A PhD in Special Education – An Overview and Resource Guide

If you’re serious about earning a PhD in special education, you’ve come to the right spot. If you’re serious about your education, we’re serious about helping you find the right program and delivery format that works for you. A PhD is the highest academic degree offered and requires an enormous amount of dedication and hard work. But you probably already now this and are already investing your time in researching programs and compiling your applications. Special needs education works with students to help them succeed in school. This can be a largely uphill battle many times, but it is an incredibly worthwhile endeavor to pursue. When looking at career choices, a PhD in special education affords on the opportunities to apply their best skills in a variety of ways.

However, you might have a few lingering questions about PhD programs in special education, and we’re here to help you find the right program, navigate the admissions process, and explore financial aid choices.

Types of Programs

Not all PhD programs in special education are the same. In fact, there are many different programs with many different requirements and types of philosophies. They vary in the emphasis of program and the end-result career choice.Your career goals will help you decide which one is best for you.

  • PhD in Special Education: The most common doctoral degree program in your field, this program prepares students for careers as professors, university scholars, and for various leadership positions in research and teacher education.
  • PhD in Special Education Leadership: Similar to the above but with a strong focus on leadership and training, this degree prepares students to work as directors, supervisors, state and federal grant coordinators, and other positions of governance. You’ll take classes that focus on special education administration, instructional strategies, and law and finance.
  • EdS in Special Education: The education specialist degree (EdS) falls in between the master’s degree and the PhD. We’ve included the EdS in this list given its similarity to the doctorate. Both prepare students to teach at the collegiate level. However, an EdS will likely only qualify you to teach at junior colleges and smaller institutions. EdS programs often take three years to complete and may require a year-long internship at a school or social services agency.

The Admissions Process

Applying to a PhD program is often a lengthy and arduous process, but pales in comparison to the intense work that follows. Schools require applicants to submit a substantial application package that includes more than just a few online forms.

Each school has its own application process and selection criteria. However, most schools often require students to submit the following materials:

  • Application and fee
  • GRE test scores
  • TOEFL or IELTS test scores (for International Applicants)
  • Transcripts from all postsecondary programs of study
  • Three or more letters of recommendation
  • Goal statement or statement of purpose
  • Interview (not all schools require this)

Remember, each school is different. Some schools require applicants to come in for an interview while others require more than three letters of recommendation. It all depends on the program so make sure you what materials you need to submit to avoid any delay in processing your application.

Financial Aid

Financial aid packages are awarded to PhD students much the same way they are to undergraduate and graduate-level students. Filling out a FASFA is the first step to determining your eligibility for Federal and/or State student aid.

However, if you don’t qualify for aid, the next step is to research grants, scholarships, and financial resources. Talk to a financial aid counselor or search online for potential sources. You never know what you might find! Public and private organizations as well as your school offer free money for qualifying students. If you’re currently employed, perhaps your place of business offers tuition reimbursement or other assistance. It can’t hurt to ask!

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