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Prerequisite Coursework

  • A minimum of 15 hours of coursework at the college senior or graduate level in social or behavioral sciences (sociology, psychology and/or anthropology).
  • A minimum of six hours of coursework at the college senior or graduate level in human biology or physiology.
  • A minimum of three hours of statistics or biostatistics at the college senior or graduate level. Course content will include probability theory, parametric and non-parametric methods and acquaintance with basic multivariate techniques.
  • One course in basic epidemiology. All students are now required to have completed this prerequisite prior to beginning the program.

The maximum number of transfer credits shall be nine hours. Courses taken anywhere in the CU system are considered to be resident, not transfer, and therefore fall outside of the limits on transfer credits. All requests to transfer credits (or to use university credits taken prior to admission to the program) must be approved by the HBS Faculty Executive Committee.


There are three dimensions to the required curriculum:

  • a problem-oriented, interdisciplinary and practicum-oriented approach to theory and method (26 semester hours)
  • elective coursework intended to provide the student with a solid base from which to launch the dissertation research (at least six semester hours)
  • dissertation research and writing (at least 30 semester hours)

Theory and Method Core Course Requirements (29 semester hours)

The core curriculum should be completed by students by the end of their second year of full-time study. It consists of the following series of courses which, together, constitute 26 credit hours:

  1. HBSC 7001, Health and Behavioral Sciences Colloquium. Each fall, the HBSC program will organize a series of presentations by scholars working in the health and behavioral sciences. The presentations provide students with the most current science and theory in the field. Required of all first- and second-year students. (Two credit hours.)
  2. HBSC 7011, 7021, 7061, and 7071, Theoretical Perspectives in the Health and Behavioral Sciences. This series is designed to give students a thorough background in how the principles of the social and behavioral sciences have been applied to health issues. Topics include the interplay between structure and agency in creating and maintaining health; social epidemiology; critical theory and social determinants of health; issues affecting Western biomedicine and public health systems; diffusion of healthy behavioral change among populations; social construction of health and illness; health policy and bioethics; social networks; and stress. (Nine credit hours.)
  3. HBSC 7031, Human Ecology and Environmental Adaptation. This course focuses primarily on the interplay of biology, environment and culture in the causes and exacerbation of disease. The course will emphasize the biological/physiological dimensions of human health and disease. The course includes the following topics: health within environmental and evolutionary contexts; models of causation in biomedicine and other medical systems; individual, community, and population manifestations of health and disease; and biocultural interaction in disease processes. Specific case studies drawn from contemporary health problems will be used to illustrate in detail the nature of these processes. (Three credit hours.)
  4. HBSC 7041, 7051, Research Design, Methods, and Analytic Procedures in the Health and Behavioral Sciences; and one additional advanced methods course of student's choosing. This series covers the philosophy of science and the structure of scientific inquiry, procedures for hypothesis-testing, quantitative and qualitative methodological strategies commonly employed in the field, epidemiology, and program evaluation. Students must further develop specialized methodological skills by completing an independent study (HBSC 6840) or taking one additional course in advanced epidemiology, advanced biostatistics, health economics, survey research design, or qualitative methods and data analysis. This requirement will be tailored specifically to the student's particular interests by his/her advisor. (Nine credit hours.)
  5. HBSC 7111, Applications of the Social and Behavioral Sciences to Health Issues. This course offers students the opportunity to focus on individual research interests with guidance from faculty and input from peers. (Three credit hours.)


Each student will develop a research application by means of additional coursework in an area or areas related to the student's selected doctoral thesis research topic. Students must take a minimum of six hours of elective coursework. HBSC offers a variety of electives each semester; students should consult the catalog and online schedule listings. 

The Dissertation

Students typically spend the last three semesters of their program engaged in the dissertation process. For more complete information, visit the PhD dissertation page.