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Doctor of Social Work DSW

School of Public Service Leadership

Grow your social work career with real-world skills

Where will your path in social work take you? You can develop advanced, real-world leadership skills and get ready for a management role with the online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program from Capella University.

Designed to meet guidelines established by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), this program prepares you to take on the responsibilities of a leader, advanced practitioner, or educator.

Pursuing a degree in social work provides an opportunity to join an expanding field, as there is a growing need for social workers.* 

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Disclaimer: Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes, and Capella does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, or other career growth.

89% of doctoral alumni agree that Capella provided the flexibility they needed to pursue their degrees.
Alumni Outcomes Survey, 2018

At a Glance

  • Online & in-person
  • 14 Core courses
  • 2 Residencies
  • Capstone

Reduce your tuition by $10,000

Enroll in a qualified program, apply for a $10K scholarship, and meet the eligibility requirements.

Apply now »

Classes Start January 13th

Ready to get started? We’re ready for you. Chat with an enrollment counselor or apply now to take the first step on the journey toward your future.

$50 application fee (waived w/promo Fall19)

DSW program highlights

Leadership focus

Focus on valued leadership skills, preparing you to serve as an advanced practitioner and leader in the field of social work.

Scholar-practitioner faculty

The expertise, diversity, and real-world experience of our scholar-practitioner faculty can guide you in your practice and career. All social work faculty members have a doctoral degree.

Doctoral capstone

Apply what you’ve learned in a written project, demonstrating your use of evidence to improve outcomes or resolve a gap in the field.

Command of technology

Learn to think strategically about the use of technology to improve client outcomes.

Residency

Enhance the skills you’ve developed in your program coursework through intensive, onsite experiences with students and faculty.

Learn more about residency »

Doctorate research seminar

Work extensively on your capstone topic, methodology, application to current theory, and overall project plan starting early in your program.

Learn more about the seminar »

“As a former job seeker in the field, the DSW qualified me to practice internationally, carry out agency administration, and educate future practitioners in the field. These opportunities were limited or out of my reach prior to obtaining my DSW.”

Read full interview »

Shelley Richardson*
Doctor of Social Work
*Actual Capella student who agreed to appear in Capella promotional materials.

25 years of online doctoral experience

With over 25 years of experience in online doctoral education, we understand the unique needs of doctoral students, and have designed our programs to meet those needs. We've structured our programs to help you reach your goals and obtain critical skills—with our expert faculty, support teams, and online resources to help guide you every step of the way.

Faculty & support

You're never alone throughout your doctoral journey at Capella: our faculty and support teams guide and advise you through every step of your educational journey.

Enrollment counselors

These experts will set you up for success. They’ll help you find the right degree and program, and answer all your questions about Capella.

Faculty

Our courses are taught by distinguished faculty members who hold top credentials and have hands-on expertise in their fields. They know what you need to know today.

Doctoral advising

Doctoral programs are specific and challenging. That’s why you’ll have access to expert support at every step along the road to your degree.

Capstone mentors

For the culminating project of your doctoral degree, you’ll be paired with a mentor who can support and assist you along the way.

Cost & learning format

A more structured learning format with an active peer community and faculty guidance. We’ll set the schedule, you meet the deadlines. 

  • Based on the quarter system; 1-3 courses per 10-week quarter
  • 1 semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits
  • Weekly assignments and courseroom discussions
  • Pay for what you take, price varies by courseload or term
$4,385 per quarter, 71 total quarter credits, 0 max transfer credits

Get the details

Speak with an enrollment counselor to get a personalized cost estimate for what you can expect to pay.

Ways to save

At Capella, we believe your education is an investment in your future. It’s also an investment within your grasp. Your goals are achievable—there are more ways to save than you might think. 

$10K toward your doctorate

Apply for the $10K Capella Progress Reward, a scholarship to help you fund your doctoral degree.

Employer & association discounts

If your employer or organization is a partner with Capella, you may be eligible for a tuition discount.

10% military discount

If you're an active-duty military service member, spouse, or veteran, discounts may be available.

Accredited & recognized

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Accreditation and recognitions provide the assurance we meet standards for quality of faculty, curriculum, learner services, and fiscal stability. See all of our accreditations and recognitions

DSW sample courses

Here is just a sample of the courses you can choose from in the Doctor of Social Work program.

Show course with description
SWK8015 *
Advanced Social Work Practice: Theoretical Perspectives

Learners in this course assess the role of theory in social work practice at the micro, mezzo, macro, and meta levels. Learners critically appraise selected theories, perspectives, and models for relevance and evaluate the strengths and barriers regarding their application to practice. Through critical self-reflection, learners identify with specific theoretical orientations, as well as demonstrate recognition and respect for others’ theoretical orientations. For DSW learners only. Prerequisite(s): Completion of or concurrent registration in SWK8010.

4 quarter credits
SWK8025 *
Leadership and Management in Complex Social Systems

Learners in this course examine and integrate an understanding of leadership principles, skills, and applications in organizational or academic environments. Learners appraise and articulate the importance of cultural and ethical competency within a leadership context as well as a complex, global society. Learners investigate issues they may encounter in the field and determine how to address them through the practice of social work leadership. For DSW learners only. Prerequisite(s): SWK8010; completion of or concurrent registration in SWK8015. 

4 quarter credits
SWK8035 *
Advanced Social Work Policy and Practice

In this course, learners develop the ability to advocate for and create public policy, and evaluate how it impacts individuals, families, groups, and the community. Learners examine policies in light of diversity and globalization with emphasis on social justice. Learners also assess ethical concerns; policy analysis; advocacy strategies, including cross-system collaboration; and use of needs assessments. For DSW learners only. Prerequisite(s): Completion of or concurrent registration in SWK8020.

4 quarter credits
SWK8045 *
Clinical Theories of Social Work Practice 1

Learners in this course analyze clinical theories of social work based on ethical considerations, client diversity, and best practice as defined by the integration of practice wisdom and scientific knowledge, to ensure proper fit between clients’ needs and intervention. Learners also evaluate practice model(s) for client treatment with a focus on individuals and couples, and begin to apply this knowledge to supervision of colleagues. In addition, learners use research to examine cutting edge and emerging intervention strategies. For DSW learners only. Prerequisite(s): Completion of or concurrent registration in PSL7860; SWK8025, SWK8035. 

4 quarter credits
SWK8075 *
Advanced Social Work Practitioner as a Leader of Social Change

Learners in this course articulate their individual leadership philosophies, styles, skills, and approaches to effective leadership. Learners evaluate policy, practice, programs, and the use of technology at all levels in the social work field, while evaluating social change strategies and approaches. Learners identify the use of self as they develop professional skills of influence and mobilization for change to better advocate for client groups at all levels. Learners create an individual plan for their continued self-development as leaders in the field of social work. In addition, learners demonstrate knowledge of lobbying, advocacy strategies, program evaluation, and ethical issues and concerns. For DSW learners only. Prerequisite(s): Completion of or concurrent registration in PSL7868; SWK8065. 

4 quarter credits

What you’ll learn

Earning a DSW can help you prepare as a leader, advanced practitioner, or educator.

  • Gain the tools for collaboration in diverse settings.
  • Advocate to advance ethical social work policy and practice.
  • Incorporate technology into your practice ethically.
  • Deepen your understanding of programs, practice, and technology.
  • Advocate for social justice and policy change.
  • Communicate professionally with diverse individuals and groups.

Social work career insights

PhD in Social Work vs. Doctor of Social Work

Two doctoral programs focused on social work. What are the differences, and which one is right for you?

How to Start and Grow a Career in Social Work

What does it take to start and grow a career in social work? A Capella faculty member shares her perspective.

The Growing Use of Technology in Social Work

Tips on how to keep your industry knowledge up-to-date while earning a DSW.

DSW professional opportunities

Your education can help you reach your goals, professionally and personally. Here are some of the jobs and employment settings to consider with a DSW.

Related job titles to explore*

  • Social worker
  • Clinical social worker
  • Adjunct or part-time social work faculty
  • Full-time social work faculty
  • Clinical manager
  • Clinical director

Employment settings to explore

  • Community college
  • Online and land-based college
  • Ambulatory care service
  • Hospital
  • Government-local, state, federal
  • Insurance carrier
  • Individual and family service

*These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Some positions may prefer or even require previous experience, licensure, certifications, and/or other designations along with a degree. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase, or other career outcome. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.

Looking to make a difference in people's lives?

If you're interested in pursuing a career that allows you to help others, our Helping Professions Guide can provide insights into a variety of options to consider.

Three career paths to explore with a DSW

While the social work field offers a variety of career paths and focus areas, some of the more common paths include:

Work independently in a private practice and provide counsel beyond the office to settings such as primary care, schools, hospitals, or nursing facilities. 

Support families and children in the areas of child protection, adoption and foster care, residential treatment, addictions, juvenile corrections, homelessness, working poor, food insecurity, domestic violence, school social work, and counseling.

Support families in focus areas such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work while assisting other professionals and helping clients find benefits or community services.

Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes, and Capella does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, or other career growth.

Other programs to explore

Is this program close to what you need, but maybe not a perfect fit? The programs below might be interesting. Check them out to find one that suits your academic and professional goals.

Ready for the next step?

Learning online doesn't mean going it alone. Help is here. From faculty, coaches, advisors, and more. Plus a supportive community of students who are as passionate about their careers as you are about yours.