The Doctorate of Social Work program is designed for professionals who wish to develop excellence in practice research. In-depth practical study and sophisticated research skills are vital for those in leadership roles who want to progress further in the field of social work.

The Social Work Professional Doctorate at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture is a postgraduate research degree designed for practising social workers. You’ll combine postgraduate coursework study related to an area of advanced social work practice with doctoral research. Graduates will apply advanced and critical reflection within the field of social work.

In the Doctorate of Social Work, the specialised coursework component will build upon your foundational social work education and experience in professional practice.

The advanced practice study undertaken contributes to social work knowledge through your empirical or conceptual research. You’ll study alongside thought-leading academics in the field of social work at a faculty ranked above world standards in research excellence by the ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia).

You’ll conduct research that makes an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the discipline of social work through your thesis. The Professional Doctorate in Social Work will prepare you for leadership in a diverse range of social work roles.


The Social Work Professional Doctorate is a three-year full-time degree. The degree is structured as one year of full-time coursework (Year 1) and two years of full-time research (Years 2 and 3).

The coursework must be completed before undertaking the thesis research study. The 48 UOC (Units of Credit) coursework will be taken within the Master of Counselling Social Work OR the Master of Development Studies OR the Master of Public Policy and Governance degrees. Your chosen program of study must be approved by the relevant Master's Convenor and the Social Work Professional Doctorate Program Convenor. In the research component, (96 UOC), candidates undertake supervised research producing a final thesis. 

Enrolment in the coursework component in the Master of Counselling Social Work is part-time (this program is not available on a full-time basis). Candidates have the option of completing coursework within the Master of Development Studies or the Master of Public Policy and Governance on a part-time or full-time basis. Enrolment in the thesis component can be part-time or full-time, depending on your personal and professional commitments.

Entry requirements

There are three essential requirements for admission to the Professional Doctorate in Social Work degree (PrDoc):

  1. A social work qualification established by eligibility for membership of the Australian Association of Social Workers or membership of an equivalent overseas professional social work association. 
  2. A minimum two years post-qualifying professional social work practice experience.
  3. A first or upper-second class (distinction) thesis research honours degree (minimum thesis word length: 10,000 words) OR a master's (coursework) degree with a distinction average and a significant research component, minimum equivalent 18 unit of credit content, consisting of methodology training and a stand-alone research project.


For program rules and structure, see the UNSW Handbook.