Doctoral Degrees in Social Work in California

by

Updated January 4, 2023

Looking for the best PhD in Social Work in California? You should consider these top-tier institutions and jobs in the social work field.

TheBestSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: Alexander Spatari | Moment | Getty Images

Doctoral Degrees in Social Work in California

Earning a Doctoral Degree in Social Work in California

The best degrees in California for social work can further your career and improve your life. The knowledge you gain can help you land a job in the field of your dreams or allow you to work in a valuable field. Doctoral degree-seekers can explore diverse career opportunities. Students with a doctorate can move forward in their careers.

With a doctorate, graduates typically make $1,909 per week, or $7,636 a month, and $99,268 per year. The unemployment rate for high school graduates is 6.2%, while the number for doctoral degree-holders is 1.5%.

Social Work PhD Programs for You

Working and Living in California in the Social Work Profession

A social work degree trains students to use a variety of skills and knowledge in order to help others who are struggling. The curriculum varies by degree level, but programs typically cover interpersonal development, group counseling, and community outreach. Successful completion of an accredited program can result in career options like social work, child welfare, and aging services.

According to California's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all occupations is $47,920, or $23.04 an hour. This fact applies to all the state's employees. In the same manner, the BLS reports that the lowest 10% of earners make about $29,780, while the highest 10% of earners take home about $130,430. The following displays the earnings for social workers in California.

Key

Social Workers in California
Social Workers Nationally
All Occupations in California
All Occupations Nationally

Social Work Careers and Salaries in California

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying salary types.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
End of interactive chart.

According to MERIC, California ranks number 49 out of 51 states (including Washington D.C.) in terms of the cost of living index. The cost of living index measures the average cost of living in the U.S. against specific states in the U.S. The U.S. average is based on 100, with all locations in the U.S. either exceeding (more expensive) or falling below (less expensive) that average. California's cost of living index is 139.8, which is 39.8% higher than the national average. As a comparison, you can see what the cost of groceries, housing, utilities, and more in California compares to what it costs on average in the rest of the country.

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.
Source: Missouri Research and Information Center
End of interactive chart.

Jobs for social workers are projected to grow 5.8% in the next decade. The BLS projects the occupation's total employment to change from 71,400 in 2020 to 75,500 in 2030. A doctorate qualifies graduates for these positions.

Doctoral Degrees in Social Work in California

#1 Doctoral Degrees in Social Work in California

University of California, Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

University of California, Los Angeles hosts a top-rated online Ph.D. in social welfare. The program encourages career training throughout its curriculum, preparing graduates for leadership positions. A doctorate allows graduates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. The doctoral program recommends a background in social work before applying to the program.

Online enrollees coordinate with the program to complete internships at approved sites in their local area. Students who attend on campus can access the library and gym, as well as other amenities and facilities available at most institutions. Degree candidates also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

University of California, Los Angeles at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 12%

Program Name: Ph.D. in social welfare

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,442

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,544

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
44,589
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 Doctoral Degrees in Social Work in California

University of California, Berkeley

  • Berkeley, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

University of California, Berkeley enrolls students in its online Ph.D. in social welfare program. Enrollees prepare for advanced roles in the field during the rigorous doctoral program. Graduates can advance in their current field or pursue a new career.

The curriculum explores social work research and methodologies. Learners specialize the program by choosing from a variety of electives. The program recommends a background in social work or a related field when applying.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with local internships. Campus students can access the library and gymnasium, as well as other equipment and facilities available at most institutions. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

University of California, Berkeley at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 16%

Program Name: Ph.D. in social welfare

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,442

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,544

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
42,327
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Doctoral Degrees in Social Work in California

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online doctor of social work at University of Southern California, located in Los Angeles, offers high academic quality. The program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. A doctorate also helps graduates pursue new career paths.

The curriculum examines advanced theories and practices in social work. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. Applicants with a background in social work typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. Common facilities and services offered at most universities, like the library or gymnasium, are accessible to students living on campus. Doctoral students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

University of Southern California at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 11%

Program Name: Doctor of social work

Graduate Tuition In State: $46,272

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $46,272

Average Tuition
In-state
$59,260
Out-of-state
$59,260
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
46,287
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Financing a Doctoral Degree in Social Work

College students can get financial aid to help them pay for their degree. You can get financial aid by applying for scholarships, grants, fellowships, and work-study programs. Some students also use federal and private student loans to pay for their degree. There are some colleges that offer scholarships and financial aid to assist students in their research.

Checklist for Maximizing Your Financial Aid:

Average Cost of Attending College in California

There is a wide variation in the cost of attending college in California. Public and private institutions, however, share some common characteristics. The information below will help you determine whether attending a public institution is right for you.

Public 4-Year School Tuition Rates: California vs. National Average

Key

California
National Average

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying salary types.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
End of interactive chart.

Could you consider attending a private college or university? The cost of education at private schools is typically higher. According to the graph below, there are a significant number of students attending private colleges in California.

Private 4-Year School Tuition Rates: California vs. National Average

Key

California
National Average

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying salary types.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
End of interactive chart.

Federal Student Loan Information

Would it be wise to take out student loans to pay for a degree? There are a few things you should keep in mind when considering taking out a loan.

Take a look at the data below to learn about the types of loans that students typically take out.

Undergraduate Federal Loans
Demographic Percent who borrowed Amount borrowed
Total 66.6% $27,400
Female 69.6% $28,100
Male 62.5% $26,500
White, not Hispanic or Latino 66.1% $26,700
Black, not Hispanic or Latino 85.7% $34,800
Hispanic or Latino/a, of any race 67.7% $25,700
Asian, not Hispanic or Latino 43% $22,700
Other or Two or more races, not Hispanic or Latino 70.4% $28,300
Source: NCES

Online vs. On-Campus

Pros and Cons: Online Degrees

Pros

  • Cheaper tuition
  • Flexible, asynchronous classwork
  • No on-campus fees for parking, tech, etc.

Cons

  • Less structure
  • Minimal peer-to-peer interaction
  • Less facetime with professor
  • No access to on-campus amenities

Pros and Cons: On-Campus Degrees

Pros

  • Gym, library, etc. access
  • Smaller class options
  • Face time with peers and professors

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Transportation or housing costs
  • Rigid scheduling
The cost and size of the class are two main differences between an online degree and a degree completed on campus. There are many advantages to studying online, including flexibility, affordability, and convenience. On-campus programs typically cost more due to student fees. These fees are optional for distance learners. Attending classes has its advantages as well as disadvantages.

Top Social Work Degree Options Available by State
State Degree Level
California Bachelors, Masters
Florida Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Georgia Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Illinois Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
New York Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
North Carolina Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Pennsylvania Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Texas Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Virginia Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Washington Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate

Private vs. Public

A private college and a public college differ in several ways. If you choose a public or private school, the cost will be different. The government determines the costs for public institutions, so grants and scholarships are funded by the government to cover those costs. The cost of attending a private college is typically lower for those with superior academic performance.

In private colleges, students usually receive more personal interaction with professors. Here are some pros and cons of attending a private vs. a public institution.

Pros and Cons

Private

  • Unique program offerings
  • Cultural or religious options
  • Local prestige
  • Higher costs
  • Less regulatory oversight

Public

  • Government-issued tuition costs
  • Government funding, benefits, and regulation
  • Oftentimes large classrooms

Frequently Asked Questions

In California, how much do social workers make?

Social workers earn a mean annual salary of $68,540 in California each year.

In today's environment, are social work majors in demand?

The total number of social workers is projected to grow by 5.8% from 2020 to 2030.

Can you study for a doctorate in social work online?

A doctorate in social work can be earned online. At least some online courses are available as part of most schools' programs in today's environment.

How long does it take to earn a doctorate?

Typically, full-time students complete their doctorate within 4-6 years. In general, the completion time will vary from student to student.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office