College of Public Health Catalog 2015/2016

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Doctor of Philosophy

(also see the USF Graduate School Catalog at

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is granted in recognition of high attainment in a specified field of knowledge. It is a research degree and is not conferred solely upon the earning of credit or the completion of courses. It is granted after the student has shown proficiency and distinctive achievement in a specific field, has demonstrated the ability to do original, independent investigation, and has presented these findings with a high degree of literary skill in a dissertation. This degree requires a minimum of 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree.


The mission of the program of studies for the Doctor of Philosophy degree is to prepare public health professionals to make substantive contributions to public health inquiry and practice.

Degree Details

 Required Application Documents

Applicants to the Ph.D. program are required to complete both a SOPHAS application. Required Documentation (all items are required regardless of GPA or GRE scores):

  • Completed SOPHAS application (requires the following):
    • Transcripts;
    • GRE taken within five years preceding application or equivalent scores (see section 6.2 Admissions Tests Information page for more information);
    • Minimum of two letters of recommendation. Department of Community and Family Health require three;
    • Detailed personal statement of less than five pages that describes why you wish to obtain a Ph.D. degree in Public Health;
    • Resume or curriculum vitae ;
    • A graduate level term paper, research paper or thesis chapter(s) of which you are the sole author, or publication on which you are the first author;
    • Applicants whose native language is not English or who have not earned a degree in the United States must also submit TOEFL scores earned within two (2) years of the desired term of entry. A minimum total score of 79 on the internet-based test, 213 on the computer-based test, or 550 on the paper-based test are required. Applications submitted with TOEFL scores that do not meet the minimum requirements will be denied with no exceptions. (see section 6.2 Admissions Tests Information page for more information).
  • USF Graduate School application fee (applicants will receive a request for the $30 fee once the SOPHAS application enters our USF system).
 Degree Admission Criteria

In addition to meeting the University requirements for admissions (see section 4 of the current USF graduate catalog at, applicants to the Ph.D. program in Public Health must meet the following minimum criteria in order to be considered for admission. However, the meeting of these criteria per se, shall not be the only basis for admission.

  1. A grade point average of 3.0
  2. Preferred Minimum GRE scores taken within 5 years preceding the application as defined below  
    1. PhD with a concentration in Biostatistics: Verbal GRE 56th percentile and Quantitative GRE 49th percentile

    2. PhD with a concentration in Epidemiology: Verbal GRE 70th percentile and Quantitative GRE 39th percentile

    3. PhD with a concentration in Health Services Research: Verbal GRE 65th percentile and Quantitative GRE 65th percentile

    4. PhD with Other concentrations or the DrPH: Verbal GRE 53rd percentile and Quantitative GRE 39th percentile 

  3. A score of 600 or higher on the GMAT for applicants to only the Health Policy and Management Department will be considered.  
  4. MCAT scores are accepted for the doctoral programs only in the Departments of Community and Family Health, Environmental Health, and Global Health. The minimum score required is a mean of 8.
  5. Applicants must possess the M.P.H., M.S.P.H., or equiva­lent. Those who hold other graduate degrees will be considered, but as a prerequisite, they must complete the Epidemiology and Biostatistics core courses, one additional core course, and other courses as required and approved by their advisory committee.  
  6. Basic computer competency is expected.

In order to be considered for admission to the Ph.D. Program in Public Health, applicants must be fully prepared to register as full-time students for at least one full academic year (consecutive Fall and Spring semesters).

Ph.D. Applicants should also refer to the guidelines listed in the Department to which they are applying for their specific Ph.D. guidelines. Links to Departments and Academic Programs are from the College home page at

Upon acceptance to the Ph.D. program, each student shall sign a “letter of understanding” regarding the stages in the doctoral degree process. Each department has written guidelines for their doctoral pro­grams as well as the following requirements:

  1. Successful completion of required coursework
  2. Evidence of teaching proficiency
  3. Completion of Ph.D. Competencies Worksheet
  4. Successful performance on the qualifying examination for doctoral candidacy
  5. Preparation and formal approval of dissertation proposal
  6. Conduct of dissertation research activities and preparation of dissertation document

 To start the application process, see section 6.1 Application Procedures.

 Philosophy and Competencies

Students should acquire the skills to create and disseminate knowledge, and also to lead, collaborate with and teach others in various public health academic, research and field settings. Therefore, the foundation of a strong Ph.D. program in public health includes:

  • Capable, ethical and scholarly faculty to mentor students in their area of interest,
  • The potential for financial assistance/funding of doctoral student research and teaching,
  • Availability of courses in students area of interest,
  • Students who have the academic and professional potential to achieve the doctoral competencies,
  • Students who are ethical, scholarly representatives of the profession and the school,
  • The availability of meaningful professional development activities, and
  • Opportunities for students to participate in departmental activities.
  • Competencies are met by successfully completing a doctoral committee approved plan of academic study and research, and documented professional and other scholarly experiences.


A Doctor of Philosophy graduate will be able to:

 Scientific Knowledge and Theory

  1. Critically evaluate and use scientific theories and frameworks relevant to public health.
  2. Synthesize knowledge from a broad range of disciplines in public health.


  1. Critically analyze research literature.
  2. Develop testable hypotheses for independent research.
  3. Design and carry out original research that contributes to the knowledge base in public health.
  4. Demonstrate mastery of methods of data collection and analysis.
  5. Apply a set of ethical standards in the conduct and dissemination of research.
  6. Work as an effective research team member.
  7. Prepare scholarly publications and deliver oral presentations.
  8. Be cognizant of appropriate funding sources for research.
  9. Develop grant writing skills.


  1. Demonstrate ability to teach a university level course using current pedagogical techniques.
  2. Demonstrate communication skills that facilitate learning by others in formal and informal settings.
 Areas of Study

Doctoral programs leading to a Ph.D. are offered in all five departments and the five core areas of public health. Students have an opportunity to specialize within their department.

*Offers specializations in Maternal & Child Health, Health Education, Behavioral Health, Socio-Health Sciences.

Students and their major advisor jointly create a written plan to meet these competencies via the plan of study, research experiences, departmental and professional activities, and other appropriate methods. Students work with their major advisor and a committee throughout the course of study.


Upon admission the student is assigned a Program of Study Advisor. NO LATER than at the end of the first academic year, the student will have selected/contracted with a Major Professor/Doctoral Committee Chair and determined members of the Doctoral Committee. Typically the advisor is the major professor of the dissertation committee. The advisor serves as a mentor and facilitates the student's doctoral studies by:

  1. Meeting with the student to develop a plan of study for doctoral committee approval by the
    end of the second semester.
  2. Monitoring and keeping the doctoral committee informed of the student's progress.
  3. Meeting with the student on a regular basis about academic and research progress.
  4. Complete, with the student, the Ph.D. student competencies tool located on the forms page.
  5. Coordinating the development, administration, and grading of the qualifying exam.
  6. Guiding the student in development and implementation of a quality dissertation
    (including proposal, implementation of the research, and the written document).
  7. Recommending an appropriate chair for the dissertation defense.
 Doctoral Committee

Upon determination of the Major Professor, the Doctoral Supervisory Committee will be formed with the Major Professor serving as Chair. Please note that composition of the Doctoral Supervisory Committee may be changed as the student progresses in their study. By the end of the second semester the faculty advisor and student shall form a doctoral committee.

Each Ph.D. student will follow the USF College of Public Health Doctoral Plan of Study. The Ph.D. Plan of Study will be completed collaboratively by the student and his/her Academic Advisor. The Ph.D. Plan of Study must be completed and approved by the Doctoral Supervisory Committee no later than the end of the third semester after admission. It is the responsibility of the student to submit the Ph.D. Plan of Study to the College of Public Health Office of Academic and Student Affairs and to assure all other copies are appropriately distributed. Any changes to the Ph.D. Plan of Study must be approved by the student's Doctoral Supervisory Committee and then the amended plan submitted to the College of Public Health Office of Academic and Student Affairs.

The plan of study shall include all required departmental courses, prerequisites, research tools, courses required outside of department, and teaching activities. The plan should include proposed time schedule to complete each course. The doctoral committee members, major advisor, or student have the privilege of calling additional meetings to discuss student's progress, research ideas, plan for qualifying exam, or a significant change in plan of study. It is the student's responsibility to set up each meeting. 

The doctoral committee is responsible for the following:

  1. Meet with the student to discuss plan of study, research proposal, qualifying exam, or academic progress.
  2. Facilitate opportunities for research and scholarly growth.
  3. Approve and monitor a plan of study that prepares the student to sit for qualifying exams and conduct dissertation research.
  4. Develop and grade qualifying exam.

After the successful completion of the Doctoral Qualifying Examination a Doctoral Dissertation Committee is formed. The membership of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee may be the same as that of the Doctoral Supervisory Committee if the student and/or Major Professor so desires. As such the membership of the student's Doctoral Supervisory Committee should be assessed for suitability for the Doctoral Dissertation Committee. At minimum. the Doctoral Dissertation Committee should be comprised of a minimum of 4 members: at least 3 must be from the student's academic area: at least one external member.

The dissertation committee will formally approve the student's written research proposal after an oral presentation given by the student, supervise the research, read and approve the dissertation for defense, and conduct the dissertation defense. The committee will include at least three credentialed faculty from the department and one faculty from outside of the department. According to Graduate School guidelines, a faculty member outside of the department is specially appointed to chair the dissertation defense. Each department will have additional guidelines. A minimum of 18 dissertation credits are required.

Students are encouraged to select a major advisor that will serve as the major professor of the dissertation. Occasionally, a student desires to change major advisor or committee members. Some examples when this may occur are when research interests are more closely matched with another faculty member, the student and faculty member mutually agree that another person is more appropriate, or a faculty member is leaving the university. This action is to be approved by the department chair, Academic and Student Affairs, and Graduate School.

 Doctoral Plan of Study

The student's plan of study will include the following:


The doctoral committee or the department may require prerequisites. These courses are not included in the minimum number of hours a student needs to complete the Ph.D. and are expected to be completed early in the course of study.

Required Course Work

  1. Public Health Core Courses (9 credits): PHC 6000 Epidemiology or equivalent, PHC 6050 Biostatistics I or equivalent, and one (1) of the following: PHC Social and Behavioral Sciences applied to health, PHC Environmental and Occupational Health, PHC Health Policy and Management.
  2. A minimum of three semesters (one credit each semester) of a college-wide Advanced Interdisciplinary Seminar in Public Health.
  3. A minimum of 13 credits at the 7000 level.

The courses and number of credit hours required are defined by the department and the doctoral committee and include course work from another department or college. Generally, the doctoral degree requires a minimum of 90 credits beyond the bachelor's degree. Departments determine the number of credits accepted from previous master(s) degree.

Tools of Research

Tools of research may be required by the department. Departmental Guidelines will address whether they are required for doctoral students within that department (consistency within the department required).  If required, the student must complete a minimum of two of the "Tools of Research" options designated by the department, and approved by the doctoral committee before the student is eligible to take the doctoral qualifying examination. The Tools of Research may include a wide range of skills or competencies relevant to research in the discipline not ordinarily part of the program of study, such as programming languages and application packages or other skills relevant to the area of study. The department will determine if credit hours taken to fulfill the Tools of Research will be credited toward the program of study.


All doctoral students will demonstrate or document proficiency in teaching academic courses at the university level. The doctoral committee will determine the required teaching activities or if previous university teaching is sufficient to exempt the student from further teaching experience.

Qualifying Exam

When all required coursework is satisfactorily completed (including tools of research and prerequisites), the student must pass a written comprehensive qualifying examination covering the subject matter in the major and related fields. The department sets the specific criteria. 

The qualifying exam will comprise a written portion and may include an oral component. The exam will cover at least three major areas including: a) Broad area of public health; b)Focus area of study; c) Research methods. The student may have no longer than 10 weeks to complete the exam upon receipt of the exam from the Doctoral Supervisory Committee. The format and duration of the qualifying exam is the responsibility of the Doctoral Supervisory Committee following consultation with the student and consistent with departmental college and university guidelines. The Doctoral Supervisory Committee will have up to 3 weeks to review the exam and determine the outcome of either Pass or Fail. No more than 2 attempts will be allowed for the student to take the qualifying exam and earn a Pass. If the student receives a Fail on the qualifying exam on the first attempt and the Doctoral Supervisory Committee recommends that the student complete remedial work. the second attempt at the qualifying exam must be initiated within 3-months of completion of remedial work. If the student earns a Fail on the first attempt, and the committee determines that no remedial work is needed the student will have a second attempt to pass which must be initiated within 3-months. If the student does not earn a Pass on the qualifying exam on his/her second attempt. the student will not be admitted into doctoral candidacy. After successful completion of the qualifying exam and appropriate paperwork is submitted to Graduate School, the student is admitted to candidacy and may register for dissertation hours.


All students must follow the University’s “Guidelines for Dissertation and Theses” found at The Dissertation must conform to one of the following two available options per USF degree requirements:

  • Option 1: Traditional format inclusive of part I Preliminary pages, part II Text, part III References/Appendices, part IV About the Author
  • Option 2: Collection of articles/papers instead of chapters inclusive of Part I Preliminary Pages, Part II Collection of Articles/Papers, Part III References/Appendices.

For details, please refer to the latest version of the USF Tampa Graduate Catalog.
After the Doctoral Dissertation Committee has determined that the final draft of the dissertation is suitable for presentation the committee will request the scheduling and announcement of the Dissertation Defense. Consistent with USF Graduate Degree Requirements a copy of the announcement should be sent to the USF Office of Graduate Studies and posted in a public forum preferably two weeks in advance of the defense date.

Guidelines for students in progress

Each Ph.D. student will undergo an annual review consistent with departmental guidelines. A summary of the annual review will be provided to the student and placed in the student's advising file.

Note: In order to be considered for admission to the Ph.D. Program in Public Health, applicants must be fully prepared to register as full-time students for at least one full academic year (consecutive Fall and Spring semesters).

 Time Limits

Doctoral degrees must be completed within seven (7) years from the student’s original date of admission for doctoral study. All courses applied to the doctoral degree must be completed within seven (7) years, including courses taken

  1. Prior to admission to the USF doctoral program,
  2. Taken as non-degree seeking, or
  3. Transferred in from other institutions

There is no time limitation for courses from a completed master’s degree used toward a doctoral degree. For students who are readmitted, see Readmission Policy. Typically a student will reach candidacy within four years, but this may vary per discipline.

 Use of the "c" in Degree Acronyms for Degree Candidates

The College of Public Health does not permit students who are pursuing masters or doctoral degrees to use the degree acronym after their names and a small “c” for candidate.  In other words students are not permitted to use M.P.H.c, M.S.P.H.c, M.H.A.c, Ph.D.c, or Dr.PH.c.  If students, after successfully completing all comprehensive exams (core and concentration) for the master degrees or the qualifying exam for the doctoral degree wish to put after their name the words—master degree candidate or doctoral degree candidate—we allow this..

The use of the degree acronym and small “c” creates confusion for faculty, employers, and other individuals who are reviewing students’ CVs and other materials.  It creates a situation wherein a student appears to have earned a degree when such is not the case.  As a degree-granting College, we do not allow this.



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