Skip to main content
students gathered together

Doctor of Philosophy in Family and Human Development

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest achievement in preparation for active scholarship and research. The PhD in Family and Human Development provides strong integrative training in theory, research methods, and statistics relevant to a primary and secondary concentrations in:

  • Family Relations
  • Human Development
  • Marriage and Family Therapy

Most of our PhD graduates are currently teaching and/or conducting research at the university level. Some are employed at research organizations or in research extension positions.

PhD students work closely with a faculty mentor (committee chair), at least three other faculty members from within the department, and at least one faculty member from outside of the department. Depending on students’ and faculty interest, availability of existing data, and a number of other factors, students may develop their own independent research projects under the oversight of faculty, and/or work with faculty on existing studies. Therefore, understanding the research interests of our faculty, and whether or not these fit with a prospective student’s own interests, is essential for a student selecting a PhD program.


How To Apply

HDFS Research

CONTACT

Primary and Secondary Areas of Concentration

Coursework and faculty expertise provide a strong foundation for three primary/secondary areas of concentration:

  • Family Relations
  • Human Development through the Lifespan
  • Marriage and Family Therapy (option for students with existing MFT degree)

Family Relations

Couples and Family Relationships

Areas of study include: couples, marital formation, marriage and family interaction, parenthood, sibling relationships, the interface of marriage and family relationships with other social structures, family crises, and various forms of marriage and family. Examples of current research opportunities include marital adjustment in the early years of marriage, marital quality in diverse populations, sibling relationships in adolescence, families in sport, parenting impact on academic outcomes, and remarriage and stepfamily research.

Financial and Consumer Issues

Areas of study include: family finance, financial education, financial health, family economic issues, and economic issues related to aging.

Human Development through the Lifespan

Infancy and Childhood

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development from birth through the school-age years. Examples of current research opportunities include infant attachment, social development and competence, language development, early parent-child interaction, and developmentally appropriate practice.

Youth and Adolescence

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development of youth and teens as they interact with their families, peers, the educational system, and social institutions pertaining to achieving maturity in a modern world. Examples of current research opportunities include parenting of early adolescents, substance abuse, social media, cognitive autonomy, adolescent environments, bullying and victimization, and identity development.

Adult Development and Aging

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development of young, middle-aged, and older adults as they develop within the context of families, the work environment, social institutions, health, and the larger social structure. Examples of current research opportunities include health and well-being of family members caring for older adults, the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, quality of life for persons with dementia, how stress and other psychosocial factors influence psychological, physical, and cognitive health in older adults, intergenerational relations, and economic issues relevant to aging individuals.

Marriage and Family Therapy

NOTE: This is an area of concentration only for students who have an existing MFT master's degree from a COAMFTE accredited institution.

The doctoral concentration in MFT is designed to prepare students to be competitive in seeking employment in a variety of settings. The training in research, clinical/supervision and teaching is specifically designed to make the student competitive for positions in academia. Faculty members are passionate about the field of marriage and family therapy and are invested in guiding doctoral students in their preparation for their desired career path.   

Research

The doctoral concentration in MFT is designed to prepare students to conduct high quality research. They will be trained in advanced research methods and statistics in both basic and applied (clinical) ways. Our goal is to train those interested in pursuing academia or settings where research is a major focus in order to advance the field of MFT education and training. The PhD student will develop and advance a competitive research agenda through publications, grant writing experiences, and presentations at national conferences.

Clinical/Supervision

Doctoral students will continue developing the area of clinical expertise through courses and clinical work at the onsite clinic and practicums in offsite agencies. All clinical work is supervised by AAMFT approved supervisors. In addition, we will provide doctoral students the opportunity to provide supervision of our master’s students and work towards their AAMFT approved supervisor designation.

Teaching

Students will be provided with opportunities to teach both upper and lower division undergraduate classes in the larger department, including courses in the above content areas (Family Relations and Human Development through the Lifespan). All doctoral students will learn effective teaching methods and strategies, create and adapt syllabi, and develop a teaching portfolio to be competitive for academic positions.

General HDFS PhD Admission Requirements

  • Submit graduate school application to http://rgs.usu.edu/graduateschool/admissions/
  • Completed Graduate School application, including intent portion
  • THREE letters of reference, 2 from former professors
  • GRE and/or MAT scores (GRE must be above 40% for Verbal and Quantitative) (MAT must be above 40% for Percentile for Total Group)
  • Curriculum Vita/Resume: Include your employment history, education, degrees, honors and leadership, professional organizations, awards, research (posters and publications out and in progress), research and work skills, hobbies, and interests
  • Official transcripts of all work completed at accredited institutions
  • Application fee

Additional MFT Program PhD Requirements

  • Graduation with a Master’s Degree in MFT or equivalent mental health field
  • MFT Specfic Clinical and Applied Expertise Essay:
  • Your essay should be 4-5 pages, double spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font. Use headers. 
  • Please include your current address, email, and telephone number at the beginning or end of your essay.
  • Describe your clinical interest areas and expertise. What presenting issues/problems are you most drawn to and what specific populations do you prefer working with? How have you developed expertise and knowledge in these areas (trainings/education, conferences/workshops, publications, etc.)?
  • How do the above expertise and interest areas tie in with your research (basic and applied)? Where do you see your research going over the next few years?
  • What attracts you to applying for the PhD program at Utah State University? What are your career goals over the next ten years?
  • Name one or two faculty members that you want to work with, specifically how you see their experience/interest area helping you to reach your research and academic goals.

Applications must be received by December 15th  of each year for matriculation in the fall. Application is now accomplished online. For information and procedures, please go to the School of Graduate Studies application procedures.

Contact information:

Nancy Potter, Admin. Assistant, MFT Programs
Phone: 435-797-7430
Email: nancy.potter@usu.edu

Dave Robinson, PhD, Program Director
Phone: 435-797-7431
Email: dave.r@usu.edu

Degree Options and Requirements

There are two options for PhD students in our program:

  1. Post-BS (also called the BS-to-PhD): Starting the PhD with a completed bachelor’s degree, and not seeking an MS before the PhD (not available for Marriage and Family Therapy emphasis).
  2. Post-MS.: Starting the PhD program with a completed Master of Science degree.

In addition to the requirements for courses in the above tabs (Course Requirements), other PhD requirements are outlined in:

  1. Graduate School Catalog
  2. Our HDFS department Graduate Handbook
CORE REQUIREMENTS POST MS Credits
Choose 2 of the 3 Advanced Theory classes (7060, 7070, 7033)
HDFS 7060 Advanced Research and Theory in Human Development 3a
HDFS 7070 Advanced Research and Theory in Family Relations 3b
HDFS 7033 Modeling 3c
HDFS 7034 Extant Data 3c
XXXX XXXX Research Methods 3
XXXX XXXX Statistics 6
HDFS 7970 Dissertation Research 14
MFT ADDITIONAL CORE
HDFS 7300  Advanced Theory in Marriage and Family Therapy 3d 
HDFS 7310 Contemporary Issues in Marriage and Family Therapy 3d
HDFS 7320 Foundations of Marriage and Family Therapy Education 3d
CONCENTRATION (15 Credits, MFT 9 Credits Minimum) Credits
HDFS 6010 Survey of Family Relations Research 3
HDFS 6020 Survey of Human Development Research 3
HDFS 6040 Survey of Family Economics Research 3
HDFS 7080 Professional Development 3
HDFS 7200* Topical Seminar HDFS 3
HDFS 7210 Cultural Diversity 3
HDFS 7220 Interpersonal Relationships 3
HDFS 7230 Social Policy 3
HDFS 6050 Family Economics across the Lifespan 3
HDFS 6340 MFT Practice II:Collaborative Healthcare and Psychopharmacology 3d
HDFS 6355 Play Therapy in Practice of Family Therapy 3d
HDFS 7045 Financial Health 3
HDFS 7510 Infancy 3
HDFS 7520 Early Childhood 3
HDFS 7530 Adolescence 3
HDFS 7540 Adult Development/Aging 3
HDFS 7910 Parenting 3
HDFS 7980* Advanced Graduate Practicum 3
ELECTIVES (12 Credits Minimum)e
TOTAL 62 CREDITS FOR GRADUATION

Table Footnotes

* Course is repeatable

a Prerequisite: HDFS 6060 or equivalent as approved by Supervisory Committee

b Prerequisite: HDFS 6070 or equivalent as approved by Supervisory Committee

c Prerequisites: HDFS 6031, HDFS 6032, and EDUC/PSY 7610, or equivalents as approved by Supervisory Committee

d Open only to students with a license in MFT

e May include any of the concentration courses or classes from other departments as approved by the Supervisory Committee


For more information on when courses are offered, please see the Graduate Course Offerings page.

CORE REQUIREMENTS POST BS (53 Credits Total) Credits
HDFS 6060 Human Development Theories 3
HDFS 6070 Family Theories 3
HDFS 7060 Advanced Research and Theory in Human Development 3a
HDFS 7070 Advanced Research and Theory in Family Relations 3b
HDFS 7033 Modeling 3c
HDFS 7034 Extant Data 3c
XXXX XXXX Research Methods 6
XXXX XXXX Statistics 6
HDFS 7980 Advanced Graduate Practicum 9d
HDFS 7970 Dissertation Research 14
CONCENTRATION (15 Credits Minimum) Credits
HDFS 6010 Survey of Family Relations Research 3
HDFS 6020 Survey of Human Development Research 3
HDFS 6040 Survey of Family Economics Research 3
HDFS 6050 Family Economics across the Lifespan 3
HDFS 7080 Professional Development 3
HDFS 7200* Topical Seminar HDFS 3
HDFS 7210 Cultural Diversity 3
HDFS 7220 Interpersonal Relationships 3
HDFS 7230 Social Policy 3
HDFS 7040 Survey of Family Economics Research across the Lifespan 3
HDFS 7045 Financial Health 3
HDFS 7510 Infancy 3
HDFS 7520 Early Childhood 3
HDFS 7530 Adolescence 3
HDFS 7540 Adult Development/Aging 3
HDFS 7910 Parenting 3
HDFS 7980* Advanced Graduate Practicum 3
ELECTIVES (15 Credits Minimum)e
TOTAL 83 CREDITS FOR GRADUATION

Table Footnotes

* Course is repeatable

a Prerequisite: HDFS 6060 or equivalent as approved by Supervisory Committee

b Prerequisite: HDFS 6070 or equivalent as approved by Supervisory Committee

c Prerequisites: HDFS 6031, HDFS 6032, and EDUC/PSY 7610, or equivalents as approved by Supervisory Committee

d Research - 3 credits 2nd year & 3 credits 3rd year

e May include any of the concentration courses or classes from other departments as approved by the Supervisory Committee


For more information on when courses are offered, please see the Graduate Course Offerings page.

Financial Assistance

Incoming (and continuing) PhD students are supported through research and teaching assistantships.

Individuals admitted into the graduate program (including presently enrolled graduate students) interested in being considered for teaching and/or research assistantships must complete and return the form emailed by the Graduate Program Coordinator in the prior semester.

Assistantships

Teaching Assistantships (TA) and Research Assistantships (RA) are available for PhD students who wish to perform teaching or research services for the department, in return for salary. The HDFS department commits to supporting PhD students, in good standing, .50 time (20 hours a week) during their program of study (four years for post MS doctoral students; five years for post-BS doctoral students). After their first year, PhD students are strongly encouraged to seek out research assistantship opportunities that match their interests in order to facilitate their training and development.

Fellowships and Scholarships

Fellowships and scholarships from both the department and college are also available for well-qualified doctoral-level students. Fellowships are financial awards and recognition that require no service from the recipient. Domestic students are encouraged to establish residency within the first 12 consecutive months in Utah, as they may be eligible for additional scholarships if they are in-state residents.

Typically these scholarships range in awards of several hundred to several thousand dollars and are given on an annual basis.

Tuition Awards

Doctoral students who are employed on a .50 assistantship are eligible for tuition awards as long as minimum criteria are met. Tuition awards cover the in-state portion of a student’s tuition for the credit hours required by the doctoral program. Tuition awards also cover the nonresident portion of a student’s tuition for the first 12 months. After 12 months, a student must become a Utah resident, or be subject to pay the nonresident portion of their tuition.