Bring your intellect, curiosity, and creativity to tackling complex social challenges.

The Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare (PhD) Program will transform you into a scholar well-equipped to identify and solve social problems – both close to home and around the world. Grounded in innovation and academic rigor, the SP2 PhD allows you to explore diverse perspectives and approaches to social work, social welfare research, social policy, social theory, and social justice.

Female standing in front of chalkboard holding a piece of paper up and talking

World-Class Faculty

Career Success

Our PhD graduates go on to hold prestigious positions in academia, government, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, research firms, and more. Here are just some of the places where our recent graduates have found full-time employment:

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Inspector General
  • U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the United States Attorney
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center to End Homelessness
  • Columbia University, School of Nursing
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem, School of Social Work
  • Hong Kong University, Department of Social Work
  • McGill University, School of Social Work
  • National Institute on Poverty
  • New York University, School of Social Work
  • Rutgers University, School of Social Work
  • Temple University, Graduate School of Social Work
  • University of Massachusetts, School of Public Policy
  • University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine
  • University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice
  • University of Toronto, School of Social Work
  • Yonsei University
Michael Shier


Micheal Shier, PhD’14

“SP2 provided a great opportunity to learn and collaborate with faculty during my PhD studies. I appreciated the research-intensive focus of the PhD program, and the skills that I learned have been influential in the work I currently undertake. The expert knowledge and skills I gained while training at SP2 have really shaped the type of researcher and social work educator I have become.”

Ready to join the PhD community?

Related News

Five awardees and Dean Bachman stand smiling in a group in front of a screen that says

SP2 honors five accomplished social change agents at 2024 Alumni Hall of Fame Ceremony

Five distinguished alumni were celebrated at the 2024 SP2 Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Friday, May 17. The event marked the sixth year that the School has honored alumni through the SP2 Hall of Fame.

Chenyi Ma teaching

Exploring sustainable development & the human impact of natural disasters

What factors allow people to prepare for and recover from natural disasters? Dr. Chenyi Ma, a research assistant professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), conducts interdisciplinary research that investigates the role of inequality in disasters’ impact and points to policy solutions.

Front view of Caster building with green leaves on the trees and plants

SP2 ranked #8 among Schools for Social Work by U.S News & World Report

SP2 has been named #8 among Schools for Social Work in the 2024 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings. This marks SP2’s highest ranking ever, and the second time that the School has appeared in the list’s top 10.