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The goal of the Special Education Leadership Personnel Preparation Program at the University of Kentucky is to prepare students to assume positions as educators, researchers, and scholars in higher education settings. The program leads to the Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree (Ph.D.).

Admission Requirements

For prospective and current graduate student information, please download this document (PDF).

Application Criteria:

  • Combined scores on the verbal and quantitative portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) of 1,000 or better.
  • An undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75.
  • Fifth Year Certification OR a Master’s Degree in special education or rehabilitation counseling or a related field with a grade point average of at least 3.5.
  • A minimum of three (3) years of successful experience in special education or a related field.
  • At least four (4) positive recommendations attesting to the candidate’s ability as a professional with potential for success in doctoral study.
  • A statement of the applicant’s objectives for completing a doctoral program.
  • Applicant’s brief autobiographical statement.
  • A sample of the applicant’s academic and/or professional writing.

Final admissions decisions are the purview of the Program’s faculty.

If an applicant meets these criteria and appears to have the background, academic record, experience, and professional objectives that are consistent with Departmental expectations, the person is invited to campus to interview with faculty with whom he or she will be studying and to meet current doctoral students. If the candidate is unable to visit the campus, arrangements can be made for telephone interviews with members of the Department’s Graduate Admissions and Standards Committee (GASC). However, it is highly recommended that applicants visit campus.

The GASC then makes a decision about admission. If all criteria are met, a recommendation is forwarded to the Graduate School via the Department’s Director of Graduate Study (DGS). Typically, admission decisions are made no later than 30 days after the interviews have been completed. The deadline for application for fall admissions is March 1st, and October 1st for spring admissions.

Program Structure

Although the program of studies is based on a major that is common to all students in the program, many of the specific courses taken vary according to the objectives of the individual student. Each student completes coursework from the graduate core. In addition, each student must have an area of emphasis within the Department and complete coursework (a) in the area of emphasis, (b) in a thematic support area outside of the Department, and (c) for a research block.

Coursework, independent study products, and practicum experiences are selected by the advisory committee to ensure that this level of specialization is appropriate for a person at the doctoral degree level. Following the guidelines adopted by the College of Education, the doctoral program must consist of a minimum of 42 semesters hours past the master’s degree. Most doctoral students take between 60 and 100 semester hours of coursework (including the master’s degree). The coursework is divided among four areas:

1. A special education personnel preparation.

2. An area of emphasis in special education, selected from the following:

  • Assistive Technology
  • Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education
  • Learning and Behavior Disorders
  • Moderate and Severe Disabilities

3. A thematic support area from outside the department area of emphasis. This may be interdisciplinary and consist of courses from outside the department, such as:

  • Administration and Supervision
  • Behavioral Studies
  • Communication Disorders
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Educational and Counseling Psychology
  • Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation
  • Family Studies
  • Psychology Public Administration
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Other area, as designated by the student’s committee

4. A research block, including the following:

  • Educational Statistics
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quantitative Research
  • Survey Research
  • Other, as designated by the student’s committee

Each student’s program of studies is planned and supervised by an Advisory Committee consisting of four individuals. The committee will include the student’s major professor and two other members from the Department. The remaining member represents the student’s outside support area. At least one member must be from outside the Department. At least three of the four committee members must be full members of the University of Kentucky Graduate Faculty. The remaining member may be an associate member of the Graduate Faculty.

Program Content

The first phase of study (up to 18 semester hours) is considered the preliminary year. During this period, students are expected to demonstrate basic competencies in applied behavior analysis, assessment, general special education content, instructional strategies, and technology. They may do this by fulfilling the requirements of the required graduate core courses.

Each student is required to develop and maintain a portfolio with entries included from each course. Collectively, these entries should reflect the post-doctoral role within institutions of higher education and/or other services for which the student is preparing. Thus, entries will include but are not limited to: (a) developing training curricula, (b) teaching content and methods courses, (c) supervising practicum experiences, including student teaching, (d) advising students, (e) providing consultation and other services, (f) giving professional conference presentations, (g) conducting research, including writing scholarly publications, and (h) writing research and training grant proposals for extramural funding in special education. The student work is guided, during the first year, by a temporary advisor, who may be selected by the student with the approval of the Department’s DGS. In the event that the student’s choice of an advisor is not available, or if the student does not have a choice, the DGS will appoint a temporary advisor after consulting with the Department’s GASC.

Students then select a faculty member to serve as a mentor. After obtaining the consent of a faculty member to serve as mentor, the student and mentor also select an Advisory Committee of three additional faculty members who will assist in the development and supervision of the student’s program of study.

Specific course requirements for individual students will vary according to each student’s background and stated objectives. Competency lists that have been developed by faculty in the Department guide the selection of courses and related training experiences. However, each student must complete a graduate core (23 credits), coursework in a departmental area of emphasis consisting of at least 15 credits, coursework in a support area (a minimum of 15 credits), and a research block of courses (minimum of 21 credits). The area requirements are described as follows:

Required Doctoral Core:

Course # Course Title Credit Hours
EDS 601 or Applied Behavior Analysis 3
RC 740 Administration, Supervision, & Program Evaluation in Rehabilitation Counseling 3
EDS 633 or Single Subject Research Design 3
RC 735 Advanced Methods for Teaching and Conducting Research in Rehabilitation Counseling 3
EDS 701 Seminar for EDSRC Leadership Personnel (1 credit each, 4 semesters) 4
EDS 710 or Seminar in Learning and Behavior Disorders 3
 EDS 711 or  Seminar in Moderate and Severe Disabilities  3
 IEC 709 or  Seminar in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood  3
 RC 711  Seminar in Rehabilitation Counseling  3
 EDS 712   Seminar in EDSRC Professional Services  3
 EDS 720  Seminar in EDSRC Teacher Preparation  3
 EDS 72  Seminar in EDSRC Personnel Preparation  3-9
 EDS 767  Dissertation Residency Credit (≥4). EDS 767 is taken for a minimum of two credits per semester for two semesters (excluding summer terms) after successful completion of the qualifying examination.  


Special Education Area of Emphasis

The area of emphasis typically is comprised of work taken as part of the student’s previous graduate work that is considered part of the doctoral curriculum. Courses from the Department’s graduate curriculum in that area of study may be prescribed. Alternately, students may elect to attain competency in an area in which they have not been previously prepared.

Thematic Support Area

A support area from outside of the departmental area of emphasis is chosen to complement the coursework taken within the Department. Areas are selected on the basis of their relevance to the student’s background, goals, and interests, and to provide additional content or training in related fields. The outside support area also affords the student an opportunity to work with faculty from other Departments within the University. Fifteen (15) semester hours are completed in the thematic support area, resulting in a cohesive set of competencies that complement the Area of Emphasis and student’s professional goals.

Research Tools

Each student must complete a block of research tool courses, in addition to completing at least one data-based study. A minimum of 21 semester hours is required, which includes EDS 633; 3-course sequence in quantitative methods; 1 or 2 additional research courses (e.g., qualitative, survey, program evaluation, or other methodology); EDS 789, research internship; 3-6 credits across at least 2 semesters.

Candidacy Requirements

Upon completion of the prescribed coursework, students are examined to evaluate their preparedness to be advanced to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The basis of this evaluation is completion of a qualifying examination administered by the student’s Advisory Committee.

Practicum Experiences

Practicum experiences are required of all doctoral students. As with the didactic portion of the curriculum, practica are planned according to the individual backgrounds and needs of each student. Students work with their Advisory Committee to determine the type and duration of these experiences. Students usually have several practica experiences. For example, a student may teach an undergraduate course, supervise student teachers, and teach a graduate course within their area of emphasis.