Frequently Asked Questions PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences

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

Complete the form below to download a PDF of the PhD FAQs


About the Program

Q: What are you looking for in a candidate?
A: The PhD program in Rehabilitation Sciences at MGH IHP is designed for experienced clinicians in the rehabilitation professions who want to become trained clinical research scientists. Applicants should have demonstrated success in their fields as clinicians 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:  Preference is given to applicants who are licensed to practice their clinical rehabilitation science related profession in the United States and be eligible for licensure in the state of Massachusetts. Applicants who do not have clinical licensure may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Q: What is the typical class size?
A: We aim for a class size each fall of up to 6 students. Class sizes have varied between 3 and 8 students per year. Thirty-four (34) students have enrolled in the program since it began in 2012.

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 RS 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 students the skills to succeed in this environment. While the focus of the student’s individual research concentration and projects is typically still related to their background profession, they 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. The first two years are spent taking classes and gaining research experience. For the last two years, the student is completing 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 MGH IHP (minimum of 34 credits). Students are also required to take a minimum of three supplementary courses relevant to their area of research. These supplemental courses are taken at the MGH IHP, 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 these additional costs must be covered by the student.
Once the student has passed the qualifying exam and achieved dissertation status, typically starting in the third year and extending through the fourth year, the student is responsible for paying a continuing student fee (approximately equivalent to one credit) each semester until the dissertation is completed. Complete tuition and fee information can be found here.

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 that is a clinical, teaching, and/or research job at the IHP or 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 they are in the first two years of the doctoral program. Fellowships are not guaranteed for accepted students.

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 the student to have time to work in their 50% doctoral fellowship positions 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 IHP Charlestown Navy Yard campus. Three supplementary courses are taken at either MGH IHP or at other area institutions.

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

Q: Do I need to determine ahead of time whose research lab or group I will be joining?
A: Preference is given to applicants who have secured a formal commitment from a qualified (program-approved) doctoral-level researcher to serve as the applicant’s research mentor if the applicant is admitted to the program.  A complete list of affiliated faculty and their areas of research are can be found on the faculty pages of the PhD RS website. It is also possible that established doctoral-level researchers who are not members of the affiliated faculty can serve as research mentors, but these need to be approved by the program.

Q: What are some examples of research projects that students have conducted for their dissertations?
A: Students are working in a variety of research labs investigating clinically important topics such as:

  • Prediction the Trajectory of Participation after Traumatic Brain Injury: A Longitudinal Analysis (Erler, Whiteneck, Juengst, Locascio, Bogner, Kaminski, & Giacino, 2017)
  • The Association of poor Health with participation 5 years after Traumatic brain injury (Erler, Juengst, Whiteneck, Locascio, Bogner, Kaminski, & Giacino, 2017)
  • Examining Driving and Participation 5 years after Traumatic Brain Injury (Erler, Juengst, Smith, O’Neil-Pirozzi, Novack, Bergquist, Whiteneck, 2017)
  • The effects of Lip-Closure Exercise on Lip Strength and Function Following Full Facial Transplantation: A Case Report (Perry, Richburg, Pomahac, Bueno, & Green, 2017)
  • Lingual and Jaw Kinematic Abnormalities Precede Speech and Swallowing Impairments in ALS (Perry, Martino, Yunusova, Plowman, & Green, 2018)
  • Biomechanical Biomarkers of Tongue Impairment During Swallowing in Persons with ALS (Perry, 2018)
  • Transition to forefoot striking is more efficacious than increasing cadence in reducing loadrates: A randomized controlled laboratory study (Futrell, Gross, Reisman, Mullineaux, Davis, 2018)
  • Fatigue effects on runners’ impact mechanics and footstrike patterns following gait retraining (Futrell, Gross, Mullineaux, Davis, 2018)
  • Effects of a cognitive distraction task on gait mechanics in recently gait-retrained runners ( Futrell, Reisman, Mullineaux, Davis, 2018)
  • Functional Trajectories for Persons with Cardiovascular Disease in Late Life (Keeney, Jette, Fox, 2018)
  • Frailty and Function in Heart Failure: Predictors of 30-Day Hospital Readmission? (Kenney, Jette, Cabral, 2018)
  • Individual and Environmental Determinants of Late-Life Community Disability for Persons Aging with Cardiovascular Disease (Kenney, Jette, 2018)
  • Relationship of Hospitalization with Negative Outcomes for Community Living Adults with Spinal Cord Injury (Mercier, Ni, 2016)
  • Disability after Hospitalization: The Impact of Personal and Health Condition Factors for Persons Living with Spinal Cord Injury (Mercier, Ni, 2016)
  • The Impact and Use of a Telehealth Intervention for Secondary Health Conditions and Healthcare Utilization among Persons with Spinal Cord Injury or Multiple Sclerosis (Mercier, Houlihan, Jette, Ni 2016)
  • Health Characteristics, Mobility Limitations, and Neuromuscular Attributes among Primary Care Patients with Symptomatic Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (Schmidt, Ward, Suri, 2016)
  •  The Association of Neuromuscular Attributes with Performance-based Mobility among Older Primary Care Patients with Symptomatic Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (Schmidt, 2016)
  • Which Neuromuscular Attributes are Associated with Changes in Mobility among Older Primary Care Patients with Symptomatic Lumbar Spinal Stenosis? (Schmidt, 2016)
  • Validation on Clinical Observations of Mastication in Persons with ALS (Simione, Wilson, Yunusova, &Green, 2016)
  • The Effects of Whole-Head Vibration on Jaw Movements are Task-Dependent (Simione, 2016)
  • Polarity and task-dependent effects of transcranial direct current stimulation: Jaw motor function is differentially affected during oral behavior (Simione, 2016)
  • The effect of voice ambulatory biofeedback on the daily performance and retention of a modified vocal motor behavior in participants with normal (Van Stan, 2016)
  • Integration of motor learning principles into real-time ambulatory voice biofeedback and example implementation via a clinical case study with vocal fold nodules (Van Stan, 2016)
  • Ambulatory voice biofeedback: relative frequency and summary feedback effects on performance and retention of reduced vocal intensity in the daily lives of participants with normal voices (Van Stan, 2016)
  • Predicting Second Grade Listening Comprehension using Pre-Kindergarten Measures (Alonzo, Yeomans-Maldonado, Murphy, Bevens, &Language And Reading Research Consortium, 2016)
  • Orthographic Knowledge is a More Accurate Predictor than Phonological Awareness of Poor Word Reading and Dyslexia in Children with Developmental Language Disorder (Alonzo, McIlraith, Catts, &Hogan, 2018)
  • Background Knowledge and Inhibition Impact Knowledge Acquisition and Comprehension in Preschool Children (Alonzo, Hogan, 2018)
  • Can educational technology effectively differentiate instruction for reader profiles? (Baron, Hogan, Schechter, Hook, Brooke, 2018)
  • Working memory and response to intervention for children at risk of reading difficulty (Baron, Hogan, Christodoulou, 2018)
  • Children with dyslexia benefit from orthographic facilitation during spoken word learning (Baron, Hogan, Alt, Gray, Cabbage, Green, &Cowan, 2018)

Q: Will I have opportunities to teach while I am a student?
A: The PhD in RS 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 RS as you would a PhD in a different specific rehabilitation field. In fact,
the PhD RS 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. 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 including a description of the types of research you plan to pursue with your research mentor
• 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: The program may request a personal interview as part of the final application process. If this is the case 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: 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

Back to Top