Doctor of Social Work

Program Overview
Designed for the working professional, the USC Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program prepares scholar-practitioners to become innovative problem solvers in an era of rapid social change.

We seek candidates who are interested in making a greater impact and creating a much stronger, more equitable society that ensures basic needs are met for all people.

Learn more about nursing - button

In contrast to a PhD degree that prepares scholars for careers in research and teaching, the DSW@USC is an online advanced degree for seasoned practitioners seeking opportunities to advance the profession, lead conversations and find break-through solutions for social change at the highest levels.

Tackling the Grand Challenges
A significant focus of our DSW program is the 12 “Grand Challenges,” a global initiative of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. Each challenge is focused on a specific issue—from social justice to child welfare, from homelessness to mass incarceration, to other critical issues that impact the social fabric of our world and drive social workers every day. 

During the program, students select and tackle a specific grand challenge through coursework, residencies and a capstone project that culminates in development of a proposed solution. The solution includes a plan and budget, which is then pitched to a panel of thought leaders, venture capitalists as well as faculty members.

Topics explored in the curriculum include:

Organizational Leadership: Understanding how organizations work and how organizational change is facilitated.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Development, implementation and management of change through data collection and analysis.

Innovation and Change: Study of cutting-edge transformative thinking and change-management research to predict client and community needs.

Leading Public Discourse: Development of new perspectives and ideas in the public realm to better benefit communities.

Technological Fluency: Evaluation of both theory and practices using new technologies, and best ways to implement them.

Curriculum Snapshot
DSW students complete 42 units of coursework, which fall under two primary content areas:  Advanced Management Practice in Complex Systems and Innovation and Leadership.

Semester 1 - fall (6 units)
Managing Innovation and Change (704)
Leading Public Discourse (705)
Semester 2 - spring (6 units)
Leading and Managing Large Complex Systems (706)
Financial Management for Social Change (707)
Semester 3 – summer (9 units)
Preparatory Scholarship for Capstone (710)
Innovation Laboratory I (711)
Residency I (712)
Semester 4 – fall (6 units)
An Introduction to the Science of Innovative Social Work (713)
Evaluating Innovation and Change (714)
Semester 5 – spring (6 units)
Informatics and Social Innovation and Influence (720)
Data Driven Decision Making (721)
Semester 6 – summer (9 units)
Grand Challenges Capstone (722)
Innovation Laboratory II (723)
Residency II (724)

Innovation Labs
Students will participate in Innovation Laboratories each semester. These seminars involve implementing a case study method focused on building leadership and management skills. Leading and Managing Complex Systems and Managing Innovation and Change courses will be incorporated to address a Grand Challenge topic as well.

Residencies + Capstone
Each student participates in two in-person residencies for six days from Sunday night to Friday during the third and sixth semesters exploring one of the Grand Challenges. The first residency is held in Los Angeles followed by a second one in Washington, D.C. During the first residency, students select the challenge they will research for their capstone. The capstone project – a fully developed idea for tackling the challenge – is presented during the second residency. Capstones are in lieu of a dissertation.

For the 2016-2017 academic year, the combined DSW@USC tuition is $72,744, which does not include some fees. Learn more about financial aid availability and requirements.

Learn about the requirements for admissions and application details.