VCU Bulletins

Social and Behavioral Health, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Graduate program director
Kellie E. Carlyle, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Assistant professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Health
(804) 628-4623

Additional contact
Whitney Christake, M.A.
Educational coordinator
(804) 628-4629

Program website:

Refer to the program search function of the online VCU Bulletins for a complete listing of all programs, concentrations and related curricular options.

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Social and Behavioral Health, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

of entry:


Jan 9

Special requirements: M.P.H. or equivalent M.A. or M.S. degree

Applicants must meet all general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university.  These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

General academic regulations for
all graduate students in all graduate programs at VCU

Program goal

Training to be social and behavioral scientists

Students in the doctoral program in social and behavioral health will acquire the skills to become scientists, educators and scientists/administrators in a broad spectrum of positions and settings. Students will gain a progressive mastery of the current state of the subject matter in the social and behavioral sciences, an ability to synthesize the information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation/experimentation and the ability to design and interpret studies that address the questions identified. In addition, students will develop the various means of communicating core social and behavioral science knowledge and particular study designs, results and interpretations to a variety of audiences.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Analytical thinking: Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of ability to interpret information relevant to social and behavioral science, to connect rationales to procedures and evidence to findings, to draw reasonable conclusions, and to generate and evaluate alternate explanations.
  2. Integrated knowledge of social and behavioral science: Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of the social and behavioral sciences as related to disciplinary specialization and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique.
  3. Oral communication skills: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of skill in the oral communication of social and behavioral science subject matter with respect to content, organization, logical flow, presentation, use of language and incorporation of visual aids in formal and collaborative communication.
  4. Study design: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create, and implement study protocols and to design and develop studies.
  5. Written communication skills: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling, vocabulary and use of figures, tables and citations to effectively present social and behavioral science information.

Degree requirements

The Ph.D. program in social and behavioral health, the only one of its kind in Virginia, prepares students to conduct theoretically based research and interventions on the social and behavioral determinants of health and disease. In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, a minimum of 50 post-master’s credit hours is required for the doctoral degree, which is expected to involve four years of full-time study. Requirements include 12 credit hours of courses in research methods, nine credit hours of courses in the behavioral and social sciences, one credit hour of responsible conduct of research, four credit hours of departmental seminar and at least six credit hours of elective courses that reflect a student’s research interests. In addition, required research experience includes nine hours of applied research practicum and nine dissertation credit hours. Students who work as graduate research assistants for two years may substitute some or all of the nine credit hours of applied research practicum with electives.

Curriculum requirements

Courses Credit hours
Core requirements 32
BIOS/STAT 543 Statistical Methods I 3
BIOS/STAT 544 Statistical Methods II 3
OVPR 601 Scientific Integrity, OVPR 602 Responsible Scientific Conduct or OVPR 603 Responsible Conduct of Research 1
SBHD 638 Applications in Qualitative Research Methods 3
SBHD 690 Departmental Seminar (one-credit course taken four times) 4
SBHD 693 SBHD Internship (variable credits) 9
SBHD 697 Directed Research in Social and Behavioral Health (variable credit course) 9 (minimum)
Required electives 9
SBHD 610 Behavioral Measurement 3
SBHD 630 Theoretical Foundations of Social and Behavioral Health 3
SBHD 637 Program Evaluation 3
Additional electives 9
Any graduate-level course(s) approved by adviser 6
Additional SBHD course 3
Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 50

Typical plan of study

Many students often end up taking more than the minimum number of hours required for a degree program. The total number of hours may vary depending upon the program, nature of research being conducted by a study or in the enrollment or funding status of the student. Students should refer to their program websites and talk with their graduate program directors or advisers for information about typical plans of study and registration requirements.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Degree candidacy requirements

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Graduation requirements

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on doctoral programs is available in the Graduate Bulletin at



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