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College of Education

Special Education, Ph.D.

What will I study?

The PhD. Program in Special Education has two tracks, both designed to prepare doctoral students to be leaders in the field.

The first track, Higher Education and Research, presents a course of study that will prepare you to focus on the more scholarly aspects of special education, including conducting and evaluating research, preparing future teachers, and addressing policy and advocacy at a national level.

The second track, Special Education Leadership, will prepare you to take on roles that focus on the understanding, coordination, and administration of special education programs and policies at district, state, and national levels.  Both tracks will allow you to pursue your own research interests within the field of special education, as well as address the specialty areas of the track you choose. Both tracks will yield the same degree – a Ph.D. in Special Education – the tracks will allow you to select the course of study that is the best match for your professional goals.


What kinds of work will I be able to do?

Graduates of the Ph.D. program in Special Education have many career options, primarily in the field of education. Graduates in the Higher Education and Research track often become professors in colleges or universities -adding to the body of research in the field and preparing the next generation of teachers.  Potential positions  for graduates in the Special Education Leadership track include district special education coordinators, special education curriculum specialists, school-based administrators, and consultants at the state departments of education.  Our program in Special Education Leadership is the only doctoral level program in South Carolina that provides a curriculum designed to support individuals aspiring to be special education directors in the state.


What kinds of research will I be able to do?

Both tracks in the  program offer strong preparation in research methods. Regardless of which track you choose, you will take both single subject and group design research courses. The higher education and research track includes additional research courses in the area of your choosing. Although mentorship and collaboration are an important component of our Ph.D. program, all students are encouraged to follow their own research interests. You may also take additional research coursework, as desired, that supports your interests and helps to answer your research questions (e.g., quantitative, qualitative, survey).


Will I be able to specialize?

There are two tracks to this program, Special Education Leadership, for those interested in special education administration through school-based careers, and Higher Education and Research, for those interested in college or university teaching. In addition, you will have the opportunity to select a cognate area of your choice, to allow for further specialization. Selected cognates include a wide variety of topics, ranging from Educational Leadership to reading to neuropsychology.


Typical Coursework

Foundation courses (15 semester hours)
These courses reflect the broad base of educational course work that establish the background knowledge we expect of Ph.D. graduates. These five courses are drawn from Educational Psychology, Foundations, Research, Curriculum and Educational Leadership.

Area of Specialization (24 semester hours)
If you choose Special Education Leadership, your area of specialization courses will include additional courses in Educational Leadership, as well as courses and a practicum in special education administration.

If you choose the Higher Education/Research track, your specialization course work includes practica in pedagogy and practice in higher education, and nine additional hours of research courses.

In both tracks, the Area of Specialization courses include two doctoral seminars. Doctoral seminars are offered annually, and address a range of topics (e.g., grant writing, secondary transition, special education research).  You can select the two seminars that address your interests.

Research and Dissertation courses (12 semester hours)
These courses are same for both tracks. They include two required research courses along with dissertation hours.

Cognate (9-12 semester hours)
The cognate you choose reflects an area of particular interest to you and will support your area of specialization or provide an additional area of expertise. The cognate usually consists of 9-12 hours outside of special education and will be approved by your doctoral committee.  

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