To ensure that incoming students receive the in-depth advising they need to develop a customized program of study, an advisor is assigned to each student prior to program entry, matching theoretical and substantive interests. Students have the opportunity to work with several faculty members as their course of study evolves and their advisor may change after the first year of study. Annually, students meet with the advisor to complete a "self-assessment" in which they track their substantive progress. The assessment focuses on developing expertise as well as meeting milestones so that conversations between student and advisor focus on intellectual and skill development while also ensuring that students stay on track and have access to necessary supports and guidance.
A required, non-credit seminar is offered in the student’s first year and second year in the program to introduce students to different areas of social work and social science scholarship and to provide professional development training. These sessions are also open for advanced students and faculty to attend as desired. Students are exposed to cutting-edge research from faculty at SSA, the broader University of Chicago, and national and international scholars at these sessions. They also receive professional advice and guidance on a range of issues related to student and academic life in these forums. Students also have the opportunity to present and refine their own ideas and receive feedback from leading scholars in the field through one-on-one meetings and group meetings with seminar guests.
Preparation for Teaching
The School offers mentored training and teaching opportunities to develop as a teacher while still a student. We require each student to participate in at least three mentored teaching experiences, such as participating in the teaching of a course as an assistant, co-instructor, or instructor. Doctoral students also have the opportunity to serve as a teaching apprentice; this is a unique opportunity to work closely with a faculty mentor as their assistant in one year, and then teach the course independently in the second year. In addition, the University offers many additional teaching supports and trainings through the Chicago Center for Teaching (CCT). We strongly encourage students interested in pursuing teaching positions after graduation to take advantage of CCT’s services.
SSA is one of few schools of social work with a full-time career services office. SSA's Director of Career Services, Michael Jogerst, PhD, provides career and professional development workshops and seminars for both master's and doctoral students.
Each year, SSA Career Services assembles a resume book for all graduating doctoral candidates seeking academic appointments, and promotes this book through wide distribution to deans and directors of schools of social work.
Each year, the doctoral program chair provides job market mentoring and hands-on tips and practice to support students seeking post-PhD employment as part of a biweekly PhD Job Market Workshop. In addition, UChicagoGRAD has a career development office that provides a full array of career supports including help identifying and applying for jobs, interview supports, and more.
Doctoral Program Funding and Research Support
Doctoral students receive significant funding to ensure that they are able to immerse themselves in the program. All students entering the Doctoral Program are offered a financial aid package that includes full tuition, health insurance, fees, and a yearly stipend set at $31,000 for the current 2020-21 academic year ($27,000 for the Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters and $4,000 for Summer). Students are responsible for filing and paying any required state or federal taxes.
Stipend awards are not subject to federal or state income tax withholding and you may be required to make quarterly estimated income tax payments to the IRS and State of Illinois. Federal tax code requires the remuneration allocated to teaching assistantships to be treated as wages subject to tax withholding, and processed through the payroll system. Thus, in quarters when students TA or serve as a graduate student lecturer, their stipend payment will be reduced and they will receive payment for the reduced amount through the payroll system and subject to withholding. We suggest students consult with a tax advisor who can provide specific advice for individual situations.
Students now in years six through 10 will receive an 82 percent tuition benefit. There is no aid for students beyond year 10. Note that over the next two years, beginning in 2020-21, the University will be implementing a new funding and program model for doctoral students (see below for additional details). Students currently in years six through 10 should consult with the Dean of Students office to ascertain their guaranteed funding and program benefits during this transition.
The doctoral program involves a full-time commitment. Stipend support is provided in order to allow students to concentrate their time and energy on fulfilling the requirements of the program, developing their scholarship, and completing their doctoral studies in a timely manner.
Many SSA doctoral students receive additional funding through outside training and fellowship programs. SSA students have been very successful in obtaining competitive fellowships and awards from entities such as the CSWE Fellowships for Minority Students, Fahs-Beck dissertation grants, Doris Duke fellowships for the promotion of child well-being, and NIH Dissertation awards.
As part of their financial aid packages, students are expected in their first two years to work as a research assistant with an SSA faculty member for 10-12 hours each week and participate in at least three mentored teaching experiences (usually during years three through five).
The University is implementing a new framework for doctoral education, to be phased in over two years beginning in 2020-21, which includes a new funding model and new resources and programs for all doctoral students and faculty across campus. The new framework, announced by the Provost in 2019, builds on some of the recommendations of the Committee on Graduate Education, which included representatives from SSA, and ongoing work by deans, faculty, and students across campus.
This new model represents the University’s commitment to doctoral students by increasing financial support, re-envisioning the role of pedagogical training, and expanding the programs that support academic and career success. In addition to a guaranteed funding stipend, the new program includes full tuition coverage, and health insurance for PhD students in good academic standing. It also includes new academic, career, and mentoring programs and resources that will be available to PhD students and faculty across campus. Students who began their program in Summer 2016 or later will be rolled into this new model and funded for the duration of their program and those who began their program before Summer 2016 may be eligible for additional funding through dissertation completion fellowships, as well as other mentoring support.
This memo from the University Provost includes further information about the new funding and programs for PhD students.
The SSA Office of Grants and Contracts provides support to doctoral students in:
- Funding Opportunity Searches
- Proposal Planning and Development
- Central Administration/Sponsor Liaison
- Award Administration
- Financial Management/Coordination of Financial Reports to Sponsors
SSA also supports doctoral students for travel related to presentation of papers and job market activities at conferences. Other University resources for graduate students may be found here.