The University of Kentucky Department of Early Childhood, Special Education, and Counselor Education prepares educators, rehabilitation and clinical mental health counselors, and other service providers to conduct research, develop best practices, and participate in professional activities that positively impact individuals in Kentucky and around the globe. The department offers degree programs at the undergraduate, Master’s and doctoral levels. The Department offers programs in interdisciplinary early childhood education, learning and behavior disorders, moderate and severe disabilities, and rehabilitation counseling. The Department offers a Ph.D. in Early Childhood, Special Education, and Rehabilitation Counseling, with Formal Options in (1) Rehabilitation Counseling Education, Research, and Policy and (2) Special Education. In addition, we offer non-degree certificate programs in autism spectrum disorders, assistive technology, distance learning, learning and behavior disorders, moderate and severe disabilities alternative certification, and an endorsement curriculum in rehabilitation counseling with Kentucky State University. Rank II and Rank I programs are also offered in early childhood and special education.

The Ph.D. emphasis in Rehabilitation Research, Policy, and Education at the University of Kentucky was established in 2009 and has been identified as a leader in the field since its inception. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and puts doctoral students in direct contact with nationally recognized leaders in rehabilitation counselor education.

Why You Should Enroll

Our mission is to be a national and international leader in rehabilitation counselor education, rehabilitation counseling and disability research, and rehabilitation counseling administration and disability policy. We achieve this mission through our commitment to excellence, equity, justice, diversity, and to innovation in rehabilitation counselor education. The purpose of the University of Kentucky Doctoral Program in Rehabilitation Counseling Education, Research, and Policy is to develop professionals who are counselor educators, leaders, researchers, advocates, and critical thinkers.

Meet Our Current Doctoral Students

Program Details

Delivery Method: On-campus

Credit Hours: 74

Tuition Cost: Refer to Credit Hour Rates for Graduate Students on the UK Tuition and Mandatory Fees page.

Refund Policies: You can find tuition refund policies, deadlines, amounts, and other important information on the UK Student Account Services website.

How to Apply

To apply for admission, potential applicants should first contact Dr. Debra Harley or Dr. Keith B. Wilson, Doctoral Program Co-Coordinators. You can complete the application for doctoral study with the University of Kentucky Graduate School here. Or visit the UK Graduate School homepage. Students are admitted to the program for the Fall and Spring Semesters.


  • Fall admission applications are due by March 1
  • Spring admission applications are due by October 1

Program Requirements

Admission standards for the Departmental Ph.D. in Early Childhood, Special Education and Counselor Education Formal Option in Rehabilitation Counseling Education, Research, and Policy include the following:

  1. An undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75
  2. Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling or a closely-related field with a GPA of at least 3.5. (Note: Students who are entering with a non-Rehabilitation Counseling Master’s degree may be required to take leveling, or foundational courses as described below.)
  3. Submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (mandatory for all doctoral applicants). Note: All doctoral applicants are required to submit results from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Results from the GRE are used by program faculty along with all other application materials in making admission decisions. The GRE is also typically required for students applying for Graduate Scholarship Awards, Stipends and Fellowships; often a certain percentile is needed to be considered for a financial scholarship or fellowship award.
  4. A minimum of one year (two preferred) of post-Master’s experience in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. The Program will alternatively consider extensive prior related experience and exceptional academic performance on an individual basis.
  5. At least three (3) positive recommendations attesting to the candidate’s professional disposition and fitness for the profession, self-awareness and emotional stability; oral and written communication skills; cultural sensitivity and awareness; and potential for scholarship, professional leadership, and advocacy.
  6. A written statement of the applicant’s objectives for completing a doctoral program.
  7. A sample of the applicant’s academic and/or professional writing. Final admissions decisions are the purview of the Department’s faculty.

If an applicant meets these criteria and appears to have the background, academic record, experience, and professional objectives that are consistent with Department expectations, the person is invited to campus to interview with Program and Department faculty and to meet current doctoral students. If the candidate is unable to visit the campus, arrangements can be made to interview through video conference or alternative format. However, it is highly recommended that applicants visit campus.

I'm Ready to Apply


Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have regarding this program. We can’t wait to hear from you!

photo of Dr. Debra Harley
(859) 257-7199

Tuition and Fees

Questions about tuition should be directed to the Registrar’s Office.  More information about tuition and cost to attend can be found on the Registrar’s website.

Financial Aid

There are occasional opportunities for students to receive funding as Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, or via Scholarship funding. These announcements will be posted to the Student Advising Center on Canvas regularly. Students who are interested in more information about Financial Aid should contact the University of Kentucky’s Financial Aid Office at (859) 562-CATS (2287) or 128 Funkhouser Building, Lexington KY 40506.

State Authorization and Licensure

If you plan to complete a University of Kentucky online program while living outside of Kentucky, you should check the Out-of-State Students page to determine if the University of Kentucky is authorized to provide this program in your state of residence. If you plan to use the degree to seek licensure, you should also determine if the degree meets the educational requirements for licensure in your state.

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