Doctoral Program

Course of Study

Check out our complete ADS plan of study.

Students can enter the Applied Developmental Science program with a completed Master's degree or with a completed Bachelor's degree. Students entering with a Bachelor's will be required to complete a Master's in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy or Prevention Science. Those who have completed a Master's degree, but who have majored in a subject area other than Applied Developmental Science (ADS), HDFS, or a closely related field, will need to complete the Master's coursework in HDFS; however if they did a thesis in the prior program on a topic that would be appropriate for the ADS program, then that thesis can be reviewed for acceptance in partial fulfillment of the Master's degree, using the process detailed shortly. Students who have completed a Master's in ADS, HDFS, or a closely related field, but have not completed a thesis as part of that program, will need to complete a first-year project that is comparable to a thesis project as a part of their Ph.D. requirements. Those who have completed a thesis from a previous program in ADS, HDFS, or closely related field, or who completed a thesis on a topic that would be appropriate for the ADS program, even if the department was not closely related, will need to have that thesis reviewed by a committee comprised of the ADS director, the Assistant Department Head, and the student's advisor or co-advisors for acceptance or not. If the thesis is not accepted, then the student will need to complete a first year project that is comparable to a thesis project as part of the ADS Ph.D. program requirements. The first year project involves a publication-worthy research project in the student's area of research in HDFS that involves the student taking a leadership role in devising the research question(s) to be addressed, executing the study and analyses, and writing a journal article manuscript based on the study. The student may satisfy the requirement (see below) of collecting his/her own data in this project or in another research project. Secondary data may be used if the student collects data in connection with a different research project.

The PhD is a 76 credit-hour degree, designed to be completed in a 4-year time frame (18-21 credits per year). All ADS students must take 22 credits in ADS-program-wide core courses; in addition 24 credits are earned in elective courses that are selected in consultation with the student’s advisor and committee so as to prepare the student for the career trajectory that he or she has planned. These electives must include at least 2 lifespan development electives, 1 statistics elective (3 credits) and 1 general elective outside of HDFS (3 credits).


Applied Developmental Science core courses include all of the following:

Course Credits
HDFS 500 Issues in Human Development and Family Studies 3
HDFS 501 Readings in the Discipline 1
HDFS 524 Family Theory 3
HDFS 610 Risk and Resilience 3
HDFS 710 Theories of Applied Developmental Science 3
HDFS Reserach Methods/Statistics core courses  
HDFS 549 Reserach Methods I 3
HDFS 550 Reserach Methods II 3
HDFS 650 Multivariate Research Methods I 3
HDFS 750 Multivariate Research Methods II 3

Applied Developmental Science electives include 24 credits selected from the following, but including at least 2 lifespan electives, 1 methodology/statistics elective, and 1 open elective outside of the department, selected in consultation with the student's advisor and committee members:

Course Credits
Lifespan Development electivies:  
HDFS 611 Early Development 3
HDFS 612 Adolescent Development 3
HDFS 613 Adult Development and Aging 3
HDFS 792A Lifespan Socioemotional Development 3
HDFS 792B Lifespan Cognitive Development 3
Applied Science electives:  
HDFS 592 Grant Writing–Human Services and Research 3
HDFS 607 Prevention Science across the Lifespan 3
HDFS 608 Program Planning and Implementation 3
HDFS 609 Prevention Program Evaluation 3
HDFS 692C Family Policy and Programming 3
Additional electives:  
HDFS 692A Advanced Studies – Intimacy and Human Sexuality 3
HDFS 692B Advanced Studies – Parenting 3
Methodology/Statistics elective 3
Open elective from another department 3

In addition, the Graduate School requirement of a Preliminary Exam will be met by completing HDFS550, HDFS650, HDFS500, HDFS524, and 6 credit hours selected from HDFS792A, HDFS792B, HDFS 611 HDFS612, or HDFS613. A grade of B or A is required in each course.


Competency Projects and Examination


Purpose. The competency projects and examination are designed to fulfill several purposes: (1) To allow students to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their knowledge gained from their coursework in the ADS program and from reading in depth in the specific area on which they plan to focus their research efforts; (2) to challenge students to think critically about and to apply, utilize, and integrate that knowledge in ways that foster their own professional development; and (3) to independently develop a research plan that potentially will sustain their investigative efforts past their doctoral dissertation and into the early years of their career. There are two projects involved in the Competency Examination: The research competency project and the professional presentation/teaching competency.


Research/Research Writing Competency Project.


Competency 1: Original data collection in one’s area of research. It is the philosophy of the HDFS department at CSU that all doctoral students should be involved in original data collection efforts as part of their doctoral studies (including Master’s studies). This data collection does not have to take place in connection with the dissertation research, but it does need to take place at some time during the program and/or during the process of completing a Master’s thesis that has been accepted by the ADS program as fulfilling the Master’s thesis/first year project requirement for the ADS program. The student will need to specify when this data collection has taken place or will take place, as well as the student’s role in the data collection effort, as part of the research competency examination, and, as for other parts of the examination, the student’s committee members will need to view the student as having passed this requirement, based on the student’s experience, including his/her role in the project in which data collection took place.


Competency 2: In-depth analysis of the literature and scholarly writing. There are three format options for the exam demonstrating the student’s ability to do an in-depth analysis of the literature in his/her area of research: students select either (a) grant application or (b) Developmental Review article or (c) an essay/paper in response to specific examination questions that have been prepared and approved by the student’s committee and have been approved by the ADS program director(or their delegate(s) if one or both of them are on the student’s committee).


Professional Presentation/Teaching Competency


Purpose. The goal of the professional presentation/teaching competency is to afford the student increased experience and skill in doing professional presentations and/or teaching, by teaching or co-teaching a college-level course or professional workshop series, under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Typically, the professional presentation/ competency project occurs only after the student has received the Master’s degree. There are two different options for the Professional presentation/Teaching Competency: 1. Teaching a series of workshops or 2. Working on two specific teaching-related skills while teaching at least ½ of an undergraduate course. The student should work with his/her advisor to select the option that is most appropriate for his/her planned career path.


Option 1: Workshop Series. If the student believes that teaching a series of workshops is more relevant to his/her planned career path, then s/he may prepare and deliver a series of professional workshops, contingent upon approval of the student’s doctoral committee and ADS Program Director. Usually more than one workshop will be needed to be deemed comparable to teaching at least ½ of a semester-long course.


Option 2. Teaching an undergraduate course. Typically, the student begins by being a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course one semester, and then teaching or co-teaching that same course during a later semester. The teaching assistantship can be paid, but it must include preparation of course materials (tests, assignments, and/or activities), grading of papers and/or essays, and preparing and giving at least one class lecture. The instructorship or co-instructorship must involve preparing at least ½ of the course materials, leading the class for at least ½ of the class meetings, and grading at least ½ of the papers and essays for the class. Students with prior teaching experience or with especially strong background in the subject area might teach a class without assisting in a prior semester, but this should involve mentored teaching, with close supervision by a faculty member.


The Doctoral Dissertation in Applied Developmental Science


Students in the Applied Developmental Science (ADS) Ph.D. program are required to write a Doctoral Dissertation and to conduct the research approved by the Doctoral Committee during the proposal meeting. The dissertation represents the culmination of students’ ADS education. Therefore, the faculty of the ADS program and the members of students’ Doctoral Committees expect that students who reach the point of preparing a dissertation proposal will have the conceptual and methodological sophistication necessary to plan and execute an independent research project.


The dissertation should be seen as a process rather than a product, although the final product will consist of either a formal thesis or multiple manuscripts for publication. If the thesis format is chosen, it is expected that the thesis provides the foundation for subsequent manuscripts of publishable quality. Regardless of whether a student chooses the thesis or the multiple-manuscript option, the process of the dissertation includes (a) the conceptualization of the study, including a concise presentation of the scientific rationale and the study methodology; (b) the data analyses and presentation of the results; and (c) the discussion of the results and their implications for the extant literature, future research, and potential applications in the field. Although the dissertation is designed as a proof that the doctoral student has the conceptual and methodological skills necessary to undertake an independent research project, it also requires the active and continued consultation with and involvement by students’ advisors and Doctoral Committee at all stages. The consultation with and involvement of the advisors and the members of the doctoral committee represents an important element of students’ continued scholarly development and education.