Frequently Asked Questions PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences

Information about the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program at MGH Institute of Health Professions.

Download PDF format of the PhD FAQ

About the Program

Q: What are you looking for in a candidate?
A: The PhD program in Rehabilitation Sciences at the MGH Institute is designed for experienced clinicians in the rehabilitation professions who want to become trained clinical research scientists. To be considered as an applicant, you should have demonstrated success in your field as a clinician and have a strong aptitude for further advanced graduate study and research.

Q: Do I need to be a licensed clinician in the US?
A: Yes, all applicants must be licensed to practice their clinical rehabilitation science related profession in the United States and be eligible for licensure in the state of Massachusetts.

Q: What is the typical class size?
A: We aim for a class size each fall of up to 6 students. Currently we have a total of 15 students who have enrolled over the past three years since the program began in 2012 (5, 6, and 4 students in each of the past three years).Q: What are the advantages of obtaining a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences as opposed to a PhD within my previous field (e.g. PT, OT, or CSD)?

Q: What are the advantages of obtaining a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences as opposed to a PhD within my previous field (e.g. PT, OT, or CSD)?
A: The PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program has a strong interprofessional focus. All core classes are taken together so that students from various clinical backgrounds can benefit from each other’s experiences and perspectives.

Given the increasing need to collaborate across professions within the research world, the doctoral program provides you the skills to succeed in this environment.

While the focus of your individual research concentration and projects will typically relate to your background profession, you benefit from learning from experts and mentors across a variety of rehabilitation related fields.

Q: How long is the program?
A: The PhD program is designed to be completed in an average of four years. You spend the first two years taking classes and gaining research experience. For the last two years, you will be conducting research for the dissertation.

Q: What is the cost of the program?
A: Students receive a scholarship for the first two years of the program that covers all of the tuition costs for the core courses that are offered at the Institute (minimum of 34 credits). 

You are also required to take a minimum of three supplementary courses relevant to your area of research. These supplemental courses are typically taken at the Institute, or more often one of the many top-level universities in the Boston Area.

Tuition costs for these courses may be covered if the courses are taken at institutions with which we have established agreements; otherwise you must cover these additional costs.

Once you are in dissertation status, typically starting in the third year and extending through the fourth year, you are responsible for paying a continuing student fee (approximately equivalent to one credit) each semester until the dissertation is completed.

Q: What other financial aid is available?
A: Please see the financial aid section of the Institute website for information or e-mail for more information.

Q: How does the doctoral fellowship work?
A: In cases where students need funding to defray living expenses, every effort is made to offer a doctoral fellowship which is a clinical and/or research job at one of our affiliated clinical or research sites. The doctoral fellowships require approximately a 50% time commitment and are meant to provide income to defray living expenses for students while you are in the first two years of the doctoral program.

Q: Can I keep my “old” job as my doctoral fellowship on a part-time basis if it is in the local Boston area?
A: Yes, if you have a job in the local Boston area that you would like to keep while you are a student, you may do so, as long as it requires no more than 50% of your time.

Q: What is the daily class and research lab schedule like in the first two years?
A: Courses are scheduled in afternoons and evenings on two days a week, allowing you to have time to work in your 50% doctoral fellowship position as well as becoming actively involved in carrying out mentored research most mornings and some afternoons.

All core courses are offered onsite in our MGH Institute Charlestown Navy Yard campus. Three supplementary courses are taken at either the Institute or at other area institutions.

Q: What is the schedule like in years three and four?
A: After all classes are completed, you are expected to work on your dissertation research project in order to complete the research by the end of year four. At this point you will be determining your own schedule with your research mentors and partners.

Q: Do I need to determine ahead of time whose research lab I will be joining?
A: We encourage all applicants to look carefully at the faculty page of the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program to understand what areas of research are currently being conducted by our affiliated faculty.

It is not required that you identify which faculty member you would like to work with at the time of application, but when this is possible it helps in determining if the program is a match for your research interests. Preliminary discussion related to this will also take place in the interview and in conversation later with the Program Director and others.

Q: What are some examples of research projects that current students are working on?
A: Students are working in a variety of research labs investigating clinically important topics such as:

  • Predictors of outcomes in Spinal Cord Injured (SCI) patients.
  • Development of chewing and swallowing in typically developing infants
  • Determining optimal treatments for lumbar spinal stenosis.
  • Influence of ambulatory biofeedback on retention of vocal motor behavior.
  • Efficacy of visual Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
  • Effect of using minimalist compared to standard footwear on injuries in runners.
  • Effect of oral motor exercises on dysarthria and dysphagia caused by facial nerve injuries.
  • Predictors of success in improving reading comprehension abilities in school-age children
  • Understanding impairments of prosody in ASD.
  • Efficacy of specific interventions for sports-related injuries.

Q: Will I have opportunities to teach while I am a student?
A: The PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program includes core coursework in learning how to be an effective teacher, design a course, and assess students. In addition each student will complete a semester-long teaching practicum. Other teaching opportunities may arise within the Institute depending on your clinical background and experience.

Q: Does having a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences affect my ability to obtain academic positions in other types of academic units such as PT, OT, or CSD departments at other institutions?
A: With your clinical background and licensure in your profession, you will be just as likely to obtain an academic position with a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences as you would a PhD in a different specific rehabilitation field.

In fact, the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences degree may be viewed quite favorably, as bringing a slightly wider and interprofessional perspective to the organization.

Information About Applying

Q: What is the deadline for the application to the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences Program?
A: The priority deadline is February 1, 2017. All of the following materials must be in by this date for your application to be reviewed:

  • Application form
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official GRE report
  • Official transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Proof of clinical licensure status

Note: We will continue to accept applications after the deadline, but only until the class is filled.

Q: Is a personal interview required?
A: Yes, an interview with the Program Director or the Associate Director is required as a final part of your application. You will be contacted by the program office to schedule an interview after the initial review of your application materials.

Q: What are the typical GRE scores and GPA of successful applicants?
A: Most of our accepted students have GPAs of at least 3.5 in their previous undergraduate and Master’s or Clinical Doctorate programs. GRE scores of accepted applicants are typically all above the 50th percentile.

Q: The GRE changed a few years ago. Can I submit scores from the old version?
A: The GRE must have been taken within the last five years. If you have already taken the “old” version of the GRE within the past five years and you are satisfied with your scores, there is no need to take it again. Please go to the ETS website to learn more about the GRE and also to find free test-prep information online.

Q: Do I need to have letters of recommendation only from professors?
A: The letters of recommendation should be from people who know you well enough to judge your ability to be successful as a doctoral research student. Most applicants try to have at least one letter from a professor who knows them as a student.

However, if you have been out working for a number of years and other people such as your employers or supervisors are more likely to be able to judge your potential as a researcher, it is perfectly acceptable to have letters from them.

Q: When will I hear if I am accepted into the program?
A: We complete our application review by early March and you will be informed shortly thereafter about your status.

Q: Is it possible for me to visit the Institute for more information?
A: Yes. We welcome visitors at any time. To arrange a visit, contact

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