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Human Development PhD Program Overviews

Human development Ph.Ds. are interdisciplinary degrees allowing students with graduate experience in biology, education, psychology, anatomy or sociology to research new theories and methods in the field. Learn about program topics and possible careers upon graduation.

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Essential Information

Most Ph.D. programs in human development include areas of specialization. A typical doctoral program in human development may focus on areas such as family studies, biological human development, cognitive development or development over the lifespan. Some programs include a required internship or field experience, and nearly all programs require completion of an extensive dissertation project. Graduates of these programs are prepared for academic, administrative and research careers. Students from several areas of academic study can apply to Ph.D. programs in human development.


Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Adult Development and Aging
  • Child Care Management
  • Child Care Services
  • Child Development
  • Community Organization and Advocacy
  • Family and Community Services
  • Family Systems
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Social Work
  • Youth Services

Ph.D. in Human Development

Entrance into a Ph.D. program in human development requires the completion of undergraduate and master's degree programs. In addition to college transcripts, many doctoral programs require copies of a students' graduate thesis before granting admission. Undergraduate degrees particularly suited to a human development doctoral program include biology, physiology, statistics and psychology.

Most of the core courses in a Ph.D. program in human development focus on the biological, cognitive and socio-emotional aspects of human development over the course of a lifetime. They also emphasize the scientific and social explanations behind changes in human beings over the course of a life. Course topics include:

  • Childhood development
  • Development in adolescence
  • Development in adulthood
  • Behavioral development
  • Aging processes
  • Research methods
  • Family studies
  • Cognition and behavioral theory

Career Prospects and Salary Info

Due to the research-heavy and scholarly nature of a Ph.D. program in human development, most graduates are well-suited for careers in academia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed college-level teachers in health specialties was projected to grow 13% between 2014 and 2024, which is an above-average rate in comparison to other fields. The BLS reports that postsecondary teachers who cover health specialties topics earned a mean salary of $114,510 as of 2015. Career options include:

  • Professor of human development
  • Professor of child development
  • Professor of psychology
  • Mental health medical director
  • Mental health consultant
  • Clinical professor
  • Anthropologist
  • Psychology department administrator

Human development is a fairly broad field that will prepare students for a variety of lucrative and exciting career options in psychology, biology, education and anthropology. Prospective students interested in this field should look into human development Ph.D. programs, and the specific specialized fields that would best suit them.

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