Program Overview

Rehabilitation Science is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on human function, disability, and rehabilitation from the perspectives of the health sciences, psychology, engineering, and related fields. The environment is highly collaborative, with strong mentors and state-of-the-art facilities. While in the PhD Program, students develop a wide range of skills, including research and teaching; presenting nationally, learn to write grants and publish manuscripts. 

Mission: The mission of the University of Colorado Rehabilitation Science PhD program is to discover and apply knowledge that improves health and well-being. The mission is fulfilled through developing national leaders in rehabilitation research who advance evidence-based practice. 

Vision: The University of Colorado Rehabilitation Science PhD Program will be a premier training program in rehabilitation research with a reputation for excellence in innovation, research, teaching, and community engagement to advance clinical care.  

Who We Are: CU Rehabilitation Science is comprised of core and associated faculty, postdoctoral fellows, students and research assistants with a broad background, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, medicine, psychology, engineering, and public health, all working together to improve the lives of people who live with disabilities. 

Rehabilitation Science PhD Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Critically analyze and integrate research findings from specialized disciplines to address complex problems of physical disablement.
  2. Design and implement rigorous, innovative, and ethical research that will advance theoretical and/or applied principles of clinical practice in rehabilitation.
  3. Disseminate findings of original research using standard scientific oral and written formats.
  4. Compete for funding from national agencies to support interdisciplinary research and educational initiatives in rehabilitation.
  5. Teach graduate level courses in a selected area of specialization within the field of rehabilitation.
  6. Effectively communicate with clinicians, research scientists, and students in the field of rehabilitation and its affiliated disciplines using the common language of disablement.
  7. Serve in leadership roles for professional activities that will advance the science and practice of rehabilitation medicine.

Students typically require 4-5 years of full time study to complete the required curriculum. The program requires a total of 60 semester credit hours (sch), consisting of 30sch of core coursework and 30sch of doctoral thesis credit. All coursework and a written preliminary examination are completed during the first 2 years of the program. Following an oral comprehensive examination, students complete their dissertation research and thesis examination in years 3-5.

Required core coursework includes lecture- and laboratory-based instruction in foundations of Rehabilitation Science, statistical methods and data management, scientific writing, research ethics, professional skills, and electives in the student’s primary area of specialization.


Preliminary Exam

At the end of the first year of graduate study, students must complete a written preliminary examination to demonstrate successful progress in the program. The preliminary examination assesses core content knowledge from coursework completed in the first year (Foundations in Rehabilitation Science, Research Ethics, and Biostatistics).​

Comprehensive Exam

​Students are required to pass a comprehensive examination to advance to candidacy for the PhD. The Comprehensive Examination Committee (CEC) will administer the student's comprehensive examination no later than Jan 1 in the third year of enrollment. Students must have completed 30 didactic credit hours and have completed or be enrolled in all required and elective course work prior to obtaining approval to schedule the Comprehensive Exam. Additionally, students must be registered for at least five thesis credit hours during the semester in which the examination is taken (this includes exams taken in the summer semester). Students defending between semesters must register for the subsequent semester.


A student must present his or her research results and plans to the TAC at annual meetings after advancing to candidacy. The Program Director, upon recommendation from the TAC Chair, must approve the thesis prior to the defense. Once approved, the student is responsible for scheduling the Thesis Defense. The student must be registered for five thesis credit hours in the semester of the thesis defense and must fill out required forms for scheduling an examination at least 4 weeks before the Thesis Defense date. Students defending between semesters must register for the subsequent semester. Instructions and requests to schedule the PhD Thesis Defense can be obtained from the Graduate School Office or website.​

Following the comprehensive exam, students focus on their final research thesis. All students must take a total of 30 sch of doctoral thesis credit and should meet with their thesis committee at least once per year.


Required Coursework

Course NumberCourse Name
RHSC 7000Foundations in Rehabilitation Science (2 sch)
RHSC 7001Rehabilitation Science Seminar I (1 sch)
RHSC 7001Rehabilitation Science Seminar II (1 sch)
RHSC 7910Research Practicum in Rehabilitation Science I (3 sch)
RHSC 7911Research Practicum in Rehabilitation Science II (3 sch)
RHSC 7002Professional Skills in Academia (2 sch)
See Coursework Document for optionsBiostatistics I (3-4 sch)
See Coursework Document for optionsBiostatistics II (3-4 sch) 
See Coursework Document for optionsStatistics/Data Management Elective (1-3 sch)
See Coursework Document for optionsScientific Writing (1-2 sch)
See Coursework Document for optionsResearch Ethics (1 sch)
See Coursework Document for optionsSpecialization Electives (5-8 sch)
RHSC 8990
Doctoral Thesis Credit (30 sch)

Note: sch = semester credit hours

Download Coursework Document

Stipend: At least $34,000

Paid Tuition: $8,000-$20,000/yr

Paid Health Insurance: $50,000/yr Fully Pay Off Federal Student Loans with the NIH Loan Repayment Program

Other Funding Opportunities ​Available
  • Teaching in a variety of curriculums including DPT, other health professions and undergraduate
  • Participation in meetings and conferences
  • Inter-and-Intra- Professional connections across campus and the nation, including professionals in academia, clinic settings, industry, and legislature
  • Clinical Opportunities through research and service activities including Dawn Clinic and Clinical Research on site
  • Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) offers Education, Training and Career Development (ETCD) programs to provide clinical-translational scientists and trainees with knowledge, training and career skills. ETCD offerings span critical periods, from the beginning of research training at the pre-doctoral level through senior faculty. Learn more about the CCTSI.

The campus offers additional professional development opportunities. Learn more about the Career Development Office.

The Rehabilitation Sciences PhD Program is committed to diversity and equity in the recruitment and retention of students. We actively seek persons from underrepresented populations, which include, but are not limited to, underrepresented ethnic groups, disabled persons, and those students who are economically disadvantaged, from rural areas, or first-in-family college graduates.

Application Fee Waivers | Waivers are available for students who meet certain criteria. Learn more about Application Fee Waivers.

Office of Disability, Access, and Inclusion |  Recognizes, welcomes, and celebrates disability as an integral part of a diverse health professions campus and workforce.  To facilitate inclusion, we partner with students and programs to identify opportunities to create and promote meaningful access. Learn more about the ODAI.

Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement | implements best practices as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion for students, staff, faculty and visitors at CU Anschutz. Learn more about the ODEI&CE.

LGBTQ+ HUB | Creates and maintains an inclusive campus environment for LGBTQ+ and allied students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors on campus and within the Aurora community. Learn more about the LGBTQ+ Hub.

Office of Inclusion and Outreach | Providing sustained, comprehensive programs across all educational levels to promote access and increase numbers of underrepresented populations in healthcare, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and research professions. Learn more about he OIO.

Undocumented Student Services | Serves DREAMer and mixed status students at all intersections of documentation and equity needs, to support DREAMers in achieving their degree, to create an equitable educational environment, and to advocate alongside students for continuous improvements in the DREAMer college experience. Learn more about Undocumented Student Services.

Institutional Overview

Aerial of Anschutz Medical Campus

About the Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz)

CU Anschutz is a healthcare campus dedicated to fostering collaboration among students, researchers and clinicians and the largest academic health center between Chicago, Texas and the West Coast.

The campus consists of three zones that promote collaboration and innovation:

  • Education zone with remarkable facilities for training future physicians and other health professionals;
  • Research zone with ground-breaking, internationally renowned research;
  • Clinical care zone with the University of Colorado Hospital and The Children's Hospital, the University of Colorado School of Medicine's primary adult and pediatric hospital partners, nearby.

CU Anschutz is home to six schools and colleges:

  • School of Dental Medicine
  • School of Medicine
  • College of Nursing
  • Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Colorado School of Public Health
  • Graduate School


About CU Physical Therapy

The University of Colorado has established a tradition of excellence in the educational preparation of physical therapists for over 70 years. Our strong ranking is linked to our superb faculty, our location on the state-of-the-art Anschutz Medical Campus​, commitment to the education of our students and a strong network of supportive alumni and clinical faculty throughout the Rocky Mountain Region and the country. Learn more about the physical therapy program.

About Colorado

CU denver to dia skyline

The Colorado Trail Explorer, developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, includes 17,099 trails and 1,431 trailheads. The mapped trails include 5,683 miles of hiking trails, 6,821 miles of mountain biking trails, 24,906 miles of motorized trails and unpaved roads, and 1,746 miles of paved bike trails. 

Students spend a lot of their free time exploring all that Colorado and the immediate Denver area has to offer. The Anschutz Medical Campus is 25 minutes away from Downtown Denver. 

300 Days of Sunshine

53 Mountains over 14,000ft

42 State Parks

8 Mountain Ranges

7 National Forests

5 River Systems

Rehabilitation Science PhD Program

CU Anschutz

Education II South

13121 East 17th Avenue

Aurora, CO 80045

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