PhD Program In Social Welfare

Welcome to the PhD Program in Social Welfare

The PhD program in Social Welfare strives to develop scholars, leaders, and social work educators who will advance knowledge about social work, social welfare policy, and intervention strategies from a behavioral and social science perspective to improve the quality of life of individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations.

Our students work with award-winning research centers and institutes, such as the Institute for Research on Poverty, Institute on Aging, Waisman Center, School of Medicine and Public Health, and more. Our students choose from a wide selection of courses in world-renowned social and behavioral science departments including; Sociology, Economics, Educational Psychology, Human Development and Family Studies, the La Follette School of Public Affairs, Psychology, Gender Studies, Population Health, Nursing, and more.

The PhD program provides an interdisciplinary plan of study in basic and applied social research. In the program, doctoral students build and integrate knowledge in:

  1. a substantive or social problem area (e.g., child welfare, aging, developmental disabilities, end-of-life care, health, mental health, poverty);
  2. social science theory (e.g., theories of the life course, economic theory, psychopathology, organizational theory, stress process theories);
  3. research designs and statistical methodologies (e.g., program evaluation, policy analysis, longitudinal analysis).

The PhD program offers degree options for students entering the program with and without a Master of Social Work (MSW).  For more information, please visit program track tabs.

Why Choose a Social Welfare PhD at UW-Madison?

The UW-Madison Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work is known for its:

  • National Reputation of Excellence
  • Faculty Research
  • Highly Recruited Graduates
  • Strong Faculty Mentoring Model
  • Individualized Programs of Study
  • Substantial Financial Support
  • Rigorous Interdisciplinary Research Training
  • Vibrant Graduate Student Community
  • Opportunities to collaborate with world-renowned research centers and institutes
  • Options to pursue interdisciplinary PhD minors in Aging; Prevention and Intervention Science; and Women’s Studies, among others

Standard Track, for those with an MSW

Students entering the PhD program with an MSW will follow the Standard plan of study. Visit The Guide to see the current plan of study for Standard track students.

Course Descriptions

View descriptions of the required PhD courses offered by the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work. Syllabi are also available for the current and past terms.

Application Process

Like all PhD Program applicants, Standard Track applicants are required to have completed a statistics course and 30-semester credits of social science courses prior to acceptance into the PhD program. Prospective students interested in the Standard track must apply to and be accepted by the PhD Program using the PhD application. 

See the PhD Application Page for admissions information and requirements  


Learn more about the Social Welfare PhD Program by visiting our FAQ page:

PhD Track Options for Applicants without an MSW

Applicants without a Masters of Social Work (MSW) have two track options. Determine which option applies to you, and refer to the PhD Application Page for application instructions.

Note: Although an MSW is not universally required for faculty hires across schools of social work, the MSW is required to teach social work practice courses. In addition, the Council on Social Work Education requires educators to have at least two years of post-BSW or post-MSW social work degree practice experience to teach practice courses.

PhD-Only, for applicants that do not wish to obtain an MSW.

  • The PhD-Only option is for students applying to the PhD program without a BSW or MSW, that wish to obtain only the PhD degree.
  • Students complete 6 credits of MSW coursework: SW 708, 711, and 675 (internship), in addition to the Standard plan of study found in The Guide

Joint MSW/PhD for applicants with a BSW that would like to earn their MSW as part of the PhD Program.

  • The Joint MSW/PhD option is for applicants with a Bachelors of Social Work (BSW).  This track allows students to earn their Masters of Social Work (MSW) while earning their PhD.
  • Students complete the equivalent of the one-year advanced generalist master’s program while part of the PhD Program. Joint MSW/PhD students will take SW 612, 800, 801, 840, an MSW advanced practice course, and an MSW elective in addition to the Standard plan of study found in The Guide

Course Descriptions

View descriptions of the required PhD courses offered by the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work. Syllabi are also available for the current and past terms.

Application Process

See the PhD Application Page for admissions informationrequirements, and instructions for applying  


Learn more about the Social Welfare PhD Program by visiting our FAQ page:

Graduate Assistantships

Social Welfare PhD students are generally guaranteed a minimum funding package consisting of a 33.4%, 9-month appointment for a minimum of five years, if they are in good academic standing, make satisfactory progress in their coursework, perform acceptably in their appointed position, and remain in residence.  However, many appointments or combinations of appointments go above the minimum guarantee of 33.4%, and may include summer appointments. 

Typically, students do not receive funding after their 5th year in the program, though some exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis depending on funding availability and the fit between a student’s skills and faculty/departmental needs with regards to TA, PA, RA, and teaching appointments. Refer to the Graduate School Explorer data tools, available at (click “Data” in the upper right), for historical information on how the Program’s students have been funded. Or, click here:

Graduate assistantships appointed at 33.3% or higher (>13 hours/week) provide multiple benefits:

  • monthly stipend;
  • remission* of both resident and non-resident tuition (students will still need to pay segregated fees, roughly $726/semester); and
  • eligibility for health insurance (health insurance options for a reasonable premium are among the country’s best group health insurance plans)

Appointment Types

  • Teaching Assistantships (TA): Instructional positions that could include lecturing, grading papers, supervising laboratories, leading discussion sections, or developing course curriculum
  • Project Assistantships (PA): Project-related assignments such as coordinating programs, organizing events, analyzing data, or supporting student services
  • Research Assistantships (RA): Research under the guidance of a faculty member
  • Lecturer, Student Assistant (LSA): Instructional position leading a course in place of faculty or instructional academic staff

For more details on TA, RA, and PA, positions, including stipend levels, please visit:

Support Funding

Support is available for current PhD students seeking conference, dissertation research activities (e.g., data collection costs, participant incentives, transcription), or emergency funding. Examples of conferences that we have supported students attending in the past includes SSWR, APPAM, SRCD, APHA, GSA, Gatlinburg Conference, WAIMH, and more.


As part of our admissions process, the PhD Committee considers all incoming students for available awards, including;

In the spring, the PhD Committee awards current students PhD Scholarships and Awards including;

The UW- Madison International Student Services (ISS) Office offers information on scholarships and grants for International graduate students, as well as educational loan options.  See more here: ISS:

Additionally, we recommend applying for outside awards and funding.  The Wisconsin Scholarship Hub, or WISH, is a great place to start the graduate scholarship search.  Visit the site here:

Application Process

See the PhD Application Page for admissions information and requirements.


Learn more about the Social Welfare PhD Program by visiting our FAQ page:

The PhD Program in Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is proud to announce our current job market candidates. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance in your faculty recruitment.

Please visit the PhD Students and Alumni on the Job Market page.


Learn more about the Social Welfare PhD Program by visiting our FAQ page:

PhD Program Handbook (Guidelines)

The PhD Program in Social Welfare Guidelines have been developed by the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, and cover the policies and expectations of our PhD Program, in accordance with the UW-Madison Graduate School Academic Policies and Procedures.

These guidelines are updated annually. Each doctoral student is expected to adhere to the policies and expectations in the Guidelines applicable to their year of entry into the program.

Guidelines are available for the past several years: