Social Work

Where to Get a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Degree in Louisiana

Where to Get a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Degree in Louisiana
Some DSW programs offer only one program track, while others allow students to focus their studies and build knowledge in a specialized area. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly October 6, 2020

The Bayou State offers limited options to students seeking a DSW. Fortunately, the single program available in Louisiana operates at a nationally renowned institution. Even better, it provides both on-campus and online learning options.

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The first Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree in the United States was offered in the late 1940s (Catholic University of America led the way in 1947), nearly 30 years after Bryn Mawr College introduced the first social work PhD. Originally conceived as a means to “increase the status of the profession” by indicating parity to an MD, the DSW has developed into social work’s practice-based doctoral-level degree (in contrast with the research- and academic-focused PhD).

DSW programs are ideal for seasoned professionals who:

  • Aspire to advanced clinical training in social work
  • Want to learn more about theoretical and practice models, clinical research, and policies
  • Hope to increase their professional responsibilities and income

Louisiana social work schools offer a variety of Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programs that provide a solid foundation for generalist social work practice. Several schools offer the Master of Social Work (MSW), a necessary degree for professionals who want to work in independent, clinical, or advanced practice. The DSW track, on the other hand, is harder to come by. But not, fortunately, impossible to find. If you know what it means to miss New Orleans, you’ll know where to look.

Our guide to DSW programs in Louisiana covers the following questions:

  • What is a Doctor of Social Work?
  • What can you do with a DSW degree?
  • Which Louisiana schools offer an accredited DSW?

What is a Doctor of Social Work (DSW)?

In contrast to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in social work—which readies students for careers in academia or research—DSW programs emphasize advanced clinical social work skills and managerial concepts.

Program curricula build on students’ existing knowledge of practice models, theoretical approaches, and clinical research to prepare them to:

  • Create and implement solutions to large-scale social challenges
  • Drive public discourse and policy on social issues
  • Make a difference in the well-being of individuals, families, and communities

Some DSW programs offer only one program track, while others allow students to focus their studies and build knowledge in a specialized area. Common specializations include:

What a DSW degree is not

When researching DSW degrees, you may have come across the term “direct service worker.” Direct service worker jobs vary by state, setting, and situation, but typically include healthcare-related titles like certified nursing assistant (CNA), geriatric aide, orderly, hospital attendant, among other roles. The primary duties of direct service workers involve providing aid to people with disabilities or the elderly, whether by assisting with daily living activities, personal care services, or job-related support.

The field also has no relation to DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, the footwear-based retailer known for name brands that range from Nike and New Balance to Sperry and Stuart Weitzman. The only connection is that Doctors of Social Work typically wear shoes.


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What can you do with a DSW degree?

DSW holders in and outside of Louisiana are uniquely prepared to apply their skills to high-level positions at social work agencies, schools, government bodies, nonprofits, medical, and mental health organizations. Their advanced training often leads to careers in advanced clinical practice, leadership, and administration, resulting in job titles like:

  • Advanced practice clinical social worker
  • Community program administrator
  • Corporate social responsibility specialist
  • Family therapist
  • Human services specialist
  • Nonprofit executive
  • Policy advocate and analyst
  • Social services director

Which Louisiana schools offer an accredited DSW?

From New Orleans to Lake Charles, Lafayette, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge, the Bayou State is renowned for its rich diversity but limited in options for students seeking to earn their DSW. The good news is that the single program available in the state is offered by a highly regarded institution. Plus, it operates both in an on-campus and online format. The online option should appeal to those who do not wish to relocate to New Orleans or Biloxi and/or those who want to continue working full-time while pursuing the degree.

Tulane University

New Orleans, LA

School of Social Work

Tulane University is a private institution with a combined undergraduate and graduate population of just over 14,000. Since its beginnings as a medical college in 1834, the school has developed a reputation for intellectual firepower. The school is one of 62 members of the Association of American Universities, which recognizes the most outstanding research institutions in the United States.

As the program FAQ points out, on-campus students can apply for Tulane’s DSW program at one of the school’s two campus locations—New Orleans, Louisiana, or Biloxi, Mississippi—and complete their coursework there. On-campus, the curriculum covers two years of coursework in social work theory, practice, and methods. It also includes independent study, during which students work with an advisor to research and develop an advanced clinical project in their chosen practice area. The third and final year includes two semesters dedicated to students’ projects, which commonly take the shape of research articles relating to their practice areas.

Tulane’s online DSW program mirrors its on-campus counterpart. It emphasizes programs, policies, and interventions that address vulnerable populations’ needs while exploring a broad scope of practice areas in the field. Online coursework fosters the skills needed to evaluate, design, and implement effective action in the field by focusing on core courses like leadership in social work and evidence-informed practice, historical and current policy approaches to social welfare, and applied social statistics, among others. Online students must also attend an immersion weekend in New Orleans, during which they meet with their classmates and instructors and build a network of fellow social workers and social justice advocates. Full-time distance learners can complete their degree in as few as three years.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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