Health Sciences (PhD Program)

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The PhD in Health Sciences offers students the opportunity to develop an advanced level of understanding and training in any one scientific discipline, or a combination of scientific disciplines, related to human health, the processes (E.g., sociological, biological, chemical, physical) that influence human health.  The PhD in Health Sciences promotes an integration of social, ethical, political, and cultural dimensions, and an understanding of basic biological, ecological and physical determinants of health. Students are expected to acquire a familiarity with the scope of disciplines that contribute to knowledge and practice in health sciences while developing expertise in a specific disciplinary area. Graduates from this program have an area of concentration, and a familiarity with other disciplines and are able to work constructively and show leadership within the increasingly complex multidisciplinary frameworks that are evolving across all parts of the health continuum.

Students must complete 6 credit hours of the mandatory interdisciplinary seminar series, HHSC 800-6 - Graduate Seminar.  The seminars cover core topics of grant writing and project management, ethics and human subjects research, and methodologies employed in health sciences research and features presentations on areas of concentration by faculty and senior students in the program.

Students must also complete a 12-credit hour dissertation (HHSC 890-12 - PhD Dissertation) to the satisfaction of their committee. In addition, they must take a minimum of 6 credit hours in elective courses relevant to their area of concentration as determined by their supervisor.  At the discretion of their supervisory committee, students may be required to take additional courses within their area of concentration.

Students must pass three separate assessments of their academic progress towards a PhD: a qualifying exam, a defence of the dissertation proposal, and a defence of the dissertation. The qualifying exam is tailored to ensure a cross-disciplinary aptitude, and tests the student's grasp of the core interdisciplinary materials presented in the seminar series as well as core concepts of their area of concentration derived from elective course work. The dissertation proposal defence ensures students have a grasp of their area of concentration and therefore examines the level of knowledge within that area of concentration. Upon successfully passing both the qualifying examination and the dissertation proposal defence, students are granted candidate status, and embark upon the dissertation work under the supervision of their faculty advisor. Following completion of the research, candidates must defend their dissertation before an examination committee.


Courses Credit hours
HHSC 800-6 - Graduate Seminar I 6
Elective courses 6
HHSC 890-12 - PhD Dissertation 12
Total required 24

Admission Requirements

Students are normally expected to hold a Master’s degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. Normally, applicants must hold a cumulative GPA of 3.67 (A-) from the Baccalaureate and Master’s degree, to be calculated over the last 30 gradable credits.

In addition to a completed UNBC Graduate Application Form, applicants must provide official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended, a statement of intent indicating the student’s research interests, possible future career aspirations, and perceived fit within the Faculty mandate and research directions; three letters of reference; and a sample of written academic work. GRE scores are optional. Only students with high GPAs and innovative research interests are likely to be successful in their applications.

Application deadlines are found on the Graduate Calendar under Semester Dates. The Health Sciences PhD Program accepts students for the September semester.

For additional information about graduate admissions or to download application materials, go to the Graduate Programs website.

Recommended Progression

First Year: Mandatory Interdisciplinary Seminar, Elective Graduate Courses, Qualifying Exam

During the first two semesters, students take a mandatory interdisciplinary seminar series HHSC 800-6 - Graduate Seminar. Based upon determinations made either prior to entry into to the program, or in the first semester, elective courses determined by the supervisor will be also taken.

Second Year: Area of Concentration, Defence of Dissertation Proposal

If students are required to take additional courses to address deficiencies within their area of concentration, they may select courses from relevant course offerings within the UNBC programs, or from other accredited graduate programs in other post-secondary institutions. In addition, students normally conduct some exploratory research in their area of concentration.  Students in their second and third years are expected to present on their area of concentration to the interdisciplinary seminar series as an exercise in communicating their research field to a more general audience.

At the end of their course work, PhD students normally take a qualifying exam consisting of written and oral components. The general part of the exam should demonstrate the student's ability to synthesize and extrapolate from the core interdisciplinary materials presented in the seminar program.  The specialty part of the exam assesses the student's background knowledge and familiarity with the theory and methodology associated with his/her dissertation topic. Students normally take the qualifying exam upon completion of the 12 credit hours of required core courses.

Once course work is complete, students work towards finalizing a dissertation proposal, which should demonstrate academic rigour and be of publishable quality. Students are expected to present the dissertation proposal before their committee, and to demonstrate their knowledge within their area of concentration. Normally, this defence is scheduled either at the end of the third semester or at the beginning of the fourth semester of study.

Third to Fifth Year: Dissertation

Upon successful completion of course work, and the successful completion of the qualifying exam and the defence of the dissertation proposal, the student is officially designated as a PhD candidate, and proceeds to full-time work on the dissertation under the direct supervision of the advisor and any other designated committee members. Once the dissertation proposal has been approved by the committee, any major changes made to the dissertation proposal require further approval of the committee.

Under normal circumstances, students are expected to complete their research and the writing of the dissertation within three years of becoming a doctoral candidate.

Updated: June 28, 2021