School of Social Work

MSW/PhD joint degree

A limited number of applicants are accepted into a program of study that leads to both a Masters of Social Work and a PhD in Social Work. This program is designed for on-campus applicants whose long-range goals and past experiences are consistent with the aims of both programs and who wish to accelerate their education. The joint degree program allows students to substitute MSW courses for some doctoral-level courses and vice versa.

Course requirements

Regular standing students (96 total credits)

  • 81 program-specific credits
    • 36 PhD (assuming 12 dissertation hours)
    • 45 MSW
  • 15 shared credits between both programs

Advanced standing students (75 total credits)

  • 60 program-specific credits
    • 36 PhD (assuming 12 dissertation hours)
    • 24 MSW
  • 15 shared credits between both programs

The joint degree takes eleven or twelve semesters to complete, including summer semesters. Explore our sample plans of study. Credit requirements, shared hours and curriculum focus conform to the requirements of the MU Graduate School, and the national accrediting body for graduate education in social work (CSWE).

MSW/PhD joint program admission requirements

To be eligible for the MSW/PhD joint program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Graduate School minimum requirements
  • 3.0 or better GPA in the last 60 hours of baccalaureate coursework and a 3.0 (3.5 recommended) GPA in all graduate level coursework.
  • A grade of B or higher in all research methods and statistics courses taken within the last 5 years.
  • Statistics Prerequisite:
    • You must complete an approved college level statistics course with a grade of B or higher.
    • MU courses: SW 4310 is the recommended course for MU students, but Statistics 1200, Statistics 1300 and ECP 4170 are also approved courses.
    • Non-MU courses: If you completed a statistics courses at another institution, it may be approved, pending submission of your transcript and approval by the MSW Program Director.
    • We recommend you complete your statistics course before applying. If you are enrolled in a statistics course when you are accepted to the MSW program, your acceptance will be “pending successful completion of the approved statistics class.”
  • A Master’s degree or a minimum of two years of work experience in the social work field.

International students

International students must submit an English Proficiency Exam. Exams accepted and minimum sub-scores required to apply are:

  • Minimum TOEFL sub-scores are reading, 21; listening, 22; speaking, 26; and writing, 23
  • Minimum IELTS sub-scores are reading, 6.5; listening, 6.5; speaking, 8; and writing, 6
  • Minimum PTE sub-scores are reading, 58; listening, 58; speaking, 79; and writing, 50
  • Minimum C1 sub-scores are reading, 176; listening, 176; speaking, 197; and writing, 169
  • Minimum Duolingo sub-scores are literacy, 105; comprehension, 105; conversation, 125; production, 125

We do not offer conditional admission and we do not waive the English Proficiency Exam requirement for any reason, including having completed a degree at an English speaking university.

Visit the Graduate School website for more information on applying as an international student.

Application process

You must be admitted to both the MSW and PhD programs before you are accepted as a joint-degree student. You will apply to both programs at the same time using the application process, below. The deadline to apply to the MSW/PhD Joint Program is Nov. 15. Once accepted to both programs, you must complete an intent to complete MSW/PhD dual degree form (PDF).

Apply through the Office of Graduate Studies

To apply, you will submit one application through the Office of Graduate Studies. That application will serve as your application for both the MSW and PhD programs, and the Office of Graduate Studies. First, create an account on the Office of Graduate Studies application system. There, you will select either “Doctorate-On Campus” or “Master’s On-campus” from the drop-down menu under Degree/Delivery. Either of these options will allow you to select “Social Work/Joint MSW-PhD Program” from the drop down menu under Academic Program.

Application materials

Once you create an application through the application system, upload the following materials.

Resumes should include education and experience. References are not necessary. View sample resumes.

Upload unofficial transcripts to your application. If you can’t obtain an unofficial transcript, a scanned copy of your official transcripts is also acceptable.

During the online application process, you will enter the contact information for three references. Your references will receive an email with a secure link to fill out your recommendation online. Chosen references must complete the reference request by the application deadline in order for your application to be complete.

Your references should be professionals (e.g. professors or other academic sources, practicing social workers, employers, supervisors, or volunteer coordinators) who can speak to your intellectual ability, interpersonal skills, potential for graduate education, and potential for professional social work practice.

References should come from more than one source type, but no more than two references should be from a similar source type. For example, one letter from a former employer, and two from former professors is acceptable (or vice versa), but three letters from only former employers or three letter from former professors is strongly discouraged.

References may not be friends or relatives.

Upload to Essay

There are three required components to the Personal Statement essay. Be certain to address all prompts under each component. Personal Statements that do not include responses to all required areas will not be reviewed. Include your responses to all components in a single, double-spaced document. Each response should be up to 2 double-spaced pages (6 double-spaced pages total). Ensure that you thoroughly proofread and edit your responses, as they should demonstrate your professional and graduate-level academic writing skills. Ensure to cite your sources properly. An additional reference page may be included.

Life experiences

Describe your motivation to become a graduate-level social worker. In your response, specifically address each of the following:

  1. significant experience(s) that influenced your decision to enter the social work profession;
  2. how obtaining your MSW degree will help you achieve your: (a) short-term goals, and (b) long-term goals; and
  3. how you will manage the demands of course study and field responsibilities, including (a) specific barriers you anticipate, and (b) how you intend to manage those barriers. As you respond, please be aware that you are required to complete a portion of field hours during the M-F, 8-5 workday in order to receive adequate supervision. Be specific and detailed in your response.
Ethical reflection

Describe an ethical dilemma encountered in your personal or professional past. In your response, specifically address each of the following:

  1. define the ethical problem, the parties involved, the values that informed your decisions, and how the conflict was resolved;
  2. draw upon the NASW Code of Ethics as you describe this ethical problem (e.g. how the ethical problem or the response is reflected in the Code); and
  3. explain how the outcome affected you, particularly any lessons you learned.
Social problem analysis and professional concepts

Describe a social problem and discuss its relevance to the social work profession. In your response, specifically address each of the following:

  1. discuss a social problem of importance to you, including causative factors and why this problem merits public attention and resources; and
  2. explain how this social problem is related to the social work profession.

In addition to the prompts above, students applying for advanced standing must provide:

  1. a definition of social work, and
  2. propose a social work intervention (either through direct practice or policy) informed by the literature and/or practice, that directly addresses the problem. Discuss your rationale for the proposed intervention(s) and any leadership role you might undertake.

Upload to Statement of Purpose

Answer all areas listed below. Upload your answers in one document (double-spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins, 6 page maximum). Do not submit a different document for each question.

  • What is your motivation for a doctoral degree in social work?
  • Why is the achievement of a PhD in social work important to your professional development?
  • What specifically attracts you to the University of Missouri Social Work PhD program?
  • What practice experience in social work have you had?
  • What is your career goal? What position

Your writing sample can be a previous publication, book chapter, master’s thesis, unpublished research paper, etc.

Upload the most recent copy of your field evaluation to “Supplemental Materials.” If you are applying before you’ve received a mid-term or final field evaluation, please have your field supervisor/instructor complete one of your three professional references or wait to apply until you have, a least, a mid-term evaluation to submit.

Sub-scores must meet the minimum requirements as listed above.