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Disability Disciplines: PhD

Disability Disciplines

The Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program offers a multidisciplinary doctoral degree that allows students to specialize on one of the following areas: Applied Behavior Analysis, Audiology, Pathokinesiology, Rehabilitation Counseling, Special Education, and Speech-Language Pathology. This degree will prepare you to effectively implement research-based practice, develop and evaluate new programs and conduct meaningful research on topics that have an impact in your desired field of study. As a doctoral student you will focus on one specialization.


  • Special Education: The Special Education specialization prepares graduates to become university faculty in special education. They receive the necessary training through research, scholarship, and teaching experience in the program.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis with Individuals with Disabilities: This specialization prepares graduates to become university faculty in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Students gain the research and clinical experiences necessary to become leaders in this field through mentored experiences supervised by program faculty.
  • Rehabilitation Counseling: In the Rehabilitation Counseling specialization, doctoral students gain experience in teaching both traditional on-campus and technology-mediated distance courses in conjunction with the MRC program, which is ranked 15th in the nation.
  • Disabilities Studies: Students in this specialization acquire a deeper understanding of the complexities of disabilities in the context of changing demographics and societies. Students are able to engage in research activities with individuals with disabilities to understand and provide solutions to these issues.
  • Speech-Language Pathology: The Speech-language Pathology specialization prepares students to work with individuals of any age who have difficulties communicating, learning to communicate, or feeding and swallowing.
  • Pathokinesiology: The Pathokinesiology specialization is an interdisciplinary program organized around three core content areas: motor control, motor learning and biomechanics and prepares students to be productive in research and to pursue a career in academia.
  • Audiology: The Audiology specialization prepares graduates to become university faculty in audiology. They receive the necessary training through research, scholarship, and teaching experience in the program.

The majority of program graduates will seek employment as faculty in university settings. Some will also work in clinical settings.

Admission Requirements

Application Requirements:

  • Master's degree or equivalent in a field relevant to the specialization
  • A 3.0 or higher-grade point average on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Relevant practical experience with people with disabilities in schools, clinics, or other settings appropriate to the specialization
  • A score or scores at or above the 40th percentile on the GRE verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Letter of Interest

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admission Deadlines

The department has the following application deadline:

  • January 15th for Fall entry

Program Requirements

Visit to learn about the program requirements.

Financial Assistance

The department supports its graduate students with federal training and research grants. As these grants change on a yearly basis, students should contact the department for more information.

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

View profiles of program faculty members on the department website.

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

Association for Behavior Analysis International: ABAI is a nonprofit professional membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: ASHA is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 140,000 members and affiliates who are speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists in the United States and internationally.

Council for Exceptional Children: This is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides professional development, advocates for individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.

Utah Rehabilitation Association: URA is a recognized chapter of the National Rehabilitation Association. It is a private, nonprofit organization with the goal of providing quality rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. USU has a student chapter of the URA.

American Society of Biomechanics: The American Society of Biomechanics (ASB) was founded in 1977 to encourage and foster the exchange of information and ideas among biomechanists working in different disciplines and to facilitate the development of biomechanics as a basic and applied science.

Society of Neuroscience: The Society for Neuroscience is the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 42,000 members in more than 90 countries and 130 chapters worldwide.

International Society for Posture and Gait Research: The ISPGR provides a multidisciplinary forum for basic and clinical scientists to present and discuss the latest research and clinical findings relating to the control of posture, gait and related disorders.

North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity: The North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity is a multidisciplinary association of scholars from the behavioral sciences and related professions. The Society functions to: develop and advance the scientific study of human behavior when individuals are engaged in sport and physical activity; facilitate the dissemination of information; improve the quality of research and teaching in the psychology of sport, motor development, and motor learning and control.

Labs, Centers, Research

Autism Support Services - Education, Research, and Training: ASSERT is a classroom at the Center for Persons with Disabilities that offers training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students, while providing intensive, individualized instruction to preschool children with autism spectrum disorder. USU students can apply to work in the program and earn either university credit or compensation while learning how to effectively teach students with autism spectrum disorder.

Biomechanics Laboratory: The biomechanics laboratory in the HPER building can be rooted back to the mid 1980’s when Steve Dunn began using a dedicated space in the HPER building to teach basic hands-on concepts related to biomechanics. By the early 1990’s Julianne Abendroth-Smith became the director of the laboratory and with her appointment basic kinetic and kinematic equipment was acquired. Eadric Bressel took over as director in 2000 and with the help of Gerry Smith and Chris Dakin have steadily advanced the laboratory with state of the art equipment. The biomechanics laboratories in the CCE building were conceived by Dennis Dolny in 2012. These laboratories will have their grand opening May 3rd 2018.

Center for Persons with Disabilities: The CPD is a nationally recognized research center that joins the expertise of researchers and faculty with community partners to address the most difficult challenges facing persons with disabilities and their families. Research addresses issues that cross fields ranging from biomedicine to education. In clinical experiences, learners join teams of professionals, family members, and individuals with disabilities to deliver services and supports.

Early Intervention Research Institute: The EIRI is an interdisciplinary organization committed to investigating and improving policies and practices that support the well-being of at-risk children as well as those with special needs and their families. The institute conducts research as well as provides training and technical assistance at community, state, national, and international levels.

Edith Bowen Laboratory School: EBLS is one of Utah’s charter schools, offering services to more than 300 students grades K-5. The school, in cooperation with Utah State University, trains more than 200 pre-service teachers preparing to become professional educators, as well as supporting several other departments/colleges on campus, including special education, physical education, music, psychology, and business. Because the school is funded through state funds and donations, no tuition is charged to students.

EmployAbility Clinic: The EmployAbility clinic provides direct services to individuals with disabilities living in the Cache Valley community, particularly those with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other individuals with severe disabilities. In addition, the clinic provides opportunities for advanced instruction for graduate students in the rehabilitation counseling program, and opportunities for conducting research in the area of employment for individuals with disabilities. Clinic staff also work extensively with employers in the development of natural supports within the work environment to ensure continued success following the withdrawal of direct employment support services.

Motor Rehabilitation and Learning Laboratory: Research within the MRL Lab focuses on how the human nervous system learns new motor skills and relearns existing ones during motor recovery following neural damage. Findings from this research are currently providing much-needed evidence to support and optimize the design of targeted rehabilitative training for older adults across a range of age-related physical disabilities.

Sensory Motor Behavior Laboratory: The general research of the Sensory Motor Behavior Laboratory concerns how we plan for and control movements that occur in sequence.

Severe Behavior Clinic: This is an outpatient clinic that serves children and adults with disabilities who engage in problem behavior. The clinic is a cooperative project between the Special Education and Rehabilitation and Psychology departments as well as USU’s Center for Persons with Disabilities. Services provided include functional analysis of problem behavior, function-based interventions, and caregiver training.

SKI*HI Institute: The SKI-HI Institute enhances the lives of young children with special needs, their families, and care givers. The institute’s training and services focus on early intervention and early childhood programming for infants and young children, ages birth to five years, with hearing and vision impairments and other disabilities.