Master of Public Health/Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work

The University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Public Health Center for Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training in Public Health Social Work (based in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences) program has been in operation since 1965 and represents a unique collaboration. The program's primary objectives are to train social workers for leadership positions in public health systems and prepare them for research and teaching posts.

The program emphasizes a broad range of maternal and child health issues, including infant mortality reduction, adolescent health, youth and maternal substance abuse, services to children with disabilities, injury and violence prevention, child abuse and neglect, pediatric AIDS, and others. The program has excellent links with both the local and state maternal and child health systems as well as with the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Students have numerous opportunities to work with local organizations on a variety of planning, evaluation, and research activities. In recent years, a number of students have participated in federally sponsored summer internship experiences.

The program offers students a joint program to study for both a PhD in Social Work and a Master of Public Health (MPH).

The joint MPH/PhD program, is designed for social workers seeking administrative, policy, and/or academic positions. The overall training program clearly emphasizes leadership training rather than basic professional preparation. All trainees are Masters of Social Work (MSWs) (or equivalent) with at least two years of professional practice experience.


The overall educational objective of the project is to provide the trainees with a "public health approach" to maternal and child health.

This involves:

  • a primary focus on populations at risk rather than individuals
  • use of an interdisciplinary approach
  • a focus on primary prevention of social and health problems
  • reliance on systematic data collection and analysis for administrative decision making

The learning objectives include:

  • Understanding incidence, prevalence, prevention, treatment, and epidemiological trends of the health and social needs of mothers and children
  • Becoming aware of the health and social work systems available for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation
  • Understanding the interrelationship of the identified population-at-risk with other populations needing maternal and child health services
  • Understanding the impact of socioeconomic, racial, cultural, geographical, and financial factors on health service delivery and use
  • Understanding the technical and legal issues related to service delivery to the population-at-risk
  • Understanding the implications of legislation and policy on program funding, planning and development, and patterns of service delivery

It is expected that graduates also will be prepared through the educational experience to:

  • Coordinate maternal and child health services within primary, secondary, and tertiary sites
  • Effectively access and allocate federal, state, county, and local resources for maternal and child health services
  • Develop and coordinate regional public health and social work services for mothers and children
  • Develop social work consultation and training skills and apply them to interdisciplinary settings
  • Use epidemiological data and statistics, and conduct community needs assessments to support program and policy development
  • Prepare technical reports, proposals, and publications

Academic Curriculum

The MPH/PhD curriculum comprises core courses in public health and social work, with a heavy emphasis on research methods and statistics. Specific classes on maternal and child health and public health social work are also required for this degree program. The following list of courses is provided as an example, as the exact course requirements may vary by student.

GSPH Core & BCHS Core Courses (minimum 37 credits):

BIOST 2011 Principles of Statistical Reasoning (3 credits)
EOH 2013 Environmental Health & Disease(3 credits)
EPID 2110 Principles of Epidemiology (3 credits)
HPM 2001 Introduction to Leadership, Management, and Policy (3 credits)
PUBHLT 2014 Public Health Overview (1credit)
PUBHLT 2015 Public Health Biology (2 credits)
PUBHLT 2016 Capstone: Problem-Solving in Public Health (2 credits)
BCHS 2504 Overview of Health Communication (3 credits)
BCHS 2520 Theories of Health Behavior and Health Education (3 credits)
BCHS 2525 Introduction to Applied Research (3 credits)
BCHS 2521 Master’s Essay/Thesis (2-3 credits)
BCHS 2559 Community Development Approaches to Public Health (3 credits)
BCHS 2563 Community Health Assessment (3 credits)
BCHS 2592 Seminar in Public Health Social Work (1 credit) By Appt.

SSW Courses (30-31 credits):

SWRES 3029 Inferential Statistics (3 credits)
SWRES 3021 Multivariate Methods (4 credits)
SWRES 3020 Research Methods I (3 credits)
SWRES 3022 Capstone I (3 credits)
SWRES 3023 Capstone II (3 credits)
SWGEN 3053 Social Science Theory I (3 credits)
SWGEN 3044 Social Science Theory II (3 credits)
SWWEL 3030 Evaluation of American Social Welfare History and Policy (3 credits)
SWWEL 3037 Social Policy Analysis (3 credits)
SWGEN Seminar in Social Work Education
One additional policy course (2-3 credits)

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to complete the program? Are the core courses offered every term?

It takes two to three years for the PhD/MPH course work, and approximately two additional years to complete doctoral research.

What kinds of jobs can I get when I'm finished? What are the graduates of the program doing?

The majority of graduates assume teaching and research positions in schools of social work, although some pursue research or policy development positions with agencies.

What are the research areas of the faculty?

The research interests of the faculty include evaluating services to children and families, minority health, child development and child mental health, programs for children with special healthcare needs, HIV/AIDS, and STDs.

What kinds of backgrounds do students have who enter the program? How many students do you accept each year into the program?

Two to three new students come into the program each year. Students have an MSW or equivalent and at least two years of post-MSW experience, preferably in services to children and families.

Is financial aid available?

A formal agreement is in place between the Graduate School of Public Health and the School of Social Work regarding the MPH/PhD program. Joint students generally will receive financial support from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau training grant only during their initial three terms of study, during which time most of the requirements for the MPH are completed. The School of Social Work provides financial support during the second three terms of study and also attempts to assist students during their dissertation research phase as much as possible. At least two funded student trainees enter this track of the program annually.

Tuition and fees

Read about the School of Social Work Financial Aid or visit the Graduate School of Public Health Web site for information about their tuition and fees.


Those students seeking the MPH/PhD are admitted to both the Graduate School of Public Health and the School of Social Work as joint students. Therefore, applicants must also meet the admission requirements of the doctoral program of the School of Social Work, and formal applications must be submitted to both programs. All successful applicants are reviewed by a committee consisting of the PHSW project director and representatives from the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and the School of Social Work, to determine awarding of traineeships.

Those seeking further information regarding the requirements and processes for this joint degree program are encouraged to contact
Valire Carr Copeland
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
2211 Cathedral of Learning
Pittsburgh, PA 15260


University of Pittsburgh
Graduate School of Public Health
Rhea Buccigrossi
224A Parran Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261