Degree Programs

Doctoral Program

Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Science

The deadline for applications for admission to the Applied Developmental Science program is January 2, by which date we must have in hand the completed university and department applications, Graduate Record Examination scores, and official transcripts from previous undergraduate and graduate coursework.

Focus of the Ph.D. Program in Applied Developmental Science (ADS)

Many social and public health problems of the 21st century – family poverty; children with disabilities; effective parenting in the face of changing family structures; youth violence, substance abuse, and high-risk behavior; optimizing human and social capital; the “graying of society” – call for the involvement of specialists who have knowledge about the basic processes and contexts of human development, and how behavior can be modified to optimize long-term developmental outcomes. Such problems are usually addressed by different professional disciplines with little cross-disciplinary collaboration, and without the input of specialists trained in human development. The aim of our ADS Ph.D. program is to prepare students in the basic and applied aspects of human development across the lifespan so that they can become integral members of teams and task forces that address social and societal problems from a multidisciplinary and integrative perspective. Check out our complete ADS plan of study.

The objectives of our ADS Ph.D. program are as follows:

  • To provide state-of-the-art training in human development theory from a lifespan perspective, and to train students in applying their research-based knowledge in real-life contexts. To achieve these objectives, students focus on individual and family development across the lifespan, but also are extensively trained to recognize and critically analyze ecological influences on human development, including the influences of physical and social ecologies such as neighborhoods and communities, schools, and workplaces.
  • To provide students with the empirical research skills to carry out both basic and applied research on human development. This means that in addition to a thorough grounding in theories of human development, students also learn state-of-the-art research methods for conducting laboratory-and field-based research. A particular emphasis is placed on how to conceptualize, implement, and evaluate intervention programs designed to optimize the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
  • To develop in students an understanding and critical appreciation that the study of human development across the lifespan has to be, by definition, multidisciplinary and integrative.
  • To enable students to translate research into evidence-based practice. Through rigorous basic and applied research on human and family development, the faculty and Ph.D. students in the Applied Developmental Science program produce knowledge about factors that affect the quality of life of individuals, families, and communities. Such research findings inform public policy and affect individuals’ and families’ lives through adoption of best practices in the realm of public health and social policy.

What Can I do with a Ph.D. in ADS?

Graduates from the Ph.D. program in Applied Developmental Science will have the basic knowledge and the applied skills to work in community agencies, governmental and human services agencies, for-profit and not-for-profit research and advocacy organizations, and at different levels of the educational system, including university-based research and education. The occupational outlook is particularly strong for Ph.D.-trained individuals with an applied orientation and strong quantitative research skills. Specific career opportunities for our ADS graduates include the following:

  • Academia: Many of our graduates are likely to seek careers as university professors with applied research as their specialization. Graduates of the ADS program will be competitive for faculty positions in human development and family studies, developmental psychology, lifespan development, and applied developmental science.
  • Prevention programs: The ability to develop, implement, and evaluate effective prevention programs is increasingly necessary given the heightened awareness of how students’ mental health and behavioral problems affect learning, the impact of job stress and addictions on adults, and the rise in health care costs associated with unhealthy lifestyles. Ph.D.s with an applied developmental training are well positioned to develop prevention programs for school districts, statewide health organizations, and health prevention programs initiated by private industry. Program evaluators may work for private foundations; technical assistance agencies, and research organizations.
  • Policy analysis, planning, and monitoring: Recent changes in social and public policy have explicitly required states to implement data-based monitoring systems. These requirements have resulted in the application of research-based best practices in human and health services, the rigorous assessment of program impact, technical assistance and training, and coordination of services (e.g., related to early literacy and social skill development in young children; substance use in adolescence; caregiving of adults). Policy analysts guide planning and advocacy efforts as well as resource development within the state and federal government, advocacy organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund, and various private foundations. In various state and federal agencies, staff explicitly focus on collaboration with individuals, families, and communities. Such direct collaboration is a core feature of applied developmental science.
  • School systems: Employment surveys show that applied developmental science specialists work in school systems, providing assessment services and developing age-appropriate curricula. Such careers are consonant with the professional literature’s call for greater attention to family-school linkages as well as school-based early prevention programs.
  • Health care systems: Ph.D.s in applied developmental science find employment not just in state agencies and foundations, but also in a variety of organizations addressing health and wellbeing. For example, Ph.D.s with a specialization in adult development and aging address the potentials and limitations of an increasingly “graying” society such as promoting evidence-based practices in mental health treatment and rehabilitation programs for institutionalized elderly adults.