Graduate Academic Programs

Doctoral Degree Program (PhD)

Health Behavior Major

Description of Program

The Ph.D. in Health Behavior is a highly regarded, nationally recognized program with a strong history of preparing graduates to conduct scholarly inquiry in a broad spectrum of areas emphasizing health promotion and prevention of health problems. Research and creative activities include both basic and applied work in program planning and development; health policy management, evaluation of the program effectiveness; and examination of lifestyle and health behavior in relation to nutrition, exercise, stress, alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse, individual development and family health, communicable disease, human sexuality, aging, and related areas.

Degree Requirements

Courses required for this degree are prescribed by an advisory committee for each individual student. Degree requirements include:

  • A minimum of 90 graduate-level credits beyond the bachelor’s degree are required.
  • A minimum 3.0 GPA is required for graduation.
  • A minimum grade of C is required in each course used to satisfy the major, minor, and elective requirements of the course prescription.
  • A minimum grade of B is required in each course used to satisfy the research skills requirement of the course prescription.

Common Prerequisite

All Ph.D. degree students in the School of Public Health-Bloomington are required to complete a basic, graduate-level statistics course, such as SPH-Q 501, Introduction to Statistics in Public Health (3 cr.). This course, or its equivalent from another Indiana University department or from another university, must be completed as a prerequisite to major course work. Credit for SPH-Q 501 or any statistics course at the same basic level, may not count toward a Ph.D. degree student’s 90 required credits. However, a student's faculty advisory committee may waive this prerequisite requirement upon successful completion of a more advanced, graduate-level, statistics course at Indiana University, or at another institution. At the discretion of the student's faculty advisory committee, credit for statistics courses, which are more advanced than SPH-Q 501, may count in the 90 required credits for the degree.

Common Requirements

All Ph.D. degree students in the School of Public Health-Bloomington are required to complete the following three requirements:

  • SPH-X 590, Introduction to Research in Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation (3 cr.), or its equivalent. (Note: This course must be completed as a prerequisite to major course work.)
  • SPH-X 505, Principles and Foundations of Public Health (3 cr.), or its equivalent. (Note: Students who have previously completed an MPH degree from an accredited school of public health, or accredited public health program, are exempt from this requirement. Students who are completing requirements concurrently for an M.P.H. degree and a Ph.D. degree are also exempt from this requirement.)
  • SPH-E 651, Epidemiology (3 cr.), or its equivalent.

Common Course Prescription Components

The elements of the course prescription for all Ph.D. degree students in the School of Public Health are arranged as follows:

  • Research Skills (9 credits minimum). A minimum of 9 credits of coursework providing required skills to conduct research, such as advanced courses in biostatistics. These credits count toward the 90 credits for the degree. Courses counted in this area require a minimum grade of B.
  • Major Area of Study (30 credits minimum). A minimum of 30 credits in the major area of study. These courses must be taken within the School of Public Health-Bloomington. Courses transferred from previous graduate work outside the School of Public Health-Bloomington, if within the major area of study, can be used to fulfill the major areas of study requirement, contingent upon the committee’s approval.
  • Minor Area of Study (9 credits minimum). A minimum of 9 credits of coursework in a designated area outside the department in which the major is being pursued.
  • Electives (0 to 28 credits). Elective credits may range between 0 and 28. An optional second minor may be included in the elective credit hours.
  • Dissertation (20 – 30 credits)
Special Opportunities

Students have the opportunity to develop skills by participating in research activities independently or in collaboration with faculty members and other graduate students. Through funded associate instructor (AI) appointments, most doctoral students also acquire essential skills and experience in teaching various health topics in different settings. Students are strongly encouraged to publish research results in professional journals and via presentations at national conferences. A limited number of fellowships and scholarships are available to the best qualified students.


Most graduates pursue careers in higher education as professors and researchers while some complete postdoctoral fellowships or pursue research or executive careers in governmental agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and voluntary health agencies.

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