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Doctor of Social Work Doctor of Social Work

School of Public Service Leadership

Make a Bigger Difference in the Lives of Others

Reach higher in your career as a social worker. Capella’s online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program, designed around national doctoral social work education guidelines, prepares you to be a leader, advanced practitioner, or educator. The curriculum includes a strong focus on expanding your ability to lead or practice. You’ll learn to harness technology to expand the reach and effectiveness of social service programs, as well as build awareness of important social issues, and enhance professional development.

What to Expect

  • Online and In Person
  • 16 Core Courses
  • 2 Residencies 
  • Capstone

Ready to get started? We’re ready for you. Chat with an enrollment counselor or apply now to take the first step on the journey toward your future.

Admissions Requirements »  | $50 Application Fee

What You’ll Learn

Collaborate with Diversity

Apply differential theoretical approaches to practice, and demonstrate the ability to recognize and respect other perspectives. 

Advocate for Policy

Use leadership skills to effectively advocate for and advance ethical social work policy and practice. 

Incorporate Technology

Integrate the ethical use of technology into clinical and policy practice.

Gain an Overarching Perspective

Evaluate policy, programs, practice, and the use of technology at the micro, mezzo, and macro level in social work. 

Drive Change

Advocate for social justice and policy change for the betterment of humanity and the global community.

Communicate Professionally

Communicate professionally and effectively with diverse individuals and groups through written, verbal, and electronic formats.

Program Features

Our program offers additional benefits you might be interested in.

Professionally Aligned

Capella’s DSW is designed around national doctoral social work education standards.

Leadership Focus

Focus on valued leadership skills, preparing you to serve as an advanced practitioner and leader in the field of social work.

Scholar-Practitioner Faculty

The expertise, diversity, and real-world experience of our doctoral faculty can guide you in your practice and career.

Harness Technology

Technology is an important tool for social work services. Our program helps you use technology to provide enhanced services through multiple formats and geographic locations, expanding the reach and effectiveness of social service programs.

Cost & Learning Format

Online education isn’t one size fits all. We know you’re busy—you need a learning experience tailored to your life, not the other way around. Capella has learning and tuition formats to suit you, however you learn. 

Our original learning format offers extra structure for those who want it.  We'll set the schedule, you meet the deadlines. 

  • Based on the quarter system; 1-3 courses per 10-week quarter
  • 1 semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits
  • Weekly assignments and courseroom discussions
  • Pay for what you take, price varies by courseload or term
$4,296 per quarter, 71 total quarter credits, 0 max transfer credits

Get the Details

Speak with an enrollment counselor to get a personalized cost estimate for what you can expect to pay.

Ways to Save

At Capella, we believe your education is an investment in your future. It’s also an investment within your grasp. Your goals are achievable—there are more ways to save than you might think. 

10% Military Discount

Military service members and their spouses could be eligible for a discount.

Employer & Association Discounts

Many employers and organizations partner with Capella to offer tuition discounts. Talk to an enrollment counselor to learn more. 

Employer Reimbursements

Many employers offer tuition reimbursement to employees, even if there’s no formal program. Check with your manager or HR dept.

Multidisciplinary Approach

You’ll learn to collaborate within your own practice and with other agencies and organizations. Work alongside other social work and social-service professionals to develop cross-functional skills you can apply to real-world situations.

Accredited & Respected

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Accreditation and recognitions provide the assurance we meet standards for quality of faculty, curriculum, learner services, and fiscal stability. See all of our accreditations and recognitions

Sample Courses

The DSW curriculum focuses on applying critical thinking, leadership, and advanced practice, as well as pairing theoretical knowledge with practical experience. You’ll combine online coursework with an action research study or program evaluation.

Doctoral Research Seminar

Allows you to work extensively on your capstone topic, methodology, application to current theory, and overall project plan from the beginning of your program.


Enhance the skills you develop in your program coursework through these intensive, onsite experiences with students and faculty.  

Doctoral Capstone

Develop your project, write your findings, and demonstrate your use of evidence to improve outcomes or resolve a gap in the field. 

Some of the courses you will take:

Course Number Course Title
SWK8015 Advanced Social Work Practice: Theoretical Perspectives
SWK8025 Leadership and Management in Complex Social Systems
SWK8035 Advanced Social Work Policy and Practice
SWK8045 Clinical Theories of Social Work Practice 1
SWK8075 Advanced Social Work Practitioner as a Leader of Social Change

Faculty & Support

You’re never going it alone at Capella. Our dedicated faculty and support teams are waiting to guide, help, and advise you through every step of your educational journey.

Enrollment Counselors

These folks are superstars. We hear it from our students (and grads). They’re here to help find a program fit and set you up for success.  


Our distinguished faculty members hold top credentials in their fields. They’re here to teach the knowledge and skills you’ll need, now.

Doctoral Advising

A doctoral degree takes special effort. It's why we offer expert support at every step to keep you moving forward toward your goal.

Capstone Mentors

You’ll be paired with a knowledgeable mentor early in your program to help you move toward completion of your capstone project.

Relevant Blog Posts

Whether you’re considering a return to school, exploring new career paths, or seeking ways to improve your job performance, the Capella Blog has relevant articles to support your goals.

PhD in Social Work vs. Doctor of Social Work

Two doctoral programs focused on social work. What are the differences, and which one is right for you?

Collaborative Efforts in Counseling, Clinical Psychology, & Social Work

An overview of similarities, differences, and collaborative opportunities in these related fields.

4 Ways Students Can Stay on Top of Industry Trends

Tips on how to keep your industry knowledge up-to-date while getting a DSW.

Move Forward in Your Career

Here are just some of the career options you could explore with our Doctor of Social Work degree.

Related Job Titles to Explore*

  • Full-time, adjunct, or part-time faculty
  • Clinical instructor
  • Independent consultant
  • Author or keynote speaker
  • Researcher
  • Principal investigator
  • Administrator
  • Human services director
  • Clinical director
  • Social worker—mental health or substance abuse, medical or public health
  • Child, family, or school social worker
  • Senior social worker

Related Employment Settings to Explore

  • Hospitals or clinics
  • Government—local, state, federal
  • For-profit organization
  • Consulting firm
  • Nonprofit organization
  • Research organization
  • Land-based or online college or university
  • Community college

*These examples are intended to serve as a general guide.  Many factors determine what position an individual may attain, and Capella can’t guarantee a graduate will secure any specific job title.

You May Also Be Interested In

Is this program close to what you need, but maybe not a perfect fit? The programs below might be interesting. Check them out to find one that suits your academic and professional goals. 

Ready for the Next Step?

Learning online doesn't mean going it alone. Help is here. From faculty, coaches, advisors, and more. Plus a supportive community of students who are as passionate about their careers as you are about yours.