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Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work

Description and questions for Statement of Purpose

Students can best achieve their goals for doctoral education when there is a fit between their interests and the resources of the School of Social Work and the wider University community. Therefore, students are asked to prepare a personal narrative that focuses in some detail on all the questions below.

Understanding how your research interests developed will be useful information for those making admission decisions. Because our primary objective is preparing researchers, you should describe in detail whatever experience you have had with research. If you have participated in research projects, taken courses or studied and/or used statistics, you should describe these in your application.

This narrative is one of the most important parts of your admissions folder. Consider it your opportunity to communicate with admissions committee members about yourself. Please limit your response to 10 double-spaced pages.

Please restate the question below before each answer:

  1. What experiences have led you to seek a research career?
  2. What specialized area(s) of study within social work are you most interested in pursuing in your doctoral education (i.e., a social problem or issue, a field of practice, a practice method, or some combination of any of these)? What experiences have led you to believe this area is important to pursue?
  3. What research problems or questions might you wish to pursue within your specialized area of study? (PLEASE DISCUSS FULLY AND TRY TO BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE)
  4. What do you envision as your long-range contribution to the development of the social work knowledge base?
  5. What are your career goals and plans after receiving your Ph.D. in social work, and how will this degree contribute to your ability to realize these goals and plans?
  6. There are more than 50 universities in the United States that offer a doctoral degree in social work. What do you consider the most important criteria in selecting a doctoral program in social work, and why have you chosen to apply for the Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?
  7. We expect students to enroll full time (9 or more hours) and to hold half-time assistantships. Priority in admissions is given to students who are able to enroll full time for the first two years of study. Only full-time students will be eligible for financial support. If your intention is not to enroll full time, please provide the rationale for this choice.
  8.  Feel free to share any additional information that you would like to communicate to the admissions committee that will help us better understand your interest in pursuing a Ph.D. in social work at UNC-CH.


  1. On what are you basing your choice of social work as the field in which to pursue the doctorate? What experiences have you had with the social work profession?
  2. Explain how experiences in paid or volunteer work (such as in undergraduate practica, summer camps, extracurricular activities, church groups, and social work jobs) relate to your choice of social work as a profession. Describe relationships and/or other experiences that led you to an interest in entering social work rather than another profession. What are your experiences in giving and receiving help?
  3. How will your social work doctoral study relate to and build on your past masters work?