PhD and MSW/PhD Application Process

Our application process is completely electronic. All documents should be submitted through the application portal.

Before you get started

MSW/PhD Application Prerequisites

For ALL applicants

  • Bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) in any discipline from an accredited institution. 
  • Minimum of 24 credits of undergraduate liberal arts coursework. Of those 24 credits:
    • 6 must be in the social or behavioral sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science).
    • 6 must be in the arts or humanities (e.g., history, English, foreign languages, philosophy, ethnic/gender studies).
    • 12 credits may be made up with any combination of the above or with courses from the natural sciences or mathematics.
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 preferred.
  • Human biology undergraduate course (3 credits) must be completed prior to the advanced year MSW curriculum, if not fulfilled at the time of application.
Additional Advanced Standing Prerequisites (must have ALL to qualify)
  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program, with no more than six years between BSW conferral and start date of the MSW program.
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 required.
  • B- or better in all undergraduate social work major courses.

PhD in Social Welfare Application Prerequisites

  • Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from a CSWE-accredited institution or international equivalent
  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher is preferred

Application Process

All application components (including recommendations and GRE scores) must be received by the deadline in order to be considered.

1. Complete the electronic graduate application

Apply to the University at Buffalo School of Social Work using our electronic graduate application system.

Be sure to select either the "PhD in Social Welfare" program or "MSW/PhD (Social Work/ Social Welfare)" dual-degree program from the drop-down menu, since each program has different application questions. If you do not see your program listed, it means that it is not currently open. Check our deadlines page for information about when program applications open and close.

2. Identify three recommenders

On the application form, you will be asked to send electronic recommendation requests to three professional references who are best able to assess your capabilities and skill in the following domains:

  • Methodical and creative critical analysis
  • Written and verbal articulation of complex ideas
  • Professional and ethical conduct
  • Diligent and self-directed pursuit of goals

At least two references should be faculty with earned doctorates. Do not use personal friends, relatives, friends of the family or other personal relationship sources. In addition, do not use clients or individuals you provide services to, or therapists or other individuals you receive services from. 

When you send the requests, your recommenders will receive an email with a link to complete the brief evaluation form and upload their letter of recommendation for you electronically. You will receive a notification email when a recommendation has been received.

Plan ahead to give your references enough time to submit their recommendations before the deadline.

3. Identify potential faculty mentors

On the application form, you will be asked to identify two to three possible faculty mentors. You should look for individuals whose research interests compliment your own. View our faculty profiles to read more about their research and view their CVs.

4. Upload copies of academic transcripts

Copies of transcripts should be uploaded to the application portal. You must provide transcripts for all previous schools attended at the undergraduate and graduate levels, regardless of whether a degree was received. Transcripts must include the institution name, all courses taken with semesters, grades received, overall GPA, and transcript key if available (often printed on the back). Do not upload web printouts or advising reports. If you prefer to send official transcripts for the application review process instead of uploading copies, you may do so (see mailing address below).

If accepted to the program, you will be required to submit final official transcripts from your bachelor's and master's (if applicable) degree institutions (in addition to any other graduate coursework), except from the University at Buffalo, if you have not already.

Official transcripts must be mailed to:

University at Buffalo 
School of Social Work- Admissions
685 Baldy Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1050

or sent via secure and official electronic delivery to:

5. Upload your resume or curriculum vitae

After you submit your application form, you will be able to upload your up-to-date curriculum vitae or resume to your application checklist. This should contain information such as (but not limited to): relevant education, work experience, presentations, publications, and other professional involvements.

6. Upload your statement of research interests and professional objectives

After you submit your application form, you will be able to upload your PhD research statement to your application checklist. 

This statement should be 2-3-pages, double-spaced, and should explain:

  1. The issue or topic you wish to focus on in your doctoral studies, including any relevant research or practice experience.
  2. Your purpose in pursuing a research-focused degree.
  3. Your reason for applying to the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.

7. Upload your academic writing sample

After you submit your application form, you will be able to upload your writing sample to your application checklist. This must be a sole-authored paper written in English; the paper may be from a previous class or a new composition regarding an issue relevant to social work or social justice. The paper should be academic in tone and include citations per APA style. Research-based papers are preferable.  

8. Send official GRE scores

Official GRE scores are required for all applicants, and must be less than 5 years old. Scores typically take 3 weeks to arrive in our office after the exam is taken and they must be received by the deadline in order for your application to be complete. 

When sending your official scores, use these reporting codes: 2925 (UB); 5001 (social work).

There is no minimum score needed to be considered for admission, but scores at the 50th percentile or higher in each of the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections are preferred.

The GRE is administered by ETS. Learn more about the test and view test dates and locations on the ETS website.

9. Pay the application fee

After you submit your application, you will be redirected to your status portal, where you can find the secure payment link, allowing you to pay the non-refundable application fee by credit card or e-check.

The PhD application fee is $75; the MSW/PhD application fee is $100.

10. Interview (as requested)

After your application is complete, we may request an interview. Interviews would be conducted by members of the faculty and would take place via videoconferencing technology (Skype, etc.).

In addition to all the above, MSW/PhD students must ALSO upload:

MSW personal statement essay

After you submit your application form, you will be able to upload your personal statement to your application checklist. This is a key component of your application. Your essay should reflect strong technical writing and critical thinking skills. Write a full essay answering ALL questions in the Guidelines for Writing the Personal Statement


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Felony Disclosure

If you have a previous felony or criminal conviction, please read our felony disclosure statement before applying. 

Optional Schomburg Statement

Domestic students will also have the chance to upload an optional statement to be considered for additional funding through the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship.