The UAB School of Education, the UAB School of Public Health, and the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences jointly offer this University of Alabama System doctoral degree program, which has been recognized as one of the top health education/health promotion degree programs in the United States. Our graduate students are able to draw upon the expertise of a diverse faculty and the resources of two major academic institutions as they proceed through their rigorous coursework and immersive practical experiences. They learn theories and research methods from the social and behavioral sciences to develop and evaluate programs that encourage healthy behaviors, assist faculty in their research projects, and produce their own original research.

Admissions Requirements

Candidates for admission must have either a bachelor's or master's degree in community health, human services, or some other health-related field from an accredited institution. Competitive applicants should have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.00/4.00 and scores of 156 or higher for both the verbal and the quantitative reasoning sections of the GRE.

Admission to the Ph.D. program will only be allowed during the Fall term. In order to be considered for admission in Fall, all application materials must be submitted by April 30. Prospective students must complete the online application and also submit the application fee. They must send one official transcript to the UAB Graduate School:

UAB Graduate School
1720 2nd Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35294-0013

Transcripts should be mailed directly from the issuing institution(s) and reflect all completed college coursework. Students must also submit their GRE test scores (institution code: 1856). We require three (3) letters of recommendation from the applicant's professors or from others who are qualified to judge his or her potential for doctoral work and prefer that those letters be submitted through the online application, though we will accept hard copies mailed to the School of Education at the address provided above. Additionally, we require a writing sample: an essay describing the applicant's academic training, professional experience, and career goals or else a scholarly paper the applicant has presented at a professional meeting. International applicants must request that their official TOEFL test score or official IELTS test score be sent to the UAB Graduate School, and they themselves should mail to the Graduate School a Financial Affidavit of Support.

Additional information about graduation requirements may be found in the Graduate Catalog and the Graduate Student Handbook and by contacting the Graduate School staff via email or phone (205-934-8227).

For answers to any questions about the application process, please contact Graduate Program Director Dr. Retta Evans.

Comprehensive Examination

All Ph.D. candidates must sit for a comprehensive examination (which is offered on the third Thursday of January and June of each year). In order to take the exam, students need to have completed the health education/health promotion core courses. They should also commit to additional preparation for this assessment even if they have distinguished themselves in their required coursework since they must pass the exam unconditionally before they can continue their doctoral work. Students must be registered for at least three semester hours of graduate work during the semester in which they sit for their comprehensive exam.

The comprehensive exam is a criterion-referenced assessment — students do not compete with other students. In preparation for their comps, students should review health education theory and program planning, implementation, and evaluation materials not only from their prior coursework but also from a range of self-selected documents, websites, and texts. The core courses provide background information and a blueprint for their own regimen of self-study — students must demonstrate broad mastery of the subject matter and intellectual growth. Each student must be able to synthesize all that he or she has learned in order to design an appropriate, theory-based intervention for a given population. Each student must be able to specify why a program is necessary, how it can be achieved, who will be involved in its implementation, and how its results might best be used. Since students are expected to reference the work of published authors during their comps (specific bibliographic information is not required), they ought to collect, organize, and review their wider readings in ways that make such citations possible. We encourage students preparing for their comps to work with other students, share materials, discuss key concepts with faculty members, and confer with students who have already passed the exam.

We grade the comprehensive exam using the designations pass, fail, or incomplete. A failed exam must be retaken on one of the regularly scheduled examination dates and may only be retaken once. A student who fails a section of the exam for a second time will be dismissed from the program. Students who receive incompletes are allowed to resubmit their work.

Dissertation and Final Defense

The dissertation represents the culmination of a significant research experience. Students begin work on their dissertation only after they have completed all coursework, passed the comprehensive examination, organized their dissertation committee, defended their dissertation proposal, and gained admission to candidacy.

The dissertation committee consists of a minimum of five faculty members and typically includes the chair, a methodologist, content experts, and other interested faculty. (The chair must be a member of the school from which the student entered the doctoral program.) While the chair may assist with the formation of the committee, it is the student's responsibility to invite committee members. (Often, a dissertation committee constitutes itself almost organically as students come to know more of the faculty during the second and third year of the program.) Students finalize their committee selections by completing and submitting the Graduate Student Committee Letter to the Graduate School and work closely with their committee to develop a dissertation proposal. Once students have successfully defended their dissertation proposals and are admitted to candidacy (after submitting an Application for Admission to Candidacy to the Graduate School), they may begin their research. Students cannot collect or analyze data ahead of committee and IRB approval.

We strongly recommend an early final defense date since corrections to, format approval for, and submission of the final dissertation take more time than one might assume. We urge Ph.D. candidates to set the date and time of their final defenses well in advance, making certain that all committee members can attend. Candidates are also responsible for furnishing committee members with complete copies of their manuscripts by a date of the committee’s choosing. They must make all requested changes or corrections to the manuscript as soon as possible after the defense and obtain signatures of all committee members and the Program Director on the appropriate approval form. Each candidate must submit his or her completed dissertation for online review to the Graduate School no later than two weeks (10 business days) after the final defense and will be notified, usually within five to seven days, that his or her dissertation has been reviewed. Submission extensions may be granted for students who defend well before the final defense deadline. Extensions will not be granted past the submission date for the final defense deadline.

Additional information about graduation requirements may be found in the Graduate Catalog and the Graduate Student Handbook and by contacting the Graduate School staff via email or phone (205-935-8227).


By the conclusion of this doctoral program, students will be able to conceptualize the theoretical and philosophical basis of health education and health promotion clearly; plan, implement, and evaluate health education and health promotion programs effectively; elucidate the psychological and sociological influences on health education and health promotion; and conduct their own independent research projects.

In order to earn the Ph.D., a student must take the following steps: meet with the Program Director upon admission to the program, plan a course of study, complete all core courses, pass a comprehensive examination, form a doctoral dissertation committee, gain approval for the dissertation proposal, apply for admission to candidacy, write and defend the dissertation, and submit final dissertation copies to the Graduate School. Core courses align with the responsibilities and competencies of health educators as developed by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and prepare students to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exams. For more information on the benefits of CHES and the National Commission for Health Education, visit the NCHEC website.


Students may enter the program with either a bachelor's or master's degree in health education, or a master's degree in a closely related health field. Prerequisite coursework includes CHHS 610 Foundations of Health Education (or equivalent course), and CHHS 631 Planning (or equivalent course). These requirements may be co-requisite components in the program. If coming from an unrelated field, additional pre-requisite courses may be necessary. This will be determined by a review of transcripts. A review of student credentials prior to admission will identify academic strengths and the need for additional coursework. This review will provide students with a blueprint for their course of study. The Ph.D. program requires students to complete minimally 72 semester hours.


The Program Director will advise all new doctoral students from the time they are admitted into the program to the end of their first year, helping them to evaluate their previous coursework and assisting in the selection of their first-year course schedule. Students will be assigned a faculty advisor/mentor for their second year of study and should consult their advisor at least once per semester in order to review their course of study. Each doctoral student will select a dissertation chair after successful completion of the comprehensive examination—the academic advisor often becomes, but is not required to be, the dissertation chair.

Research Internship

The required internship provides students with a meaningful research experience and can be fulfilled by participation in an established research project in the UAB School of Education, the UAB School of Public Health, the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, or, with approval, in another division of UAB or UA, or else at the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, or some other governmental or private agency. During this time and in preparation for their own research-based dissertations, students should be developing scholarly articles, presenting at state, regional, and/or national professional conferences, and working with faculty on grants and other research-related activities.