PhD Program

PhD Program

Welcome to Carleton’s School of Social Work PhD Program.  This program provides you with an opportunity to advance your research and teaching skills while digging more deeply into a topic that interests you.  Through writing a dissertation, you can make an original contribution to social work knowledge.
The first two years of the program focus on in-person course work where you explore research methodology, theory, and pedagogy.  After that, you complete a dissertation.  The latter part of the program involves significant independent work where you research and write under the supervision of a committee of scholars.
When you are admitted to the PhD program, you usually receive funding for 5 years of study.  It is important that you also explore Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funding to help finance your studies.  The application season is the fall term of the year prior to the award take-up, should your application be successful.  Students will fine tune their external award applications in their PhD Seminar courses.
Newly admitted students are advised to work through the checklist for new Graduate students and to read and understand the Terms and Conditions of Admission and Funding.

Course Sequencing
The PhD program is offered on an alternating cohort basis so that every cohort is able to take classes with an incoming cohort. This year, 2024-25, PhD students are entering as Cohort B and will take classes with last year’s Cohort A. Next year’s Cohort A will take classes with this year’s Cohort B.
PhD program requirements and graduate student regulations are outlined in the Graduate Calendar.

PhD Program & Course Sequencing: 2024-25 (Cohort B)
Fall Term 2024
SOWK 6201 Theory & Methods (0.5 credit)
SOWK 6301 PhD Seminar (0.25)
Elective (0.5)
Students will have a TA assignment (130 hours total – 10 hours per week)
Winter Term 2025
SOWK 6202 Research Design (0.5)
SOWK 6302 PhD Seminar (0.25)
Elective (0.5)
TA assignment (130 hours total – 10 hours per week)
Summer Term 2025
SOWK 6600
Practicum in Advocacy Research (0.5 credit)
(0.5) If 1.0 credit in electives not complete
SOWK 6800
– Qualifying Exam.  Once registered in the Qualifying Exam, continuous registration is required every term until completion.
Fall Term 2025
SOWK 6101
Theoretical Foundations (0.5)
SOWK 6303 PhD Seminar (0.25 credit)
SOWK 6401 Critical Pedagogy (0.5)
SOWK 6800 – Qualifying Exam.
TA assignment (130 hours total – 10 hours per week)
Winter Term 2026
SOWK 6102
Ethical Foundations (0.5 credit)
SOWK 6304 PhD Seminar (0.25 credit)
SOWK 6800 Qualifying Examination
TA assignment (130 hours total – 10 hours per week)
Summer Term 2026
SOWK 6800
Qualifying Exam (if not completed)
or SOWK 6909 – Thesis if completed
Year 3 – Students register in SOWK 6909 – thesis in every term (including summers) until completion providing qualifying exam is complete.  Thesis proposal is developed and defended  in the 3rd year.  TA assignments for fall and winter terms.
Teaching:   Course teaching under Article 17 (without competition) is determined with Director, once Qualifying Exam is completed. To begin teaching in the fall term, Q- Exam is booked by June 1, and successful completion by July 1.  Winter term:  QE booked by October 1, completion by November 1. Spring/Summer: QE booked by February 1 and completion by March 1. Students with a teaching assignment will submit a ‘Leave from TA Duties” for relevant term.  That term of TAship will move to the next available term within program time limit (usually summer).
Year 4 – Students register in SOWK 6909 fall, winter, summer term.  Thesis research, data analysis, and writing in progress.  Aim to have a complete draft of thesis by end of this year.  TA assignments in fall and winter terms.
Year 5 – Students register in SOWK 6909 fall, winter, summer term.  Thesis editing and writing  continues. TA assignments in fall and winter terms.  The final approved thesis needs to be with committee in time to schedule defence a minimum of 2 months in advance.

Shared Office Space
Doctoral students will be assigned a shared office space. As a doctoral student, you are awarded a Teaching Assistantship and an office where you can meet with students, as well as to study and conduct research. You will have a mailbox for both internal and external post in the School’s mailroom DT 505. The mailing address is the same as the School.

Elective Courses/Options
1.0 credit in elective courses is required  at the 5000 or 6000 level.  Any non-SOWK elective requires approval of the Graduate Supervisor.  Students are advised to choose electives that will complement their research, and research methodology.  If you are taking an elective outside of Social Work, send the course outline (once available) to the Graduate Programs Supervisor for approval.

Students can choose to do a Directed Study as an elective option(s). SOWK 6405/6406 (0.5) is an individually-arranged independent exploration of selected areas of inquiry that are offered subject to the availability of faculty. Requires a written proposal with clear learning objectives and a study plan. Interested students are encouraged to connect with their program mentor, and/or Graduate Supervisor for advice and supervisory suggestions.  Once a Directed Study Supervisor is determined, email the Graduate Administrator for the updated course outline template, and PhD Program Learning Outcomes.  Sample (template)

Collaborative PhD in Political Economy:
The School offers a Collaborative PhD with a Specialization in Political Economy. Several units in the university participate in this collaborative program, please see further information on the Institute of Political Economy website. Students admitted in the PhD in Social work program who are interested in this option would apply for admission to the collaborative program during the fall semester of their first year.  If accepted to the Collaborative program, students are required to replace their Social Work PhD electives with PECO 6000 and one other course with political economy content. When you graduate the designation on your diploma will be “PhD in Social Work with a Specialization in Political Economy.”

Qualifying Exam Requirements:
The Qualifying Exam is a critical assessment and demonstration of mastery in an area of inquiry related to the research project, involving theoretical, methodological and substantive components. Requires a proposal to the Exam Committee, the successful completion of a Qualifying Exam paper and an Oral Qualifying Exam.  Social Work PhD Qualifying Examination (SOWK 6800) Guidelines

PhD Thesis:
The PhD Thesis is an original scholarly research contribution constituting a significant contribution to the field of social welfare and the profession of social work.
The thesis must meet standards including a formal oral defense governed by the regulations of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs: Graduate Student Thesis Requirements.

There are two options for completing the PhD thesis. One is a monograph, or extended research paper.  The other is an Integrated Article Thesis Option. The option chosen must be approved by the student’s committee.

PHD Thesis Guidelines for Social Work Students 

Integrated Article Thesis Option Guidelines

Students will find the Library’s Guide for Graduate Students in Social Work  a helpful resource for thesis and research.

Graduate Professional Development

As a graduate student at Carleton, you have access to a variety of professional development resources. These include skill workshops, one-on-one career and writing consultations, career-oriented events, and even structured programs. Challenge yourself by acquiring new skills that can help you boost your employability. To learn more, visit the Graduate Professional Development website at