Social Work (PhD)

Society needs researchers who have a deep understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion and who are prepared to address inequality and promote social justice.

Supported by world-class faculty, students undertake ground-breaking research that fosters social justice and promotes new understandings of social issues affecting individuals, families, organizations, and communities.


Program Highlights

  • The country’s only Indigenized PhD in Social Work offering. Following a successful pilot in 2018, the program is being implemented again in 2022.
  • Small class sizes foster a strong sense of community among students and enable faculty to provide individual support and mentorship.
  • 56% of students who graduated between 2016 and 2021 hold full-time faculty positions.
  • In 2020/21, 11 students received awarded external funding to support their research from either the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada or the Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

Program Details


The PhD program includes two offerings: a general offering and Indigenous offering. Each offering involves the same program structure and milestones. Students complete seven required courses and one elective course, with an optional elective available. They then complete the comprehensive examination followed by the dissertation.

The Social Work PhD comprehensive examination is an important stepping-stone in students’ dissertation research. It provides students with the opportunity to develop deep knowledge of the theory and knowledge/research related to their area of interest, which both informs and frames their dissertation research.

Field Learning Option

Students for whom field experience in a particular setting is necessary to advance their ability to conduct their research may request permission to enrol in the Field Learning Option. The student identifies the setting, negotiates the details of the role, and submits a written proposal for the Field Learning Option to the associate dean of the PhD program and the PhD committee for approval. If taken, the field learning option would fulfil an elective.

Program Structure


Faculty Research

Our faculty members pursue a range of research interests across the micro-macro practice spectrum from the local to global contexts. They use various research methodologies, including critical, feminist, and Indigenous methods.

Our research centres, programs, and chairs include the Centre for Indigegogy, Manulife Centre for Community Health Research, the Social Innovation Research Group, Walls to Bridges, Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Global Adversity and Wellbeing, and the Lyle S. Hallman Chair in Child and Family Welfare.

Core Research Areas

Aligned with social work’s mission and values, faculty’s research addresses these core areas:

"I received tremendous support and mentorship from my supervisor and committee members, and other faculty members. My success wouldn’t have been possible without their support."

Karun Karki (PhD ’20)


Take the first step in your graduate education and apply to one of our graduate programs. Follow our three-step admission process — we’ll walk you through how to apply and prepare for your first day as a graduate student.

  • Start: Fall (September)
  • Format: Full-time or part-time
  • Application deadline: Jan. 31

Your Next Steps

Questions? Contact Michael Woodford, associate dean of the PhD program, at

"The collegiality of peers, staff, and faculty was a valuable and cherished part of my experience. The physical spaces for students to work and engage with each other created a great extension to classroom learning. My advisor’s commitment guidance and support were essential in creating an intellectually stimulating experience that challenged me and deepened my critical thinking."

Bibi Baksh (PhD '22)

Kitchener Location

This program is available at the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work in the heart of downtown Kitchener. This fully renovated historic building houses seven classrooms (including a unique circular classroom), a computer lab, a 2,000 square foot library, an interview-viewing room, a large conference/lecture hall, a community meeting space, a student lounge, and a spiritual room.

Close to 300 graduate students are based in Kitchener, just minutes away from Laurier’s Waterloo campus where they can access a full range of student supports and a variety of campus amenities.

Learn more about Laurier's campuses.

Tuition and Funding

Regardless of the type of graduate degree program you intend to pursue, financial planning is important. At Laurier, we want to provide you with as much information as possible about a variety of scholarship and funding opportunities and equip you with the skills to manage your finances effectively in the years to come.

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"In addition to preparing me to become a researcher, the PhD program helped me to become a more compassionate and informed practitioner and lecturer. Most importantly, it afforded me an opportunity to learn new ways of thinking and challenge myself on difficult topics."

Jennifer Scarborough (PhD '21)


In addition to becoming faculty members, our graduates assume research, policy analysis, and leadership roles in human service organizations.

Your Path to Post-Degree Success

ASPIRE is Laurier's professional skills development training program for graduate students. The program helps you craft an individualized, extracurricular learning plan tailored to your professional journey and entry to the workplace.


Learn about the interests of our faculty members. If you are looking for more information about this program, have questions, or want to set up a meeting, contact a member of our team

Kathy Absolon
Director, Centre for Indigegogy

Bree Akesson
Associate Professor
Global Adversity and Wellbeing Research Group

Tina Armstrong

Robert Basso
Associate Dean, Bachelor of Social Work Program
Associate Professor, Social Work

Cheryl-Anne Cait
Associate Professor

Gary Cameron
Professor Emeritus

Ann Curry-Stevens

Abdelfettah Elkchirid
Associate Professor

Marshall Fine
Professor Emeritus

Nancy Freymond
Associate Professor

Gus Hill
Lyle S. Hallman Chair in Child and Family Welfare

Lori Hill
Associate Dean: Indigenous Field of Study
Associate Professor

Banakonda Kennedy-Kish Bell

Maryam Khan
Assistant Professor

Martha Kumsa
Professor Emeritus

Ginette Lafrenière
Associate Dean: Master of Social Work Programs
Associate Professor
Director, Social Innovation Research Group
Director, Manulife Centre for Community Health Research

Timothy Leduc
Associate Professor

Deena Mandell
Professor Emeritus

Laura Mastronardi

Cameron McKenzie
Assistant Professor

Sonia Meerai

Magnus Mfoafo-M'Carthy
Associate Director, Tshepo Institute for the Study of Contemporary Africa

Anh Ngo
Assistant Professor

William O'Leary
Assistant Professor

Shoshana Pollack
Director, Walls to Bridges

Jennifer Root
Associate Professor

Michelle Skop
Associate Professor (on sabbatical)

Carol Stalker
Professor Emeritus

Eliana Suarez
Adjunct Faculty

Eli Teram
Professor Emeritus

Anne Westhues
Professor Emeritus

Michael Woodford
Associate Dean: PhD Program