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University of Pittsburgh    
2021-2022 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Apr 20, 2024
2021-2022 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Special Education, PhD

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The Ph.D. in Special Education will prepare students to assume academic faculty positions at the university level. The program is geared toward improving the educational and related service programs for children and youth with disabilities. Special education Ph.D. students will be mentored by Special Education faculty who will support them throughout their academic careers. Students will have many opportunities to collaborate within and between programs to pursue special education topics of interest. Each student will have mentored opportunities to demonstrate all of the skills required by university-level faculty which include: synthesizing current literature, submitting peer-reviewed manuscripts and grants, reviewing submissions for publication, teaching university-level classes, conceiving, and conducting research projects in authentic environments, and presenting at national conferences. Special Education Ph.D. students will teach graduate and undergraduate courses, mentor graduate students, develop a research agenda that will result in funded and published research, and translating research outcomes for the improvement of educational and related service programs for children and youth with disabilities.

90 overall credits are required for this program.

Students in this program must pass the following milestones:

  1. A literature review and proposal for an independent research project.
  2. A completed manuscript of an independent research project. 
  3. The Major Area Paper (MAP) and oral examination serve as the Ph.D. student’s comprehensive examination.
  4. Dissertation Overview - Proposal for a traditional dissertation or a two-paper dissertation.
  5. Dissertation Defense - Final dissertation paper and oral defense 

SPED Major Field (24 credits minimum)


  • 18 credits minimum at the 3000 level or equivalent
  • 15 credits minimum at the University of Pittsburgh

Possible Classes:

  1. Professional Seminar in Special Education 1
  2. Issues and Trends in Special Education
  3. Instructional Practices in Special Education 
  4. Professional Seminar in Special Education 2
  5. Legal and Legislative Issues in Special Education
  6. Advanced Single-Case Design
  7. Grant Writing in Special Education

Cognate Supporting Field (0-18 credits)

The number of courses taken outside of the School of Education depends on the Ph.D. Student’s academic background.

Research Practicum (3 credits)

Teaching Practicum (3 credits)

SPED Writing Seminars (6-8 credits)

Electives Variable

Dissertation (18 credits)

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