New Report Depicts Landscape of Doctoral Education in Social Work

Published on : June 16, 2021

More social work students are pursuing doctoral degrees today (3,421) compared to 5 years ago (2,545), according to a new report produced by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE). The CSWE/GADE Report on the Current Landscape of Doctoral Education in Social Work highlights trends in enrollment, student demographics, program offerings, students’ goals for completing the degrees, and more. Here are some results: 

  • In 2019, 44.9% of all doctoral students enrolled in practice doctorate programs, compared to 9.5% enrolled in 2014.
  • Practice doctorate programs experienced rapid growth in the past decade, including a 260% increase in programs from 2014 to 2019.
  • Numbers of enrolled students in practice doctorate programs have greatly increased from 2014 to 2019, while practice and research doctorates have added programs. At the same time, the numbers of enrolled students in research doctorate programs have decreased consistently for the last decade.
  • A higher proportion of African American/Black and female doctoral students enroll in practice doctorate programs than research doctorate programs. Asian students are three times more likely to enroll in research doctorate programs than practice doctorate programs. Practice doctorate students tend to be older than research doctorate students.
  • According to program directors, research doctorate student goals are more focused on research in the field, whereas practice doctorate students have goals more related to social work practice.
  • Less financial institutional support is available to practice doctorate students than research doctorate students, which may lead to increased debt levels at graduation for practice doctorate students but also make the programs less expensive for institutions to offer than research doctorate programs.

Read the report for more findings.

This report provides data for the practice and research doctorate degrees and is designed to offer points for discussion about doctoral education in the social work profession. The data provide an important tool for understanding the characteristics of the doctoral programs that were surveyed and should be a starting point for conversations about the future of the practice doctorate and research doctorate.