Dual-title Ph.D. Program in Gerontology

This dual-title degree is an option available to students who have first been admitted to the doctoral program in one of these departments: Communication Studies, Psychology, and Sociology (as of January 2012).  The dual-title degree allows the pursuit of a single degree that incorporates study within a traditional discipline and training in an interdisciplinary field; the student is awarded one degree (Ph.D.) with both titles identified on the diploma (e.g., “Ph.D. in Psychology and Gerontology”). 

This option is designed to appeal to students who are strong in a traditional discipline but also motivated to study across disciplinary lines.  In the course of study, students can avail themselves of disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary breadth.  At the post-doctoral stage, dual-title graduates will have enhanced career and employment opportunities, able to claim expertise in one or both titles of their degree when seeking positions in education and research. 

Plan of Study

The dual-title Ph.D. integrates two programs of doctoral study for students who enter doctoral study having earned a Master’s degree.   To ensure integration of the fields in regard to coursework, examinations, and dissertation, the student’s principal faculty adviser must be a faculty member in both fields; or, if this is not possible, the student must have co-advisers from each of the two fields.

The student completes required coursework in the traditional discipline and required coursework in Gerontology.  Many theory, methods, and content courses for each side of the pairing can jointly fulfill requirements for both programs in the dual-title degree.  Nonetheless, the dual-title student may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements in both programs. 

Course requirements for doctoral study in Gerontology and the partner discipline are those described in the programs’ respective graduate student handbooks.  The course requirements for the Gerontology Ph.D. are those listed in the preceding section of this handbook.

The programs’ respective graduate student handbooks likewise describe procedures for written preliminary material, the Comprehensive Oral Examination, the dissertation, and the Final Oral Examination. 

With the consent of advisers in both programs, any required written preliminary examinations and will be harmonized between the two programs. 

Comprehensive Oral Examination: The dual-title degree student’s candidacy examination committee must be composed of faculty from the partner discipline as well as at least one faculty member from the Gerontology Program.  The dual-title faculty member may be someone who is appointed in both programs.  Typically, the dual-title member will participate in constructing and grading candidacy examination questions in Gerontology.  The comprehensive exam requirements for both programs must be met, including a defense of the prospectus for the dissertation. 

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination: The dissertation topic should integrate both fields and be defended before graduate faculty from both programs.

Students must enroll in the disciplinary Ph.D. program for at least one semester and be in good academic standing before applying to the dual-title Ph.D. Program.  Students may inquire further about the dual-title option and admission procedures by contacting the Graduate Adviser of the Gerontology Doctoral Program.  Before applying, students should likewise consult with their adviser in the department that admitted them to KU. 

Students apply by means of a letter to Graduate Adviser of the Gerontology Doctoral Program.  This letter (2 to 4 pages in length) should describe one’s professional and educational goals in gerontology and also include one’s reasons for pursuing the dual-title option.  The letter should be accompanied by a resume and by a list of all courses previously taken in relevant areas such as sociology, psychology, human development, social welfare, biology, and health services.  The Gerontology program may request access to recent materials that the student filed in order to apply for graduate study at KU (undergraduate and graduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, scores from the Graduate Record Examination, and, for international applicants, proof of proficiency in the English language), or the program may request updates of these materials. 

If accepted to undertake the dual-title Ph.D. option, the student will select or be assigned an adviser who is a member of both programs.  If this is not possible, the student must have two advisers, one from each field.  The student will work with her or his adviser(s) in both programs to draft a joint plan of study that outlines the key courses and seminars that will fulfill the course requirements for both programs, to the extent that these are foreseeable.  The adviser(s) will sign the joint plan of study to indicate discussion and approval of the plan.  As a final step for admission, a staff member in the traditional department will process a “Change in Plan” Progress-to-Degree form to move the student to the dual-title program plan.  The signed joint plan of study should be attached to the “Change in Plan” Progress-to-Degree form.


Why KU
  • One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
  • Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
  • 44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
    —U.S. News & World Report
  • Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
  • 23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times