Applications for September are due December 15. Applications may be submitted after that date but will not receive priority review. Applications must be submitted electronically.
Once logged in, select the college (Computer and Information Science) and then the program (Personal Health Informatics).
Admission Criteria and Requirements
We anticipate that strong applicants to the PhD in Personal Health Informatics program will have some experience in both technology design/development and health, solid grades in past coursework, and outstanding recommendation letters.
You must meet one of the following criteria:
- A bachelor’s or higher degree in a technical discipline (e.g., computer science, information science, computer systems engineering) with either academic coursework or work experience demonstrating a commitment to working in health.
- A bachelor’s or higher degree in a health science discipline (e.g., nursing, medicine, physical therapy, pharmacy, public health, psychology) with either academic coursework in technology (such as programming or design) or work experience in the development, adaptation, or evaluation of consumer- or patient-facing health technology.
You must submit the following materials online:
- Research statement
- Three reference letters
- GRE scores
- TOEFL score (international applicants only)
All scores can be sent directly from ETS using the following codes:
- Institutional Code 3679
- GRE Department Code 0402
- TOEFL Department Code 78
Program applications will be evaluated by an admissions committee comprising members of the Personal Health Informatics doctoral program faculty. Applications received by the priority deadline will be reviewed first and are most likely to receive funded offers, but strong applications received after this time will also be considered.
The research statement should describe your background, experience, and interest in graduate school and research. Evidence of prior research experience should be highlighted. In addition, the statement should address:
- Why you wish to pursue a PhD in Personal Health Informatics versus another field.
- Your technical experience, strengths, and areas that need improvement to work in personal health informatics.
- Your prior exposure to working in health and wellness, and how that experience may impact the work you want to do at Northeastern.
Is there a hard deadline for admission?
Applications for September are due December 15. Applications may be submitted after that date but will not receive priority review. Apply Now
How do I know if I have enough experience to be seriously considered for the program?
PHI faculty receive many resumes and emails from students asking if they have enough experience to be admitted to the program. Please know that we consider each applicant’s entire application, and therefore cannot comment on admission likelihood without seeing a student’s resume, transcript, scores, recommendations, and research statement. Students interested in the program should put themselves in the best light relative to our admission criteria when applying. We will not be able to assess a student’s chances ahead of time.
Can I enter the program in January?
In special circumstances, extremely strong applicants may be admitted to the program starting in January. However, most students will be admitted for September. Students who have special circumstances should contact us to discuss their options.
Can I still be admitted if one of my scores is slightly below the requirements?
Exceptions may be made for exceptional candidates. Students who feel they are a great match for the program should still apply even if a test score does not quite meet the requirement.
Do I need to retake an exam if one of my scores is out of date?
Northeastern University requires valid exam scores before admission. If a student’s old scores demonstrate a likelihood to meet the requirements when retaking the exam, submit those scores with the application—and then submit new scores as soon as they’re available.
I am a computer science or electrical engineering student. Do I need coursework in health to be admitted?
Coursework in health is not a requirement for program admission, but a strong demonstration of interest in health is, such as working in the industry or volunteer work. A student’s dedication to the health field should come through clearly in the research statement and other admission materials.
Are specific science or math courses expected prior to enrollment?
We do not require specific courses other than strong evidence of an interest in health and technology.
Are TOEFL scores required for international students who have attended school in the US?
All international applicants from countries other than Canada, the UK, and Australia must submit TOEFL scores (or equivalent) unless students completed a four-year degree at a US college or university.
Where is Personal Health Informatics listed on the online application system?
Once logged in to Northeastern’s online application system, select the college (Computer and Information Science) and then the program (Personal Health Informatics). While the joint degree program is offered by the College of Computer and Information Science and Bouvé College of Health Sciences, the application system can only list one.
Where do I send my test scores?
All scores can be sent directly from ETS using Institutional Code 3679, GRE Department Code 0402, and TOEFL Department Code 78. Some applicants have trouble entering a department code, but we will receive the scores as long as the institutional code is correct.
Can I apply before my GRE scores are available (with acceptance contingent on good standing)?
An application is considered incomplete without GRE scores. Materials can be submitted without GRE scores, which might help otherwise exceptional candidates, but final decisions cannot be made until the GRE scores are available. If a student’s scores are out of date, they can be submitted until new scores are available.
Are official transcripts required for the application?
Official transcripts are required. Scans can be provided when submitting the online application and are sufficient for review. However, students accepted into the program must send their official transcripts to Northeastern.
Do I need to use the WES service for my transcript?
If the key parts of the transcript (such as courses taken and grades) can be understood by someone who knows English, WES translation is not required. It is typically not needed.
Is there a page limit for the research statement?
Please use as much space as needed, but keep in mind that a well-structured and concise statement may make a much better impression than a long, wordy one.
Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation?
Three letters of recommendation are required. Students can submit more if they feel it will be helpful to the admissions committee. The most valuable recommendations are those from people who work in health technology, computer science, health, or another research area, know the student very well, and can comment on the student’s abilities and suitability for graduate work using specific examples of prior work.
Are all students accepted into the program guaranteed funding?
Our goal is to admit all students with funding, which includes tuition and a monthly stipend. However, doing so may constrain which students we can admit based on available grants. If students have their own source of funding (like a NSF Fellowship or individual scholarship), it must be clearly indicated on the application.
What does funding cover?
Funding covers tuition and provides a monthly stipend for eight months of the year. If managed carefully, the stipend can cover cost of living, housing, and health insurance (purchased through the university).
Do students work in the summer?
Students often arrange to work on research projects during the summer. When they do, they receive a monthly stipend for four months during the summer.
How much of a student’s time in the program is funded?
We anticipate that students who are admitted with funding, who focus on research related to a funded faculty member’s interests—and who remain in good academic standing overall and with their primary advisor—will be funded throughout their studies.
Is any part of the funding taxable?
Students are taxed on the income they receive from the stipend, but not on the tuition remission.
Which specific projects have funded positions?
Prospective students should base their applications on what they most want to do for a PhD, and which faculty are the best fit as mentors. Students should not indicate potential faculty mentors based on which faculty members or projects are most likely to have funding. Students are most successful if they work on a project that is a strong fit with their interests. It is a mistake to enter a doctoral program for any other reason.
Curriculum and Research
Can I take electives not listed in the PHI curriculum?
Electives not on the current list are not excluded, but they must be approved by petition to the PHI faculty. We encourage students to select electives that support their research.
Where will my usability evaluation practicum take place?
We work with each student to find an appropriate placement based on the student’s research interests. Some students may work in hospital settings, while others may work in community centers or places where at-risk individuals and health-related behaviors can be observed.
Will there be an opportunity to teach while in the program?
If interested, students have an opportunity to teach during their studies. Although it is not a formal requirement, the PHI faculty believe all students should have teaching experience as part of the doctoral educational process.
Can I get professional accreditation in a medical field while in the PHI program?
The focus of the PHI doctoral program is on research. Prospective students interested in obtaining additional professional credentials other than the PhD during the program are encouraged to talk to potential advisors about the options. This would likely involve additional time and cost.
When are required courses offered (so I can determine if they fit my schedule)?
Course schedules change every semester. While most courses are offered during the day, some may be scheduled in the evening. That said, if a prospective student is basing the decision to pursue a PhD on class schedules, the program is probably not a good fit. We expect students to immerse themselves in learning and be on campus full time, at least for the first few years of the program. The exact time of required classes should not be a determining factor for whether to enroll in the program.
What do students do during the summer?
Students typically stay on campus to work on research projects over the summer, earning the same stipend as during the year. Some students find jobs or internships related to their research. Faculty will often help facilitate these summer research experiences.
Will I have an opportunity to do exploratory research?
All research in the program is exploratory. In fact, we want students to do research that fundamentally changes healthcare as we know it! Initially, most students join an existing project to gain research experience and skills, but all students are strongly encouraged to identify and pursue new research areas during their program. Faculty will work with students to find funding to support innovative ideas and approaches.
Can I join a research project part-time before entering the program?
Our faculty occasionally hire non-student staff for projects, especially if those staff members plan to matriculate into the program later that year. Prospective students who have the skills to help and are interested in doing research before entering the program should contact potential faculty mentors directly.
Can I enroll in the PhD program part-time?
Completing any PhD program is challenging, and doing it part-time even more so. Our faculty generally recommend against part-time PhD study. However, in special circumstances for highly qualified students, part-time options might be arranged. Part-time students will not, however, receive funding. Some of the program’s core courses are taught in the evenings to accommodate part-time students pursuing other degrees. Other courses, however, are likely to be taught during the day. Part-time students would need to be available on campus for those courses, as well as to fulfill research responsibilities.
Can I participate in the program remotely by taking online classes?
At this time, all students in the program must attend classes and participate in research at Northeastern’s Boston campus. Much of the work students do to earn a PhD degree involves interacting with advisors and other colleagues, as well as learning from a research group. If a prospective student is interested in this program but only available to take classes online, the student should consider the MS in Health Informatics, where courses are available in hybrid and fully online formats while also offering an opportunity to conduct PHI research.
Do I need to live in Boston during the program or can I commute for coursework and research?
Being in a PhD program is a full-time commitment, and much of the learning takes place outside of the classroom when working with colleagues in research labs. As such, students must be prepared to be on campus daily, certainly during business hours and sometimes beyond. We also expect students to take advantage of collaborators, talks, and other resources at the many universities and medical centers in metro-Boston as they learn and develop a research focus. We recommend students live close enough to campus to make this possible.
Must I identify and contact a faculty advisor prior to applying for the program?
Faculty members reviewing applications will identify the Northeastern advisor who is best-suited to the prospective student’s interests. However, prospective students are encouraged to learn about each faculty member’s research interests prior to admission, identify those who are the best mentoring fit, and reach out to them to discuss research opportunities.
Can I work with faculty who are not listed on the PHI website?
A PHI student’s primary advisor must be listed on the Core Faculty page. Other faculty can participate in a student’s research (including faculty at other institutions), but PHI students are required to have an advisor from the PHI faculty. Prospective PHI students interested in working with a Northeastern faculty member not on the PHI faculty list should contact us.
Explore People for more information.
My background is in a health field, but I don’t have programming experience. Is this required for admission?
One of our program goals is to empower students to prototype and lead teams prototyping innovative health systems. This requires some technical skill, specifically the ability to program software. Prospective students who don’t have programming experience are strongly encouraged to take one or more courses before arriving on campus. Further, such students will need to make a substantial effort in the early part of the program to build this skillset while completing other coursework.
What courses do you recommend for building my programming skillset?
Prospective students can strengthen an application by taking an introductory computer science course at a solid research university, and performing well. Taking a follow-up course is even better. The next best option would be to take a class at a community college or even enroll in a free online course. However, since online courses typically don’t have grades, they will not weigh heavily when faculty consider applications.
Additional Program Info
Is the PhD in Personal Health Informatics program accredited?
In general, graduate programs are not accredited on an individual basis. The graduate school and its programs fall under the accreditation of the College of Computer and Information Science, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and Northeastern University. As such, the program, colleges, and university are all accredited both regionally and nationally.
What is the relationship between the MS in Health Informatics, the MS in Health Data Analytics, and the PhD in Personal Health Informatics?
The MS in Health Informatics, the MS in Health Data Analytics, and the PhD in Personal Health Informatics differ in their focus and research emphasis, but students in the MS programs may have the opportunity to take some PhD courses, while PhD students may have the opportunity to take selected MS courses as electives. Courses in the MS programs prepare students to work with existing physician- or provider-facing technologies and data, such as the electronic medical record systems and data used in hospitals and clinics. PhD courses support students as they develop research programs on the next generation of person- or patient-facing personal health informatics technologies.
Can the MS in Health Informatics lead into the PhD in Personal Health Informatics?
Yes, the curriculum and research opportunities available in the MS in Health Informatics program provides an academic pathway to the PhD in Personal Health Informatics. Top students in the MS program who participate in research and wish to continue with doctoral studies may be encouraged by faculty to apply to the PhD program.
Can the MS in Health Data Analytics lead into the PhD in Personal Health Informatics?
Students who complete the MS in Health Data Analytics who are interested in obtaining a doctorate in Personal Health Informatics may be encouraged to apply to the PhD program. Students in the MS program considering the PhD program are encouraged to take one or more PhD-level courses as electives.