Javascript is currently not supported, or is disabled by this browser. Please enable Javascript for full functionality.

Skip to Main Content
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog
University of Pittsburgh
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 30, 2022
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Rehabilitation Science Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Return to School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Return to: School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Rehabilitation Science

The mission of the PhD program in Rehabilitation Science is to advance the frontiers of knowledge underlying the practice of rehabilitation disciplines and professions through research, teaching, and professional development.

This PhD is an interdisciplinary degree. Students enter the program through the following SHRS departments or programs: Health Information Management, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Counseling, Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and Sports Medicine. Upon degree completion you will have mastered a specific area of expertise in rehabilitation science and carry an expansive core of related knowledge.

Contact Information

Debby Keelan
Administrator for Student Services and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies
4022 Forbes Tower
Phone: 412-653-6538
Fax: 412-383-6535


Program Summary:

Program starts fall, spring or summer terms

  • 8 years (with approved credit transfer) or 10 years (without credit transfer)
  • 72 credits total required to graduate (some areas of focus may require more credits)

The Primary Goals of the PhD program in Rehabilitation Science are to:

  1. Provide core content in theories and models of rehabilitation, disability and/or assistive technology that underpin rehabilitation science;
  2. Provide in-depth, state of the science, content in basic, clinical, social, medical and/or engineering sciences that support the dissertation research;
  3. Provide mentorship opportunities for immersion in rehabilitation science research laboratories, projects, and/or ongoing studies;
  4. Prepare students to conduct and disseminate original research that will advance rehabilitation science;
  5. Promote interdisciplinary research in preparation for becoming a research team member;
  6. Promote knowledge, behaviors and skills consistent with the responsible conduct of research;
  7. Provide opportunities to teach content in an area of expertise.

The doctoral degree in Rehabilitation Science is an interdisciplinary research degree offered by the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and not by individual Departments within the School. Graduates of this Program will have a specific area of expertise in rehabilitation science as well as a core of interdisciplinary knowledge related to this specific area. They will become the researchers, scholars, teachers, thinkers, and planners in the demanding and changing field of rehabilitation science.

Areas of Study

  • Assistive technology
  • Biomechanics
  • Evidence-based practice and epidemiology of disability
  • Functioning, disability and health
  • Psychosocial, cultural, and behavioral aspects of rehabilitation and disability
  • Health information systems and information technology related to health and rehabilitation sciences
  • Neural basis of sensory and motor function and dysfunction
  • Neuromuscular aspects of sports injuries

Admission Requirements/ Application Process

Applicants should have a strong interest in rehabilitation research as well as a master’s degree in an area related to rehabilitation science. The exceptional student with a bachelor’s degree, six or more credits of graduate course work, and compelling clinical/research experience in rehabilitation science will be considered.

Resources, including research mentors, must be available to enable the student to engage in a plan of study and research in the student’s major area of interest in rehabilitation research. Therefore, it is important that there is a match between the research interests of an applicant and an SHRS Rehabilitation Science graduate faculty member.

Admission Requirements

Successful applicants will have a minimum GPA of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 scale) in all college work; minimum scores at the 50th percentile on the revised verbal and quantitative GRE® revised General Test, and a minimum score of 3.5 on the Analytical Writing section of the GRE® revised. Students for whom English is a foreign language must have a minimum TOEFL score of 100 (internet), 600 (paper); or Band 7.0 on the IELTS (reading and writing modules).

Application Requirements

Applicants are required to submit the following:

  • Completed SHRS online application form
  • An essay stating career goals, specific research interests and experience, and clinical interests and experience;
  • Three to five academic or work related letters of recommendation (at least one academic reference must be included as well as a letter of support from the identified Research Mentor);
  • A résumé, including work history, formal education, continuing education, licensing and certification, professional organizations, honors and awards, publications, presentations, and grants;
  • Official Transcripts from all colleges attended; transcripts must be sent directly fro the instituiton to the University of Pittsburgh
  • GRE® revised General Test scores
  • Test of English as a Foregin Language(TOEFL or IELTS scores (for candiates whoe native language is not English)
  • At least one example of written work (class project, course assignment, publication for which candidate is first author, etc.)
  • See the SHRS website for additional requirements for international applicants

Applications are accepted at any time and are evaluated by the PhD admissions committee.

Applicants are evaluated by the PhD Admissions Committee. Admission to the program requires (1) the applicant to meet the standards for a PhD student in SHRS, and (2) that a faculty member of the PhD program has an opening for an additional PhD student and agrees to be the Academic Advisor for that applicant. 

Applicants are encouraged to apply at least 6 months prior to the term in which they will begin classes.

For more information about admission to the PhD program contact:

Office of Admissions
School of Health and Rehabilitation Science
University of Pittsburgh
4020 Forbes Tower
Pittsburgh , PA 15260

Financial Aid

Financial assistance is often available from a variety of sources, including graduate student assistantships and teaching assistantships. These assistantships typically require 20 hours per week of research, teaching, or clinical service in exchange for a tuition, health insurance, and an annual salary. Other forms of financial assistance, including fellowships, may be available through individual faculty grants. Applicants interested in financial support should indicate this on their applications for admission.  Acceptance into the PhD program does not assure that a student will be offered financial aid.  Depending on the availablity of financial aid, the offer of financial support to an applicant may be deferred until a later date.  Since financial aid is limited, applicants who desire financial aid are encouraged to apply early.

Transfer Credits

If a student wishes to transfer credits, the student and the student’s Academic Advisor must submit a Credit Transfer Request Form to Student Services during the first year of study. Transcripts verifying the graduate courses and course descriptions must accompany the petition. The student and student’s Academic Advisor will be informed by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies which courses are acceptable as transfer credits, and this information will be placed in the student’s file. Based on University guidelines, students who transfer any credits from a master’s degree must complete the PhD within 8 years; students who do not transfer credits must complete the PhD within 10 years.

Academic Advisor

Students admitted to the PhD program are assigned an Academic Advisor who is a member of the Graduate Faculty in SHRS. He/she will have research interests similar to the student’s interests and will have agreed to be the student’s Research Mentor.

The Academic Advisor and student will determine the Plan of Study for the student. They will also plan course work or other experiences to enable the student to demonstrate competency in the proposed content supporting the dissertation, as well as statistics/research methodology content in preparation for the Comprehensive Examination and Dissertation Proposal Defense. It is the responsibility of the Academic Advisor to provide advice to the student during the PhD program, especially with the following steps.

  1. Petitioning the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for transfer of credits
  2. Preparing a Plan of Study outlining course work and dissertation credits leading to the PhD Degree
  3. Locating research opportunities
  4. Revising the Plan of Study as needed as the dissertation topic is formulated
  5. Finding a Primary Research Mentor

If either the student or his or her assigned advisor prefers, the student can choose another Academic Advisor, assuming that this faculty member agrees to advise the student. The student must obtain a Change of Advisor form online on the SHRS website. Complete the form and secure the required signatures, and return the form to the Office of Student Services. As a general rule, students who have more than 50% of the credits required for graduation should not initiate change of advisor procedures.

Plan of Study

The student and Academic Advisor will prepare a tentative Plan of Study within the first term of enrollment. If a Plan of Study has not been submitted by the end of the first term, the student will not be permitted to enroll in the subsequent term. The Plan of Study Form can be obtained online on the SHRS website.  The Plan of Study should include transfer credits, course work to date, future course work, and dissertation credits leading to the PhD degree. A copy of the Plan of Study will be placed in the student’s file. The Plan of Study should be reviewed each term at registration and updated as needed by the student and Academic Advisor. A final updated Plan of Study must be on file in the student’s permanent file in Student Services in the term in which the student graduates, or the student cannot be certified by the Registrar for graduation.

More information regarding the following can be found in the PHD handbook on the SHRS website:

  • SHRS Student Statistical Support
  • Annual Review/Progress Reports
  • Preliminary Examination
  • Primary Research Mentor
  • Comprehensive Examination
  • Dissertation Proposal Defense
  • Admission to Candidacy
  • Dissertation
  • Electronic thesis and Dissertation (ETD)
  • Final Oral Defense of Dissertation
  • Continued Use of Data After Leaving the University of Pittsburgh




Return to School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Return to: School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Catalog Navigation