Skip to main content
Sign In




An Interdisciplinary Degree

In response to the growing challenges in health care and public health, the PhD Program in Health and Behavioral Sciences was established in 1994 to develop leaders able to address contemporary health issues within the political, economic, cultural, biomedical and social framework of our society. The program provides an overarching framework integrating social, behavioral, and natural science perspectives on health and health care, while allowing the student to select and fully develop a particular research interest and professional career within the health and behavioral sciences. Whether it is the AIDS epidemic, the health effects of high altitude, the cost and quality of health care, the ethics of health care, domestic violence, or cancer prevention, professionals in this field play a central role in pursuing an understanding of the underpinnings of health and the conditions essential for its creation and maintenance.

About the Program

Depending upon a student's chosen area of concentration, the successful graduate will gain expert knowledge of:

  • research design and methods
  • the determinants of health and disease
  • the structure and organization of health care systems
  • behavioral choices and how to use them to enhance wellness
  • the contribution of individual, social and cultural factors to health behavior
  • how guided change in health care systems may enhance quality, efficacy and access

The significance of these skills in addressing our current health care crisis will insure that graduates will be in demand in a number of employment sectors, ranging from community and public health organizations to nonprofit research organizations and private health care settings.

Timing of the Program

The program is designed to be completed by the full-time student in four years. It employs a "cohort system" in whcih groups of students move through the core curriculum, thus enhancing the exchange of ideas and building social support.  As such, there is an advantage to completing coursework in the recommended timeline whenever possible. To meet the four-year goal, a student should organize his or her schedule and related academic activities to coincide with the following timeline. Students who cannot attend full time, or who must complete prerequisites, should anticipate finishing the program in more than four years. Students who have not registered and attended classes for one year or longer are considered to be returning students and must formally apply for readmission to the program.

  Year One Year Two
Fall (7 credits) Spring (9 credits) Fall (7 credits) Spring (6 credits)
Required HBSC 7011
HBSC 7031
HBSC 7001

HBSC 7021
HBSC 7041

HBSC 7061

HBSC 7071
HBSC 7051
HBSC 7001
HBSC 7111
Advanced methods course
Pre-reqs, if needed Epidemiology and/or biostats      
Electives If desired If desired If desired If desired
For a list of HBS course descriptions for the Ph.D., click here.
  Year Three Year Four
Fall Spring Fall Spring


Prospectus defense (ideal)

Dissertation hours

Dissertation hours

Electives As needed As needed    

Year One:

During the first year, students will develop the degree plan and complete 13-16 semester hours of required core curriculum, some elective and/or deficiency courses.

Year Two:

Second year students will complete the core curriculum and continue or begin to take electives in their chosen specialty.

Year Three:

In year three the student will finish his or her elective coursework and focus on the preparation of the dissertation prospectus. After completion of the comprehensive exam (the prospectus defense), the fourth year will be spent conducting the student's dissertation research under the supervision of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee. The student's Dissertation Committee should be established by the first semester of the third year and the student is encouraged to finish the research by the end of the fourth year. Students are responsible for establishing and maintaining frequent supervision by their dissertation advisors and be in close contact with their peers and other faculty members through the mechanism of the 8000-level dissertation research credit. Once the dissertation has been accepted by the Dissertation Committee, the committee will administer the final exam based on the dissertation and related topics in accordance with the graduate school rules.

Doctoral students have a maximum of eight years from the date of the start of coursework to complete all degree requirements. Students with special circumstances may petition the graduate school for a waiver of this time limit.