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Format: In-Class only

The PhD in Health Behavior is offered by the Department of Health Behavior.

Health Behavior doctoral students learn to use theories and methods from the social and behavioral sciences to develop programs that encourage healthy behaviors. They are exposed to state-of-the-art techniques and methods for research and program evaluation. Students study health topics in depth as they apply their knowledge and skills to conducting research and writing proposals and manuscripts. Our doctoral-level training in the social and behavioral sciences places a heavy emphasis on research training and application, with faculty involving doctoral students in their research on a broad range of health issues such as:

  • behavioral interventions
  • family and adolescent health issues
  • obesity prevention
  • prevention and control of addictive behaviors
  • sexual health risks including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment
  • community based health promotion
  • health communication and program evaluation
  • translation of research findings

Another vital part of our department's doctoral level training is one-on-one research mentoring, which fosters student development through activities such as participation in manuscript and proposal writing.

We aim to prepare our students as social and behavioral scientists who will conduct rigorous public health research and apply findings. Our graduates have often gone on to research and service careers in academic settings or public agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our goal is to enable students to:

  • Apply health behavior theories to analyze individual and social influences on health behavior
  • Develop original research questions and apply research designs to address those research questions
  • Design a theoretically informed health behavior intervention plan
  • Develop an implementation and evaluation plan for a theoretically informed health behavior intervention
  • Conduct theoretically informed health behavior research from design through analysis and interpretation


The PhD program requires completion of a minimum of 72 hours of graduate credit, satisfactory performance on the qualifying exam, and completion of a doctoral dissertation. All PhD students must meet the graduation requirements of their department and the UAB Graduate School.

Download Curriculum Planning Sheet (pdf)

Directed Research

Students are required to complete at least 12 directed research credit hours. Goals are to provide:

  • experience in planning, conducting, and reporting behavioral science research under the mentoring of a faculty member or a researcher employed by an agency such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and local health departments
  • opportunities to develop manuscripts for publication, conference paper presentations, grant submissions, or other research products
  • preparation for dissertation work

Qualifying Exam

Doctoral students are required to take a qualifying examination before proposing a dissertation.

Doctoral Dissertation

The doctoral dissertation requirement provides students with a comprehensive and original research experience. Students conducting dissertation research must complete a minimum of 12 dissertation credit hours after completing coursework, passing the qualifying exam, and being admitted to candidacy. Students must be enrolled for a minimum of two semesters of dissertation research after they successfully propose in order to graduate, including the semester they graduate.


The Department of Health Behavior admits PhD students in the Fall term each year. Interested students should apply online through the UAB Graduate School. Please submit all academic transcripts, three letters of recommendation, your personal goals/career goals statement, a current copy of your CV/resume, etc., along with your application for admission. International students should also submit a World Education Services (WES/ECE, or similar) transcript evaluation along with your application materials. Visit the Graduate School application webpage for a list of all minimum requirements for admission to the School of Public Health.

The admissions process includes a 30-minute virtual interview with at least one member of the admissions committee and a potential mentor. Applicants who make it to this phase in the admissions process will be notified by April 30.

Application Deadlines

Professional Licensure and Certifications

Certification in public health is a voluntary credential that can help to distinguish a public health professional from their peers in the public health sector. The Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential is administered by the National Board of Public Health Examiners (www.nbphe.org). Specific licensure requirements vary from state to state, and among territories. Please visit the Professional Licensure and Certification General Disclosures webpage for more information on state and territories requirements.

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