The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

School of Social Service Administration (SSA) - PhD

Division: School of Social Service Administration
Degree Type:  PhD

Program Description

Since 1920, the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago has provided training for students who are interested in pursuing an academic career in social work and social welfare. SSA's doctoral graduates are leaders in the field of social work and social welfare scholarship. The program is designed to deepen students' mastery of both social science theory and research methods to prepare them to contribute to scholarly knowledge in innovative ways. The program accommodates students who are interested in developing and evaluating practice methods and interventions, as well as students who are interested in understanding social problems and accompanying institutional and political responses. The diverse theoretical approaches of SSA's faculty makes it uniquely positioned to support an interdisciplinary course of study.

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Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application.


Deadlines for admissions and financial aid are December 15.

Campus Visits

Although campus visits and interviews are not required, you are welcome to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students.

Degree Objective

SSA admits applicants to the PhD. Students interested in the MA should consider the MA in Social Service Administration.

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application
  2. Supplementary Statement: Applicants must submit a four page, double spaced, and typed statement that indicates 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.
  3. Transcripts: Applicants must submit a transcript from each college and graduate school they have attended. Electronic transcripts are preferred, when available.
  4. Application Fee: Applicants can pay the fee electronically at the time they submit their online application. This application fee is not refundable and does not apply toward tuition or other charges.
  5. References: 4 letters of reference are required. Academic references are preferred. References can be submitted online using the online application.
  6. GRE: Applicants must submit current (within 5 years) scores for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Official scores should be sent from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) directly to the University; self-reported scores will not be accepted.
  7. Resume/Curriculum Vitae

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions are emailed in early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

Students are required to take a minimum of 15 courses: one in the history of the social work profession, five in statistics and research methods, and at least three in other departments or professional schools at the University of Chicago. These three courses would normally be chosen from a single discipline. Students must pass a qualifying examination that assesses their understanding of the major conceptual domains informing direct practice, policy, or organizational research and their ability to use these frameworks to analyze social welfare problems. This take-home, open-book examination is completed during a one-week period at the end of the summer following a student's second year. Students are expected to conduct a pre-dissertation research project, usually in close collaboration with a faculty member, that they write up and submit for publication. Finally, students are required to successfully complete a dissertation research project. As the culmination of the doctoral program, the dissertation reflects the student's ability to use theoretical knowledge and analytic tools to add to what is known about social welfare and social work.

Costs & Financial Aid

Doctoral students receive significant funding to ensure that they are able to immerse themselves in the program. All admitted doctoral students are eligible to receive a scholarship that will cover all tuition and fees plus a $22,000 stipend for up to 5 years.