Jun 17, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Behavioral and Community Sciences, Ph.D.

Department: Dean’s Office

The Ph.D. in Behavioral & Community Sciences is an interdisciplinary major focusing on research and policy in the area of behavioral health and community sciences. Behavioral and Community Sciences refers to the development and evaluation of services and interventions that promote resiliency and social well-being for at-risk populations and addresses these issues within the context of community settings.

Major Research Areas: Substance Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders; Community Based Behavioral Health Systems & Services; Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health; Behavioral Health, Law, and the Justice System; Behavioral Health Disparities;Positive Behavior Intervention & Support; Disability & Rehabilitation Research & Policy; and Language and Literacy Assessment and Intervention.

Admission Information

Must meet University Admission and English Proficiency requirements as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below. 

To be given full consideration for financial assistance, students should apply by December 15 for admission for the Fall semester. 

  • A bachelor’s GPA of 3.50 or higher based on a 4.00 grading scale.  The completed degree must be in a field related to behavioral and community sciences, e.g., behavioral healthcare, human services, human development, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, public health, social work, counseling education, education.
  • GRE with a preferred  minimum of Verbal - 150 (50th percentile), Quantitative- 147 (30th percentile), and Analytical Writing - 4.0 (50th percentile). Although students who have completed a master’s degree are not required to submit GRE scores, all students are encouraged to submit GRE scores because they are considered in applications for fellowship, scholarship, and assistantship opportunities.
  • Students who do not meet the minimum criteria may be admitted based on strong records reflected by other aspects of their applications (GPA, Letters of Recommendation, Writing Samples, and prior research experiences).
  • Evidence of written/analytical skills which will take two-forms:
    • A writing sample, such as a major paper, thesis, or research paper of which the student is the sole author, and
    • A personal goal statement of 2-3 pages that describes why you want to obtain the Ph.D. in Behavioral & Community Sciences. Applicants are expected to communicate with potential advisors to find a good match for one’s research training. The personal statement should cover: how the degree will help you in achieving your professional goals; unique qualities, life experiences, and knowledge related to the field; obstacles overcome to achieve your educational goals thus far; obstacles that may challenge you in pursuing a graduate degree; your research and teaching goals; and the USF professor you would like to work with and why. 
  • Two formal letters of recommendation from faculty members or other professional personnel who have knowledge of the applicant’s academic background, potential for success in graduate school, and/or commitment to a research career. 
  • Applicants with a master’s degree: Transcripts from the master’s degree will be evaluated to determine coursework that will be applicable toward the 90 hours of credit required for the doctoral major

Prior to applying for the major, applicants are encouraged to contact faculty with whom they would like to study and discuss the fit between the student’s area of research interest and the faculty member’s research focus.

Curriculum Requirements

Total Minimum Hours - 90 (Post-Bachelor’s)

  • Core requirements - 9 credit hours
  • Additional required courses - 6 credit hours
  • Research/statistics foundation courses - 6 credit hours
  • Advanced research courses - 12 credit hours
  • Didactic courses in behavioral & community sciences - 18 credit hours
  • Specialization courses - 9 credit hours
  • Directed research - 18 credit hours
  • Dissertation - 12 credit hours

Additional Required Courses (6 Credit Hours)

Research/Statistics Foundation Courses (6 Credit Hours)

In consultation with their academic advisor, students will select two Research Methods or Statistics courses that provide a foundation for advanced research courses.  Additional courses not in the list below can be approved by the advisor and Graduate Director.

Advanced Research Courses (12 Credit Hours)

Students will select four courses from at least two of the following areas. Courses such as those listed across multiple departments will be considered to best fit the student’s individualized plan of study.

Didactic Courses in Behavioral & Community Sciences (18 Credit Hours)

In consultation with their academic advisor, students will design an appropriate curriculum to obtain foundational content and skills in their area of interest that will prepare them for Advanced Study. Graduate courses in the behavioral and community sciences (e.g., psychology, behavioral health, public health, education, economics, sociology) within and outside the college can be used to satisfy this requirement.

Specialization Courses (9 Credit Hours)

Students will complete a minimum of nine hours in a specialty area. The specialty area will be developed on an individual basis with each student and the student’s faculty advisor. Examples of possible specialties include:

  • Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health
  • Positive Behavior Intervention & Support
  • Substance Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Community Based Behavioral Health Systems & Services
  • Behavioral Health, Law, and the Justice System
  • Recovery Oriented Behavioral Health
  • Disability & Rehabilitation Studies
  • Behavioral Health Disparities

Directed Research (18 Credit Hours)

Following the completion of the first six-hours of directed research, students will complete a research “product” such as a conference presentation, poster session, publication, portions of a grant proposal, literature review or other comparable product to demonstrate their progress in developing research proficiency. Ideally, this product will be associated with their dissertation topic. The remaining 12 hours of Directed Research will be conducted during the second and third year of study and will be conducted with the guidance of the student’s major professor with research outcomes specified in the student’s plan of study related to their eventual dissertation proposal.

Qualifying Exam/Doctoral Candidacy

Students will be admitted to doctoral candidacy upon completion of a qualifying exam. The qualifying exam will require completion of a grant proposal suitable for supporting dissertation or early career research (e.g., F31 or R03) and an oral examination.

Dissertation (12 Credit Hours Minimum)

The dissertation will consist of original research designed and supervised by a faculty advisor.  The student will select the faculty member who will serve as the major advisor within the first year of study. Each student will have a dissertation committee consisting of the major advisor and three other faculty members from different disciplines to reflect the interdisciplinary approach of the major. The student will write a dissertation proposal that outlines the completed project and will defend the proposal to obtain committee approval for beginning the dissertation. The dissertation will consist of a series of three articles with an introductory and conclusion chapter. The student will complete a public oral defense of the dissertation and the committee will judge the adequacy of the final document and the oral defense for approval for the Ph.D. degree.

Other Requirements

The Plan of Study must include at least 18 hours of coursework in an area that will fulfill the SACS teaching requirement of 18 hours in the field to ensure eligibility for university positions.