Jul 20, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Preventive Medicine (Health Behavior Research) (PhD)

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The Department of Preventive Medicine, Division of Health Behavior Research, offers a degree program in preventive medicine (health behavior), leading to attainment of the PhD. The program is designed to train exceptional researchers and scholars in the multidisciplinary field of health behavior research. Students receive a thorough grounding in academic and research experience, encompassing theoretical and methodological training in such allied fields as communication, psychology, preventive medicine, biostatistics, public health and epidemiology. Students receive research experience by participating in projects conducted through the USC Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research (IPR). The doctoral program is full-time: students are expected to enroll for fall, spring and summer semesters.


Financial and educational support is provided to qualified doctoral students in health behavior research. Graduate (research and/or teaching) assistantships are half-time (20 hours per week) and provide tuition remission as well as a monthly stipend.

Computer Language Requirement

Sufficient familiarity in computer languages to operate major software packages for data management and analysis is required.

Course Requirements

The doctoral program in health behavior research is structured as a four to five year course of study for students entering with a bachelor’s degree. Time requirements are subject to review and approval by the division’s Graduate Program Committee and the Graduate School.

A total of 60 units of graduate study is required for the PhD in health behavior research. Students are required to complete nine core courses: PM 500 , PM 511a , PM 511b , PM 515 , PM 530 , PM 601 , PM 604 , PM 615  and PM 756  (total of 37 units). Other requirements include: two elective PM courses, one not offered by health behavior faculty (minimum of 7 units); and a minimum of 4 units each in PM 590 , PM 690 series (PM 690a , PM 690b , PM 690c , PM 690d , PM 690z ), PM 790  and the PM 794 series (PM 794a , PM 794b , PM 794c , PM 794d , PM 794z ).

For students entering with a bachelor’s degree, one of the directed research projects will be equivalent in scope to a master’s thesis. All research experiences/projects must be completed before registering for the PM 794 Doctoral Dissertation series (PM 794a , PM 794b , PM 794c , PM 794d , PM 794z ).

Screening Procedure

The progress of each student is reviewed at the end of every academic year. At the end of the second year of study, students who have not made satisfactory progress are advised that they will be dropped from the program unless their progress improves during their second year.

Qualifying Exam Committee

Each student’s qualifying exam committee consists of five members, including: no more than three health behavior faculty members; one other member from the Department of Preventive Medicine; and one member from a doctorate-granting program outside the Department of Preventive Medicine, representing the student’s minor field.

Qualifying Examination

Following course work and prior to beginning the dissertation, students must demonstrate written and oral mastery of the general field of health behavior research as well as of their chosen area of specialization. The qualifying process includes a written examination on theory and literature relevant to a selected content area. The examination is administered by the student’s qualifying exam committee.

In addition to the qualifying examination, each student is expected to produce the following as evidence of qualification to conduct dissertation research: an academic dossier consisting of a summary of the student’s academic record, teaching and research experience, and professional presentations and publications; at least one original empirical research paper of publishable quality, produced in connection with one of the student’s courses or research experiences or developed independently; a dissertation proposal; and an oral defense of all the preceding materials.

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