Doctoral Degrees

Disability & Psychoeducational Studies

Special Education Ph.D.

The Special Education Ph.D. program is designed to develop the expertise needed to develop, examine, and disseminate culturally sustainable evidence-based in special education. Students in the program will develop knowledge and skills in four core areas:

Core 1: Culturally Sustaining Evidence-Based Practices in Special Education
Students will gain an understanding of evidence-based practice in special education, issues of equity and justice, and the impact of race, culture, and language. Students will apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

Core 2: Research Methods
Students will understand statistical methods, research design, and qualitative research methods. They will apply these research skills in conducting, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting their own research projects.

Core 3: Personnel Preparation
Students will engage in effective teaching within teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education and in high-needs schools. They will understand teaching methods, program coordination, school collaboration, and issues related to service delivery in high-need schools.

Core 4: Professional Knowledge and Career Skills
Students will gain skills in professional leadership development, survival skills, ethics, professional writing, and grant writing. They will apply these skills in various contexts, such as job searches and professional presentations.

Study and evaluate existing research in special education literature in various topics, including assessment, instruction, service delivery, and technology
Learn to design research and use evidence-based practices to address the needs of all students in special education, including those who are culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse
Graduate prepared to be a leader in the field of special education within institutions of higher education

Ph.D. Funding Opportunities

We have received two grants through the Office of Special Education Programs within the U.S. Department of Education to fully fund eight doctoral students for four years at the University of Arizona beginning in August 2024. These funding opportunities are only available to U.S. citizens. We aim to enroll students from underrepresented groups, including multilingual and racially diverse scholars, as well as scholars with disabilities. Funding includes tuition, a living stipend (starting at $40,000 per year), travel support, one-time needs-based funds, and more. We encourage you to apply to the Special Education Ph.D. program by January 15, 2024, if you want to be considered for grant funding; however, we will continue to accept applications submitted after the due date.

Apply to the Special Education Ph.D. program.


Preparation of Culturally Sustaining Leaders in Special Education Through Apprenticeship Learning

This doctoral program contributes to the preparation of the next generation of special education scholars committed to sustaining equitable and inclusive learning environments for children and youth with disabilities. Through this program, we aim to increase the number of scholars from underrepresented groups, including multilingual and racially diverse scholars, as well as scholars with disabilities who are interested in advancing equity in special education. Our program offers scholars rich courses through our department and college, and incorporates four structured apprenticeship learning opportunities: (1) a high-needs school apprenticeship to explore and advance culturally sustaining practices for diverse students with disabilities; (2) a program director apprenticeship to promote leadership in teacher preparation; (3) an external apprenticeship in another university, center, or policy organization to advance research skills and develop connections, and (4) a mentor apprenticeship with an external faculty member to cultivate retention and tend to scholars’ academic, social, and emotional well-being.

Learn more about this funding opportunity.


Systems Change for Inclusive Education, a National Collaborative Effort for Students with Extensive Support Needs (SCIENCE-ESN)

The University of Utah and the University of Arizona have partnered to prepare scholars for faculty positions with expertise in effective practices associated with systemic educational change toward equity and inclusion of diverse students with extensive support needs. Through shared coursework, internships in college teaching and student supervision, and externships at high-needs schools and policy agencies, we will prepare doctoral scholars to develop and disseminate knowledge to improve outcomes for students with extensive support needs in research, teaching, and service. We will leverage the expertise of five faculty members across the two institutions as well as ten National Experts, an External Evaluator, and a Community Advisory Committee of nine stakeholders to foster scholars' knowledge and skills in five areas that are associated with systemic educational change, including (1) equity and justice, (2) inclusive education, (3) leadership and policy, (4) positive behavioral supports, and (5) systems change and implementation science.

Learn more about this funding opportunity.

Sample Courses

SERP 595D Evidence-based Practice in Special Education (3 credits)
SERP 603 Equity and Justice in Special Education (3 credits)
SERP 590 Single Case Research Design (3 credits)
SERP 605 Leadership, Policy, and Administration in Special Education (3 credits)

See Coursework for more details.


Graduates of the program are national leaders who conduct and design research in higher education and school settings. They also serve as directors of special education and administrators in public or private facilities.

Contact Us

For more information about the program, contact Associate Professor Sunggye Hong.