About the PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences Program
The PhD program in Social and Behavioral Sciences is designed for individuals seeking training for careers as social and behavioral scientists, health educators, and health promotion or communication specialists in the public health arena. The curriculum centers on the application of social and behavioral science perspectives to research on contemporary health problems, with a focus on understanding and influencing the social contexts and behaviors relevant to health. In addition to coursework, students complete a written exam at the end of the first year and gain experience in research skills and approaches. With faculty guidance, students develop and present a dissertation protocol in an oral exam. The final dissertation defense is conducted as an oral exam that includes a public seminar.
The program provides rigorous training in research methodology, theory, and program design and evaluation. Research is primarily focused in two areas—health education and communication, and social and psychological influences on health.
PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences Program Highlights
with multi-level perspective
with practical application to contemporary health problems
Application of behavioral and social science perspectives
with attention to context
to understand and influence health behaviors that are risk factors in disease and illness
What Can You Do With a Graduate Degree In Social and Behavioral Sciences?
- Postdoctoral Fellow
- Research Public Health Analyst
- Social Scientist, Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products
- Health Scientist-Alcohol Program
- Project Director
- Senior Communications Adviser
- Tenure Track Faculty
- Senior Program Officer
- Director of Clinical and Academic Research
- Senior Consultant
- Research and Evaluation Officer
- Program Director, Department of Public Health
The emphasis of the curriculum is on the application of behavioral and social science perspectives to research on contemporary health problems. Understanding and influencing health behaviors that are risk factors in disease and illness, as well as behaviors that can be considered protective and health enhancing, are strengths of the program.
Rigorous training in research methods and program design and evaluation are also key elements of the curriculum. The program focuses its research in the following areas.
Health Education & Communication
This area focuses on the application of principles from education, communication, behavioral, social science and psychological theories to encourage health behaviors conducive to optimal health in individuals, groups and communities. Students are exposed to current research on health education and communication, with particular focus on multilevel, ecological models of health and health behavior, design and evaluation of multifaceted intervention programs and patient-provider communication.
Social & Psychological Influences on Health
This area focuses on social and psychological factors and processes in the etiology and prevalence of disease in health-care-seeking behavior, disease prevention, long-term care and rehabilitation. Students are exposed to current research on health knowledge, attitudes and beliefs; social and psychological factors in disease etiology; risk reduction; and cultural influences in public health, including cross-cultural and multilevel studies.
For general admissions requirements, please visit the How to Apply page.
Standardized Test Scores
Standardized test scores (GRE) are optional for this program. The admissions committee will make no assumptions if a standardized test score is omitted from an application, but will require evidence of quantitative/analytical ability through other application components such as academic transcripts and/or supplemental questions. Applications will be reviewed holistically based on all application components.
Program Faculty Spotlight
Katherine Clegg Smith, PhD, MA, is a sociologist who examines health experiences and health communication, with a research focus on cancer and chronic disease.
Carl Latkin, PhD, conducts biobehavioral interventions for disadvantaged communities, with a focus on social networks, substance use, infectious diseases, and mental health.
Roland J. Thorpe, Jr., PhD, MS, is a gerontologist and social epidemiologist with nationally-recognized expertise in minority aging, men’s health, and place-based disparities.
Carol Underwood, PhD '93, MA, MA, studies the role of gender, social class, and marginalization in global health outcomes to contribute to the wellbeing of populations.
Tuition and Funding
All full-time PhD students will receive the following support for the first four years of the program: full tuition, individual health insurance, University Health Services clinic fee, vision insurance, and dental insurance.