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Coursework Requirements

PhD Coursework and Program Requirements

Doctoral students complete ten graduate level half-credit courses in addition to two social work seminars as a requirement of the PhD program in Social Work.

The ten graduate half-credit courses are comprised of:

  • five required courses in social work (one of which has a pre-requisite); and
  • five elective courses.

The two required PhD seminars include:

  • First-Year Doctoral Colloquium (no course code)
  • SWK 7000H – Thesis Seminar

Coursework Requirements include:

Required Courses in Social Work
Elective Courses
Course Enrollment Procedures


Required Courses in Social Work

1. SWK 6301H: Intermediate Statistics and Data Analysis (half-credit)
*Prerequisite required: Passing grade in SWK 4506 or statistics competency exam

2. SWK 6302H: Epistemology and Social Work Research (half-credit course)

3. SWK 6307H: Designing and Implementing Qualitative Social Work Research
(half-credit course)

4. SWK 6308H: Designing and Implementing Quantitative Social Work Research
(half-credit course)

5. First Year Doctoral Colloquium: Required/Non Credit

6. SWK 7000H: Thesis Seminar (half-credit- CR/NCR)


Prerequisite for SWK6301

To clarify the prerequisite for SWK 6301:

Successful completion of SWK 6301 requires a foundational understanding of introductory level statistics. Consequently, all incoming students are required complete and earn a passing grade in SWK 4506 or an equivalent course to fulfill this prerequisite.

Alternatively, students can take an equivalent statistics competency exam in early September of the first year. Students who elect to take the competency exam must earn a minimum grade of A (4.0 GPA) in order to fulfill this prerequisite.

NOTE: The grade received in the competency exam will not be counted in the student’s GPA. For students who take the prerequisite SWK4506H, this course will not count as one of the course requirements to complete the PhD. The grade for this SWK4506H, however, will be included in the calculation of the student’s overall GPA.


Elective Courses

Elective courses give you the opportunity to choose among methodological, theoretical, or substantive courses to support your individualized learning goals. Elective courses may be located within the graduate curriculum of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work or from graduate courses offered in other departments of the University of Toronto. Students may also request to take courses offered at another university.

Requirements for the five elective half-credit courses:

• At least one elective must be taken at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
• At least one elective must be taken outside the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (i.e., another graduate department at the University of Toronto).
• Up to two independent reading courses may count towards the five graduate elective half-credit course requirement.


Elective courses offered at the FIFSW are listed on the PhD Timetable or on the MSW Year Two and Advanced Standing timetable. MSW practice courses listed are not typically available to PhD students to count as electives for the PhD Program.

Students are encouraged to review course offerings in related departments at the University of Toronto, including collaborative programs. Students may also inquire with the PhD Program Assistant ( for a list of courses in which PhD students in social work have previously enrolled.


Course Enrollment Procedures

Enrolling in a PhD course offered in FIFSW

Students will use ACORN, the University’s Accessible Campus Online Resource Network, to enroll in PhD courses offered in the Faculty. Check fees, finances, and other records and registration tasks, such as making updates to address and contact information.


Enrolling in an MSW graduate course offered in FIFSW

PhD Students are not permitted to enroll directly in MSW graduate courses through ACORN, unless the course is cross listed with the PhD Program. PhD students who are interested in enrolling in an MSW graduate course must first obtain permission and signatures from the course instructor and the PhD Director using an the Add/Drop Course form. Completed forms should be submitted to the FIFSW Registrar.

Procedures to Request an Exemption from a Required Course

1. Students who wish to seek an exemption from taking a required course must have taken course(s) previously, for another degree, that demonstrate competency in the area of the required course. Course instructors will determine competency and the student will need to substitute an alternate elective graduate-level course for each exempted course. This is done in close consultation with the PhD Program Director. Transcripts will note exemptions.

2. The student is expected to contact the PhD Program Director and provide evidence of having covered the content previously (e.g., transcripts, course syllabus). The PhD Program Director will consult with the appropriate instructors to inform a decision.

3. If a course requirement is waived, the student discusses with the PhD Program Director a suitable course substitute. The course requirements for the PhD degree of at least ten half-credit courses are not reduced.

4. On the recommendation of the PhD Program Director, the student completes the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Transfer Credit and/or Course Exemption form. Please check the form for requirements.

NOTE: For Course Exemption, the requirements of the overall course credit for the degree are not reduced. The form is submitted to the PhD Program Director for signature and is then forwarded to the FIFSW Registrar for further processing and forwarding to the School of Graduate Studies. A copy of the paperwork is filed in the student docket at the Faculty. Please note that the School of Graduate Studies makes the final decision on whether to allow a course transfer/exemption or not.

Graduate Courses Offered in Other Departments

Most graduate departments do not allow students from other departments to enroll in courses via the web. Therefore, students cannot add courses not offered at the FIFSW through ACORN. Before attempting to add a course outside the FIFSW, please check with
the host department on availability and registration procedures. The Add/Drop Course(s) form should include a short course description and include required signatures of the host department and the PhD Program Director. Please see the FIFSW Registrar for assistance.

Request for Independent Reading/Research Courses

Reading/research courses are intended to meet the needs or interests of a student. The course can be offered on a specific topic not covered in other approved courses at the Faculty and must not be offered in other graduate departments at the University. It could involve a student meeting periodically with an instructor to seek direction and for feedback on the submitted assignments. We encourage student initiative in identifying the need for this type of courses. Please note that faculty resources and instructors’ time constraints may limit the availability of these courses.

To arrange for these courses, a student will need to contact the concerned instructor directly. A reading/research course that is developed, with one or more students, will involve reading assignments, written work, and meeting frequency equivalent to those of a regular course. The instructor must hold an appointment at the Faculty; course instructors (PhD students) and sessional instructors cannot supervise a directed reading course. A maximum of two 0.5 credit courses will be accepted toward degree requirements.

Students enroll by submitting the following to the Registrar:

Please enter course number SWK 6501H, Special Studies 1 or SWK6502H, Special Studies
2 for course number and description. The forms are located on the SGS website ( under Current Students/Registration & Enrolment section, or at the end of the Manual. Submit the completed form, with instructor and PhD Program Director’s signatures, before submitting to the FIFSW Registrar’s office.

Approved Graduate-Level Courses in Other Universities

Students may take approved graduate-level courses from other universities in Ontario. They will need to complete the Ontario Visiting Graduate Student (OVGS) Agreement. This agreement form can be found on the SGS website ( within the Exchanges & Agreements section, or at the end of the Manual. If you are considering taking a course at the graduate level outside Ontario, you will require permission to do so from the PhD Director and from the host University. Please see the FIFSW Registrar for further information.


Collaborative Specializations

The Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work offers several collaborative interdisciplinary specializations. Information about each program is available on the Faculty website at Please review programs specific to PhD students. Students apply directly to these programs. Please note that students who participate in these interdisciplinary programs must meet all the requirements of the collaborative specialization in addition to the doctoral degree requirements of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work in order to graduate.


Checking/Modifying Course Status

Students are responsible for the accuracy of their timetable through ACORN ( Students may cancel or withdraw from individual courses using the web service up to certain dates. These deadlines are set annually by the School of Graduate Studies and published under Dates and Deadlines, Academic Year Calendar on the
FIFSW website ( under Current Students. Students are advised to consult with their Interim Academic Advisor before withdrawing from courses.


Final Grades

Final grades can be accessed through ACORN. The dates for viewing grades for a session are posted under Dates and Deadlines, Academic Year Calendar on the FIFSW website ( under Current Students. Students will be able to view their
grades online approximately 6-7 weeks after the session ends. If a grade is not available, contact your instructor or the graduate unit offering the course.