Ph.D in Special Education

Special Education

Ph.D. in Special Education

Conduct cutting-edge research while gaining experience in higher education teaching.

This dynamic 90 credit-hour program will allow you to pursue study based on your personal interests and goals. With planning and full-time study, the program can be completed in four years. Our apprenticeship model provides experience in the major scholarly tasks expected of future faculty and leaders in the field of Special Education. Through coursework and exploration of theory and research across a broad range of possible topics, you will work closely with a warm and diverse faculty whose expertise includes:

  • Early childhood special education
  • Intervention perspectives related to Autism
  • Emotional/behavioral challenges (e.g., systems of care, caregiver concerns, and incarcerated youth)
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Teacher preparation (e.g., cultural perspectives and inclusion)
  • Interventions related to learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) and English learners with disabilities
  • Application Deadlines
    Starting SemesterDeadline
    Fall Jul 1
    International students are encouraged to apply early to allow extra time for their materials to arrive.
  • Admissions Requirements

    In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Graduate Studies Office will accept unofficial transcripts and self-reported test scores for admission reviews. Any admission made with these documents would be conditioned on receipt of official documents, which should be provided as soon as possible.

    1. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
    2. Minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 out of 4.00
    3. Completed online application that includes:
      • Transcripts
      • Personal statement
      • Two letters of recommendation
      • GRE scores are not required for program admittance, but some funding opportunities are predicated on competitive GRE scores.
      • Resume (international students only)
      • Minimum 79 TOEFL score or minimum 6.5 IELTS score (international students only)

    Learn more about specific admissions requirements

  • Program Requirements
  • Funding
    • Learn about the variety of fellowships and assistantships that are available to graduate students.
    • Visit Student Central for information about financial assistance.
    • Consult your employer about the availability of tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance programs.
    • Active duty military, veterans, and military families should visit the Center for Veteran and Military Students to take full advantage of available financial assistance and educational benefits.
  • Program Format

    The Special Education Program at Indiana University follows an inquiry-driven approach. Students are encouraged to explore diverse theoretical positions that surround special education practices, research, and theory development. Pursuing a doctorate in this program should therefore be thought of as an ongoing process of discovery, a process that is mentored by faculty advisors, committee members, and course instructors who share in student's intellectual growth through ongoing discussion, feedback, and collaborative exploration of ideas.

    The Ph.D. in special education is a 90-credit hour residential program in which students take classes on the Bloomington campus. Doctoral students work closely with a faculty advisor who acts as a mentor and provides continuity throughout the doctoral program and an advisory committee that oversees each student’s Plan of Study (POS). All students create an individualized POS based on the credit distribution requirements listed in the Graduate Bulletin; however, students have freedom to select courses that reflect their evolving intellectual interests and career goals. Doctoral students in our program are also given hands-on opportunities to work in the field and conduct research through an early research inquiry experience and special education internship requirement.

    Throughout the program, doctoral students also work towards the completion of a portfolio, which serves as the qualifying examination to enter doctoral candidacy and begin the doctoral dissertation. The portfolio forms a creative synthesis between professional growth and academic rigor to ensure quality outcomes. The portfolio also provides students with opportunities to develop their skills at their own pace, using different strategies to ensure that these tasks form an integrated part of their vision for their doctoral program. Although the portfolio consists of several different tasks, the main component is the completion of 10 portfolio tasks, which are listed below.

    Portfolio Tasks

    1. Research Proposal
    2. Research Investigation
    3. Manuscript Submitted for Publication
    4. Course Preparation
    5. Supervision
    6. Product Development OR Grant/Contract
    7. Inservice/consultation
    8. Presentation at a State/Regional/National Conference
    9. Article Reviews
    10. Service

    Funding Opportunities

    A variety of funded assistantships are available in the School of Education.


    An assistantship or fellowship gives you an opportunity to earn a stipend for part-time teaching or research while you earn your graduate degree. It’s also an excellent professional development opportunity. Students who submit applications by the deadlines for fall entrance will be automatically considered for departmental assistantships and fellowships.

    Associate instructor positions

    Students appointed as associate instructors teach three 3-credit undergraduate Special Education courses (or equivalent) per year . These appointments include reduction in tuition fees as well as benefits. More information can be obtained from School of Education Graduate Studies. In addition, doctoral students who are interested in pursuing faculty positions can prepare by teaching and experiencing faculty life through IU’s Future Faculty Teaching Fellowships program. This unique program gives selected candidates an opportunity to teach for an entire academic year at Butler University, IUPUI, or one of IU’s regional campuses. However, because of the many teaching opportunities in our large undergraduate program, the majority of the doctoral students are assigned teaching appointments within the special education program. Please contact the Ph.D. coordinator for further information.

    Work in Our Research Centers and Institutes

    Students’ studies and research interests may align with work going on at our centers and institutes. These centers and institutes post assistantships or hourly student employment opportunities as they become available.

    Work with Faculty in Special Education

    Special Education faculty are actively involved in research and training projects. Potential students are encouraged to consult with individual faculty members to inquire about possibilities to work with them. Paid assistantships are available through some faculty-sponsored grants, as are unpaid positions that could provide valuable research experience.

  • Ph.D. Minor

    The Ph.D. Minor in Special Education requires the completion of a minimum of 12 credit hours in Special Education at the doctoral level. Students seek an advisory committee minor advisor from the Special Education faculty who will help select courses. In addition to approval by the minor advisor, the selection must be approved by the School of Education Associate Dean ofGraduate Studies. The doctoral minor in Special Education does not require a minor qualifying exam. 

    Within the 12 credit hours, the Special Education Ph.D. program requires at least nine credit hours of 600- or 700-level credit hours with a maximum of three 500-level credit hours. Suggested course options are listed below. Substitutions are permissible with minor advisor consent.

    • K780: Seminar in Special Education
    • K650: Paradigms and Policies of Special Education in the U.S.
    • K681: Evidence-Based Practice in Special Education
    • K631: Introduction to the Autism Spectrum
    • K633: Communication Development and Intervention in Autism
    • K505: Introduction to Special Education for Graduate Students
    • K548: Families, School, and Society
The Special Education team. Back row: Assistant Professor Kelly Williams, Associate Professor Theresa Ochoa, Administrative Assistant Aimee Polk, Associate Professor Hannah Schertz, Associate Professor Ana Maria Brannan, Professor Gretchen Butera, Professor Jeff Anderson. Front row: Associate Professor Derek Nord, Clinical Assistant Professor Tina O'Neal, Assistant Professor Sarah Hurwitz

As a doctoral student, you’ll teach in undergraduate classes and supervise field placements and student teaching. Students also have many opportunities to engage in university and professional service while working with faculty mentors.

You will develop a unique professional identity through the program, leading to a range of career choices. Our graduates go on to teach at universities or continue to post-docs, research institutes, community agencies, and government entities.

Program minors have also allowed our graduates to study in numerous other disciplines offered at Indiana University, such as public health, statistics psychology, inquiry and technology.

The program is closely associated with the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, allowing students to benefit from its many projects and resources.

Financial Support

While not all of our students enter the Ph.D. program with funding, most receive funding support after the first year. Funding is typically linked to teaching and research assistantships.

Our Faculty

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Professor, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education

Research Areas:
Interagency collaboration in public schools and communities; improving educational and social outcomes, especially for young people with emotional and behavioral challenges
(812) 856-8155
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Professor, Edward A. and Mary Lou Otting Chair in Special Education

(812) 856-8153
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Research Scientist

(812) 855-4070
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Assistant Professor

(812) 856-8134
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Associate Professor, Director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community

(812) 855-7102
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Clinical Assistant Professor

(812) 856-8115
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Associate Professor

Research Areas:
Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
(812) 856-8135
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Associate Professor

(812) 856-8146
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Assistant Professor

Research Areas:
Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Reading Disabilities, K-12 Reading and Spelling Interventions, Dropout Prevention Interventions, Student Engagement
(812) 856-8103

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