This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Program mission

The VCU School of Social Work Ph.D. program prepares researchers and educators to generate, implement and communicate knowledge to advance social justice, improve human well-being and enhance the profession’s impact on pressing social problems.    

Program goals

The principal goal of the Ph.D. in Social Work program is to prepare a diverse student body whose research, teaching and scholarship will position them for leadership in advancing professional practice, social policy and social work education. To achieve this goal, the program prepares students to:

  1. Conduct and disseminate high-quality research that furthers the knowledge base of the profession
  2. Develop cutting-edge knowledge and skills for social work teaching and learning
  3. Promote social welfare and social justice in and with local, national and global communities

Student learning outcomes

Upon completion of the required curriculum, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Understand and critique the history and philosophy of social work as a profession and academic discipline and draw implications for its current and future directions
  2. Use rigorous methods and analytic strategies to conduct and disseminate high-quality research that contributes to the knowledge base of social work and related disciplines
  3. Identify and critique the main social and behavioral science theories that inform knowledge development in their selected substantive area and in social work education
  4. Articulate expertise in a selected substantive area relevant to social work and contextualize this expertise in a broader interdisciplinary frame of reference
  5. Critically analyze the substance, function and contexts for formulation, implementation and evaluation of key social policies and draw implications for advocacy and social justice
  6. Demonstrate proficiency in the knowledge, skills and values required for excellence as a social work educator

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Qualifying examination

Upon completion of all required course work, students are required to pass a qualifying examination. The exam comprises a proposal and related reading list, a comprehensive paper which the student develops independently and an oral examination. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, students are approved for registration for a minimum of one credit hour of dissertation research.


After passing the qualifying examination, students will propose, conduct and defend their dissertation with the guidance of a dissertation committee. The dissertation is a piece of independent research that addresses an issue of immediate relevance to the social work profession. Students may register for as many credits as needed/desired, but they must maintain continuous enrollment of at least one credit hour per semester (excluding summer) until they attain a minimum of nine dissertation credits and complete their dissertation. Successful completion of 54 credits of course work and the successful defense of the dissertation fulfill the requirements for the degree.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.