Special Education

Admission to Ph.D. in Special Education at KU

Individuals applying to the Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Kansas must have relevant professional training, usually represented by undergraduate and graduate degrees in special and/or general education or a related field. Also, applicants are usually expected to have at least three years of professional teaching experience in public schools or related agencies that serve individuals with disabilities. Both your formal education and experience in the field help to demonstrate that you have the foundational knowledge necessary to develop expertise in special education. 

Applicants are strongly advised to establish a dialogue with one (or more) faculty members in the preferred specialization area prior to applying for the doctoral program. The purpose of the dialogue is to understand how your scholarship interests align and/or intersect with departmental faculty, and to ensure the specialization focus aligns with your interests and skills. Finally meeting with faculty will assist you to identify a good match of specialization advisor with whom you would like to study. This dialogue also is critical for informing you about various social, academic, and teaching aspects of the doctoral experience that will complement your development as a scholar. Communicating with specialization faculty prior to submitting your application is strongly recommended and is considered vital to the department admissions process. 

The prospect of pursuing doctoral studies can be daunting. The following questions may help you in thinking about and shaping your doctoral experience and guide you in some of your early decisions. These same questions may provide a framework for your early conversations with faculty as you gain more information about the doctoral experience at KU.

Professional goals and career directions

  • What factors, experiences or questions prompted you to consider pursuing a doctoral program?
  • As you think about your long-term professional goals, what contributions to the field of special education do you hope to make in your professional career?
  • How does advanced study leading to a doctoral degree at KU help you meet these goals?
  • What role do you expect to pursue upon completion of your degree -- college/university faculty (teacher educator), researcher, administrator, professional development specialist, policy analyst? What position do you expect to hold five to ten years after receiving your degree?

Exploration of degree option

  • What is your rationale for selecting this degree?
  • How does this degree prepare you for achieving your professional goals?

Area of specialization/ Minor area of concentration

  • Which specialization area do you plan to pursue in your doctoral program? What is your rationale for selecting this specialization for advanced study leading to the doctoral degree?
  • How has your previous graduate work prepared you for advanced study in this area?
  • What are three or four major questions in this area that advanced coursework could help you answer?
  • What are your areas of interest in related fields outside special education that support your area of specialization and research interests?

Research interests

  • If you completed a thesis for your master's program, what was your research question and what was your rationale for selecting it?

Proposed research

  • What are two research questions have you tentatively considered exploring?

Available Funding

Nearly all doctoral students receive funding. Doctoral student funding relies on a variety of funding sources. Select projects that are currently seeking applicants include:

  • KU LEAP (pdf): Preparing Leaders to Create Ambitious Educational Programs for Students with Severe Disabilities;
  • KU-PLAI-ECE (pdf): Preparing Leaders to Advocate for Inclusion in Early Childhood Education;
  • Doctoral Training Consortia (pdf): Early Childhood Education;
  • LSIE (pdf): Leadership for System-wide Inclusive Education;
  • KU RITE (pdf): Researchers in Intensive interventions, Tiered systems, and Evidence-based Practices.

Other projects and sources of funding may exist. Funding is discussed during the application process. 

Admission Process Components

There are several important factors to consider before submitting your application. Doctoral program applications are only reviewed for fall admission. All materials must be received prior to that date to be considered. After the Admission Committee has reviewed applications, selected applicants will be invited to participate in an interview.

Application & Interview Dates
Priority deadline for funding consideration is December 1. Application materials will continue to be accepted based on available space and funding. Applicants who are identified as a finalist will be invited to campus for interviews to take place sometime in late January or early February. Interview dates are to be determined. Please contact department admissions for more information.
On-line Application Process:  Application Packet Submission
  • Letter of Introduction
  • Professional Resume
  • Transcripts (Bachelor's and Master's degree conferral)
  • Official GRE Exam Results
  • Official Proof of English Proficiency (international applicants only)
  • Official Statement of Financial Documentation (international applicants only)
  • Letters of Reference
  • Academic Writing Sample

Apply Domestic | Apply International

Special Education Calendar
#1 public program in nation for special education
—U.S. News & World Report
Wayne Sailor directs KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, to develop a national center to assist schools
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
KU Today
Connect with KU Special Education

KU Special Education Facebook page KU School of Education YouTube Channel KU Special Education Twitter Feed KU School of Ed instagram icon KU School of Ed LinkedIn icon