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The Ph.D. Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about our Ph.D. program. If you do not find what you are looking for, please e-mail us at the Office of Admission or call us at (413) 585-7960 and we will be happy to to respond.

How can I manage the field requirements and keep my job?

By using your job as a work-study internship. In that way, you continue to have an income, but also designate a part of your job (eight to 10 study cases and supervision) to meet the requirements of the program.

How can I get 10 weeks off for two summers?

Most agencies are very glad to have a doctorally trained person and are willing to flex. People use their sick and vacation time, and often offer seminars or supervision to the agency as a quid pro quo.

How will I get supervision in my agency if I am the most senior person?

Often fellows have to go outside of their agencies and seek private supervision. Where possible, we try to link fellows to low cost supervision. We have a network of alumni for the Ph.D. program who offer excellent supervision.

Could you elaborate on the type of supervision that is required and who can provide it?

We require two hours of clinical supervision weekly from someone who is senior in the field (ideally a social worker, but could be a psychiatrist or psychologist) who is well versed in the four psychologies (drive, ego, object relations and self psychology). Sometimes it is hard to find in one person, and so doctoral fellows may have two supervisors: one in drive/ego and the other in object relations/self. The goal of the first year is to learn and to apply these four psychologies to clinical practice, and supervision is a very important place where theory and practice converge. We look at the proposed plan as part of your application and evaluate, based on the vitae you submit, whether the supervisor(s) you propose would be able to meet the goals of the program. If not, we help you find someone who can.

Can I have a life and be a doctoral student in your program?

Most doctoral students will have to make adjustments to the rigorous expectations of the program. However, we work hard to see that it is manageable, and we encourage people to have balanced lives. Our doctoral students represent considerable diversity in terms of family responsibilities. We are happy to match you with a current doctoral student in your life circumstances who will talk to you about the program.

What percentage of the students in you program complete their studies?

In recent years, we have found that about 90 percent of the students complete their studies within a reasonable length of time, depending on their personal circumstances (e.g., health, family situations, change in professional goals, etc.). Only a very small percentage of the student body withdraws from the program.

How long after the coursework do most students take to complete the dissertation?

A majority of the students complete the dissertation in two years after the coursework has been completed. The average amount of time between completion of coursework and completion of the dissertation is three years.

Why does the program require applicants to have at least one year post-MSW experience?

Our program is designed to prepare clinical social work practitioner-scholars and leaders who can use the program to refine and further develop their clinical skills and theoretical knowledge, and contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge about clinical social work practice. Without prior clinical experience, it would be difficult to make adequate use of what the program offers.

Does the program provide teaching and/or research opportunities to doctoral fellows?

Yes; each year doctoral students have the opportunity to teach courses in the master's program. Many co-teach elective or foundational courses with resident faculty. Given the dispersion of doctoral students across the country, only a limited few have been able to work with faculty on funded research projects. However, we are able to connect doctoral students to faculty resources in their geographic areas. Such opportunities are made available as much as possible.

Are most dissertations based on quantitative methods?

No, in fact an increasing number of students conduct qualitative or mixed method designs in their dissertation research.

What do graduates of your program do?

Half of our alumni are employed in academic settings as full-time or part-time faculty. They teach courses in human behavior and the social environment, research, social work practice and sometimes policy. Others create work lives that permit them to use their skills in a variety of ways, including full-time clinical work in private practice or private nonprofit agencies, field advising on the BSW or MSW level, supervising and consulting. Some are training directors, while others become program managers.

How do most students afford the program?

Students use a combination of sources to finance their doctoral studies, including workstudy, personal savings, loans and grants

Are there hidden costs associated with the program?

Yes, there may be hidden costs for outside supervision. While we make every effort to link fellows with low cost supervision (often from our alums) and when possible offer supervision grants, the costs of supervision can range from $60 to $150 per week, depending on the geographic area.

What is the cultural diversity of your program?

We make every effort to admit a diverse student body in accordance with the school's anti-racism commitment. In recent years, entering doctoral classes have been more diverse, including Asian, Latino, African American, Native American, international students, males, gay, lesbian and bisexual students.

Do all students have to live on campus?

Many students do live on campus. The dorms provide a community of scholars, meals that are prepared, and opportunities to interact not only with classmates, but also with people from other classes. However, there are always a number of students who choose to live off campus: because they have a family, because they bring a pet or because they prefer some solitude.