May 18, 2024  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Social and Behavioral Sciences, (PhD)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program

Satish Kedia, PhD
Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator
205 Robison Hall


The PhD degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences is the highest academic degree for individuals planning to pursue scholarly careers in this discipline. This program is designed for those who intend to teach and conduct original research utilizing rigorous scientific theories and methods to understand and influence the social and behavioral determinants of population health risk factors and outcomes. Graduates of the program are prepared to conduct innovative, interdisciplinary, and translational research in community settings with an emphasis on vulnerable populations, and to design, implement, administer, and evaluate public health interventions and policies. The program will emphasize urban health and health disparities issues in Tennessee and in the Mid-South region.

Program Admission

A research-based master’s degree in a health-related or social/behavioral field is required for admission. Applicants who possess professional master’s degrees (e.g., MPH) will be considered if they have appropriate research experience, such as having completed a thesis during master’s training, or being employed in a professional research position. Applicants must show potential for further study by having maintained a GPA of at least a 3.0 average in their master’s-level coursework. An acceptable, competitive score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general examination is required. Applicants already holding a doctoral degree or its professional equivalent may be exempted from the GRE requirement. Other professional school standardized test scores (MCAT, DAT, or LSAT,) may be substituted for the GRE by applicants who are working toward or who have already earned post-baccalaureate degrees in medicine, dentistry, management, or law from a United States accredited academic institution. Applicants whose native language is not English will be required to submit acceptable scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL IBT).

Letters of recommendation from three individuals (at least two letters from former professors or instructors but fewer may be acceptable in extenuating circumstances) familiar with the applicant’s academic background or experience in public health related issues, specifying in detail the applicant’s capabilities for graduate study and for future performance as a public health scholar, are required. Applicants must also submit a personal statement of purpose of approximately 750 to 1000 words indicating his/her present interests and career goals, including how the PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences will prepare the candidate to achieve these goals.

Materials submitted will be reviewed by the faculty admissions committee. Admissions decisions are made based on the overall quality of the applicant’s scholarship and academic ability (GPAs, GRE scores, undergraduate and graduate coursework completed, research conducted, relevant work experience, and recommendations) as well as the applicant’s “fit” for the program in terms of academic background, research interests, and career goals. Some applicants may be invited for a face-to-face or telephone interview with representatives of the Admissions Committee.

Program Prerequisites

All doctoral students are required to fulfill the following pre-requisites (9 credit hours) or document equivalent coursework. These three courses will not count toward the required 63 hours of doctoral study:

Program Requirements

Credit Hours:

A minimum of 63 semester hours of graduate credit beyond the master’s degree is required for the PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences. All work for doctoral credit must be approved by, and must be completed at a level of performance satisfactory to, the graduate faculty of the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Students also may take coursework for degree credit outside the School of Public Health with advisor approval.

Transfer Credit:

Graduate School regulations must be followed regarding accepting academic credits from another institution. Courses proposed for transfer credit must meet the following two requirements. (a) The Tennessee Board of Regents requires a minimum of 750 contact minutes for each semester credit (2250 for a 3-hour course). (b) The Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools requires a minimum of 3 hours of class work per week for 3 hours of credit. Grades earned at another institution will not be computed in the University cumulative grade point average, nor will they be accepted for transfer, unless they are “B” (3.0) or better. No credit will be transferred unless it meets with the approval of the major advisor or program graduate coordinator.


Full-time students are expected to carry a minimum of 9 credits per semester, and to devote full time during their enrollment to the pursuit of degree-related activities. Full-time students with graduate assistantships are required to enroll for 9 credits each semester. Part-time students are expected to carry a minimum of 6 credits per semester, unless permission is granted from the advisor for a reduced course load.


All doctoral students are expected to be active in research collaboratively with members of the Division faculty each semester they are enrolled. Students may receive credit for research involvement by enrolling in PUBH 8800 - Guided Research in PUBH .

Comprehensive Examination:

Upon completion of required coursework and prior to enrolling in dissertation hours (PUBH 9000 ), the student must successfully complete a written and oral comprehensive examination. The examination will assess mastery of areas covered in the student’s program. The content of the examination for each student will consist of core competencies in public health, social and behavioral sciences theories and methods applied to public health, and dissertation topic. The student’s advisory committee will be responsible for organizing and evaluating the comprehensive examination.


To fulfill the requirements for the PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences, the student must write and defend a dissertation. The dissertation must adhere to the format outlined by the Graduate School. The dissertation topic will be determined by the student in consultation with the advisor with input from the advisory committee.

Residency Requirements:

The last thirty semester hours of credit for the doctoral degree must be earned at the University of Memphis. Only the number of dissertation hours accepted by the program toward the degree will be accepted as part of the last 30 hours.

Curriculum Requirements:

The SBS doctoral program is a 54 semester hour degree program, with 45 hours of graduate coursework beyond the master’s degree, and 9 hours of PUBH 9000 for dissertation. Students are required to take 12 credit hours of SBS core courses, 3 credit hours of doctoral seminar, 12 credit hours of research methods courses, 6 credit hours of biostatistics, 12 credit hours of elective courses, and 9 credit hours of dissertation.

Doctoral Seminar Core (3 credit hours)

Research Methods Core (12 credit hours)

Biostatistics Core (6 credit hours)

Elective Courses (12 Credit hours)

Dissertation (9 credit hours at the University of Memphis)

PUBH 9000 - Dissertation  

Students are required to fulfill prerequisite courses: PUBH 8150 - Biostatistical Methods I , PUBH 8160 - Soc/Behav Science Principles , and PUBH 8170 - Epidemiology in PUBH , or document their equivalent. Credit hours for these prerequisite courses will not count toward the 54 hours required for graduation.

In addition to completion of the 54 semester hours of required coursework, program requirements include successful completion of written and oral comprehensive examinations (once 36 hours are in progress or completed and enrolled for at least 6 credit hours), and the preparation and successful defense of a dissertation in accordance with the University of Memphis Graduate School policies and guidelines.

Questions about the SBS PhD Program curriculum and degree requirements:

Satish Kedia, PhD, Professor and Coordinator
Social and Behavioral Sciences Doctoral Program

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