, such as addictions or medical social work, among others.
  • Use research to advocate for changes that support your clients and community through an action research project. This project enables you to focus on an everyday problem or unmet need within your community (e.g., long wait times in your local hospital’s ER or access to medical care for people with heart disease) and develop a plan for remediating the issue.
  • Conduct effective analyses of social welfare policies.
  • Gain skills for designing and implementing social welfare programs.

A Master of Social Work (MSW) is a prerequisite for Walden’s online DSW program.



Walden’s Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program offers a variety of specializations to help you meet your personal and professional goals:

Learning Outcomes

Graduates of this program will be prepared to:

  1. Utilize current research, best practices, and theory to promote prevention and intervention strategies that address social problems and needs of social groups.
  2. Employ various research and statistical tools to find data used to address the etiology and dynamics of social problems and social needs.
  3. Evaluate the role of research and evaluation in social work in improving social interventions and advancing theory development.
  4. Critically evaluate the history of social work, its mission, and its core values.
  5. Promote social change by collaborating with leaders, agencies, and universities to advocate for policies and programs that advance the economic and social well-being of culturally diverse clientele.
  6. Demonstrate the ability to assess the role of diversity in characterizing and shaping the human experience.
  7. Apply ethical decision making and practices in social work.

Career Impact

With a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) from Walden, you can gain the skills needed to become an advanced practitioner. This doctoral degree program can also prepare you to become a leader in designing, implementing, and assessing social welfare programs and policies.

Enter a High-Growth Field

  • Opportunities for social work professionals are expected to grow by 25% from 2010 to 2020—faster than the average for all other occupations.1
  • Career opportunities for healthcare social workers are projected to grow at a rate of 34% through 2020.1

Expand Your Career Options

A DSW can prepare you to pursue roles at the forefront of the social work profession:

  • Leader in agencies and organizations
  • Program director
  • Evaluator of social work practice and agencies 
  • Supervisor in social work organizations

Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

Academic Residency

  • Goals: Socialization into Walden, community building, and continued development of clinical skills
  • Components: Orientation, colloquia on professional identity, team building, interviewing and listening skills, and scholarly writing
  • Format: Seminars, small groups, and co-teaching with doctoral-level faculty
  • Focus: Action research methods and skills, teaching and supervision in clinical social work practice, and advanced clinical skills
  • Timing: DSW students can participate in their academic residency as soon as they begin the program. Students must complete their DSW academic residency before they begin their action research project.
  • Location: For your convenience, the DSW academic residency is scheduled several times throughout the year and is held in a variety of locations in the United States.

The Doctor of Social Work (DSW) academic residency provides an opportunity for you to interact with your peers and faculty to expand your clinical skills and create strategies for developing your action research project. These experiences are designed to enhance your development as both a social work clinician and a scholar-practitioner so that you can create positive social change.

The four-day DSW academic residency offers you an opportunity to:

  • Participate in sessions with small groups of other students who share your professional and research interests.
  • Enhance your skills in clinical work, research, information literacy, critical thinking, and scholarly writing.
  • Network and socialize with peers to strengthen your scholarly and professional community.
  • Meet one-on-one with faculty members, academic advisors, and student support staff members.

Meet Our Students and Faculty

A Social Worker’s Charge

Adrien Green
PhD in Social Work student Adrian Green shares her insight on struggles and opportunities within child protective services.

Practicing With Purpose

Renata Hedrington-Jones
Social work is often described as challenging and frustrating, but it's also rewarding to see the difference social workers make in people's lives and communities.

A Passion for Special Needs Kids

Kailee Bauman
MSW student Kailee Bauman hopes to advocate for and raise awareness of special-needs kids.


Bernadette Marson

Bernadette Marson

PhD in Human Services Graduate
I hope that with the degree I’ve obtained from Walden I can help individuals, organizations, and policymakers develop policies and plans to benefit children and youth.
I knew from earning my master’s degree that Walden fit my schedule as an intervention counselor, trainer, and single parent.
I knew I wanted to attain a PhD so that I could teach at the university level, and I have a passion for forming competent and informed social workers.
Mildred Peyton PhD in Human Services Graduate
Mildred Peyton
Tomica Buford MS in Mental Health Counseling Graduate
Tomica Buford
Warren Miller PhD in Social Work graduate

FAQ About Walden’s Online Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012–13 Edition, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Social-workers.htm/#tab-6 (viewed online June 28, 2013). National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual employment.

Note: Time to completion and cost are not estimates of individual experience and will vary based on individual factors applicable to the student. Factors may be programmatic or academic, such as tuition and fee increases; transfer credits accepted by Walden; program or specialization changes; unsuccessful course completion; credit load per term; part-time vs. full-time enrollment; writing, research, and editing skills; use of external data for the doctoral study/dissertation; and individual progress in the program. Other factors may include personal issues such as the student’s employment obligations, caregiving responsibilities, or health issues; leaves of absence; or other personal circumstances.

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