Doctorate in Special Education

Considering a PhD in special education or an online special education doctorate? Individuals interested in working with and for the educationally challenged, such as special needs students, might benefit from a Doctorate in Special Education. Masters degrees in special education as well as work experience might be prerequisites. Licensing is required by every state for teaching special needs individuals.

Why pursue a doctorate in special education?

Earning a Phd in special education is the highest academic level you can achieve in the field. In order to qualify to earn a doctorate in special education you typically must first earn your master’s degree—although in some cases you may start Ph.D. programs with just a bachelor’s degree. Doctoral programs in special education differ from master’s programs in that they tend to be more advanced, specialized and research-focused. Phd in special education candidates are also typically required to complete original research to create and defend a dissertation—which is a doctoral-level thesis.

Earning a doctorate in special education may help prepare graduates to pursue:

  • Policymaking positions in state and federal government
  • Research and teaching positions in higher education
  • Consultation positions in professional education

Graduating from a doctoral program in special education can also be a good way to demonstrate competence in research and demonstrate that you’ve attained the most advanced level of education in your specialization—which may be appealing to employers. If conducting intensive research on a very specific topic in the realm of special education is appealing to you, a doctorate in special education may be an option worth looking into.

What are some research specializations for doctoral programs in special education?

If you choose to pursue a doctoral program in special education, there are a variety of different research areas to specialize in. Although, it’s worth noting that there are likely to be less specialization options at the Ph.D. level than there are when pursuing a Master’s degree. The exact research track that you choose will depend on your educational and work experience and—of course—your career goals. Below is a brief summary of some research specialization options that you may want to consider if you plan to earn your doctorate in special education.

Positive Behavior Support:

Deals with establishing behavioral support practices and systems to help reduce problem behaviors and increase the quality of life—whether it be educational, work, social or leisure—for people with disabilities.

Low-Incidence Disabilities:

Involves working with children and adults with severe or low-incidence disabilities—such as autism—in home, school and community settings.

Early Intervention:

Deals with serving at risk infants and preschool children or those what have already been identified with a disability—and also working with their families.

Prevention and Academic Interventions:

Involves improving educational systems to help prevent and remediate academic struggles by employing more effective instructional and assessment practices.

Secondary Transition Services:

Focuses on working with adolescents and young adults with disabilities and high-risk behaviors during high school—as well as through the transition from public school into society.


Involves serving children and young adults with learning disabilities, behavior disorders and mild or moderate mental retardation.

Severe Disabilities:

Focuses on research and leadership that addresses children, youth and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities and multiple disabilities—and students who have significant support needs.

Visual Impairments:

Involves working with children or young adults who are blind or visually impaired.

Sources: |

Read Less

Did you mean to Limit Your Search to Florida ?

Expanding your search nationwide can vastly improve your odds of finding the perfect Special Education degree

Show Me Special Education Programs Nationwide!
  • Northcentral University

  • The University of Florida

  • Florida Atlantic University

  • Florida State University

  • Barry University

  • University of South Florida