New information following the change in COVID-19 alert levels.

Doctor of Social Work

Key facts

  • Available at Auckland
  • Available at Manawatū
  • Available via Distance Learning
  • Not available for international students

Advance your social work career to the highest level

Pursue your social work practice and your professional career to the highest level with Massey University’s Doctor of Social Work - internationally recognised and unique in New Zealand. Equip yourself to lead in the demanding field of social work through developing excellence to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

What is it like?

Find out more about entry requirements, fees and courses in the planning section.

Massey University’s prestigious Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is the first social work doctorate offered in New Zealand and is recognised internationally. The 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. The DSW consists of a combination of course work or courses and a 65, 000 word research thesis. A Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is achieved solely through a research thesis of 100,000 words.

The DSW is still a doctoral degree, which is the highest degree awarded at Massey University. It is a very demanding degree which requires academic rigour.

Expand your social work knowledge and expertise

This qualification meets an increasing demand in New Zealand and around the globe for a post-qualifying pathway for practising social workers. It’s particularly relevant for social workers in the fields of health (including mental health), child and family practice, social work in schools, social service organisations, policy and practice advisors in government, and 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. The programme operates as a laboratory for new ideas about innovative social work policy and practices to develop new models, approaches, and theories as well as creating ground-breaking social work and social development policy and practices.

Become an inspirational leader in your field

You’ll gain advanced knowledge of the theory, methodology, models and practices of social work and social development and master how to apply it to clients, social work policy and practice, and the wider social services sector in New Zealand and around the globe.

When you graduate 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 using information from a wide range of sources, with a special emphasis on research-informed practice
  • 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

Massey University is a leader in the field of social work. You choose how you study. The DSW is offered both full-time and part-time so you can fit study in with your other professional and personal commitments. Students can expect to study 4 years full-time, or up to 6 years part-time. Class work will take up to two years, before beginning your thesis.

A good fit if you:

  • Wish to undertake practice-based research
  • Aspire to be an advanced social work practitioner, tertiary educator, or agency leader, either in Aotearoa New Zealand or internationally
  • Seek to provide leading edge policy advice
  • Are a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident


Accelerate your career progression

Massey University’s Doctor of Social Work provides the highest level of professional development within the field of social work. Enhance your role as an advanced practitioner, practice leader, policy adviser, specialist practitioner, manager, adviser, trainer or educator. Lead new thinking. Discover better ways to empower change. Become a key decision maker. Make a positive difference in your community and your country. Build a better world through social justice and social equity.

Lecturer profile

Professor Mark Henrickson

Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work

“The Massey DSW is unique in New Zealand, and offers students an opportunity to draw on the range of expertise of the staff of New Zealand's most respected social work programme”

Our academic staff brings extensive teaching, research and supervision experience, a passion for social work, and for working with indigenous peoples and international contexts. Graduates of the programme will be able to contribute to developing new theory and new interventions, evaluating interventions, and using research to advocate for improved policies and interventions. Graduates will be well-placed to be successful at applying for grants and project funding.

If you wake up every day still believing that you can change the world, that practice innovation is important, and that social work is key to bringing about social justice both in indigenous and in international settings, then the Massey DSW is the right programme for you.

The Massey DSW is an opportunity for talented and experienced social work practitioners like you to challenge yourselves, and to develop your research skills in practice. The Massey DSW is an opportunity to demonstrate to funders, employers and colleagues that you are serious about practice excellence. It is a way for you to demonstrate your leadership and commitment to social work as a practice-based, research-informed profession.

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