PhD Admission Requirements

PhD students posing in classroomApplication Deadline: December 1
Admission to the PhD program is limited and determined on a competitive basis. The doctoral faculty of the School collectively make admission decisions. Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply early for admission to take full advantage of available scholarship funds and assistantship positions. For the application process, please see the Apply section.

The following are considered in assessing an applicant’s qualifications:

  1. Prior degree(s) or work experience – Applicants are required to hold either (a) a master’s degree or (b) posse at least two years’ post-graduation experience in the social, educational, public or behavioral health or other social work related fields. Applicants who have a master’s degree, but not an MSW degree from a CSWE accredited program, will be required to apply to the MSW/PhD continuum program where they will take up to 12 credit hours towards an MSW as part of their PhD elective courses. Please see the MSW Program pages if you do not yet have a master’s degree.
  2. Grades for research methods and statistics courses – A grade of at least a B is expected for courses taken in the previous 5 years.
  3. Post-master’s practice experience – A minimum of two years is preferred.
  4. GPA – A minimum grade point average of 3.0 is expected for the final 60 hours of the baccalaureate degree. A minimum of 3.5 GPA for graduate work is recommended.
  5. Recommendations – Strong and detailed recommendations are preferred.
  6. Writing proficiency – Academic writing sample (e.g., technical report, course writing, published or in press article) that follows APA or another official writing style, citations and references etc.
  7. Personal statement – A personal statement of interest answering the questions below:(double-spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins, 6 page maximum)
    • What is your motivation for a doctoral degree in social work?
    • Why is the achievement of a PhD in social work important to your professional development?
    • What specifically attracts you to the University of Missouri Social Work PhD program?
    • What practice experience in social work have you had?
    • What is your career goal? What position do you plan to seek after completing the degree?
    • What is your research interest?
  8. Personal interview – If possible, interviews will be arranged at MU. A telephone/Skype interview may be utilized in some cases.

For International Students:

The TOEFL or IELTS is required for all non-native English speaking international students at the University of Missouri.

Minimum Score Requirements (prior to admission)


  • 550 on the paper-based test (PBT) or 80 on the internet-based test (IBT)
  • Subsection minimums of no less than 52 on PBT or 17 on IBT
  • Institutional TOEFL (TOEFL ITP) results from schools or institutions other than the University of Missouri are not acceptable

IELTS (academic version)

  • 6.5
  • No less than 6.0 on reading, listening, speaking and writing subsections

Special Cases for Waivers

Waiver of minimum subsection score: On occasion, programs may feel that applicants who meet the minimum TOEFL requirement of 80 but have a subsection score below 17 deserves consideration. Programs may request a waiver for such cases by justifying or explaining why this score will not impede the progress or success of the student in that program; special consideration should be given to speaking and listening scores if programs anticipate the student will be funded through a teaching assistantship. Instructions for submitting a waiver request are described below.

Waiver of language testing: Sometimes a program may feel that an applicant, who otherwise does not meet the requirements for an automatic waiver, should not be required to submit a TOEFL or IELTS. For example, the student lived in the United States for the last year or worked as a teaching assistant at another university in an English speaking country. In these instances, the program should prepare a request, stating the compelling reasons why they think that the applicant’s English language ability is adequate and that they are functional to at least the level of the minimum scores that MU requires, and/or how they have ascertained that the applicant’s level of English language ability will in no way impede the successful completion of their program.