PhD in Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS)

The Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS) PhD program aims to develop rehabilitation scientists whose research questions are chosen based explicitly on their potential to generate fundamental knowledge that will enhance health, improve quality of life, and reduce illness and disability.

Our doctoral training model is based on that of mentored research, wherein students devote the majority of their time to research activities beginning in the first semester and becoming increasingly independent. Students may choose rehabilitation scientists as mentors who will help focus their study in rehabilitation neuroscience, pediatric rehabilitation, outcome science, community health or productive aging. Graduates of the RAPS PhD program will be prepared for a career as an academic research scientist.

This program is designed to be completed in four to five years of full-time study. The maximum time allowed for completion is seven years, and there is no provision for part-time study. A tuition stipend and fellowship is provided for up to five years.


Students must complete core courses, electives to support their area of study, research in their mentor’s laboratory and a dissertation.

Prior graduate courses that explicitly meet the program requirements may be considered (syllabus must be submitted for review and approval of the RAPS PhD Chair).

All RAPS PhD students will join faculty in a bi-weekly seminar where faculty and student research is presented and discussed. Presentations will also be made by Washington University faculty and visiting professors who will be invited to spend time with faculty and students.

Application Process and Requirements

Students pursue the RAPS PhD degree because of their desire to generate knowledge to improve rehabilitation practices and thus people’s lives through participation. Students with a clinical degree at the bachelor's, master's or doctoral level are welcome to apply. Prior research experience is strongly encouraged.

In addition to meeting basic admissions requirements, there must be a fit between a candidate’s research interests and one or more RAPS PhD faculty members who are willing to supervise the student’s program. Please review the listing of our RAPS PhD faculty mentors to explore a potential match that will meet your training goals and needs.

Applications for Fall 2018 to the RAPS PhD program must be submitted by December 15, 2017 to the Graduate School at Washington University at more information about the RAPS PhD program, please contact Abigail King at 314-286-1619 or e-mail her at

Applicants must submit all of the following:

  • A completed Graduate School at Washington University application form
  • $45 application fee
  • An essay that details why you are choosing this program of study and Washington University to prepare for a scientific career. Please address your motivation for study in rehabilitation and participation science, prior research and/or clinical experience, short and long range career goals and the specific area of your interest.
  • An example of your scholarly writing such as a publication or college research paper 
  • Official transcripts of all post-secondary academic work. Applicants holding transcripts from institutions outside the United States are required to have the transcripts evaluated by a credentialing agency (names of agencies may be obtained by contacting the Program in Occupational Therapy). The evaluation must include course names, grades and credits in American terms. No international transcripts will be accepted without an evaluation from a credentialing agency.
  • Three letters of recommendation describing your capabilities for PhD studies
  • Official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores for an exam taken within the past five years. GRE score reports must be sent directly from the Educational Testing Service to the Washington University Program in Occupational Therapy.
    • For international candidates whose native language is not English, the tests below must have been taken within 12 months of the date on the application:
      • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores; Minimum acceptable score = 600 (250 for computer-based test and 100 for iBT)
      • Test of Written English (TWE) scores; Minimum acceptable score = 5
      WUSTL accepts the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module. We require a minimum score of 6.5 on the IELTS Academic module for applicants to be considered.

PhD Financial Information


A full-time commitment to graduate education is expected of all students enrolled in the Rehabilitation and Participation Science Program (RAPS) PhD program. The annual stipend amount for the 2015-2016 academic year was $23,500. Once a stipend has been awarded, the customary procedure is to provide three years of support. Stipend funds for additional years may be from individual grants or mentor’s grants. If this is not possible, a stipend for additional time is to be negotiated with the RAPS PhD chair and the executive director of the Program in Occupational Therapy. Full tuition remission and individual health insurance is provided to students who receive the stipend for up to five years.

Because the stipend is provided on a yearly basis, the work commitment is for a calendar year, with four weeks of vacation and the holidays observed by the university.

Fellowships and Doctoral Scholarships

Fellowships and/or doctoral scholarships should be sought by the students as soon as they are qualified for such support. The funds obtained from these scholarships are to replace, not supplement Program in Occupational Therapy funds. RAPS students from diverse backgrounds with serious interest in an academic career may apply for the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship Program.

Washington University encourages and gives full consideration to all applicants for admission, financial aid and employment.

Washington University - Non-Discrimination Statement

Inquiries about compliance should be addressed to the University's Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Washington University, Campus Box 1184, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899.

For more information about the Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS) PhD program, please contact Abigail King at 314-286-1619 or e-mail her at

Program in Occupational Therapy
Washington University School of Medicine
4444 Forest Park Blvd., CB 8505
St. Louis, MO 63108-2212
Phone: 314-286-1619
FAX: 314-286-1601

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Current, future, and accepted applicants are encouraged to visit. We also welcome people who are exploring career options and considering occupational therapy. Dr. Kathy Kniepmann, one of our faculty members, opens our visit sessions with an informal presentation and discussion, followed by a tour that’s led by one of our current occupational therapy students.

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