PhD in Urban Education

Develop the knowledge to transform learning and engagement across urban environments.

The PhD program in Urban Education is geared toward training highly qualified scholars in K-16 urban education with emphasis in supporting students’ deeper understanding and application of law, policy, the social and cultural contexts of education, and evaluation and research methods within the urban context.

The program is built around an innovative, experiential, research-focused curriculum that prepares scholars to address the multifaceted issues facing urban education, and will prepare students to be nationally competitive for research careers in both academic and non-academic institutions.


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Program Facts

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


90 credits



Time Commitment



5 years on average

Enrollment Term


Application Deadline

December 1

Admissions Requirements

No GRE Exam is required

Program Overview

Critical Lens

Students will engage and work with active researchers who integrate research, theory, and practice as they develop expertise in urban education. They will engage in critical scholarship on diversity, equity, and social justice, as well as with coursework that scaffolds their scientific writing and research methodology skills.

Comprehensive Focus

Each cohort will be socialized in professional skills (e.g., collaboration with research teams, school and community partners; oral and written presentations). Coursework, immersion into research methodology, experiential learning experiences, and exposure to diverse theoretical perspectives will comprehensively equip students to examine and research real-world, complex educational issues. In turn, students will be expected to produce dissertations that address the scope of issues confronting stakeholders in urban schools and contexts.

Make an Impact

Through engagement in coursework, intensive research, and hands-on experiential engagement with the broader urban context, the PhD in Urban Education program is producing the next generation of urban education scholars.

Meet the Faculty

Collage of 7 Urban Education faculty members

Pictured left to right, clockwise: Urban Education faculty members Shanyce L. Campbell, Lori Delale-O’Connor, Sabina Vaught, Richard Benson, Leigh Patel, T. Elon Dancy II, and Lisa Ortiz


A minimum of 90 credits are required for graduation:

  • Required core courses: 24 credits
  • Cognate courses: 0-18 credits either taken or transferred from outside the SOE
  • Required research methodology courses: 18 credits
  • Field placement/teaching practicum: 6 credits
  • Professional seminars/Writing workshops: 6-8 credits
  • Electives: 0-9 credits
  • Dissertation: 18 credits


View Program Curriculum

Additional Details

Two Courses for 6 credits:

Two semesters spent in supervised field placement in areas relevant to the Urban Education PhD Program.

Potential sites for field placement include local non-profit institutions, RAND Corporation, (through application through their summer internship program), and the Center for Urban Education.

Students may also fulfill one semester in a field placement and one spent developing instructional skills for teaching at the university level (as an instructor or co-instructor with a faculty member) or developing a course under the supervision of a faculty member (e.g., an online course in an area relevant to Urban Education).

Freedom Seminars (EDUC 3067, 1-credit) are a required part of the Urban Education PhD program. These courses support students in understanding and engaging education topics within global social, cultural, and political frameworks of freedom.


Occurs in Year 3:

A topical paper or response to at least two essay questions (requirement of one or both options at ARCO discretion).

Students will either write a topical, comprehensive paper or respond to (a minimum of) 2 essay questions that address (a) a theory and content question drawn from their reading list (agreed upon with committee chair); and (b) a design question, also created by ARCO faculty (e.g., designing a study appropriate for their dissertation, or responding to a hypothetical scenario in which the student designs a study appropriate to their field on an enduring, central question in the field).


  • For students who do not have a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate academic discipline, 18 credits must be taken outside of the Pitt School of Education in the appropriate academic disciplines.
  • Students with a master’s degree in an appropriate academic discipline do not have to take any courses outside of the Pitt School of Education, and 18 credits from their master’s will count here for cognate courses.
  • Students with a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate academic discipline are only required to take 9 credits outside of the Pitt School of Education in appropriate academic disciplines.

Upcoming Info Sessions

General Info Session (Virtual)

June 3, 2024 | Noon-1 PM

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Career Pathways

Upon completion of the PhD in Urban Education program, graduates may pursue higher education faculty and administration positions, as well as public and/or private, for-profit and nonprofit sector research positions.

Program graduates who choose to seek employment in higher education may apply for faculty or postdoctoral fellowship positions at any one of the national universities that recruit urban educational scholars for their doctorate level Urban Education program.

In addition, there are numerous schools of educations and programs nationally that also employ scholars who specialize in urban education.