Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Development, Family Science and Human Development

School of Education & Human Development


Degree: PhD

Classroom Type: Online and on campus classes

SEHD’s PhD program in Family Science and Human Development takes a multi-disciplinary approach to preparing students for college and university teaching and research, as well as the development and evaluation of programs that seek to expand equity in opportunities and outcomes for children, youth, and families; particularly children, youth, and families from under resourced communities. Our program also seeks to strengthen the interconnections among research, practice, and policy for social change.

Application​ deadlines

December 1

Program Details

Interest Categories: Education & Counseling

Campus: CU Denver

What you'll learn

Our program helps to prepare scholars to define problems and conduct research that informs programs and policies aimed at promoting the health and well-being of individuals and families, with a focus on historically marginalized individuals and families. To do so, we ground our work in family diversity and take a systems approach to examining problems faced by children, youth and families in contemporary society.

Students in this program will

  • Critically examine the theoretical literature that undergirds family science and human development.
  • Study the complex interplay of biological, developmental, interpersonal, and contextual determinants that protect and/or undermine the health and well-being of children, youth and families.
  • Integrate a strength-based perspective on individual and family diversity—including race, ethnicity, culture, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, ability and language—into knowledge generation and program development.
  • Conduct applied and translational research that makes connections among research, programs, and policies to help reduce inequities in opportunities and outcomes and to promote social justice.

Faculty advisors for this concentration

Our faculty’s collective research has themes in

  1. Family, school, and community engagement
  2. Immigration and migration as it relates to individual and family well-being
  3. Early childhood and adolescent development in the context of families, educational settings, neighborhoods, and policies
  4. Developmental and family science research methods

Program of Study

Students complete a plan of study that includes 48 semester credits of coursework and 27 semester credits of dissertation. PhD coursework is intensive and substantive, requiring significant writing, analysis, and critique of theory and professional literature. All students in the Family Science and Human Development concentration take 12-credits in foundational courses, 3-credits in professional seminars, 18-credits in research methods courses, and 15-credits in concentration area courses (including one elective). Students also complete a research apprenticeship and higher education teaching practicum or equivalent experience.

The curriculum includes a combination of on-campus, hybrid, remote, and online courses each semester.

Every student must be available to attend on-campus courses each semester.


Child, Youth, and Family Studies Foundation Courses - 12 Credits

  • Advanced Studies in Applied Child Development
  • Children in US and Global Context
  • Contemporary Family Theories and Research
  • History, Child Development and Equity

Proseminar in Child, Youth, & Family Studies I, II, and III - 3 Credits 

Research Methods - 18 Credits

  • Doctoral Seminar in Research Methods
  • Intermediate Statistics
  • Methods of Qualitative Inquiry
  • Electives (select three courses (9 credits) of advanced research methods)

Family Science and Human Development Concentration Courses - 15 Credits

  • Family Issues in Immigration and Migration
  • Family Inequality and Social Change
  • Advanced Studies in Youth Development
  • Advanced Studies in Human Development
  • Elective


Scholarships to offset the cost of tuition may be available for first-year students. Students work with their advisors to identify additional funding possibilities available through external scholarships, internships, funded grant projects, teaching assistant opportunities and/or a mix thereof. Student funding support varies based on funding streams. Students can also elect to self-pay and thus, self-support.

Recommended Completion Time:4 to 8 years

Required Credits for Completion:75 Credits

Admission Requirements

The core course rotation begins every fall. We require potential applicants to meet with a faculty advisor in a specified concentration area, who conducts research in an applicant’s area of interest, prior to submitting an application. This ensures applicants have an opportunity to discuss their research areas of interest, as well as an opportunity to introduce themselves to faculty and learn about faculty research areas. The financial support provided to PhD students is also often tied to faculty grants and contracts so meeting with a faculty member will let you know if any funding opportunities will be available in the upcoming year.

Application Deadline

December 1

Application Requirements

  • Minimum requirements:
    • Master's degree or equivalent
    • 3.5 GPA in graduate-level course work recommended
  • Recommendation Letters: three letters; two should come from faculty with whom an applicant has taken courses
  • Official Transcripts from all institutions attended
  • Resume/CV: Applicants must have and show evidence of relevant professional and/or academic experience.
  • Written Statement: In 4-6 pages (double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font or larger), discuss professional/educational experiences that led you to seeking a PhD, your research interests and their relationships to problems you have identified in the field, and a potential advisor with which you would like to work.
  • Writing Example: Examples include but are not limited to: Master's thesis or other course/seminar papers for prior coursework, and/or published materials such as articles, book chapters, and technical reports.
  • Application Fee: $50.00
  • Admissions Interview: Applicants who advance to the interview phase will be contacted to participate in an interview with concentration area faculty.
  • International Applicants only: Proof of English Language Proficiency (International applicants should review the following information regarding English language proficiency)

For more information, email Jorge Chavez.

Choose CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development

You can trust CU Denver to provide an education that will prepare you for excellence in your career as a faculty member or researcher. The university and school are recognized for preparing leaders of distinction who value educational excellence and social justice. Additionally, CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development is counted among U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools,” making us one of the top education schools in the country.