Advance your social work career to the highest level

Equip yourself to lead in the demanding field of social work. Meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

  • Level

  • Doctorate, NZQF Level 10
  • Campus

  • Auckland, Manawatū
  • Distance learning

  • Available
  • Credits

  • 360
  • Duration

  • 3 year(s) full-time. Available part-time.

Note: This programme is covered by the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021. Students are required to provide details of their vaccination status on enrolment.

Massey University’s prestigious Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is designed to advance your social work and social development knowledge at local, national and international levels.

Is the DSW the same as a PhD?

No. A PhD seeks to make a contribution to theory and knowledge generally, while a DSW seeks to make a contribution to practice, policy or social work knowledge. The DSW consists of a combination of four courses (Stage 1) and a 65,000 word research thesis (Stage 2). A Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is achieved solely through a research thesis of 100,000 words. Both qualifications are challenging, require a high level of personal motivation and commitment. They should be undertaken only after careful reflection about the time and resources available to you.

Expand your social work knowledge and expertise

This qualification is particularly relevant for social workers in fields of health, well-being and hauora, including:

  • mental health
  • child and family practice
  • social work in schools
  • social service organisations
  • policy and practice advisers in government
  • social work education and training providers.

The DSW gives you a unique opportunity to develop your social work expertise and undertake policy and practice-based research at an advanced level. You’ll work in an environment that encourages new ideas around innovative social work and social development policy and practices.

Become an inspirational leader in your field

You’ll gain advanced research-based knowledge of theory, research, methodology, models and practices of social work and social development. You’ll cover both Aotearoa New Zealand and international contexts. You will become confident in applying this knowledge in practice and policy settings to clients, tangata whaiora and the wider social services sector.

You’ll be able to:

  • design, implement and evaluate social work research and apply it to practice situations
  • locate, analyse, critique and evaluate a variety of interventions
  • implement analytical skills
  • demonstrate the ability to gather, assess and interpret data using clear, logical thinking
  • present and communicate your knowledge to diverse audiences
  • work effectively in interdisciplinary environments
  • establish and attain individual learning objectives and maintain a high level of ethical and professional development.

Flexible professional development that fits your lifestyle

The DSW is offered part-time so you can fit study in with your other professional and personal commitments.

At the moment only New Zealand citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for the Doctor of Social Work.

Careers and further study


Massey University’s Doctor of Social Work provides the highest level of professional development within the field of social work.

Accelerate your career progression

This programme will enhance your role as an advanced practitioner, practice leader, policy adviser, specialist practitioner, manager, adviser, trainer or educator. You will lead new thinking and discover better ways to empower change.

You can become a key decision maker and make a positive difference in your community, your iwi, and your country. You can help build a better world through social justice and social equity.

Entry requirements

University admission

All students must meet university entrance requirements to be admitted to the University.

Programme admission


To enter the Doctor of Social Work you will:

  • have been awarded or qualified for a Master of Applied Social Work or Master of Social Work, or an equivalent social work qualification including a research component, with the award of First Class or Second Class Division I honours
  • have sufficient background and good standing in professional social work to satisfy the Doctoral Research Committee you have the capacity to successfully undertake the programme.

You will provide verified copies of all academic transcripts for studies taken at all universities other than Massey University.

English language requirements:

Academic IELTS score of 6.5 with no band less than 6.0 - this must be achieved in one sitting; or a minimum TOEFL iBT of 90 overall (minimum of 20 in writing). These tests are valid for two years.


Courses and planning

Credit summary

360 credits

  • Part One (Provisional Registration) compulsory courses – 120 credits
  • Part Two (Full Registration) thesis – 240 credits

Participation in required activities including presentation of a proposal at a confirmation event and defending a thesis in an oral examination on the thesis and the subject area.

This is a parts-based qualification. This means there are regulations around your completion of Part One before progressing to Part Two, etc.

Courses for this programme

Part One: Provisional Registration

At least 120 credits from
179911 Advanced Social Work and Social Development Theory 30
179912 Advanced Studies in International Social Work 30
179913 Advanced Social Work Research and Evaluation 30
179929 Advanced Directed Study in Social Work 30

Part Two: Full Registration

At least 240 credits from
179930 Thesis Doctor of Social Work 240

Planning your programme

Planning overview

The Doctor of Social Work is a parts-based qualification. That means you must complete the first part (Provisional Registration), before moving to the second part (Full Registration).

Part One

A suite of four 900-level courses (120 credits).

Part Two

A thesis investigation that makes a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding in professional social work.

Progressing to full registration is subject to candidates completing all the course work to a B+ or better standard and passing a confirmation event for which they have submitted a research proposal and orally defended it. Confirmed candidate’s progress will be monitored through a six-monthly reporting process.

You may begin your study either in the first semester (February) or second semester (July).

Maximum time limits for completion

There are maximum time limits to complete postgraduate qualifications.  If you do not complete within the maximum time, you may be required to re-apply for the programme if you wish to continue your studies.

Time limits for Honours, Distinction and Merit

Where your qualification is completed within the stated time limit and to a high standard, you may be able to graduate with a class of Honours, Distinction or Merit. 

Fees and scholarships

Fees and finance

Fees, student loans and free fees scheme

Your tuition fees may be different depending on the courses you choose. Your exact fees will show once you have chosen your courses.

There will also be some compulsory non-tuition fees and for some courses, there may also be charges for things such as study resources, software, trips and contact workshops.

Already know which courses you're going to choose?

You can view fees for the courses that make up your qualification on the course details pages.

Student loans (StudyLink) and Fees Free scheme

You may be eligible for a student loan to help towards paying your fees.

The New Zealand Government offers fees-free tertiary study for eligible domestic students. Find out more about the scheme and your eligibility on the Fees Free website. To use the site's eligibility checking tool, you will need your National Student Number.

Current and returning Massey students can find their National Student Number in the student portal.

Doctoral fees

You can start your PhD study at anytime throughout the academic year. However normally you will pay full tuition fees from the start of each calendar year, with the exception of the first and final year of your study, which may be a partial year, depending on your start date.

Fees are not charged once you submit your thesis for examination.

The New Zealand government provides all international PhD students with a government subsidized scholarship which allows international students to pay tuition at the domestic fee rate. As part of the Immigration New Zealand student visa requirement, you will need to pay your full first year tuition fee at the time of accepting your Offer of Place and before you can enrol.

If your highest qualification is from an overseas institution you will be required to pay an Admission with Equivalent Status (AES) overseas qualifications fee of NZD$137.00 before your application for admission will be considered. This fee will be refunded to you upon enrolment in the programme.

A good fit if you:

  • wish to undertake practice-based research
  • aspire to be an advanced social work practitioner, tertiary educator or agency leader
  • seek to provide leading-edge policy advice.

Meet our lecturers

Key information for students

Compare qualifications and academic information across different New Zealand institutions.


Review this important information before you apply for this programme. This gives you full details of the rules and regulations about what you need to study and what you must achieve in order to graduate with this qualification. That includes structure, courses and requirements.


Regulations for this programme

Applying and enrolling

Applying for the programme

Massey’s Graduate Research School administers all doctoral degrees at Massey. They will complete an eligibility assessment based on all documents and qualifications submitted. If you meet the basic entry requirements an academic assessment will be carried out in the academic unit you are applying to.

It is expected that all applicants for the Doctor of Social Work will have had some contact with the DSW programme coordinator prior to their application. This will help you to understand whether you are eligible to apply for the course, how the course is structured and delivered, and to ensure that you have begun to develop some ideas about the focus of your study. These ideas should be reflected in a brief proposal that you will submit with your application.

Contact us through the Enquire button on this page to find out more.

Receive and accept an Admission Offer of Place

You can apply for the programme using the Apply now button on this page. You will be able to submit any required documents as part of this application process.

Please allow at least four to six weeks for the review process. Please note that significant delays will occur if you don't provide all necessary documents.

You will receive an Admission Offer of Place when you have been accepted into the programme. You need to accept this Offer before you can start the enrolment stage. If necessary you may defer your enrolment for up to a year after you have accepted your Offer of Place.

We look forward to welcoming you to Massey!

If you have any questions, contact us through the Enquire button on this page.


What are courses and credits?

What are courses and credits?

Each Massey programme is made up of courses (in some tertiary institutions they are called ‘papers’).

You will have some compulsory courses and some you can choose from.

Each course is worth a certain amount of credits (often 15 credits, but this does vary). You must gain a set number of credits to be able to graduate from this programme.

There may also be some rules about which courses you need to pass to progress to the next year, or stage, of your study (known as progression). There are also courses you must pass to graduate with a specialisation.

  • See the ‘Courses for this programme’ section for the list of courses.
  • Courses search

Understanding course numbers

The first three digits of our course numbers show you which subject the course is about.

The second three digits show you the level and course ID number. For instance:

  • sub-degree courses are '0' (i.e. xxx.0xx)
  • undergraduate study begins at 100-level, (i.e. xxx.1xx)
  • as you progress through 200- and 300-level courses this number changes to 2 and 3 respectively. The higher the number that starts the second three digits, the higher the level of study.
1 6 2 . 3   0 1
Subject area   Level   Course ID number

Workload and time management

Use this tool to help determine how much time you will need each week to complete your studies.

Estimate workload

Returning students

For returning students, there may be changes to the majors and minors available and the courses you need to take. Go to the section called ‘Transitional Provisions’ in the Regulations to find out more.

In some cases the programme or specialisation you enrolled in may no longer be taking new enrolments, so may not appear on these web pages. To find information on the regulations for these programmes go to the Massey University Calendar.

Please contact us through the Enquire button on this page if you have any questions.

Scholarships and awards

Scholarships related to this programme

There are a number of scholarships available for new and current students. They could relate to your situation, achievement or interest.

Find and apply for scholarships