Jun 22, 2024  
2014-2015 Graduate Catalog 
2014-2015 Graduate Catalog [Not Current Academic Year. Consult with Your Academic Advisor for Your Catalog Year]

Social Work, Ph.D.

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Doctoral Mission Statement

The mission of the Graduate College of Social Work is to educate professionals for social work practice, research, and leadership.  We advocate for innovative, collaborative, inclusive, and human policies and solutions that promote social, economic, and political justice.  Our College generates new knowledge through critical thinking that links rigorous scientific inquiry, ethical social work practice, and community engagement.

Ph.D. Program Goals

The goal of the GSCW Doctoral Program is to prepare social work researchers, scholars, and educators to advance the knowledge base of the profession.  The Doctoral Program offers students an opportunity to:

  • Develop a multidisciplinary understanding of complex issues and problems;
  • Focus on innovative methodologies in knowledge building;
  • Conduct translational research from problem-solving to real life solutions; and
  • Foster individual connections and collaborative mentorship.

Program Objectives

Upon completion of the Ph.D. Program, students will be able to:

  • Analyze the varieties of translational research;
  • Apply analytical models and multidisciplinary theories in the study of social problems and human behavior;
  • Conduct basic, applied and translational research that has a meaningful impact on problems studied;
  • Demonstrate innovation in critical thinking and research; and
  • Write competitive grant applications.

The doctoral program seeks applicants with potential to:

  1. Contribute new research knowledge which will advance the profession’s ability to respond effectively to social service needs of individuals, groups, families, and communities;
  2. Critically analyze the existing theoretical knowledge and value bases of contemporary social work practice;
  3. Understand the processes of theory construction and validation in the development of social work;
  4. Acquire advanced research competence to:  (a) evaluate social work practice and the theories which undergird that practice; (b) critically evaluate interventions, outcomes, and effectiveness of services; (c) understand the policies which effect the delivery of social services; and (d) evaluate new and evolving needs and problems of individuals, families, groups, and communities in general, as well as special populations in need of social work services;
  5. Seek and synthesize relevant knowledge and approaches to theory-building in the behavioral and social sciences, the humanities, and other helping professions in order to enrich social work theory, knowledge, practice, education, and social work research;
  6. Understand the historical roots, philosophical value positions, and parameters of social policy that affect contemporary social work provide the context for social work practice;
  7. Understand and critically evaluate contemporary trends and issues in social welfare policy development;
  8. Understand how cultural diversity impacts social welfare policies, direct social services, complex organizations, and research;
  9. Understand the dynamics of complex organizations and how they affect the context in which social work services are administered; and
  10. Produce and disseminate knowledge in professional publications, lectures, and conference presentations.

Degree Requirements

A Minimum of 48 semester credit hours (SCH), 39 in coursework and nine (9) SCH in dissertation research, are required for the Ph.D.  Following successful completion of all coursework, students are required to write a qualifying paper.  When the qualifying paper has been completed successfully, students begin dissertation research by selecting a dissertation committee, preparing a written dissertation proposal that must be defended before the committee, conducting the dissertation research, with a final defense culminating the process.

Persons interested in the Ph.D. in Social Work can access complete program information and required materials by going to the Graduate College of Social Work Ph.D. admissions page.

Academic and Professional Behavior Policies

Academic Probation and Suspension

A student whose grade point average (GPA) falls below 3.0 (B) will be placed on academic probation, and will be allowed to continue his/her enrollment only with the written recommendation of the Doctoral Program Director and approval from the Dean.  Permission to continue will be granted only if there is reasonable likelihood that the grade point average will improve in the subsequent semester.  Removal from academic probation is grated when the grade point average is raised to B or above.

Two “C” Rule

Students who received a grade of C+ or lower in 6 semester credit hours of doctoral credit, while enrolled in the doctoral program, whether or not in repeated courses, will be dismissed from the doctoral program.

The previous rule allowed students to have no more than 2 grades of C of doctoral credit.  This meant that students could remain in the program after having received 2 Cs and would not be dismissed unless they received a third grade of C.  Note: UH has a 3C policy whereby any student who receives 3 grades of “C+” or below in any graduate level course will be dismissed from the University.

Incomplete Grades

The grade of I (Incomplete) is a conditional and temporary grade given when students are passing a course, but for reasons beyond their control, have not completed a relatively small part of all requirements.  Students are responsible for informing the instructor immediately of the reasons for not submitting an assignment on time or not taking an examination as scheduled.  The grade of I must be changed by fulfilling the course requirements by the deadline set by the instructor, but no more than one year from the date awarded, or, in conformance with University Policy, it will be changed automatically to “F” or “U” (in S/U graded courses).

Academic Honesty

All members of, and participants in, the academic life of the University are governed by the University of Houston Academic Honesty Policy.

Disciplinary Action and Termination

The nature of social work dictates that practitioners use sound professional judgment.  The college reserves the right to terminate enrollment of any student at any time for what the college faculty and administration may believe to be good and sufficient reason(s), such as cheating, plagiarism, misuse of University property, or unprofessional conduct.

Grievance Policy and Procedures

Students have the right to appeal any action they feel is unfair or in error.  The Graduate College of Social Work Policy for Student Grievance is available in the Doctoral Student Handbook (Word Doc).  It is the responsibility of all students to become familiar with the various policies and regulations of the University and the GCSW and to meet the conditions they impose.

Continuous Enrollment

Doctoral students must be continuously enrolled in coursework until the completion of the Ph.D. degree.  During their Dissertation phase, students must enroll in at least 3 credit hours per semester of Dissertation study.  In addition, students must complete one academic year in residency in continuous full-time enrollment.  Full-time study constitutes 9 credit hours per semester while part-time study must constitute 6 credit hours per semester.  Students who cannot enroll in a given semester must apply for a leave of absence by completing the required Leave of Absence form (see Appendix A).  Students who wish to withdraw from the Doctoral Program should do so properly.

Students who plan on Fall, Spring, or Summer graduation must also:  (1) be enrolled during that semester; and (2) file an Application for Graduation for the graduating semester.

Time Limits for Completion of Degree Requirements

Students who enroll as doctoral candidates must complete their degree requirements within ten (10) years of the date of first enrollment with a doctoral degree objective.  Failure to comply will result in the candidate being ineligible for the doctoral degree.  Doctoral students who fail to complete their dissertation within five (5) years after completion of the qualifying papter must redo the qualifying paper.  See Academic Regulations and Degree Requirements  in the graduate catalog.

Student Leave Policy

The approval of a student leave from the GCSW Doctoral Program is not automatic; it can be denied if the student does not provide valid grounds for the leave.  A student must inform the Ph.D. Program Director of their intent to take a leave.  To be eligible, students must complete athe college’s Ph.D. Program Form F: Student Request to Take a Leave of Absence.  After completing the form, they must submit it to the Ph.D. Program Director for approval.

Leaves from the GCSW Doctoral Program are for a maximum of one academic year.  However, under rare circumstances (e.g., severe health problems of the student or close family member), leaves can be extended.  However, appropriate documentation is required to extend the leave.

Students who fail to return (i.e., they do not register for classes or dissertation credits) on time from a leave of absence will be dismissed form the GCSW Doctoral Program as per The Graduate and Professional Studies Catalog.


The Ph.D. Program Director serves as the Faculty Advisor for students until a Dissertation Chairperson is chosen.  Students are urged to consult with a wide range of faculty members on matters related to substantive areas of their course of study.

Coursework and Independent Study/Special Problems Courses

The curriculum plan requires completion of a minimum of 48 semester credit hours.  Thirty-nine (39) SCH in coursework and nine (9) SCH in dissertation.  The program design is based on a curriculum that provides a theoretical base in social work and social science theories; acquisition of research competencies requisite for doctoral study in social work; and essential content related to the history and philosophy of social work practice.  As such, the curriculum strives to achieve a balance between research and theory (which includes social policy, social work practice theory, social justice, and social science knowledge, including theory construction).

The aim of independent study/special problems courses is to develop and pursue expertise in a student’s area of specialization for which there is no formal or scheduled classes available.  This can involve statistics, research methods, as well as other subject content.  Each credit of independent study is equivalent to 3 hours a week of work.  An independent study of 3 SCH is therefore equivalent to 9 hours of work a week.  Using the Independent Study/Special Problems Request Form, student must make a formal request to the instructor for approved independent study/special problems coursework and course enrollment.

An Independent Study is graded as S/U or letter grade and Special Problems Study will receive a letter grade.


Students are encouraged to take independent study courses or electives in other departments of the University of Houston or in institutions such as Rice University, UT School of Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine, UT School of Nursing School, UH Law School, and Texas Woman’s University.  Electives taken at the University of Houston must be designated as 8000-level courses.

Pre-Dissertation Research

Students who have completed the required and elective coursework, but have not yet successfully completed their qualifying paper or have not yet defended their dissertation proposal must take SOCW 8395 - Pre-Dissertation Research  to maintain continuous enrollment.  Students cannot take SOCW 8399 - Dissertation  until they have successfully completed SOCW 8395 .  In other words, students are not permitted to register for Doctoral Dissertation (SOCW 8399 /SOCW 8699 /SOCW 8999 ) until after they have been admitted into candidacy (i.e., they have successfully passed their qualifying paper and defended their Dissertation proposal).  Students who take SOCW 8395  in preparation for their comprehensive examinations and Dissertation proposal defense must take it on an S/U basis.

Ph.D. Admission Requirements and Necessary Documentation

Early application is strongly encouraged as the number of new students admitted each year is limited, and the admissions process is competitive.  Applications must be accompanied by a non-refundable application fee.  Incomplete applications, including those without the required fee, will not be reviewed.  For deadline dates on the submission of doctoral application materials, please check the website or contact the Doctoral Program Admissions Office at (713)743-8080.

To be considered for admission to the Ph.D. Program applicants must:

  1. Hold a master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.) from a CSWE-accreditted program.  Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attending previously are required.
  2. Hold a master’s degree in a related social science discipline from an accredited program.  The Doctoral Admissions Committee will evaluate whether M.S.W. foundation prerequisite courses will be required.
  3. Have achieved a grade point average of 3.5 or better (A=4.0) in all previous undergraduate and graduate work.  Applicants who do not meet the minimum 3.5 GPA requirement but who demonstrate excellence in other areas of the application may be considered.  We will calculate your GPA based on your transcripts.
  4. Submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores.  You must have official test scores sent directly to the university.  Test scores should not be more than five years old.  The University of Houston’s institutional code for the GRE is 6870.  For information about the GRE, call the Educational Testing Service at 1-800-537-3160 or check the UH Learning and Assessment Services Web site (http://las.uh.edu/uts/).
  5. Submit a minimum of three, but not more than five, names of refernces from those who are familiar with your potential for doctoral education.  At least two references must be from academics (i.e., former tenure-track professors, graduate advisor, etc.).
  6. Submit a current vita and a written narrative statement that describes your academic and employment histories, and your interest in the Ph.D. program.  Identify the faculty you wish to work with in order to develop your research interest.
  7. Submit samples of publications, papers, or other materials reflecting your academic and research excellence.  An admissions interview (in-person or by phone) may be requested at the discretion of the Doctoral Committee.

Note:  Proficiency in English.  Any student, prior to admission or during their course of study, may be required to demonstrate English proficiency through submission of a satisfactory score on a test designated by the Associate Dean of the college.  Students whose written or spoken English skills appear to be marginal (i.e., they may impede academic success and/or reflect communication problems) may be required to seek instruction outside the college.

Dual M.S.W./Ph.D. Option

The Dual Program is designed only for full-time students pursuing both the M.S.W. and the Ph.D. degrees.  A limited number of applicants with extensive practice and/or research experience will be accepted into the Dual Program.  This program is designed for applicants whose long-range career goals and past experience are consistent with the aims of both the M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs, and who wish to accelerate their education.  The combined program offers a structured educational opportunity for students holding master’s degrees in other fields, but who want to earn the M.S.W. while pursuing the Ph.D.  The M.S.W. allows graduates to teach practice courses at accredited schools of social work after completing a minimum of 2 years post-M.S.W. practice experience.

In the first year, dual students enroll only in required M.S.W. foundation courses.  Students will not take any doctoral courses in their first year.  Applicants for the Dual Program are required to submit applications to both the M.S.W. and the Ph.D. programs separately, and the required application fee for each program.  If admitted, admission into the Doctoral Program is probationary and based on the successful completion of the required M.S.W. “first year” courses.

The M.S.W. degree will be awarded prior to the completion of the Ph.D. degree.  Students can drop out of the Doctoral Program if they decide to terminate their education with an M.S.W. degree.

Admissions Requirements for the Dual Degree

  1. Completion of an on-line application, the required documents, and the non-refundable application fee.
  2. Admission to the M.S.W. Program.
  3. Have achieved a grade point average of 3.5 or better (4.0 scale) in all previous undergraduate and graduate study.  Applicants whose GPA is below 3.5, but who have demonstrated excellence in other areas of the application, may be considered.  We will calculate your GPA based on your transcripts.
  4. Evidence of a strong interest in advancing knowledge about social work and social service.  This interest can be demonstrated through the application narrative and through paid and unpaid work experience.
  5. Strong undergraduate research background.
  6. In-person or telephone interview may be required.

Additional Requirements for International Applicants

Persons who hold a nonimmigrant type visa (F1 or J1) are classified as international applicants/students by the University of Houston.  Because the application process is more time consuming for persons from other countries or persons whose degrees were earned abroad, international applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible.

In addition to the application materials and application required by the GCSW, international applicants must submit the following:

  1. Complete the on-line international application
  2. Statement of Understanding
  3. Letter of Financial Backing
  4. A nonrefundable application/evaluation fee of US $75.00 made payable to the University of Houston.  Payment may be made with a personal check drawn from a US bank, cashier’s check, or money order or visa or master card denominated in US dollars.  If payment is being sent from outside the United States, it must be in the form of an American Express money order.  NOTE: This fee is in addition to the nonrefundable US $100.00 application fee required by the Graduate School of Social Work.  Please submit a separate check or money order for each fee.
  5. Two passport-sized photographs
  6. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of at least 550.  This is required of all applicants from countries where English is not the native language.  Test scores may not be more than two years old.  Applicants must have earned the bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, from an institution accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.

The University of Houston reserves the right to evaluate foreign credentials.  In general, these evaluations will follow nationally accepted review practices and will rely on standard references, such as the World Education Series published by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers.

You are exempt from the TOEFL requirement if you:

  • Have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited United States college or university.
  • Studied for your bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, in Australia, Bahamas, British Isles, English-speaking Canadian provinces, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, West Indies, Trinidad, South Africa, Fiji Islands, Liberia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, Belize, and St. Thomas.

Policies for International Applicants

  • International students on nonimmigrant visas must carry hospitalization and medical insurance.
  • Nonimmigrant international students are prohibited from participation in employment unless authorized by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Services or the International Student and Scholar Services Office at the University of Houston.
  • New students on nonimmigrant visas are required to enroll for an orientation program which takes place at the beginning of their first semester.
  • Holders of nonimmigrant visas must maintain fulltime enrollment each semester.

For additional information please visit the International Student and Scholar Services website.

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