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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social and Behavioral Sciences

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Criteria for Admissions?

All applicants to the doctoral program are expected to submit the completed application with the following documentation: transcripts from all previously attended graduate and undergraduate institution(s); curriculum vitae or resume; scores from the GRE exam; three letters of recommendation (at least one should be an academic recommendation from an instructor or advisor); and a statement of purpose and objectives. For applicants whose native language is not English, a minimum score of 100 on the internet-based TOEFL exam is required.

Applications are considered by an admissions committee that reviews the entire application package and considers the overall balance of each applicant’s qualifications and the fit between the applicant’s career goals and the academic program. Successful candidates should possess strong analytic, theoretical and methodological skills, as well as relevant social and behavioral science and public health experience. A prior master’s degree is not a criterion for admissions to the doctoral program. However, successful applicants generally have a prior master's degree in a related social and behavioral sciences field or equivalent public health experience. Applications for the doctoral program must be completed and submitted by December 1 to be considered for the following fall.

How Can I Apply and What is the Application Fee?

Prospective applicants can find more information about how to apply here.

Are the GREs Required?

The Department of Health, Behavior & Society recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic may significantly impede prospective students’ ability to complete standardized testing requirements. To help address the unique challenges the pandemic has presented, the Department of Health, Behavior & Society has opted to alter our policy requiring GRE scores for applicants to the 2021-2022 academic year.

For prospective students applying to all HBS academic programs for the 2021-2022 academic year, GRE scores will be optional, but highly recommended. We encourage applicants with existing GRE scores to include them as part of their applications. However, applications will still be reviewed without GRE scores. 

Applicants may submit GRE scores to JHSPH using the SOPHAS code 3738.

My GRE Scores are More Than Five Years Old. Will You Accept Them?

The policy of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) is to maintain GRE scores for a five-year period only. After the five years, the scores are purged from the ETS computer system. Therefore, if your scores are older than five years, you must discuss with us whether you should retake the test.

Is There a Minimum GRE Score or GPA to Qualify for Admissions?

There is no minimum score. We look very closely at test scores because we have found that strong GRE scores are a good predictor of successful completion of the doctoral coursework and thesis research. However, this is only one of several criteria that determines acceptance into the doctoral program. We also look closely at transcripts to ensure that applicants’ skills meet the demands of the program. If an applicant feels the test scores do not accurately reflect their potential, they may want to provide additional evidence of readiness in key areas prior to applying—for example, a refresher coursework in mathematics or statistics.

What is Available By Way of Financial Aid or Departmental Scholarship?

The Department is committed to seeking opportunities that will allow it to provide financial support to its students. Most departmental scholarship decisions are made during the admissions process and communicated to students in their letters of acceptance. For most School-level awards, eligible accepted applicants will be nominated by the Department to the School for consideration, and notification of School-level awards will be issued by the School as decisions are made. Continuing students work closely with the Bloomberg School’s Office of Graduate Education and Research as well with the Department to identify funding opportunities at appropriate time points during the training process, such as the individual NRSA awards from the NIH.

The Department invites predoctoral and postdoctoral students who are interested to apply for training and support in the cancer control track of the Cancer Epidemiology Prevention and Control Training Program, an NCI-sponsored pre and postdoctoral training program shared with the Department of Epidemiology. Contact Dr. Danielle German.

Students interested in financial aid should contact the Bloomberg School's Office of Student Financial Services at 410-955-3004 or

Can I Complete the Doctoral Program on a Part-Time Basis or Via the Web?

The PhD program offered in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society is a traditional, full-time degree program.

Can I Transfer in Credits From a Previous Masters or Doctoral Degree?

The Bloomberg School does not offer credit for courses taken at other institutions. However, if you have completed coursework at another institution that is of similar content as a course required for the degree program, you would be able to request a waiver of the required course, with substitution of elective or more advanced coursework as appropriate. Students should begin the waiver process by discussing the issue with their academic advisor.

Can I Schedule a Visit?

The Admissions Office schedules an open house each fall for prospective students, and HBS faculty and students are available to speak to visitors at that time. Campus tours can also be arranged through the Admissions Office (see Admissions website for tour dates). If you are unable to attend the open house and would like to arrange a visit to the Department of Health, Behavior and Society before or after a campus tour, please contact the department's Academic Program Administrator.

Who Can I Contact for More Information?

Program Director
Dr. Danielle German

Academic Program Administrator 
L. Robin Newcomb