Doctoral Degree: Special Education Concentration

The Special Education doctoral concentration helps students develop advanced foundational knowledge in the area of special education, yet provides the latitude necessary for a program of research that meets the individual research focus of the doctoral student in collaboration with a student’s advisor. Our doctoral students are likely to arrive with an extensive knowledge base at the master’s level of special education, which often exceeds 42 credits. The Ph.D. concentration in Special Education extends this knowledge base by encouraging the development of both breadth and depth in an area of study that will carry students well-beyond the dissertation as they transition into research careers. Special Education meets the criteria established by national and state accrediting boards, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Disciplinary accreditation is critical to national visibility, placing graduates, and developing a national pool of strong applicants.

The goals of the Special Education doctoral study are as follows:

  • to prepare doctoral students who will generate new knowledge and are able to apply this knowledge to the field of special education.
  • to provide a program of study that prepares doctoral students to have a strong and broad-based knowledge of special education which they are able to apply in a variety of diverse school settings.
  • to advance knowledge and research through doctoral education of the learning and development of children who require specialized instruction, educational adaptations, and support for their learning efforts to succeed.
  • to train students who can be critical producers and consumers of both quantitative and qualitative research.

Admission Considerations

Applicants applying for the Ph.D. degree in Special Education should possess a master's degree in special education or a related area (e.g. psychology, school psychology, communication disorders, school counseling, elementary/secondary education, educational administration) and demonstrate they have met the prerequisite competencies in special education which include the foundations of special education (e.g., laws, policies, and beliefs), assessment, curriculum and instruction in special education, and child development. It is preferred that applicants possess a teaching and/or administrative license from an NCATE-approved program in special education or a related area and at least three years of teaching and/or administrative experience.

Applicants will meet criteria for admission to the Graduate School and admission policies of the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Admission decisions are based on multiple sources of information. Graduate Record Examination scores, college transcripts, work experience, interests, and recommendations are considered in the selection process. Quantitative, verbal, and analytic aptitude, motivation to do well, a specific interest in the field of special education, and likely fit are four characteristics that are evaluated in the selection of potential doctoral students.

Students selected from the initial applicant pool will be asked to campus for an interview with the faculty.

All doctoral students in the College of Education must demonstrate competency in five (5) required areas: social issues/justice, pedagogy (instruction), philosophy of education, and research. If these competencies have been met at the master's degree level, doctoral students will not be required to undertake additional course work in these areas upon admission. Elective courses may be used to meet these competencies.

Course completion culminates with the comprehensive exam, the successful completion of which marks the beginning of doctoral candidacy. The doctoral candidates then declare a program of doctoral research which ultimately leads to the Ph.D.

Program of Study

Additional Information

As part of ongoing student mentoring by faculty each doctoral student is expected to engage in professional development activities in the following three areas, that we have termed Doctoral Program Professional Development Activities:

  • College Teaching and Practicum Supervision Experiences
  • Professional Writing for Refereed Journals, Grants, and Conference Presentations
  • Service to the Profession

Contact Information

Concentration Coordinator: Michael Krezmien (Associate Professor)

Associated Faculty

John Hosp (Professor and Chair, Department of Student Development), Michelle Hosp (Assistant Professor), Michael Krezmien (Associate Professor), Alexandra Lauterbach (Assistant Professor)