Graduate 2019-2020

Special Education Ph.D.

The Ph.D. program in Special Education is designed to prepare candidates in theory, pedagogy, research methodology, evidence-based practice, public policy and advocacy, and collaboration. The philosophy of the doctoral program is based on the concept that learning is an active, self-regulated process. The doctoral program is composed of required courses in special education, research methods, electives, research tools, and requires the completion of a dissertation. Doctoral learners are guided through their program by their advisor (who usually serves as Research Chair for the dissertation) and a committee of faculty from special education and other disciplines. The doctoral dissertation is defended by the Doctoral Learner in a committee meeting open to the campus community. The program can be completed in 3-5 years, depending on enrollment status (full- or part-time) and professional goals.

In joint planning sessions, the doctoral learner and advisor, in consultation with the doctoral committee, should establish a tentative doctoral plan of study during the first and second semesters on campus. This plan should be based on past experience and training and on the student’s interests and goals. The plan of study must include an emphasis on critical thinking, breadth and depth of theoretical understanding, scholarship, methods of inquiry, direct experiences in schools with diverse populations, and collaboration with faculty and student colleagues. Doctoral learners are expected to become stewards of the discipline, demonstrating: a) the ability to conduct research and scholarship; b) an understanding of the history and foundational ideas of special and gifted education; and c) the ability to represent and communicate ideas effectively and clearly.

Each applicant must receive a positive recommendation from representatives of the School of Special Education faculty to be recommended for admission to the Graduate School.

Admission Requirements

The School of Special Education accepts applications from doctoral applicants throughout the year. However, complete applications must be received by April 1 to be considered for admission beginning summer or fall semester. International applicants must submit all required materials by March 15. Applications are reviewed by the Doctoral Admissions and Review Committee, and every artifact submitted [see below] will be considered when making a decision.

The committee typically meets every three weeks during the academic year. Applications received during the summer term may not be reviewed until fall semester. Students are encouraged to begin their program of study during the summer term.

Doctoral applicants meet the Graduate School minimum criteria for admission if they have a GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale on the most recently completed degree, scores of at least 140 on the quantitative and 146 on the verbal sections of the GRE-General Test with a combined score of at least 297 and an analytical writing score of at least 3.5. Please see general university requirements for admission for doctoral applicants.

The doctoral application is a two-step process: (a) completion of the admission application (, submitted to the Graduate School; and (b) submission of the additional artifacts, listed below, to the School of Special Education, Doctoral Admissions and Review Committee, Campus Box 141, Greeley, CO 80639.

In addition to the minimum GPA and GRE requirements for the Graduate School admission, a strong doctoral application to the School of Special Education includes:

1. A resume that highlights the applicant’s professional experience working with children or youth and excellent demonstration of leadership potential through presentations, publications, grants, or professional service;

2. A written statement (3-5 page, 12 font, double spaced) that addresses the following:

a. Your interest in a particular area of exceptionality (e.g., learning disabilities, autism, deaf or hard of hearing, transition, gifts and talents);

b. A brief discussion of some of the trends in that area of your chosen exceptionality, and;

c. Your future goals after you earn a doctorate in special education from the University of Northern Colorado. Your future goals should focus on teaching, research, and leadership in the field of exceptionalities.

3. A published or professional writing sample that is thoughtful; communicates effectively; illustrates thorough understanding of academic scholarship that demonstrates strong and logical linkages among the question(s), the results/findings, and conclusions; is both technically and mechanically correct; and is completed in an exemplary manner.

4. Three names, titles, and contact information for references. It is recommended that at least one of these references be a former professor who can comment on the applicant’s ability to succeed at the doctoral level.

In addition, the applicant may be invited to participate in an in-person, telephone, or internet-conference interview. The interview will evaluate specific and positive demonstration of interpersonal skills, with clear indication of potential in all areas: effective practitioner, scholar, advocate, and educational leader.

International Applicants:
Admissions requirements for international applicants include the same requirements mentioned above. In addition, all applicants, including applicants who have successfully completed a master’s degree in the US, whose native language is not English, must meet a minimum TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of 80 on the internet based (iBT) test. Applicants may request the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to send an official TOEFL score report directly to the University of Northern Colorado. The institution code for the University of Northern Colorado is 4074. Materials from international applicants will not be reviewed until the Doctoral Admissions and Review Committee receive official TOEFL scores.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the application process, please contact Dr. Silvia Correa-Torres at or 970-351-1660.

For degree and program requirements, see:

Special Education Administration Licensure

Special Education Ph.D.

Special Education Doctoral Minor