Doctor of Social Work

This professional higher degree involves directly relevant coursework, practice-development research at a high standard, and a research thesis of 50,000 words that links the other two components. This course produces graduates who are equipped to lead in social work research as well as in instructing and mentoring social workers. The Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is a research degree that will enable experienced practitioners in social work to:

  • develop excellence in field-based research and practice

  • review and develop theoretical approaches to the changing context of welfare

  • articulate new forms of practice appropriate for the new century

  • gain the qualifications necessary for taking on leadership roles in the profession and in human services

  • be identified with continuing professional education at the University of Sydney.


Unique to Sydney Uni

By combining social work and social policy units of study, the DSW program gives intellectual rigour to its study of equity, social-justice and social-empowerment issues.

The program has a broad range of pure and applied research interests, including:

  • specific population groups such as women, migrants and Aboriginal Australians

  • theories of social work practice

  • comparative studies of welfare policy and practice in a range of sociocultural settings (including Europe and Asia)

  • the history and theory of the welfare state.

As well, academic staff maintain a broad range of community involvements, including sitting on local, state and national advisory boards, serving on community welfare organisations' boards, and providing advice to a range of welfare agencies.


Entry requirements

Students enter the program by one of three qualifying pathways: direct entry; Probationary A entry; or Probationary B entry.

Direct entry

Prospective candidates who have at least three years' professional experience in social work and satisfy one of the criteria listed below may apply for direct entry into the DSW program:

  • BSW (or related area of study) awarded with first-class honours or second-class (division one) honours
  • MSW(Research) or equivalent, published, research-based work
  • MSW(Coursework), awarded with merit, and which included a dissertation of
    12,000–15,000 words, based on primary data, not literature review, with a grade-point average of at least 80 per cent in the degree.

Probationary A entry

Probationary A entry is open to people who have at least three years' professional experience in social work or a related field and satisfy both the criteria listed below:

  • MSW(Coursework) from the University of Sydney or equivalent institution, awarded with merit and with a grade-point average of at least 75 per cent
  • an amount of scholarly writing and/or research expertise which, in the opinion of the faculty, is equivalent to a research thesis or dissertation at a master's level.

The probation comprises 12 months' full-time attendance (or part-time equivalent) during which applicants undertake the units of study listed below and – in order to proceed to the DSW – must achieve the results specified.

Probationary B entry

Probationary B entry is open to people satisfy all the criteria listed below:

  • demonstrated professional leadership in the field in which the doctoral study is proposed
  • a four-year (or equivalent) degree in social work with a grade point average of at least 75 per cent
  • a relevant postgraduate qualification deemed by the faculty to be appropriate.

Students in this category are enrolled initially in the MSW degree and, in order to transfer to the DSW program, must achieve the results listed below in their first 12 months of full-time attendance (or part-time equivalent).


Program structure

The DSW is a research degree requiring 3–4 years of full-time study (3–8 years, part time).

During their first year of full-time candidature (or the part-time equivalent), students complete six units of study comprising four core units (two in research, one in social-work practice, and one in social-work policy) and two elective units (one in either social-work practice or social-work policy and the other from a range of available electives).

Students are given the second and third years of the program to research and write their thesis and doctoral seminar.