PhD in Special Education

The PhD in Special Education will prepare you to assume academic faculty positions at the university level. The program is geared toward improving the educational and related service programs for children and youth with disabilities. 

The program allows you to focus on sub-disciplines of special education, including:

  • Education of Students w/ Mental & Physical Disabilities
  • Early Intervention
  • Blindness/Vision Impairments/Orientation and Mobility

Quick Facts

  • Program Duration: 4 years on average
  • Time Commitment: Full-time
  • Term of Enrollment: Fall 
  • Application Deadline:  December 1
  • Course Requirements: 90 Credits
  • Application Requirements: GRE exam is not required

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Program Details

Students may focus their studies in one or more of the following areas: 

  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Autism
  • Emotional and behavior disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Severe disabilities
  • Visual impairment and blindness

Special education PhD students will be mentored by Special Education faculty who will support them throughout their academic career. Students will have many opportunities to collaborate within and between programs to pursue special education topics of interest. Each student will have mentored opportunities to demonstrate all of the skills required by university level faculty which include: synthesizing current literature, submitting peer-reviewed manuscripts and grants, reviewing submissions for publication, teaching university level classes, conceiving and conducting research projects in authentic environments, and presenting at national conferences.

As a PhD student, you will teach graduate and undergraduate courses, mentor graduate students, developing a research agenda that will result in funded and published research, and translating research outcomes for the improvement of educational and related service programs for children and youth with disabilities.

The PhD program is writing and research-intensive and PhD candidates will have multiple opportunities to learn and participate in the review of research literature, the preparation and submission of research grant proposals, the design and implementation of research studies, and the preparation and dissemination of research reports. 

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Degree Requirements

Students will complete a series of formal milestones to prepare then as a special education faculty member. The milestones will allow students to engage in academic writing, proposing and conducting research, and defending their work in an academic forum. In addition, students will be mentored through teaching university level classes and other faculty roles and responsibilities.


  • Special Education Coursework: 24 credits
  • Cognate courses: 0-18 credits either taken or transferred from outside the School of Education
  • Required research methodology courses: 15 credits
  • Supervised Research/teaching practicum: 6 credits
  • First-Year School-wide seminars: 3 credits
  • Writing workshops: 6-8 credits
  • Electives: Variable credits
  • Dissertation: 18 credits


  • Master's degree in a Special Education related area
  • 3 years teaching children with disabilities or similar experience

Career Pathways

  • University faculty (research and/or teaching)
  • School administration
  • Leadership in not-for-profit organizations