Girls talking sign language

The Ph.D. program in the speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Colorado offers an exciting interdisciplinary research and learning environment that focuses on understanding the basic processes of and mechanisms underlying human speech, language and hearing. The Ph.D. program in SLHS prepares students for research or clinical work in a broad range of areas, including both theoretical and clinical perspectives. These areas are based on faculty members' research programs. Interested students are encouraged to explore the focus areas of our reserach faculty.

Our program may be a good choice for you if there is a faculty member who shares your area of interest and expertise. Your program of study is designed by you, your advisor, and your doctoral committee. Because the science of human communication is interdisciplinary by nature, students from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines related to human communication pursue their doctoral degree at CU Boulder. Students take coursework in other departments as well, such as neuroscience, linguistics, cognitive psychology, and education.The first step in applying to the Ph.D. program is to talk with a faculty member who could be a potential advisor. Contact the Director of Graduate Studies if you are uncertain who to talk with or you want to discuss your area of interest. We encourage you to contact potential advisors to explore possible areas of research for your doctoral program.  While by no means comprehensive, the descriptions of faculty advisors and their areas of interest provide a good place to start this exploration. 

The traditional Doctoral Program is designed with flexibility to accommodate your research and clinical interests. Each student works with his or her faculty advisor to develop a blueprint of the doctoral program, or a plan of study. You may choose courses from within SLHS as well as other departments on campus. Doctoral students will be expected to participate in research each semester they are enrolled. In the beginning, this may involve a project suggested by the advisor. By the time you are developing a dissertation topic, you are also working more independently.

Please see the drop downs for an overview of the process of doctoral study. Further information is provided in the SLHS Graduate Program Handbook.

A student’s advisory committee will consist of a minimum of three full-time SLHS graduate faculty who hold a doctoral degree, two of whom will be regular faculty. The committee will be chaired by a member of the committee who is a Regular Member of the Graduate Faculty (as defined by the Graduate School). This committee will approve the student’s degree plan and evaluate the preliminary examination paper or project. The chair of the committee will be the advisor and will assume the following responsibilities:
  • Oversee doctoral practica
  • Assure pre-dissertation research experiences
  • Facilitate and monitor student's progress
  • Provide coursework in major area

Students will select an advisory committee during the first semester of their program. Then the student will develop a plan of study in conjunction with the advisory committee during the first year of doctoral study. The plan of study will detail the student’s goals, coursework to be completed to meet requirements, and a proposed schedule for completion of doctoral work. The plan of study will become the student’s blueprint for his or her doctoral work. The advisory committee must approve the plan of study, which may be amended later with the committee approval.

Departmental requirements for doctoral students are intended to allow maximum flexibility in developing a plan of study.  All students take three doctoral seminars, at least two courses in statistics, and a research tools course, in addition to coursework in their own research area. There is no foreign language requirement in the department.  The Graduate School specifies that not more than 25% of course work can be taken through independent study.

Course Work Credit Hours
SLHS Doctoral Seminars 9
Major Content Area 15
Teaching and Research Practicum 6
Statistics and Research Tools 12-15
Dissertation 30

Upon approval of the advisory committee, a maximum of 21 credit hours of coursework may be transferred to fulfill the above requirements. This should be accomplished by the end of the first semester of doctoral study. Requests must be made to the Graduate School on a form, which they provide; an official transcript must accompany the request.

In order to continue in the program a grade point average of 3.5 or better on coursework every semester will be required as well as continued recommendation of the SLHS faculty advisory committee. Grades below B will not count towards a doctoral degree.

The minimum registration requirement for doctoral students is six semesters beyond the attainment of an acceptable bachelor’s degree. Two semesters of minimum registration credit may be allowed for a master’s degree from an accredited institution; however, at least four semesters of minimum registration credit, two of which must be consecutive in one academic year, must be earned for work taken at CU Boulder.

Students will participate in an ongoing research program every semester during the doctoral program. Often the student begins working with data from his or her advisor, with the student gradually assuming greater responsibility and becoming increasingly independent. Prior to presenting a dissertation prospectus, the student should be the principal investigator on a project that is submitted for convention presentation and, hopefully, publication.

Students can find information about research support on the Graduate School's website.

Preliminary Examination
The student will demonstrate competence for doctoral study to the advisory committee during the first year of the doctoral program through an independent written examination in the first year. Students will receive a reading list related to their interests. The committee must reach consensus regarding adequacy of performance. If performance is inadequate, a written statement detailing areas needing development will be provided for the student by the committee. Unsatisfactory performance on the preliminary examination may be grounds for dismissal from the program.

Comprehensive Examination
Before admission to candidacy for the Ph.D., the student must pass a comprehensive examination in the field of concentration, the minor area and related fields as shown on the student’s plan of study. The examination will be both written and oral and will test the student’s mastery of a broad field of knowledge, not merely the formal course work that has been completed. The specific nature of the comprehensive exam will be determined by the student and the student’s advisory Committee. The advisory committee must approve the proposal for the examination. The oral part of comprehensive examination is open to members of the graduate faculty. The committee must reach consensus regarding adequacy of performance on the exam. The student must be registered on the Boulder campus during the semester in which the comprehensive examination is taken. Following the semester in which the comprehensive exam is taken and passed the student must be registered each fall and spring semester for dissertation hours until graduation.

Students must prepare a prospectus for the dissertation. This document will be presented to the dissertation committee two weeks before the prospectus meeting. The student is expected to present the prospectus at this meeting and provide the committee with an opportunity to discuss the plan. The Committee must reach consensus for approval of the prospectus. Students contemplating use of human subjects in their research must obtain approval from the Human Research Committee before beginning such research. Guidelines and forms for submission of research protocols to the Committee are available at the Graduate School.

Final Defense
After the completed dissertation has been accepted by the student’s advisory committee, the student has a final oral defense of the dissertation, which is open to the public. The committee must reach consensus with regard to approval of the document and defense. The Graduate School publishes a list of deadlines for each semester; the student is expected to obtain this information from the graduate school for the semester in which completion of the program is anticipated. Students should reference the Graduate School's website for information on thesis & dissertation submission. Students planning to graduate must contact the Graduate Program Manager at the beginning of the semester in which they plan to receive the degree.