Doctor of Social Work

Prepare yourself for leadership as an administrator, teacher, or scholar in the growing field of social work.

This professional doctorate, designed around national social work education guidelines, is one of very few online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree programs. It also features face-to-face learning experiences, including a week-long, intensive dissertation writing retreat and a course that requires participatory research. The curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, action research, and the integration of theoretical knowledge with practical experience. There is a strong focus on the growing use of technology to advance the practice of social work, build awareness of important social issues, and expand the reach or effectiveness of social service programs. This DSW is designed to be completed in three years, with all courses taken in sequence, allowing you to learn and build professional relationships with the same cohort of students.

Outcome goals and graduates' proficiency levels

Each doctoral program and specialization is designed around expected learning outcomes (see Expected Program Outcomes below). End of program performance is determined during the comprehensive exam and dissertation process. Because the work is unique to each learner's dissertation or research topic and the criteria for evaluation are aligned to that work, we do not collect data on proficiency levels for doctoral programs.

Doctor of Social Work (DSW) specialization

  • General Social Work

Quality and Professional Relevance

  • Capella is one of the few universities offering an online DSW program. This allows social work practitioners and educators an opportunity to seek a professional doctoral degree online without relocating or putting their careers on hold.
  • Capella's DSW program is designed around national social work education guidelines and includes input from social work faculty and practitioners with current knowledge of the field.
  • For the dissertation, learners will develop an action-based research project that contributes to the solution of a recognized problem in the field.

Expected Program Outcomes

  1. Advocate for social justice and policy change for the betterment of humanity.
  2. Act ethically and professionally within the field of social work.
  3. Provide leadership that promotes sustainable change in social service programs and practice to improve the quality of the field of social work.
  4. Apply theory, knowledge, and research and develop innovative approaches to social issues.
  5. Effectively communicate to diverse audiences in multiple formats.
  6. Use technology to further advance practice within the field of social work.
  7. Build awareness of the implications of social issues in global and diverse societies.

Doctoral degree graduates

Data from graduates across all doctoral programs have been combined for these Career Outcomes results.

Capella University doctoral graduates report satisfaction with salary, benefits, and responsibilities. Half of the graduates surveyed work in higher education and another 12 percent hold positions in the P–12 environment.

Satisfaction with Job Doctoral Degree Graduates

Percentage of respondents who answered "satisfied" or "very satisfied"
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.


Doctoral graduates report receiving salary increases and getting recognition from employers for their Capella degrees. Around half those surveyed have advanced in their careers and just over a third have presented at a professional conference or worked as a consultant.

Career & Professional Accomplishments Doctoral 
                        
                        Degree Graduates

Percentage of respondents who indicated they had accomplished each item
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.

Doctoral degree graduates

Data from graduates across all doctoral programs have been combined for these Student Experience results.

Capella University doctoral graduates think their education meets academic program outcomes and helps them meet career goals. They are likely to recommend Capella to others.

Satisfaction with Capella Doctoral 
                        
                        Degree Graduates

Percentage of respondents who answered affirmatively
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.

Our doctoral graduates report they have gained practical knowledge and expertise which are applicable in a range of professional settings.

Improvement in Skills and Abilities 
                        
                        Doctoral Degree Graduates

Percentage of respondents who rated themselves as "proficient" or "distinguished" on ability to demonstrate the skill or ability on the job.
Source: Responses to the Alumni Outcomes Survey one year after graduation. The data were collected during Q2 2012 – Q1 2013.


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Capella believes in being clear about the real cost, time, and value of a Capella degree The Gainful Employment disclosures, required by the US Department of Education (DOE) (under 34 CFR 688.6 ), provide some information about completion, expenses and occupations based on learners who graduated between July 2012 and June 2013. Most of our students are part-time so they might not take a full course load or attend all 4 quarters each year. We took that into account in calculating these data. For example, we define program length for certificates and master's and doctoral degrees as the number of calendar quarters it takes a typical student to complete a program. The DOE has defined time to complete for a Bachelor's degree as 4 years. Program cost is based on the specific pricing structure for each program which is either a cost per credit or a cost per active quarter.

Other related information may be found on the Learning Outcomes, Career Outcomes, and Student Experience tabs on this page.

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Learn more about these values and how they are calculated»

Earn Your Doctoral Degree

Become an expert in your field. Enroll in an online PhD, PsyD, or EdD program at Capella.


Alumni Success Story Quote

Photo of Jesse Collins, PhD Jesse Collins, PhD

"I'm able to talk to victims of domestic violence about how to reduce their likelihood of being a victim. This is a real-world application of the Scholar-Practitioner Model and I am honored to be a part of it."

Watch Jesse's story »