Developmental Science Doctoral Program
College of Human Development and Education ⋅ Department of Human Development and Family Science ⋅ North Dakota State University
Developmental science is an emerging interdisciplinary field that studies human development across the lifespan in various family, social and cultural contexts. NDSU’s program has exciting, relevant and flexible opportunities for study and research to help you reach your goals.
Note: we are not a clinical or counseling program, and we do not prepare students to be counselors, therapists, or clinical psychologists
At NDSU, you’ll be surrounded by active scholars with cutting-edge research programs and state-of-the-art equipment and labs. A highly supportive environment is designed to help develop your interests and skills in research and teaching. Faculty genuinely care about your welfare and are dedicated to helping you become the best professional you can be.
Follow Your Passion
NDSU’s doctoral program in developmental science allows you to expand on the interests established during your bachelor’s or master’s program in human development and family science, psychology or a similar degree. Prepare for a range of career opportunities to create positive change in your community and the world. While many students pursue careers in academia, others find their passions are best met in work with non-profit, government or private organizations.
Academia – Be well prepared for research and teaching faculty positions in human development, psychology and similar departments at major universities; teaching positions at community and liberal arts colleges; or university administration in areas such as student services.
Global public health – Find regional, national and global opportunities with government, private and non-profit organizations to design interventions and delivery of systems that promote wellbeing. Global public health organizations include World Health Organization and UNICEF.
Work in Africa – Research and implement culturally appropriate ways of introducing health-promoting interventions such as water treatment, vaccination or sexual education. NDSU doctoral student, Courage Mudzongo, was honored for his work on “Determinants of Child Labor in Malawi and Tanzania.”
Education systems – Design interventions and promote social emotional learning to address bullying and violence, increase academic achievement and improve relationships at all levels in the academic community. Learn more about social emotional learning at the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.
Human services – Work in government, public agencies or global non-governmental organizations to directly address, or develop grants for, issues such as child maltreatment, parent training, poverty, hunger, racial equity and education. Human service organizations include the Gates Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation.
Health systems – Work in community coalitions on challenges such as drug abuse prevention and aging in place.
Writing and publishing – Careers in writing and publishing allow you to create assessments for mental health, personality, placements or education; write guides to promote positive student development; or work in textbook and academic publishing.
Business and corporate – Local to global business opportunities in statistics, research, insurance, marketing, consulting or director positions are all a good match for a doctorate in developmental science.
Research at NDSU
Develop your interests in tandem with engaged and passionate faculty and students. Our faculty’s research covers the lifespan and immediately and meaningfully impacts the wellbeing of individuals and families.
At NDSU, you’ll find faculty who study both socioemotional and cognitive development across a variety of ages. Rather than focus on how groups of people at different ages vary from one another, we are concerned with how individuals grow and develop over time. In particular, we focus on how this growth and development relates to family, social and cultural contexts.
Highlights of recent faculty interests and projects include:
· Factors associated with body image disturbances and disordered eating
· Relational and contextual influences on adolescents’ and young adults’ positive and problem behaviors
· Parent training to promote parent and child optimal development
· Preventive interventions for disruptive children
· Psychological well-being in old age
· Object individuation in infancy
· Age-related differences and changes in cognitive and functional abilities, such as driving
In addition, you’ll find a strong emphasis on quantitative methodologies and their application to the study of development. To be able to address research questions in developmental science, a high degree of knowledge in advanced quantitative techniques is required. Our program will provide you with those skills.
We are committed to offering every student accepted into the program a full tuition waiver plus a stipend for graduate assistantship. Assistantship options are available for both research and teaching.
You may enter the program directly after earning a bachelor’s degree, in which case you will earn a master’s degree along the way to completing your doctoral degree. If you already have a relevant master’s degree and have completed a research-based thesis, you also are eligible for the program. Students entering with a bachelor's degree and enrolling full time can expect to complete the program in 5 years. Students entering with a master's degree and enrolling full time should be able to finish the program in 3 years.
Additional Program Requirements Information, including curriculum and course descriptions.
Gerontology Doctorate Dual-degree Option
At NDSU, you can combine studies in developmental science with a Doctor of Philosophy dual-major option in gerontology. The mission of the option is to promote aging-related research and education that uses a discipline-based perspective that serves to enhance the length and quality of life. It represents an intellectually exciting field of study in which students can integrate information from diverse fields of study. Learn more at the Gerontology Dual Major page.
The deadline to apply for the Developmental Science Doctoral Program is February 1. For more application information visit our application page.
For More Information
Joel Hektner, Ph.D., developmental science program coordinator
Program Brochure & Video
Current Students' Research and Information
Visit our current student page to learn more about the research and projects that our current Developmental Science Ph.D. students are doing, the faculty that they are working with, and their education backgrounds.
Student Comments About the Developmental Science Program
“The program does an excellent job of training students in research methods and statistics, and it gives students numerous opportunities to apply their research skills. The faculty members are engaged in a wide range of research projects, so there is something for everyone.”
-Originally from Minot, N.D., Brennan is in her second year of full-time graduate study after earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Concordia College, Moorhead.
“I pursued this program because it was designed in a manner that sets up the student for success. The department has made it a priority to get us the experience we need to receive a quality education and compete for jobs in the future. From day one, we have opportunities to work closely with the faculty in conducting research, grant writing, publishing and teaching.
The Developmental Science Doctoral Program would be a great option for a variety of students due to the interdisciplinary perspective on studying human development and the host of research opportunities available to graduate students.”
-Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Christensen entered the program after earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish education from the University of Central Missouri.