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How does the Ph.D. differ from the DSW?

For many years, the Rutgers School of Social Work has offered a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (Ph.D.) for those interested in research careers, careers in higher education and other non-clinical settings. Now, for the first time, the Rutgers School of Social Work will offer a practice-focused, post-MSW doctorate in clinical social work (DSW) for practitioner-scholars interested in advancing their clinical knowledge. The DSW will prepare graduates for leadership in clinical and behavioral health fields serving youth and adults.

Ph.D. programs, in general, require approximately 15-20 courses (and a dissertation) and most are organized around methods, research techniques, and statistics. Clinical theory and training is not the focus. The Ph.D. is especially appropriate for students wishing to learn research methods.

The DSW at Rutgers is designed to fill a gap in social work doctoral education. Practitioners committed to understanding and using theory-in-practice often lack the credentials, social networks and organizational bodies, and writing, publishing and dissemination skills (e.g., conferences and peer-review journals).

The Rutgers DSW will not privilege practice over research. It places value on developing critical perspectives on clinical theory in practice. Our program is designed to create engaged scholars, graduates who are equipped to find research partners to design and implement studies. This model will enrich research, as DSW students bring to Ph.D. researchers access to research participants and as important, insight into the everyday practice problems that need practice solutions.

How long does it take to complete the coursework?

The program is tightly structured so that all competencies and evaluations logically and progressively lead to graduation in three years. It is expected that students will complete all work in that time frame. In short, no interminable doctoral work! And we offer careful and thoughtful academic support to promote steady and successful progress throughout the three years.

How do the course modules differ from regular semester courses?

A typical 15-week semester course is organized by a single umbrella subject and taught by one instructor. This has worked well for undergraduate education and for some graduate programs where students matriculate directly from undergraduate programs. Assigning a topic to be covered in 15 weeks and assigning one instructor to the course is mostly an administrative function of higher education. In the Rutgers DSW, the breadth and depth of the subject matter determines the time spent on instruction and not the arbitrary semester. Similarly, by assigning a single instructor to a topic, students are limited to a pool of perhaps, five to ten professors who regularly teach the same doctoral classes. Modules provide the flexibility to calibrate the amount of instruction to the actual material. Modules mean that students can learn from dozens of expert faculty. Modules provide faculty the ability to focus their instruction on what they do and know best. Modules make sense for experienced practitioner doctoral education.

Does the DSW prepare you for a career in research?

If your career goal is to conduct social work research, you should consider the Ph.D. If want to partner with researchers and conduct research in a practice setting, then the DSW will prepare you to conduct engaged scholarship (Read More). Moreover, not all research needs to collect large samples. The DSW student will learn how to use the case study as a legitimate form of knowledge production, especially in the open system settings that most social workers practice in. The DSW student will learn how to use computer software to manage and analyze case study material. Students will learn how to use the philosophy of social science to support case study investigations and how to write critical review essays of research produced, evidence-based practices.

Is the DSW a recognized degree?

Sixty years ago many schools of social work conferred the DSW. But for many reasons, schools phased out the DSW and phased in the Ph.D. Most professions have practice-focused doctorates. Harvard’s education department does not have a Ph.D., but the Ed.D, Doctorate in Education. Nursing programs have the DSN, Doctorate in Nursing. Pharmacy and others have both the Ph.D. and doctoral focused practice degrees. Indeed, only social work turned so radically to the Ph.D. and phased out the DSW. Rutgers, along with a few other institutions, is moving forward by offering both. Some social work academicians will frown on the idea of the DSW; they will see the DSW as regression to some previously unscientific past. This is not our concern, nor our belief. Scientific endeavors are complex when applied to the human sciences and the DSW can make important contributions to knowledge production and dissemination. But innovative methods and systems take time to root and may never root in some academic institutions.

Where are classes held?

Downtown, New Brunswick, New Jersey, just a two block walk from the NJ transit station at 390 George St. Seminar rooms, faculty offices, conference rooms for students, and restaurants and hotels are conveniently located to maximize efficiency during each weekend residency.

Can I transfer doctoral course credits from other institutions or institutes?

The program is designed for everyone to move through as cohorts, thus it does not have the flexibility to transfer credits. Our modular program makes it difficult to compare courses with our philosophy of teaching and the content.

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