Ph.D. admission

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Applicants to the Ph.D. degree program must have an earned master’s degree in social work or a related discipline from an accredited institution.

Application materials

The application and all supporting materials must be submitted to the Graduate Admissions online application system or, for international students, through International Admissions.

Required materials include:

  1. Unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary institutions for departmental admission review. Admitted students must submit official transcripts.

  2. Applicants who have earned degrees in institutions outside of the U.S. must provide an official course-by-course external credential evaluation. This report should be sent sealed and unopened directly to the Office of Admissions.

  3. For foreign nationals whose native language is not English or who have not already earned a master’s degree in an English-dominant country, scores are required for either the Test of English of Foreign Language (TOEFL) (required minimum 100, internet-based) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (required minimum 6.5).

  4. Three letters of reference, including at least 2 academic references that reflect familiarity with the applicant’s career goals and their fit with the purpose and demands of Ph.D. education. All letters should be submitted via the online application system.

  5. Personal Statement.

  6. Writing sample.

  7. Current Curriculum Vitae.

Please Note: The GRE is not a required component of the application for admission.

International Applicants

If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, be sure to review additional requirements on the International Admissions graduate student page. International applicants should request their course-by-course external evaluation of foreign transcripts no less than one month before the deadline listed below to ensure that all application materials are received by the deadline.

Applications are accepted for admission and financial aid to those individuals whose complete application materials are received by January 15.

Application guidelines


Unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary institutions should be uploaded with your electronic application and will be used for departmental admission review purposes. Official transcripts will be required if you are admitted. Applicants who have studied outside of the U.S. must provide an official course-by-course external credential evaluation by the application deadline for your application to be reviewed. This report should be sealed and unopened and sent directly to the Office of Admissions.

Personal statement

The personal statement describes your career goals and plans and their fit with the doctoral program’s research-focused mission to develop social work scholars and leaders. Please be as specific as possible and limit statement to 5 double-spaced pages.

  • Discuss your career goals and how a Ph.D. program in Social Work would further your ability to achieve those goals
  • Describe how your personal life experiences, academic preparation and practice experience inform your interests and readiness to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Work.
  • Assess your motivation and capability to successfully complete the doctoral program
  • In what area(s) of research would you like to engage as a PhD student? What practice or policy implications might you aspire to in your work?
  • What aspects of the VCU Ph.D. program interest you? Why is the program a good fit for your interests?
  • Please identify faculty members at the School of Social Work or at VCU more broadly, especially if your interests are interdisciplinary, who could support your scholarly development.
  • Are there any other factors that should be considered in the evaluation of your application?

Please organize your personal statement as a cohesive essay, rather than a list of discrete answers to the questions posed.

Writing sample

The writing sample should demonstrate capacity to use scientific literature, including the ability to identify, synthesize and critique salient arguments with proper citation and to present a clear, logical and compelling argument. Applicants must be the sole author of the paper.

Applicants are encouraged to submit a paper they submitted for a Master’s degree program if written within the past 3-5 years. If you do not have such a paper, you may prepare one on a subject that is relevant to social work (5-8 pages, typed, double-spaced).

Admissions review process

The School of Social Work faculty assess completed applications and make recommendations about admission. Their evaluations are based on applicants’ demonstrated capacity for critical and creative thinking; ability to synthesize and apply knowledge; clarity of expression; past and potential academic achievement; tenacity and motivation; and “fit” with the VCU Ph.D. program. Applicants who are moved to the second round of reviews are interviewed by a faculty member, either in-person or by video conference.

For more information about the VCU Social Work Ph.D. Program, contact Leslie A. Choplin at (804) 828-1044 or

Non-matriculated students in Ph.D. courses

The Ph.D. Program occasionally permits non-matriculated students (those not admitted to a VCU Ph.D. degree program) to enroll in a course to help them assess their interest in doctoral education.

Satisfactory performance as a nondegree-seeking student does not assure admission as a degree-seeking student.

Virginia Commonwealth University
School of Social Work
Academic Learning Commons
1000 Floyd Avenue, Third Floor
Box 842027
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2027

Phone: (804) 828-1030
Fax: (804) 828-0716
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