An applicant for admission to the doctoral program must have demonstrated potential to contribute to scholarship in the field of social work and social welfare. Judgments on applicants are based on academic records at undergraduate and graduate levels, prior research and professional experience, writing samples demonstrating analytic ability, and other evidence of superior achievement and of interest in pursuing an academic appointment.

With the exception of applicants seeking admission to the combined PhD/AM program, applicants to the PhD program must have completed a master’s degree in social work or a related field prior to beginning advanced study. Applicants without a master's degree can apply to our combined PhD/AM Program. Applicants who wish to seek faculty positions upon graduation in schools of social work are advised that the Council on Social Work Education requires a master’s degree in social work in order to teach practice courses.

Doctoral students enter the program in the autumn quarter.

Application & Procedures

You will need the following materials before applying online:

  • Application and Application Fee. The application will open September 1.  Applicants can pay the $75 fee electronically at the time they submit their online application. If you opt not to pay the application fee with a credit card online, please send a check or money order to Sarina Carrillo at SSA Admissions, 969 East 60th St, Chicago, IL 60637. This application fee is not refundable and does not apply toward tuition or other charges.
  • Candidate Statement. Indicate your reasons for applying for doctoral study, covering the following points: a) this program seeks to develop scholars who will assume leadership positions in higher education; reflect on how you will make use of and contribute to scholarship in the field; b) describe your plans for study, including a specific statement of your academic areas of interest; c) given your interests, why do you think this program is a good fit for you? d) briefly describe your career plans; and e) (optional) provide other information useful for the admissions committee, such as explaining inconsistencies in your academic record.
  • Academic Writing Sample. Doctoral applicants are required to submit an academic writing sample of no more than 25 pages.
  • Transcripts. Transcripts are required from every institution where an applicant has taken 3 or more courses unless these courses and their grades appear on the home transcript; this includes courses taken Pass/Fail. We accept electronic delivery of official transcripts provided directly by your university; the designated receiver is Admission specialist, Sarina Carrillo.  You may upload scanned or digitized unofficial transcripts in support of your application only if they are accompanied by institutional grading and credit system information (most commonly found on the reverse side of paper transcripts).  If you are scanning transcripts make sure to include this information. If work is in progress, you should submit a supplementary transcript at the end of the term.
  • References. You are responsible for securing 4 letters of reference. We especially value letters from former professors or academic advisors. References should be qualified to speak regarding your ability for graduate study, preferably those familiar with your academic ability or research skills.
  • GRE. Current (within the last 5 years) Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are required from PhD and PhD/AM applicants.  Applications will not be considered without official scores.  Scores should be sent from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) directly to the University.  The school code is 1832 and the department code is 5001.
  • Comprehensive Resume or Curriculum Vitae.
  • Financial Aid. If you need loans, you should submit your FAFSA soon after January 1st.  If you are admitted to the doctoral program, you will need to complete the University's financial forms which are available on my.uchicago.edu. This form will not be available until you have received an offer of admission.
  • International Students. There are slightly different requirements for international students.
  • Admission Decision. Admissions decisions are made in mid-March.
Shirley Li

Shirley Li, AM '16

Li reflects on her SSA field experience, “I now realize that as a therapist, both the goal and how you approach that goal are very important.”