Current Graduate Handbook

Degree Requirements

Coursework

All students earning an MS degree, as part of the 30- credit minimum must complete the following course work: (a) a general core consisting of 21 semester credits, and (b) 9 semester credits in their specialization. The core requirement includes foundation courses in Human Development and Family Relations, two research methods courses, a statistics course, and thesis. Courses are to be chosen by the student in consultation with the committee chair and approved by the supervisory committee prior to enrollment in the courses. 

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Master’s students have six years to complete all degree requirements (from the time of matriculation). Coursework older than six years must be repeated. Department policy states that out-of-date coursework will not be revalidated.

Thesis

MS students are encouraged to begin thinking about the thesis topic, familiarize themselves with related literature, and begin forming their supervisory committee by their second semester. A student cannot officially begin thesis research until a thesis proposal has been approved by the supervisory committee and the project has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). 

For a description of thesis credits, see HDFS Graduate Courses in Mentored (Non-classroom) Learning.

Coursework

All students earning an MHDFS degree, as part of the 33-credit minimum, must complete the following course work: (a) a general core consisting of 18 semester credits and (b) 15 semester credits in their specialization. The core requirement includes Human Development Theories and Family Relations Theories, other foundations courses in Human Development and Family Relations, one research methods course, a statistics course, a practicum, and a capstone. Courses are to be chosen by the student in consultation with the committee chair prior to enrollment in the courses.   

MHDFS students have six years to complete all degree requirements (from the time of matriculation). Coursework older than six years must be repeated. Department policy state that out-of-date coursework will not be revalidated.

Practicum and Capstone

Graduate Practicum Handbook (HDFS 6980)

For a description of appropriate practicum and capstone projects, see HDFS Graduate Courses in Mentored (Non-classroom) Learning.

MS Program

A Master’s of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy means that a student participates in a Master’s thesis (Plan A). The MS and MMFT specializations complete the requirements to be a Marriage and Family Therapist. This specialization provides professional and research development for students who are primarily interested in marriage and family therapy as a career.

MMFT Program

Students who choose to pursue a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy are NOT required to write a thesis (Plan C). Instead, these students complete a culminating experience in place of the thesis. Students who typically go through the MMFT program are those who will primarily go into professional practice. 

Coursework

All students earning a master’s in MFT complete 27 credits of theory and content courses related specifically to marriage and family therapy. Further, students complete 8 credits of practicum courses during which they complete face-to-face clinical hours while under direct supervision. Additionally, students complete 6 credits of family theory courses, as well as a graduate level statistics course. The MS degree requires an additional 6 credits of thesis work.

Total credits: MMFT: 47, MS: 53

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Policies and Procedures Manual

Coursework

Doctoral students develop their primary and secondary emphases (family relations, human development, MFT) by their choices of elective coursework and the dissertation. The MFT area of concentration requires special admission.

Post-MS

Students who have completed a Master’s degree and who are pursuing a PhD (Post-MS) must complete the common 35-hour core, which includes a minimum of 14 credits for dissertation research. Additionally, Post-MS students must complete 15 credits in their area of concentration (either family relations or human development), and 12 elective credits. The required and recommended courses for Post-MS PhD total 62 credits.            

Post-BS

Post-BS PhD students must complete the common 53-hour core, which includes a minimum of 14 credits for dissertation research. Additionally, Post-BS students must complete 15 credits in their area of concentration (either family relations or human development), and 15 elective credits. The required and recommended courses for Post-BS PhD total 83 credits.

View Course Requirements

Dissertation

Doctoral students are encouraged to begin thinking about the dissertation topic, familiarize themselves with related literature, and begin forming their supervisory committee early in the doctoral program. This must be completed by their third semester. A doctoral student cannot officially begin dissertation research until a dissertation proposal has been approved by the supervisory committee and the project is approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).The Application for Candidacy form, which requires completion of the comprehensive exams, must be filed at least three months prior to the dissertation defense. Students who did not complete a thesis as part of their master’s degree may be asked to complete the research competency prior to submitting a dissertation proposal. 

PhD students have eight years to complete degree requirements (from the time of matriculation). Coursework older than eight years must be repeated. Out-of-date coursework will not be revalidated.

*Note. For additional information, see the comprehensive exam and competencies sections in the handbook.

For a description of dissertation credits, see HDFS Graduate Courses in Mentored (Non-classroom) Learning

MFT Area of Concentration

Clinic Operations Manual


Important links:


PhD Annual Review

Competencies (Start of Program 2018 or later)

Competencies (Start of Program 2017 or prior)

Graduate Student Procedures and Policies

Department Degree Change Request

Change of Master's Degree Type

This includes a switch from plan A (MS) to plan C (MMFT or MHDFS) or from a plan C (MMFT or MHDFS) to plan A (MS)

  • Submit a revised statement of purpose. This statement requires a rationale for the change of degree, how the proposed change will support career objectives, and a revised plan for program of study (courses plus ideas for the thesis or practicum/capstone) to the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC).
    • The revised statement of purpose must be signed by the student’s committee chair (or temporary sponsor). Any change involving the MS with MFT specialization or the MMFT degree must also be approved by the MFT Program Director before submitting to the GPC.
  • The signed statement of purpose is forwarded to the Faculty Graduate Coordinator and the HDFS Graduate Education Committee for approval.
  • The student is notified of the decision. If the change is approved, the student completes and submits the Department Degree Change Request form.

Change from PhD to MS

  • Submit a revised statement of purpose to the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC). This statement requires a rationale for the change of degree, how the proposed change will support career objectives, and a revised plan for program of study (courses plus ideas for the thesis).
    • The revised statement of purpose must be signed by the student’s committee chair (or temporary sponsor). Any change involving the MS with MFT specialization, or the PhD with MFT area of concentration must also be approved by the MFT Program Director before submitting to the GPC.
  • The signed statement of purpose is forwarded to the Faculty Graduate Coordinator and the HDFS Graduate Education Committee for approval.
  • The student is notified of the decision. If the change is approved, the student completes and submits the Department Degree Change Request form.

Transfer Request from MS to Post-BS PhD

  • Apply to the department PhD program (do not resubmit graduate application through School of Graduate Studies) by submitting a revised statement of purpose. This statement requires a rationale for the change of degree, how the proposed change will support career objectives, and a revised plan for program of study (courses plus dissertation plan and timeline) to the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC).
    • The revised statement of purpose must be signed by the student’s committee chair (or temporary sponsor). Any change involving the MS with MFT specialization, or the PhD with MFT area of concentration must also be approved by the MFT Program Director before submitting to the GPC.
  • Along with the revised statement of purpose, submit to the GPC: undergraduate and graduate transcripts, GRE scores, and three current letters of recommendation.
    • At least one letter of recommendation must come from a current faculty member in the department who supports your transition into the PhD program.
    • Typically, this faculty member will state in the letter that they want to serve as your PhD dissertation committee chair and are willing to work with you for the duration of the program.
  • Completed documents will be forwarded to the Faculty Graduate Coordinator and the HDFS Graduate Education Committee for approval.
  • The applicant will be interviewed by the HDFS Graduate Education Committee.

If approved, the student completes and submits the Department Degree Change Request form.

To request conference travel funding as a graduate student

  1. You must be presenting at the conference you want to attend
  2. Apply for funding through the Office of Research and Graduate Studies by using the travel funding application.
    1. Be sure to include your official letter of acceptance
    2. The department has to have your official letter of acceptance before your travel authorization may be processed.
  3. The department office will be notified when you apply for RGS funding and will respond to their email with approval/denial and amount of approved funding
    1. First author will receive $750 from the department
    2. Second author will receive $500 from the department
    3. Third author will receive $400 from the department
    4. No payment from the department for any authors beyond the first three
    5. Amount of funding provided by the department depends on the official order of authorship
  4. Fill out travel authorization form and email it to Nissa Boman. Three different ways you can handle the expenses:
    1. Pay for everything personally and then turn in your receipts after you travel
    2. Pay for airfare and registration personally and turn in receipts to Nissa soon after to get reimbursed for those items before you travel
    3. Borrow a department travel card for airfare and/or hotel; borrow a regular Pcard for registration
      1. No out-of-pocket expenses up front for you
      2. Funding limits will still apply
    4. After returning from the conference, email receipts to Nissa Boman right away so you can get your reimbursement

For master’s students, the department will help fund one trip during your degree program, provided you are in good standing and making progress towards your degree.

For doctoral students, the department will help fund one trip PER YEAR during your degree program, provided you are in good standing and making progress towards your degree.  It is still one trip per year no matter how many papers you help author.

Students with a grievance regarding academic matters should meet first with the faculty member involved. If the matter is not successfully resolved, the student may meet with the faculty graduate coordinator and/or the department head.  For students in the marriage and family therapy specialization or area of concentration the MFT program director will also be involved in reviewing a grievance. If the matter is still unresolved, the student is referred to the USU General Catalog to follow the procedure outlined there or in article VII of the Code of Policies and Procedures for students at Utah State University.

Each semester all graduate students are reviewed by faculty who know them through coursework, assistantships, or related activities from that semester. This review is different from the annual self-assessment for PhD students, which is conducted by their supervisory committee.  Each student is evaluated for strengths and deficient areas, and faculty comments are documented.  Reviews are retained electronically and available to the GPC, faculty graduate coordinator, and department head. If findings from the qualifying review indicate that problems fit within the category of a severe deficiency and the problems are not alleviated immediately, step two of the process will be implemented.

Success in graduate work requires certain skills and behaviors. Students are expected to put forth quality work, meet deadlines, and to behave professionally, taking care to discuss sensitive issues in confidential ways, to approach faculty, staff, and peers with respect, and respond to feedback given by faculty and supervisors.  Satisfactory progress includes adequate development in: research activities, coursework, teaching, clinical training (MFT), department assigned responsibilities (e.g., assistantships), and collegiality and collaboration, as appropriate to the student program and degree.

If issues/concerns are noted in the qualifying review, the student is invited to a meeting with the faculty graduate coordinator, department head, and possibly the student’s committee chair (temporary sponsor) or faculty member with the concern. Typically, these are resolved via discussion. In some cases, a student must complete a remediation plan. In extreme situations, the student will be advised to leave the program.

Most graduate students start their graduate training because they feel it is necessary to prepare them for their chosen profession. Along the way, a number of factors impact the extent to which this training continues to be effective for them. For most students, there remains a fit between their training and their career goals. Some students, however, discover that the program itself, or the time needed to commit to a graduate program, is not what they expected it to be. Other students change their educational and professional goals during (or as a result of the process), and some students simply lack the time/motivation/ability/skills to perform effectively within the graduate program.

For students in these latter categories, one solution is for them to acknowledge a mismatch or a shift in their educational and occupational goals, and then seek out a different graduate program (career) that is more suited to their evolved interests and expectations. Nevertheless, a few students, although struggling to master the skills to be effective, continue with their degree program. Because HDFS graduates pursue careers that require involvement with others, it is imperative that all of our graduate students achieve a base level of competence and professional skills (including effective writing and communication, time management, and others) prior to graduation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the department to collectively identify those students who: 1) have career goals that are not addressed within our graduate program, 2) are struggling to master the skills or knowledge covered in our graduate program, and 3) are severely lacking in time/motivation/ability/skills. For these students, there are two options: 1) remediation, or 2) termination from graduate program.

Excusing a student from the program is a difficult situation for both the student and the faculty, and it may also negatively impact other current students. Because of this, the department will work with students who exhibit severe deficiencies to develop a workable remediation plan. Terminating a student from the program is a very rare situation that we attempt to avoid.

The process for determining whether or not a student should receive remediation (or termination) is subjective by nature, requiring the utmost sensitivity for all involved. What follows are guidelines for determining whether or not a student may be inappropriate for the HDFS Graduate Program and the procedures for dealing with this situation. When a student disagrees with the feedback they receive from faculty or supervisors, the student is expected to behave professionally by engaging that person directly (not passively or discussing it as a problem with other students and faculty). Likewise, students are expected to be sensitive and respectful when giving feedback to others, recognizing that their advice may be ill-timed or inappropriate to the situation. All students are expected to demonstrate emotional strength and stability in order to avoid negative effects on their fellow students, as judged by HDFS faculty.

Students are expected to perform well in class and to behave professionally in their interactions with other students and faculty. Students must maintain a 3.00 grade point average at all times while enrolled in the Graduate Program. Graduate students may earn no more than two “C's" in their courses. Grades of C- or lower will not be counted toward program requirements. Students who do not meet these minimum academic requirements will first be put on academic probation, and an additional semester of sub-C grades will be grounds for termination. Students may not plagiarize work for their courses, or for professional/scientific outlets, and must adhere to the USU Honor Code. 

Graduate students are expected to maintain ethical and legal obligations to faculty and undergraduate and fellow graduate students with whom they interact. Preserving confidentiality is especially important, including the student’s identity. Confidentiality can be broken in many ways including careless talk in public places, leaving confidential notes in inappropriate places (e.g., observation rooms, conference rooms during practicum, or the staff assistant’s office), and thoughtless conversation. Graduate students are expected to maintain professional relationships with faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students; and to follow the university standards and policies for sexual harassment, grievance procedures, and procedures for working with persons with disabilities. 

Remediation Procedures

The procedures used in remediation or termination of a student from the HDFS graduate program are as follows:

Any faculty member who believes a student is displaying a deficiency in skills or progress, and has attempted unsuccessfully to resolve it, will discuss the concern with the department head and the faculty graduate coordinator prior to meeting with the student. The department head, faculty graduate coordinator, and committee chair (temporary sponsor) will decide whether the problem is severe enough to warrant the label “severe deficiency.”

Students will be notified of a severe deficiency by the department head, the faculty graduate coordinator, and the committee chair (temporary sponsor). The student and their committee chair (temporary sponsor) will strategize and outline specific steps that the student can take to resolve this deficiency and decide on a time schedule for accomplishing this. This plan, which may include actions for faculty as well as the student, will be finalized in writing with a copy given to the student, a copy to remain in the student's file, and copies for the department head and the committee chair (temporary sponsor). If the student satisfactorily resolves the deficiency, he/she will receive a letter notifying him/her of such with copies placed in his/her file and sent to both the department head and the faculty graduate coordinator.

Students who do not satisfactorily resolve their deficiencies prior to the agreed upon date will meet with the department head, the faculty graduate coordinator, and the committee chair (temporary sponsor) in order to discuss their termination from the department. These students will receive a letter from the department head notifying them of their dismissal from the program.

Remediation Form

  • New and continuing students who want to be considered for assistantships (teaching assistantships – TAs, research assistantships – RAs) must complete an assistantship application which will be sent via email from the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC), approximately three months prior to the beginning of each semester. To be considered for assistantship support, continuing graduate students must have submitted to the School of Graduate Studies a Supervisory Committee form and a Program of Study form at the end of their second semester (master's students) or third semester (PhD students).
  • Graduate Instructors (GIs) will TA in the course before becoming the instructor of record. They also attend a graduate instructors forum the semesters before and during teaching as an instructor of record. They receive feedback on their syllabus and receive mentorship on teaching skills.
  • All teaching assistants and graduate instructors are required to take the Teaching Assistantship Orientation course (HDFS 6961) prior to beginning their assistantships. This course provides students with an introduction to becoming a teaching assistant in a university classroom.
  • As part of the qualifying review process, all teaching assistants, research assistants, and graduate instructors will be evaluated by their faculty supervisor each semester. Poor evaluations of any graduate assistant or graduate instructor will result in discontinuation of future TAs, RAs, or GIs.
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PhD Assistantships

Prior to being awarded an assistantship, students' progress to degree completion will be evaluated. Only students who are making adequate progress towards degree completion will be considered for departmental assistantships or for graduate instructorships.

PhD Tuition Waivers/Awards

Tuition waivers and awards are available to PhD students who have a .50 asistantship (20 hours) for the entire semester that it is awarded, and meet the following criteria:

  • Full-time
    • Registered for ≥9 graduate credits; or
    • Registered for ≥6 graduate credits if employed as a graduate assistant for ≥15 hours per week; or
    • Registered for 3 graduate credits with all required coursework completed and only the research component of the degree remaining (the student’s Program of Study must have been submitted to the School of Graduate Studies); or
    • Registered for ≥3 graduate credits during the semester of the final thesis/dissertation defense or, in a non-thesis degree program, the last semester of coursework required on the student’s Program of Study
    • Nonresident, domestic students may receive nonresident tuition awards or waivers for no more than 12 continuous months
    • For additional information regarding Utah residency requirements, visit the Admissions residency page.
  • Matriculated
  • Limited to 83 credits for Post-BS and 62 credits for Post-MS HDFS PhD students
  • Credits on Program of Study
  • Program of Study requirements:
    • Classes covered by tuition awards must be on the final doctoral Program of Study
    • ≤3 credits of 3000-4990 level courses are eligible
    • Courses with grades of C- or lower cannot be included on the Program of Study and are ineligible for tuition awards
    • Programs of Study must be submitted by the end of the second semester for master’s students and by the end of the 3rd semester for doctoral students
  • Additional Eligibility Requirements for EEJCEHS College Pool Tuition Awards:
    • Students must maintain a ≥3.0 cumulative GPA
    • Tuition awards are available for ≤12 credits for fall/spring semesters, ≤6 credits for summer semester
    • Courses added after 15th day of classes are not eligible for tuition awards
    • Tuition awards do not pay for any portion of a dropped course after the 100% refund date
    • Tuition awards cover the cost of on-campus courses only
    • No more than 6 credits of 6970 (thesis) or 15 credits of 7970 (dissertation) qualify for tuition awards