The doctorate in rehabilitation science program is designed to prepare suitably qualified individuals for leadership positions in research and academia. A major focus of the program is to advance the science of rehabilitation and to elucidate the scientific basis for the procedures and processes used in clinical practice.

Areas of research emphasis include human and animal studies designed to (1) promote an understanding of the pathophysiology of injury, disease, functional impairment, and associated disabilities, and (2) espouse the rationale for therapies designed to alleviate impaired human function and related physical and mental disabilities.

Applications for this program are submitted online. Detailed instructions on how to apply are available on the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science website. Students are admitted for the fall semester only. Applications for the fall semester must be received by February 1 for consideration.

Admission Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution is required and must be documented by submission of official transcript indicating the degree has been conferred before entering the program. A master's or other advanced degree is preferable. Official transcripts for all courses taken at any institution are also required. Applicants are not required to be physical therapists or possess a degree in physical therapy. Applicants are encouraged to have a broad background in biological sciences, including anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, exercise science, biochemistry, genetics, molecular and cell biology, as well as statistics.
    Students with degrees from outside the U.S. may be subject to transcript evaluation indicating the degree is equivalent to a U.S. degree and meets the minimum cumulative grade-point average requirement.
  • Applicants must possess a cumulative grade-point average of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for his or her bachelor's degree program.
  • Applicants who are not native speakers of English, whether domestic or international, must demonstrate they meet the minimum English proficiency requirement.
  • A background check is required during the admission process; it may affect the student's eligibility to enter the program.
  • An official copy of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores is required and must be sent from Educational Testing Service to KU Medical Center using ETS institutional code 6895. Students must submit scores for Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing sections of the GRE. Note: the GRE must have been taken within five (5) years of the first semester of enrollment in this program.
  • A current resume or curriculum vitae is required and must include information on the applicant's educational, professional, and research background. The following information will be critical to evaluate the applicant: research experience (including publications and abstracts), professional presentations, awards and honors, intellectual pursuits (continuing education, seminars attended, lectures, etc.), teaching/mentoring experiences and leadership roles.
  • In the online application, a purpose of study will be submitted that provides a succinct explanation of relevant background information and experience indicated on the resume/curriculum vitae. Additionally, applicants are encouraged to identify research areas of interest they wish to pursue in the program. It is recommended, though not required, to identify one or more potential research mentors from the faculty of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science whose research programs are related to the applicant’s field of interest.
  • Three letters of recommendation are required. The recommendations should come from either a faculty member, advisor, employer or other person who is familiar with the applicant's work and character and can comment meaningfully on the applicant’s performance in an academic and professional setting. At least one of the three letters of recommendation should come from the applicant's current place of employment or academic program. Letters may not be obtained from family members, friends, etc. 

Applicant will be assessed based on these requirements. Applicants not meeting the above requirements may be eligible for provisional admission. After an applicant has been admitted, a program may defer an applicant's admission for one year after which time the applicant must submit a new application.

Admission requirements are subject to change. In most cases, the catalog of the year student entered the program is used. Other years’ catalogs».

The program consists of coursework, research experience, and completion of a doctoral dissertation including its oral defense. Relevant prior graduate work is taken into consideration in setting up individual programs of study leading to the Ph.D. degree.

Degree Requirements:

  • Degree requirements are normally completed within 4-5 years of admission to the program although a maximum of 8 years is allowed.
  • Cumulative grade-point average (GPA) of at least a 3.0 for all KU graduate coursework.
  • Successful completion of the University’s Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement prior to the semester the Oral Comprehensive Examination is scheduled.
    • Successful completion of the following course meets the Research Skills requirement:
      GSMC 803Introduction to Clinical Research1
    • Successful completion of the following two courses meets the Responsible Scholarship requirement:
      GSMC 803Introduction to Clinical Research1
      PRVM 853Responsible Conduct of Research1
  • Successful completion of the Residence Requirement prior to the semester the Oral Comprehensive Examination is scheduled. The requirement is met by enrollment in full time status a minimum of two semesters.
  • Successful completion of the Qualifying Examination. This examination takes place after the first year of full time course work.  The goal of this examination is to assess that a doctoral aspirant has the necessary analytical, communication and writing skills to successfully complete a Ph.D. degree.
  • Successful completion of the Oral Comprehensive Examination. This examination is an oral defense of a  dissertation proposal written in a research grant format.  The following skills are assessed as a part of the examination: the ability to critically synthesize literature on a specific topic, identify gaps in knowledge and design a significant research question to address the gaps, execute an independent research project, understand and use methodology and data analysis techniques and anticipate experimental outcomes.  Students are recognized as formal doctoral candidates after they have passed the comprehensive examination.  
  • Successful completion of the Post-Comprehensive Enrollment requirement.
  • Enrollment in a minimum of one (1) credit hour of REHS 990 Dissertation in Rehabilitation Science the semester the student will defend dissertation and graduate.
  • Successful completion of the Final Oral Examination (dissertation defense).  For this examination, the PhD candidate defends their written dissertation in an oral forum.  The written dissertation consists of an introduction chapter, three experimental chapters (on average), and a chapter for the conclusions, clinical application and future directions.  The dissertation should be composted at the level of a high quality scholarly work, with experimental chapters being suitable for peer reviewed publishing as separate manuscripts.
  • Successful Dissertation Submission and Publication (according to Office of Graduate Studies policy).
  • Successful completion of the following core courses. The specific number of credit hours for REHS 870REHS 873 and REHS 980 is determined in consultation with the student's academic advisor. 
    Core Courses
    REHS 803Research Observations (Take a minimum of one semester during the first year.)1
    REHS 805Seminar in Rehabilitation Science (Take Fall and Spring semesters for the first three years.)1
    REHS 856Research Design and Methods I2
    REHS 857Research Design and Methods II2
    REHS 862Cellular and Molecular Basis of Rehabilitation2
    REHS 864Introduction to Rehabilitation Science3
    REHS 866Developing Research Aims in Rehabilitation Science2
    REHS 870Teaching Practicum1-3
    REHS 873Research Practicum1-3
    REHS 889Grant Writing3
    REHS 980Graduate Research1-10
  • Successful completion of a minimum of 9 credit hours of research tools courses as determined in consultation with the student's academic advisor. BIOS 714, BIOS 720, and BIOS 730 or equivalents are mandatory.
    Research Tools Courses
    REHS 760Introduction to Matlab Programming1
    REHS 970Instrumented Analysis of Human Biomechanical Function3
    BIOS 714Fundamentals of Biostatistics I3
    BIOS 720Analysis of Variance3
    BIOS 730Applied Linear Regression3
    EPSY 710Introduction to Statistical Analysis3
    EPSY 711Lab for Introduction to Statistical Analysis1
    EPSY 810Regression and ANOVA: General Linear Models3
  • Successful completion of a minimum of 6 credit hours of elective courses as determined in consultation with the student's academic advisor.  Electives may be chosen from this list but are not limited to:
    REHS Elective Course Options
    REHS 865Independent Study (The specific number of credit hours for this course is determined in consultation with the student's academic advisor.)1-3
    REHS 884Motor Control and Learning3
    REHS 886Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation3
    REHS 887Neurorehabilitation3
    Elective Course Options from Other Departments
    ANAT 832Electron Microscopy Techniques3
    ANAT 845Graduate Histology3
    GSMC 857Biographics1
    HSES 805Laboratory Experiments and Analysis--Exercise Physiology3
    HSES 810Advanced Exercise Physiology3
    HSES 825Skeletal Muscle Physiology3
    HSES 872Exercise and the Cardiovascular System3
    NRSG 870Designing a Student Learning Environment3
    NRSG 871Curriculum/Program Planning and Evaluation3
    NRSG 873Teaching with Technologies3
    NRSG 874Nurse Educator Preceptorship3
    PHSL 842Comprehensive Human Physiology5
    PHSL 844Neurophysiology3
    PHSL 846Advanced Neuroscience5
    PRVM 868Biomedical Informatics Driven Clinical Research3
  • Successful completion of a minimum of 12 credit hours of REHS 990 Dissertation in Rehabilitation Science.  The specific number of credit hours for this course taken in a specific semester is determined in consultation with the student's academic advisor.

Degree requirements and course descriptions are subject to change. Any courses taken as an equivalent must be approved by the Graduate Director and the Office of Graduate Studies. In most cases, use the catalog of the year student entered the program.  Other years’ catalogs».

Students may enter this program beginning with the fall semester. This plan of study suggests a typical progression through the program. Students will develop a specific plan of study in consultation with his or her academic advisor. Note: semester credit hours will vary based on elective courses taken.

Typical Plan of Study

Year 1
FallHoursSpringHoursSummerHours
REHS 8031REHS 803 or 8731REHS 8662
REHS 8051REHS 8051REHS 8731
REHS 8562REHS 8572Qualifying Examination must be taken before Year 2 Fall semester starts. 
REHS 8622REHS 8643 
REHS 9703BIOS 7203 
BIOS 7143  
 12 10 3
Year 2
FallHoursSpringHoursSummerHours
REHS 8051REHS 8051REHS 9803
REHS 884 (elective)3REHS 870 (may be taken any semester)1-3 
REHS 886 (elective)3REHS 887 (elective)3 
REHS 9801REHS 8893 
BIOS 7303REHS 9801 
GSMC 8031  
PRVM 8531  
 13 9-11 3
Year 3
FallHoursSpringHoursSummerHours
REHS 8051REHS 8051REHS 9803
REHS 9802REHS 9805Oral Comprehensive Examination must be taken before Year 4 Fall semester starts. 
NRSG 870 (elective)3  
 6 6 3
Year 4
FallHoursSpringHoursSummerHours
REHS 9906REHS 9906REHS 9903
 6 6 3
Year 5
FallHoursSpringHours 
REHS 9901REHS 9901 
Eligible for reduced enrollment if 18 hour postcomprehensive enrollment completed. Final Oral Examination (dissertation defense) is taken if approved by committee to defend and graduate.   
 1 1 
Total Hours: 82-84

Technical Standards

The graduate of this program must have the knowledge and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical, research, academic and industrial settings. Although not all students will have the same experiences or require the same skills (some students may not work with laboratory chemicals or assist patients in transfers), it is still important that each student have the technical skills necessary, in case they are placed in that situation. Therefore, the following abilities and expectations must be met by all students of the program with or without reasonable accommodations.

  1. Essential Observational Requirements:
    The PhD student must be able to:
    • Observe and perform laboratory and/or clinical tests in which human subjects, chemical, and/or biological (body fluids, culture materials, and tissue sections) are tested for their physical attributes including, but not limited to, movement, force, texture, color, sound, odor, viscosity, immunological, microbiological and histochemical components.
    • Read and comprehend text, numbers, and graphs displayed in print and on video.
    • Perform comparative observations of text, movement, shapes, graphs, colors etc.
  2. Essential Movement Requirements:
    The PhD student must be able to:
    • Move freely and safely about a laboratory and clinic.
    • Lift a minimum of 25 pounds (depending on the PhD dissertation project chosen by the student, some projects may not require any lifting, while others may require a minimum of 25 pounds weight lifting).
    • Travel to numerous laboratory/clinical sites.
    • Perform moderately taxing continuous physical work.
    • Control equipment and adjust instruments to perform laboratory procedures.
    • Manipulate a computer keyboard.
  3. Essential Communication Requirements:
    The PhD student must be able to:
    • Comprehend technical and professional materials.
    • Follow verbal and written instructions.
    • Effectively, confidently, and sensitively converse with human research subjects.
    • Communicate effectively and efficiently with faculty members, fellow students, staff, and other members of research and health care community to convey information essential for studying and conducting research.
  4. Essential Intellectual Requirements:
    The PhD student must:
    • Possess these intellectual skills: comprehension, measurement, mathematical calculations, problem solving, reasoning, integration, analysis, comparison, self-expression, and criticism.
    • Be able to exercise sufficient judgment to recognize and correct performance deviations.
  5. Essential Behavioral Requirements:
    The PhD student must:
    • Be able to manage the use of time and be able to systematize actions in order to complete professional and technical tasks within realistic constraints
    • Possess the emotional health necessary to effectively employ intellect and exercise appropriate judgment.
    • Be able to provide professional and technical services while experiencing the stresses of heavy workloads, task-related uncertainty, emergent demands, and a distracting environment.
    • Be flexible and creative and adapt to professional and technical change.
    • Recognize potentially hazardous material, equipment, and situations and proceed safely in order to minimize risk of injury to human subjects, self, and other individuals.
    • Support and promote the activities of fellow students and of health care and research professionals. Promotion of peers helps to furnish a team approach to learning, task completion, problem solving, and patient care.
    • Be honest, compassionate, ethical, and responsible. The student must be forthright about errors or uncertainty. The student must be able to critically evaluate her or his own performance, accept constructive criticism, and look for ways to improve. The student must be able to evaluate the performance of fellow students and tactfully offer constructive comments.

It is the student’s responsibility to notify the department if there is any reason they cannot meet the expectations of students in the PhD in Rehabilitation Science program, with or without reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodation will be considered and may be made to qualified students who disclose a disability, so long as such accommodation does not significantly alter the essential requirements of the curriculum and the training program, or significantly affect the safety of others.  Students may contact KU Office for Academic Accommodations  to discuss accommodations.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply to the program. Applicants whose response indicates that they cannot meet one or more of the expectations will be reviewed further by the KU Office for Academic Accommodations, with applicant and faculty input, to determine if any reasonable accommodations are possible to facilitate successful completion of the program requirements.