In theory, yes, a student could complete the Ph.D. program in three years. This will require the student to be strongly motivated and focused. Instead of taking the summer months off, the student will need to be engaged in course work. However, it may be possible that the student could get credit, for example, for teaching in his or her home country during that time or could be enrolled in a research practicum off-campus. Normally the Preliminary Exam is given after the completion of all required courses in the month of August. Immediately after that (in the Fall Semester), the student will need to complete and defend a dissertation proposal. Data would then be collected with the analysis of data to occur and final defense of the finished product in the Spring or Summer Semester. To date, I believe only one student has been able to finish in three years. However, almost all of our students have attended the program on a part-time basis. It would go quicker if students were able to be full-time.
A 3.5 year plan would giving more breathing space than a goal of 3 years and would be a safer bet. The 3 year plan will require that students “hit the ground running” immediately after the Prelimary Exam and have: 1) already mastered a body of literature on a special problem or research interest, 2) a set of hypotheses/research questions drafted, and 3) a methodology or plan for collection of data so that these can be quickly refined and defended as the first three chapters of the dissertation in the Fall Semester. Students under tight time pressure may wish to use already existing data sources (secondary data) as opposed to collecting original data.
2- How many students are applying to the PhD program every year and how many seats you offer?
I actively discourage students who are not qualified before they complete their applications. Many meet with me or have long telephone conversations so that I can determine if the University of Kentucky is the best setting for what they wish to learn and accomplish. For instance, our program is not designed to provide social workers with advanced clinical (therapeutic) skills. We want to prepare individuals who want to be both scholars and educators. The number of students that we admit is somewhat flexible and we typically admit about 5-6 students although there is no physical limitation on the number that we could admit. We are more concerned with the quality of the applicant than we are with the number in the classroom. In some years we have admitted only 3 students.
3- Are there any priorities or special consideration in accepting students?
Our primary consideration is a strong GRE set of scores. The Verbal and Quantitative must sum to 1,000 or higher. Secondly, we look at the GPA on the MSW transcript. We consider letters of reference, personal statements, and usually require a personal interview to ensure that our faculty have something to offer the doctoral student. We do not mass produce graduates but help each one tailor his or her own program within the limits of our faculty and intellectual resources.
4- What is the required or preferred score for TOEFL and IELTS?
Either is acceptable. Applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit directly from the testing service either a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score. The minimum acceptable TOEFL score is 550 (paper-based), 213 (computer-based), or 79 (internet-based). The minimum IELTS score is 6.5. However, international students who have received college degrees from US universities and selected other universities in English-speaking countries may be exempted from taking the TOEFL test. Those who have poor English-speaking or writing abilities may be required to take the TOEFL even if their degree is from an American university.
5- Is it required for international student who got a degree from the U.S. to have a TOEFL or IELTS?
See above. Students with degrees from American schools may be exempt.
6- What is the required or preferred score for the GRE? The scores for each section?
Our minimum GRE score is 1,000 with the Verbal and Quantitative sections combined. There is no set minimum for each section, but there is this caveat: a doctoral program involves a lot of professional/academic writing and so relatively high scores on the Verbal side allow us to anticipate that the applicant will have the necessary skills and foundation to build upon. Individuals who have low scores on the Verbal side may need remedial course work and this could mean that the student would have less time available for other important components of the doctoral program (such as designing research projects, analyzing data, and writing up the results). Thus, an applicant with a GRE score of 1,000 where most of the points occur on the Quantitative side would not necessarily be admitted. The Doctoral Committee prefers higher Verbal scores than Quantitative, but a nice balance between the two is optimal.
7- Is it required or preferred from PhD candidates to have post MSW experience?
The Doctoral Committee prefers Ph.D. applicants to have post MSW experience. We want our students to fully understand what it means to be a social worker—the values a social worker must possess, the kind of problems that a social worker faces, a knowledge of how our profession is different from other helping professions, and so on. Individuals who have had other life or work experiences that might be similar to those situations and settings where social workers are employed are likely to have some of the qualities that the Committee seeks. Also, the Council on Social Work Education requires anyone who teaches social work practice courses in American universities to have two years post-masters experience. This standard may not apply to international students returning to their own countries. Individuals who have not had two years post-MSW experience can explain their other relevant experience in their autobiographical statement.
8- Is applying for PhD program once a year (every Fall or Fall and Spring)?
The Doctoral Admissions Committee prefers applicants to enter in the Fall Semester.
9- Do you have full-time or part-time students or both for the PhD program?
The vast majority of our students are part-time. Full-time students enter occasionally.
10- What is the required or preferred GPA for undergraduate and graduate degrees?
There is no stated minimum. However, most graduate degrees should have a 3.5 GPA or higher. Undergraduate GPA below 3.25 may indicate that the student does not have needed academic skills or motivation to succeed. However, low undergraduate GPA is not considered terribly important if high GRE scores are obtained and a graduate degree with a GPA of 3.5 or higher is present.
11- What is the PhD program focuses on?
The Ph.D. program at the University of Kentucky attempts to prepare social work educators and scholars who are competent to teach and to conduct needed research in their areas of specialization. Our goal is for our graduates to publish regularly and often in professional journals to enlighten colleagues and others concerned about the same social problems. We want educators who can bring their research into the classroom and prepare students who will also make contributions to the social work profession.
At the University of Kentucky, many students develop expertise in such fields as child welfare, substance abuse, the health field, issues within the profession (burnout, stress, PTSD, etc.), the evaluation of teaching (e.g., ethics courses), criminal justice, and so on. Each student develops several research projects during the course of the program and these help contribute to an individual’s research trajectory. Students are not expected to all fit into a predetermined set of “concentrations” but are encouraged to design one that best meets his/her plans for future scholarship and research. It is important, however, that at least one faculty member with expertise in that area can be identified to mentor the student.
12- Does it require for PhD candidate to have a published article?
A publication is not a requirement for admission. It is hoped, however, that the student will have at least one publication by graduation from the program.
David Royse, Ph.D., Director
Social Work Program
College of Social Work
637 Patterson Office Tower
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506