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Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

PhD in Child Study and Human Development

Our faculty have collaboratively built a Child Study and Human Developmentexperience that provides individually designed programs of study in the context of common milestones and shared training objectives. We subscribe to a primary-mentor-mentee model of doctoral preparation; however, doctoral students are supported by our community of scholars in various ways. Through a rigorous combination of research training, coursework and other mentored experiences, and an applied internship, students develop substantive expertise in an area of scholarship, and develop competencies in ten other areas.

The doctoral program prepares students to make important contributions to theory, research, policy, and/or practice and to contribute in diverse settings. Alumni of Eliot-Pearson's doctoral program work in a variety of settings/roles, including:

  • Academia
  • Children's media
  • Congressional policy fellowships
  • Early childhood education
  • Secondary and higher education administration
  • International early childhood consultation
  • International NGOs (e.g., UNICEF, World Bank)
  • Research firms or organizations

Based on Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus, our connections to diverse settings serving children, youth, and families provide students with opportunities to engage in applied research and have practical experiences in the neighboring communities, including Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston.

Criteria for admission

Prospective students are expected to have successfully completed (a) a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree at an accredited college or university; or (b) a master's degree at an accredited college or university. Although applications from prospective students with only an undergraduate degree are welcomed, in prior years, the majority of students who have been admitted to the PhD program have come with a master's degree and several years of experience in child study and human development or a related field. The completion of a research thesis at the undergraduate or master's level and experience working with children or families in applied settings are advantages for those being considered for acceptance into the program.

Students generally work closely with one or two faculty mentors whose interests match those of the student. To learn about the department and program, applicants may attend informational sessions with faculty members and current graduate students.

Applicants with the best chance for acceptance are those who have:

  • A strong academic background
  • Clear and thoughtful goals for their doctoral study that match the strengths and objectives of the department and, more specifically, align with the scholarly interests of one or more faculty who may serve in the role of chair of a doctoral dissertation committee (tenured and tenure-track faculty)
  • Experience working with children and families
  • Demonstrated potential for leadership in the field

Plan of study

There are four major components to the PhD program:

  1. Students are expected to pursue a rigorous course of theoretical and methodological study in general child study and human development, which will become part of the documentation required for the Preliminary and Qualifying Reviews of student progress.
  2. Students are required to develop their ability to transfer theoretical knowledge to applied problems. They may do this by gaining expertise in any of a wide range of applied skills, including assessment techniques and evaluation methods, curriculum design, social policy development, and program development. The development of this expertise will culminate in a supervised internship in an applied setting.
  3. Students must demonstrate their ability to conceptualize, plan and produce scholarly research, culminating in the preparation of a doctoral dissertation.
  4. In addition to course requirements, there are competencies that students must acquire. These competencies, designed to complement the requirements are demonstrated through a variety of mechanisms, including (but not limited to) the course, internship and research requirements.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

PhD student competencies

Learn more about CSHD faculty and research