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.
Learn to identify the needs of families, individuals, and communities whose lives have been affected by addiction
This specialization can prepare you for a career as an expert in clinical social work practice.
With this specialization, you can study best practices related to traditional forms of intervention for both offenders and victims, including individual and group therapy.
Study crisis intervention theories and models for working with a wide range of populations. You also will be able to examine best practices for counseling victims in the aftermath of natural or man-made crises.
Develop advanced skills to provide culturally sensitive support to children and families.
This program helps you cultivate a better understanding of the resources and support services available for vulnerable populations, including those who are terminally ill, disabled, or dealing with acute or chronic illness.
This specialization can help you advance social welfare by identifying community needs and learning best practices for working with key stakeholders on today’s most pressing social policy issues.
This curriculum is designed to help you gain insight into organizational behavior, staff development, internal and community relations, and management
A master's degree or higher. At least two years of full-time or part-time post-MSW practice experiences within the past 5 years, to include agency-based social work practice, Resume – 2 years post-MSW practice experience within past five (5) years.
Completed online application and transcripts. Please note that the materials you are required to submit may vary depending on the academic program to which you apply. More information for international applicants.
Graduates of this program will be prepared to:
- Utilize current research, best practices, and theory to promote prevention and intervention strategies that address social problems and needs of social groups.
- Employ various research and statistical tools to find data used to address the etiology and dynamics of social problems and social needs.
- Evaluate the role of research and evaluation in social work in improving social interventions and advancing theory development.
- Critically evaluate the history of social work, its mission, and its core values.
- 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.
- Demonstrate the ability to assess the role of diversity in characterizing and shaping the human experience.
- Apply ethical decision making and practices in social work.
- 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.
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.
I will always recommend Walden because of how much support is given to ensure success. I love Walden so much, I applied for a fellowship.
Kimberly Bainruel Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Graduate
Walden’s mission is about social change, which is what social work is all about.
Justa Smith Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Graduate
I found both the staff and the program to be very helpful to prepare me well for my field of practice.
Samantha Cole Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Graduate
Social Work Month is celebrated each March. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the month serves as an opportunity to highlight the important contributions social workers make to society. Walden University’s own Dr. Barbara Solomon, a well-known professional in the field, is identified by the NASW as a NASW Pioneer and is recognized in the California Social Work Hall of Distinction. Walden named its School of Social Work in honor of Dr. Barbara Solomon in recognition of her impact on the social work profession and her service to Walden as a longtime board member.
High-quality social work degree programs will offer diverse focus areas or specializations to provide a more direct path toward making a difference in your particular area of interest. When you enroll in Walden University’s Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program, you can choose from variety of specializations, including:
Addictions and Social Work Clinical Expertise Criminal Justice Medical Social Work Policy Practice Social Work Administration Disaster, Crisis, and Intervention Family Studies and Intervention
The different specializations can guide where you work and what type of job you might take. And while each specialization centers on a different aspect of the social work field, they share similar strengths including foundational studies, the development of scholarly research skills, practical exercises, and opportunities for field experiences.
Earning an advanced degree in social work, such as a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree, can prepare you for a variety of roles, including medical social worker, depending on your training and experience. Professionals serving in this capacity are critical to our healthcare system, helping patients understand their medical diagnoses and navigate the system so that they get the care and assistance they need. Medical social workers also work closely with doctors and nurses to understand how an illness or disease may affect a patient’s mental or emotional health. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of healthcare social workers is expected to increase 11% by 2028, adding more than 81,200 new jobs.1
If you’re ready for a career devoted to making a difference in people’s lives, social work is a great field and you have two great degrees at the doctoral level from which to choose. To determine which program better aligns with your interests and goals, it’s helpful to look at the differences. In a PhD program, students focus on advancing their skills as researchers and typically seek careers in academia. Students who choose to pursue their Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree focus more on how research can be applied to social work programs and policies, as well as the key leadership and management skills needed to improve their practice. To summarize, a PhD better prepares you to teach, while a DSW prepares you for a professional career in the field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in the field of social work is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations from 2018 to 2028.1 This growth is projected to include a variety of roles within the field, and a DSW can help prepare you for many—if not all—of them. These roles include:
- Leader in agencies and organizations
- Mental health and substance abuse program director
- Social work agency evaluator
- Supervisor in social work organizations
Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of a DSW degree program.