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Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research

Welcome to the Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research in the School of Social Work at Portland State University.

The Ph.D. Program admitted its first cohort in 1992, and since then doctoral graduates been hired into tenure-track academic positions in universities across the country.  Many conduct research as principal investigators on major research projects, and others hold leadership roles in diverse communities and at social service organizations.

The program employs innovative curriculum that prepares graduates to become leading academics, researchers, and scholars.  It is rigorous, relevant, and responsive to the future of social work education and scholarship and continues its focus on the promotion of social and economic justice for the improvement of communities.

Program Components

All coursework is built through a focused social justice lens.

The program teaches students to recognize and interrupt the expression or perpetuation of privilege, discrimination, inequality, and structural systems of oppression.  All graduates will learn how to promote justice and equity through critically informed research, teaching, and action. Students learn to recognize and interrupt the expression or perpetuation of privilege, discrimination, inequality, and structural systems of oppression.

It's interdisciplinary.

Students can take courses in other colleges, schools and departments of the university, including:

OHSU-PSU School of Public Health 
Division of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Department of Psychology
Department of Sociology

It includes community engaged research.

Students engage in research projects working with a wide variety of community and governmental agencies, programs and leaders.

It includes dedicated coursework designed to make you a better teacher.

The curriculum highlights teaching pedagogy in social work and social science related disciplines using a variety of didactic, interactive, and experiential strategies.  Students gain instructional skills teaching in classroom and community settings. 

Faculty Relationships and Research Opportunities

Successfully completing a doctoral degree program is challenging and requires great commitment.  

The Ph.D. Program guides students to build mentor/mentee relationships with our doctoral faculty throughout the various phases of study, and to build collegial relationships among fellow students.

Our School's commitment to cutting edge research is at the heart of the program. It is all about turning research into action for the people and communities we serve.

Our doctoral students work with senior researchers at our three nationally recognized research centers:

  • With annual funding of more than $10 million, the Regional Research Institute for Human Services(RRI) conducts 65 projects in partnership with local community organizations, county or state government entities, and other partners across the country.  One project is Reclaiming Futures, a national program that helps young people in trouble with drugs, alcohol, and crime.  Its six-step model promotes new standards of care and new approaches to juvenile justice in 37 communities across the U.S.

  • Based on the Child Welfare Partnership between the Oregon Department of Human Services public welfare program and Portland State University, the Center for Improvement of Child and Family Services offers training, research and graduate education to support public child welfare across Oregon and beyond.

  • Created in 2010, the Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research advances the field of mentoring nationally and internationally through innovative and rigorous research, education and knowledge sharing, and partnerships with organizations providing services.