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Course of Study

Award of the PhD is the culmination of a sequential process of coursework, comprehensive examination, and the research, writing, and defense of a doctoral dissertation.  Students take a series of core health and research methods courses as well as elective courses in one of three areas of emphasis (social and behavioral health, aging and health, or urban health).  Upon successful completion of coursework, students must pass a written and oral comprehensive exam.  Before advancing to PhD candidacy, students complete and defend a dissertation proposal.  Students then design, implement, and analyze a research project.  The final product is a written dissertation with an oral defense of the dissertation work. 

Students admitted with only a bachelor's degree take all required coursework. Students admitted with a master’s degree may substitute prior coursework for as many as 15 credits of required courses, if previous graduate-level successfully completed coursework substantially overlaps with required course content.  Course substitutions will be made on a case-by-case basis and will be subject to approval by the PhD director, and the student's advisor.  The comprehensive exam and dissertation are required for all admitted students.


Required Health Courses (28 credits + 12 electives)

The core health classes are required and include the following:

PHE 612 Advanced Principles of Health Behavior (3)

PHE 546 Urban and Community Health (3)

PHE 513 Health, Behavior and the Social Environment (3)

PHE 580 Concepts of Environmental Health (3)

PAH 571 Health Policy (3)

PAH 575 Advanced Health Policy (3)

PHE 522/622 Health and Social Inequalities (3)

PHE 623 Doctoral Seminar in Health Research (1 credit x 6 terms)

PHE 626 Teaching & Learning in Health Promotion in Social Work (3)

Students are required to be enrolled in the 1-credit per quarter PHE 623 Doctoral Seminar in Health Research for a total of 6 credits during the first two years (6 quarters) of the program.  The Doctoral Seminar in Health Research will meet weekly with a faculty instructor on topics such as the critical evaluation of health research, hypothesis generation, publication and review process, grant application process, and program requirements.

Elective Health Courses

Students must also take at least 12 credits of electives on health topics related to whichever of the three defined areas of emphasis the student has chosen (i.e., social and behavioral health, aging and health, or urban health) or otherwise related to the student's interests and approved by the student’s advisor.

Required Methods Courses (17 credits + 6 credits elective)

PHE 624 Doctoral Research Methods in Community Health I (3) 

PHE 625 Doctoral Research Methods in Community Health II  (3)

PHE 520 Qualitative Research Design (3)

USP 634 Data Analysis I (4)

USP 654 Data Analysis II (4)

The required methods courses will cover traditional epidemiological as well as other social science research methods. Competencies will include study design, sampling, measurement, evaluation, qualitative research and analysis.

Methods Course Electives.

In addition to the required methods courses, students must enroll in at least 6 credits of methods electives. Elective course selections must be approved by the student’s advisor.

Research (18 credits)

Students are expected to be actively engaged in research during their program of study. This will ensure students are exposed to all levels of the research process, including hypothesis formulation, literature review, data collection, analysis, and grant and publication writing.  The goal of the research experience is to educate students about applied health research through hands-on, one-on-one mentored training. The expectation is that this experience will culminate in co-authorship of peer-reviewed publication(s).  Students will be enrolled in a total of 18 credits in PHE 601 Research (3 credits per term), a by-arrangement course, in which the student will work with his or her advisor (or an alternative supervisor approved by the advisor) on a research project during the second and third years of the program. 

Comprehensive Examination

The written and oral comprehensive examination is taken after the student has finished all required and elective coursework.  For full-time students, this exam is expected to take place during the fall term of the student’s third year. Scheduling of this exam for part-time students will be negotiated by the student and his/her advisor.


Upon successful completion of the comprehensive exam, the student will form a committee of 4 faculty members who will help guide the preparation of the dissertation proposal.  After committee approval of the student’s written and oral presentation of a dissertation proposal, then approval of the project by the University Human Subjects Research Review Committee application, the student will advance to doctoral candidacy. Students must complete at least 27 credits of PHE 603 Dissertation credits, in addition to having an approved written dissertation and successful oral defense of the dissertation, to be eligible for graduation.  The PHE 603 Dissertation credits are by-arrangement credits supervised by the PHE advisor or the dissertation chair (faculty within PHE). Continuous registration with a minimum of 1 PHE 603 Dissertation credit is required while engaged in dissertation research.

Other professional development

The core curriculum has a strong emphasis on community engagement, research mentorship, critical evaluation of research, and professional development. Doctoral students, however, are expected to do more than simply fulfill degree requirements while in the Community Health doctoral program.  Some of these extracurricular activities, such as attending lecture series, workshops, and brown bag seminars, are expected of any member of the community of scholars.  Other activities, such as serving as research or teaching assistants, provide opportunities for professional development, publication, presentation at conferences, and remuneration.