What to Expect

Our PhD program is designed primarily as a full-time course of study. You’re expected to maintain a course load of at least 12 hours per semester.

If you’re a post-bacc student, you must complete the program within 9 years from your date of entry. If you’re entering with a master’s degree, you must complete it within 7 years.​

Each student will have an advisor chosen from the faculty of the program. They’ll monitor your progress through the program and serve as chair for your dissertation committee.

Research project

If you’re a post-bacc student, you’re required to participate in a research project approved by your advisor. If you have a master’s degree, you may have this requirement waived if you’ve completed equivalent work in a master’s thesis.

Written examination

All students take a preliminary examination prepared individually by an examination committee.​ This exam evaluates your knowledge of the broad area of disability studies, as well as your specific content area, after you’ve completed your coursework and are getting ready to start preparing your dissertation.

This exam is generally taken during the third or fourth year (or earlier if an MS degree has been transferred in), at least one year before your anticipated dissertation defense.


You’ll need to complete a dissertation. The proposal for your dissertation has to be defended in written and oral form before your dissertation committee. The dissertation itself must be defended at a public session before the dissertation committee and other members of the academic community.


  • Post-bacc students: 96 required hours
  • Master’s students: 64 required hours

You must choose at least two additional research methods courses from those listed here or from other offerings in the university. Other electives should be chosen with the help of your advisor.

A minimum of 12 hours of elective courses must be taken in the Department of Disability and Human Development. Elective courses should constitute depth of study in a particular area and allow you to explore individual interests.

Note: The elective courses listed here are not necessarily offered each year.

Required courses

DHD 501 Disability Studies I 4 hours
DHD 502 Disability Studies II 4 hours
DHD 510 Concepts in Interdisciplinary Research on Disability 3 hours
DHD 541 Advanced Concepts in Disability Research 3 hours
DHD 595 Interdisciplinary Seminar in Disability Studies 1 hour

Elective courses

DHD 430  Introduction to Disability Policy and Organization 3 hours
DHD 514 Ethical Issues in Disability 3 hours
DHD 517 Ethics and Disability: Contemporary Problems 3 hours
DHD 520 Disability and Physical Activity 3 hours
DHD 526 Family Perspectives on Disability 3 hours
DHD 535 Seminar in Advocacy and Empowerment in Disability 3 hours
DHD 536 Fatiguing Conditions and Disability 3 hours
DHD 546 Qualitative Methods in Disability Research 4 hours
DHD 550 Disability in the Urban Environment 4 hours
DHD 553 Program Evaluation: Documenting the Impact of Human Services 3 hours
DHD 564 Community Integration in Developmental Disabilities 3 hours
DHD 570 Disability and Culture 3 hours
DHD 572 A Representational History of Disability 4 hours
DHD 576 Visualizing the Body 4 hours
DHD 596 Independent Study 1-4 hours
DHD 597 Project Research 1-8 hours
DHD 599 Dissertation Research 0-16 hours