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PhD in Educational Studies, Special Education

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As a doctoral student in special education you will use research to help improve the lives of children, youth and adults with disabilities as you prepare to become a leader in the field. The full-time PhD program in special education at The Ohio State University is designed to prepare leaders in research, teaching and service. In our accreditated program, you will develop competencies in conducting applied research, writing for publication, advanced applied behavior analysis, college teaching and service to the profession and community.

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In consultation with their faculty advisor, students will identify an area of specialization.  Examples of specialization include, but are not limited to, applied behavior analysis, intellectual and developmental disabilities, d/Deaf and hard of hearing, high-incidence disabilities, and gifted education.

ABAI accredited program logo for PhDDoctoral students who choose the applied behavior analysis specialization will take courses that fulfill the course requirements to pursue the BCBA credential.

ABAI Accredited PhD Program Information

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Frequently Asked Questions

The PhD program in Special Education is designed to prepare leaders in research, teaching and service for faculty positions in colleges and universities and for other positions in behavioral clinics or agencies in the communities. In our accredited program, you will develop competencies in conducting research, writing for scholarly publications, using advanced applied behavior analysis and college/university teaching. Doctoral students will obtain a range of expertise in research paradigms and use this knowledge to help improve the educational and social lives of children, youth and adults with disabilities in societies. Our committed faculty will work closely with candidates to prepare them for their future professional careers.

In general, the instructional delivery mode is in-person or face-to-face. There are a few online distance education courses. Students may enroll in individual study credits with their advisors to work on research projects or to prepare for candidacy exams. All students need to complete a dissertation under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Dissertation credits entail individualized meetings between students and advisors.

The program admits full-time and part-time students. Full-time students can complete the program in 3 ½ to 4 years. The completion time for part-time students varies, however, part-time students should enroll in a minimum of 3 credits per semester. After a successful candidacy exam, all students enroll in a maximum of 3 credits until the completion of the dissertation. There is a required minimum of 6 dissertation credits.

Not only is there a teacher shortage in K-12 school settings, but also, there is a need for faculty in higher education settings and even in agencies that serve individuals with disabilities. Graduates should be able to secure a position in comprehensive research institutions (R1), universities with teacher-preparation programs and governmental and service agencies.

All doctoral students are expected to deliver presentations at refereed professional organizational meetings and conferences. Students may have the option of working alongside with faculty on faculty’s research projects, providing them with experience in designing and conducting investigations. Students may also collect data on children and adolescents with disabilities in the schools for their own research projects, including dissertations. Individuals with Graduate Teaching Associateships may supervise undergraduate students in pre-student teaching and student teaching endeavors. There may also be opportunities to teach class sessions or an entire undergraduate course. Students are strongly encouraged to join the student chapters of professional organizations associated with their specialty area (e.g., Association for Behavior Analysis International, Association of College Educators—Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Council of Exceptional Children, International Dyslexia Association, and The Association for Gifted Children).

The SPED doctoral program is flexible to accommodate a range of interests. Students are typically matched with faculty advisors, who have similar or related research interests. Students and advisors work together to develop a program plan that fits the future professional goals of the students. Individuals can decide on a research topic and the manner in which the topic can be investigated (i.e., questions, methodology, research design, etc.).

SPED doctoral courses are taught by SPED faculty with expertise in the various content areas such as behavioral strategies, inclusion and diversity, instructional methods, language and literacy development, paraprofessional training, research paradigms, transition and more. SPED faculty have also conducted research in their instructional areas, making it easy for students to see the connections between research and evidence-based practices. Students are also required to take department-wide and research courses taught by non-SPED faculty to foster a general community of scholars and to understand and appreciate the diversity of instructional and research perspectives.

There are a number of clubs, organizations, and related gatherings at Ohio State for graduate students. Find your niche at the OSU student organization site.

The College offers scholarships for newly-admitted and continuing graduate students, who have qualified credentials and a financial need. Several of these scholarships are geared toward individuals in special education programs. There may be graduate associateship positions (Graduate Teaching Associateship or Graduate Research Associateships) available at the Department or Program level. Individuals should apply for these funding opportunities, which are made public during the admission process.

The SPED faculty is a dedicated group, who desire to facilitate the development of competent  scholars, are exposed to and acquire evidence-based practices and critical-thinking skills. Members of the SPED faculty have received several national and international awards and are actively engaged in on-going research and scholarship. The faculty is accessible and committed to contribute to the professional development of students, enabling them to achieve their future professional goals.

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Career Paths 

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Funding Options 

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Degree Requirements

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Master's degree

Minimum Program hours


Deadline to apply

December 1 

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Program start

Autumn Semester 

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