Online Doctorate of Social Work Curriculum

The online DSW program — designed and led by social workers, for social workers — offers a comprehensive curriculum informed by the Simmons School of Social Work’s historic commitment to clinical practice. Our expert, doctoral-level faculty members are active practitioners who share their advanced knowledge with students in classes.

While firmly grounded in clinical principles, our broad spectrum of study offers an in-depth exploration of leadership, advanced practice, and teaching in the field. Every aspect of our curriculum is infused with our DEIPAR social justice tenets — diversity, equity, inclusion, power analysis, and antiracism. This expansive curriculum allows students to develop their professional identities, explore various career paths, and graduate as well-rounded, visionary social work leaders.

The program is 48 credits and can be completed full time in less than two years or part time in less than three years.

Learn more about the program’s courses

Curricular Outcomes

Our broad curriculum gives students the opportunity to follow diverse career paths as an advanced clinical social work leader. The program enables students to build their research skills and provides the advanced clinical perspective needed to apply these skills to professorship, effective teaching and instruction, senior positions in social work agencies, senior allied health roles, leadership and training of other social workers, and consulting positions across organizations.

Capstone: Learn to Integrate Research with Practice

The capstone seminar serves as the culmination of learning in the DSW program. While all aspects of the program are informed by the incorporation of research and theory into practice, the capstone project allows students to apply what they’ve learned to solve real-world social work problems. This experience also enables students to develop their identity and area of expertise as an advanced clinical practitioner with the supervision and guidance of faculty.

Students complete the capstone seminar in their final term of the program. During the capstone seminar, students will have the opportunity to explore their area of interest in depth. With faculty mentorship and feedback from peers, students will develop a portfolio-ready project that reflects their identities as DSW graduates and advanced practitioners. The capstone project may be delivered in the form of a website, formal paper, or another medium. Throughout the experience, students will work with faculty to determine the best way to implement and disseminate their work.


Students in both the full-time and part-time tracks take a total of 15 courses to complete the 48 required credits. Students complete nine courses across the three key focus areas: three courses on social work teaching, three courses on leadership in the field, and three courses on advanced clinical practice.

Teaching Courses
Topics of study include:
  • Identity, purpose, and boundaries for educators
  • Comparative approaches to social learning theories and teaching strategies, including online pedagogy
  • Managing conflict, crisis, and psychological first aid in the classroom
  • Creating inclusive educational cultures
Leadership Courses
Topics of study include:
  • Creating inclusive organizational cultures
  • Roles and purposes of clinical supervision and mentoring
  • Crisis and conflict resolution
  • Building adaptive and socially-just organizations
Advanced Clinical Practice Courses
Topics of study include:
  • Emerging practice models
  • Inclusive approaches to practice and challenging perspectives
  • Clinical flexibility
  • Complex clinical presentations

In addition to the coursework in the three key focus areas, students will take the following courses:

  • Seminar in Ethics and Social Justice
  • Power, Passion, and Social Change
  • The Research-Informed Practitioner
  • Interdisciplinary Social Work
  • Integrative Seminar
  • Capstone Seminar

Course Feature: Integrative Seminar

The integrative seminar course serves as a nontraditional approach to the doctoral comprehensive exam. Working collaboratively with faculty, students complete three papers to demonstrate integrated competency in the program’s key focus areas. These papers provide the basis for the seminar portfolio, which students orally present and defend. Successful completion of this course results in advancement to candidacy.

Program Tracks

Full-Time Track

The full-time track takes place over the course of 6 terms and can be completed in less than two years. Students in this track complete three courses per 14-week term.

Part-Time Track

The part-time track takes place over the course of 8 terms and can be completed in less than three years. Students in this track complete two courses per 14-week term.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Request Information