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Doctoral programs.

The goal of the GSE PhD in Education is to prepare the next generation of leading education researchers. The cornerstone of the doctoral experience at the Stanford Graduate School of Education is the research apprenticeship that all students undertake, typically under the guidance of their academic advisor, but often with other Stanford faculty as well.

In this apprenticeship model, doctoral students are provided with a multi-year funding package that consists of opportunities each quarter to serve as teaching and research assistants for faculty members' courses and research projects. By this means, and in combination with the courses that they take part of their program, students are prepared over an approximately five-year period to excel as university teachers and education researchers.

The doctoral degree in Education at the GSE includes doctoral program requirements as well as a specialization, as listed below, overseen by a faculty committee from one of the GSE's three academic areas.

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Doctoral programs by academic area

Curriculum studies and teacher education (cte).

  • ‌ Elementary Education
  • ‌ History/Social Science Education
  • ‌ Learning Sciences and Technology Design
  • ‌ Literacy, Language, and English Education
  • ‌ Mathematics Education
  • ‌ Science, Engineering and Technology Education
  • ‌ Race, Inequality, and Language in Education
  • ‌ Teacher Education

Developmental and Psychological Sciences (DAPS)

  • ‌ Developmental and Psychological Sciences

Social Sciences, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Policy Studies in Education (SHIPS)

  • ‌ Anthropology of Education
  • ‌ Economics of Education
  • ‌ Education Data Science
  • ‌ ‌Educational Linguistics
  • ‌ Educational Policy
  • ‌ Higher Education
  • ‌ History of Education
  • ‌ International Comparative Education
  • ‌ Organizational Studies
  • ‌ Philosophy of Education
  • ‌ Sociology of Education

Cross-Area Specializations

Learning sciences and technology design (lstd).

LSTD allows doctoral students to study learning sciences and technology design within the context of their primary program of study (DAPS, CTE, or SHIPS).

Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE)

RILE trains students to become national leaders in conducting research on how race, inequality, and language intersect to make both ineffective and effective educational opportunities. RILE allows students to specialize within their program of study (DAPS, CTE, or SHIPS).

Other academic opportunities

  • ‌ Concentration in Education and Jewish Studies
  • ‌ Quantitative Methods Certificate Program
  • ‌ PhD Minor in Education
  • ‌ Stanford Doctoral Training Program in Leadership for System-wide Inclusive Education (LSIE)
  • ‌ Certificate Program in Partnership Research in Education
  • ‌ Public Scholarship Collaborative

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“I came to Stanford to work with faculty who value learning in informal settings and who are working to understand and design for it.”

Doctoral graduates were employed within four months of graduation

of those employed worked in organizations or roles related to education

For more information about GSE admissions and to see upcoming events and appointments:

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Doctoral Degree Programs

Additional information.

  • Download the Doctoral Viewbook

Join a world-class community of scholars and education leaders exploring new frontiers in learning and teaching.

Doctoral study at Harvard means full immersion in one of the world's most dynamic and influential intellectual communities. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education, two distinct doctoral programs leverage the extraordinary interdisciplinary strengths of the entire University. The Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) prepares experienced educators for system-level leadership roles in school districts, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and beyond; and the Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.)  empowers cutting-edge interdisciplinary research informed by the cognitive sciences, economics, medicine, the humanities, and more.

Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.)

The Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D) is a three-year, practice-based program designed to produce system-level leaders in American pre-K-12 education. The Ed.L.D. curriculum mines the vast intellectual and professional resources of HGSE, the Harvard Business School , and the Harvard Kennedy School , and includes a 10-month residency in the third year.

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.)

The Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.) , offered jointly with the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences , provides unrestricted access to faculty and resources at all Harvard graduate and professional schools. This five-year Ph.D. is ideal for conducting groundbreaking interdisciplinary research that directly informs and impacts education practice and policy.

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PhD in Education Policy

Faculty member Mike Gunzenhauser speaks with Pitt alumna Kakenya Ntaiya at a school presentation

Become a world-class researcher in equity-driven educational policy.

Our PhD in Education Policy provides you with a deep and nuanced understanding of the education policy process, including policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation, and the methodological approaches used to examine these processes and their effects. As a student, you will also explore how the (re)design of policies and systems create substantive improvements in learning opportunities for learners of all ages.

Through apprenticed research experiences and coursework, students will be prepared to engage in collaborative partnerships with a range of policy stakeholders including educators, leaders, policymakers, students, and communities across local, national, and international contexts

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Program Facts

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Time Commitment

5 years on average

Enrollment Term

Application Deadline

Admissions Requirements

No GRE Exam required

Program Overview

The PhD in Educational Policy is a 90-credit doctoral program. Through apprenticed research experiences, students will gain expertise in policy analysis necessary to prepare them to do independent research and pursue careers in policy research.

Flexible Curriculum

Students have the flexibility to choose courses that match their interests. Many options for customization exist within the curriculum and through the choice between electives or the completion of an optional Area of Concentration (ARCO).

Specialization Option

In place of the elective requirement, students have the option of completing an Area of Concentration (ARCO) as part of the degree. An ARCO is a University of Pittsburgh credential that provides specialization within a specific discipline of education policy. The doctoral ARCO pathway is 18 credits and does not result in any added cost, time, or credit hours.

  • Comparative and International Education ARCO

See details about the ARCO courses in the curriculum section below. 

For expanded class descriptions, visit the University of Pittsburgh Graduate and Professional Studies catalog .

Minimum of 90 credits required

Education Policy Core (6 credits)

Students are required to complete both courses:

  • EFOP 3010 – Educational Systems, Macro Policy, and Politics  (3 credits)
  • EFOP 3011 – Education Policy: Students, Families, Educators and Policymakers (3 credits)

Research Methods (21 credits)

A total of 21 credits is required.

Students take the following three schoolwide PhD core research courses (9 credits):  

  • EDUC 3100: Intro to Quant Methods: Descriptive and Inferential Statistics (3 credits)
  • EDUC 3103: Quantitative Methods 2 (3 credits)
  • EDUC 3104: Introduction to Qualitative Methods (3 credits)

12 additional credits should be taken, based on interests. Recommended research methods courses include but are not limited to:

  • EDUC 2201 Introduction to Research Methodology
  • EDUC 2205 Field Methods
  • EDUC 3000 Advanced Applied Statistical Analysis
  • EDUC 3106 Advanced Applied Qualitative Analysis
  • EDUC 3107 Ways of Knowing
  • EDUC 3418 Causal Moderation and Mediation Analysis
  • EDUC 3501 Critical Policy Analysis
  • EDUC 3503 Historical Research Analysis & Archival Methods
  • EDUC 3505 Research-Practice Partnerships
  • EDUC 3506 Mixed Methods Research
  • EFOP 2018 Statistics 1: Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
  • EFOP 2019 Statistics 2: Analysis of Variance
  • EFOP 2030 Experimental Design
  • EFOP 2353 Applied Anthropology of Education
  • EFOP 2410 Applied Regression Analysis
  • EFOP 3012 Qualitative Data Management Analysis and Presentation
  • EFOP 3201 Introduction to Educational Evaluation
  • EFOP 3208 Case Study Methods in Education
  • EFOP 3408 Hierarchical Linear Modeling
  • EFOP 3471 Constructing Questionnaires and Conducting Surveys
  • EFOP 3472 Causal Inference in Educational Research
  • TLL 2405 Introduction to Action Research Methods
  • TLL 3003 Research Interviewing

Program Electives (18 credits) or Optional Area of Concentration (18 credits)

Students can either take program electives or select from an approved list of courses in the Comparative and International Education ARCO.

Program Electives (18 credits)

Social context

  • EFOP 2133 Gender and Education
  • EFOP 2305 Sociology of Education
  • EFOP 2306 History of Education
  • EFOP 2307 Politics and History of Higher Education
  • EFOP 2310 Contemporary Philosophy of Education
  • EFOP 2343 Education and Culture
  • EFOP 2352 Anthropology of Education
  • EFOP 2398 Economics of Education
  • EFOP 3003 Theories of Educational Inequality
  • EFOP 3310 Philosophy of Education, Equity & Justice

Education Policy 

  • EDUC 3505 Research-Practice Partnerships 
  • EFOP 3141 Policy Studies in Higher Education 
  • EFOP 3315 Education Politics: Power & Inequality in K-12 Education Systems
  • TLL 3021 Learning Sciences and Educational Change
  • TLL 3008 Educational Policy
  • TLL 3095 Organizational Perspectives on Education Improvement
  • TLL 3540 Design of Educational Systems

Higher Education

  • EFOP 2129 Social Justice in Higher Education Settings
  • EFOP 3015 Ethical Issues in Higher Education
  • EFOP 3131 Student, Campus, & Society
  • EFOP 3141 Policy Studies in Higher Education
  • EFOP 3150 Foundations for the Study of Higher Education

Special Courses

  • EFOP 2096 Internship in EFOP
  • EFOP 2089 Special Topics
  • EFOP 3089 Special Topics
  • EFOP 3098 Directed Study

Area of Concentration (ARCO) Option (18 credits)

Instead of completing program electives, students can opt to add an ARCO in Comparative and International Education Policy.

To meet the criteria for the area of concentration in Comparative & International Education, students complete at least 18 credits from the courses listed below, including 3 required credits of EFOP 3085. 

  • EFOP 3085 Comp & Int’l Ed Seminar
  • EFOP 2106 International & Global Education
  • EFOP 2359 Gender, Education, and International Development
  • EFOP 3136 Comparative Higher Education
  • EFOP 3301 Social Theories & Education in Global Context
  • EFOP 3343 Comparative Education

General Electives (9 credits)

All students are required to take 9 credits of general electives. Students can select from any graduate-level courses relevant to their program of study, with advisor approval.

Supporting Field (9 credits)

As an interdisciplinary program of study, PhD students in the Education Policy program are required to take 9 credits outside of the School of Education representing a coherent disciplinary or thematic focus.

We encourage students to consult with their advisors about selecting courses that best align with their goals. Courses taken at a previous institution may be transferred to meet the Supporting Field requirement, if approved by the advisor.

No modifications to this requirement are permitted, unless approved by a majority of the program faculty.

Other Required Courses (27 credits)

  • EDUC 3102: First-Year Seminar (1 credit)
  • EDUC 3105: First-Year Seminar (2 credits)
  • EFOP 3097: Supervised Research (6 credits)
  • Dissertation Credits (18 credits)

Degree Requirements

  • Completion of all coursework
  • Dissertation defense
  • Doctoral comprehensive examination


  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • Interest in a career related to education policy and in exploring how policy can contribute to more just and equitable education systems

Take the Next Step

Upcoming Info Sessions

General Info Session (Virtual)

March 18, 2024 | Noon-1 PM

April 1, 2024 | Noon-1 PM

April 15, 2024 | Noon-1 PM

Jennifer Ponce Cori student headshot

"My classes, professors, and staff have been welcoming and engaged throughout my time in the program. It has inspired me to work for international education, social justice, and social change both in my hometown in Peru and around the world." Jennifer Ponce Cori - Pitt student

Career Pathways

Popular pathways include the following:

  • Faculty position at a higher education institution
  • Senior policy fellow
  • Policy researcher for a government agency, non-governmental agency, or nonprofit institution

Program Faculty

Program Coordinator

Hayley R. Weddle

Hayley Weddle

Eleanor Anderson

Eleanor Anderson

Josh Bleiberg

Josh Bleiberg

Michael Gunzenhauser

Mike Gunzehauser

Sean Patrick Kelly

Sean Kelly

Maureen McClure

Maureen Mcclure

Maureen K. Porter

Maureen Porter

M. Najeeb Shafiq

phd education in usa

Keith Trahan

Keith Trahan

Leigh Patel

Leigh Patel

Mariko Yoshisato Cavey

Mariko Yoshisato Cavey

Program News

phd education in usa

PhD Student David Smith Receives NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

PhD Student David Smith Receives NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship - Read more

phd education in usa

Prof. Maureen Porter Receives Outstanding International Educator Award

Prof. Maureen Porter Receives Outstanding International Educator Award - Read more

phd education in usa

Two Faculty Members Named 2022 AERA Outstanding Reviewers

Two Faculty Members Named 2022 AERA Outstanding Reviewers - Read more

phd education in usa

2022 Educational Leadership Series Will Explore Global Freedom Work

2022 Educational Leadership Series Will Explore Global Freedom Work - Read more

phd education in usa

Five Questions with Alumna Yidan Wang of the World Bank Group

Five Questions with Alumna Yidan Wang of the World Bank Group - Read more

phd education in usa

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PhD in Education

Welcome to the graduate group in education phd program.

Our Ph.D. program critically engages students in contemporary issues that impact education research, policy and practice.  Emphasizing collaboration, the program is an interdisciplinary graduate group that draws its faculty from diverse fields of education, humanities, social science, physical and biological sciences, mathematics, and medicine, and engages with key campus centers and programs, such as the M.I.N.D. Institute and the Poverty Center.

Designed to foster scholarly engagement and impact the practice of education, students may select from 5 areas of emphasis:

  • Language, Literacy and Culture
  • Learning and Mind Sciences
  • Science and Agricultural Education
  • School Organization and Educational Policy

Graduates of our program gain deep knowledge of educational theory and practice related to strengthening schools and other educational settings. Our close proximity to California’s state capital of Sacramento also affords students a rich set of opportunities and networks for influencing education policy.

To learn more about applying to our program, visit Admissions & Financial Aid – PhD Program . You are also welcome to attend one of our virtual Ph.D. Information Sessions listed below. You will need to register for the event to receive the Zoom link to attend. 

Thursday, November 9, 3:30-4:30pm (PST) ( Registration Link )

  Wednesday, November 29, 5:30-6:30pm (PST) ( Registration Link )

PhD Student Antoinette Banks Wins $1 Million Black Ambition Prize

Award is for parent-facing app that uses predictive AI to optimize IEP plans

Black Ambition CEO Felecia Hatcher, Leonard Creer, Antoinette Banks and Pharrell Williams pose at the Black Ambition event holding a giant facsimile check for $1 million

Kaozong Mouavangsou

MA ’16, PhD ’22

phd education in usa

Education PhD

The Berkeley School of Education (BSE) prepares leaders in education practice, policy, and research. BSE faculty members support a vision of public education that promotes equity and social justice by empowering practitioners to meet the highest standards of engagement and enrichment in classrooms, schools, communities, and districts. Through this commitment, the Berkeley School of Education supports cutting-edge research and positive social transformation in education. The faculty and students at the Berkeley School of Education develop projects and strategies in interdisciplinary scholarship and field studies that positively impact educational outcomes at the state, national, and international levels.

The Berkeley School of Education offers Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Master's of Arts (MA), and credential degree programs as well as an Education major and minor for undergraduate students.

PhD and Master's Programs at the Berkeley School of Education

Students collaborate in dynamic learning environment that develops expertise in areas including:

Critical Studies of Race, Class, and Gender

Learning Sciences and Human Development

Policy, Politics, and Leadership

Social Research Methodologies

Leadership and Excellence in K-12

Students develop professional leadership skills and explore new opportunities in pedagogy, curricula, and policy. Innovations in teaching and leadership in the classroom prepare students for influential administrative roles - e.g. for principals, district and system-wide administrators, and policy influencers.

Learn more about the Berkeley School of Education's Professional Programs .

Additional Programs

Graduate Group in Science and Mathematics Education (SESAME) SESAME is the Berkeley School of Education's interdisciplinary graduate program for students who seek advanced expertise in a scientific discipline. SESAME students earn a doctoral degree by researching the educational theories and research methodologies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Intersection of Sport and Education In the Intersection of Sport and Education program students research facets of institutionalized sports that complements and conflict with the educational missions of American secondary and post-secondary schools.

School Psychology The Berkeley School of Education's School Psychology program brings together psychology professionals, teachers, and educational leaders to clarify and resolve problems regarding the educational and mental health needs of children in classrooms.

Special Education (Joint Doctoral Program with San Francisco State University) The Special Education Joint Doctoral program prepares leaders in research, teaching, administration, and supervision to address the professional needs facing children, youth, and adults with disabilities. By combining the resources of both Berkeley and SFSU, students pursue theoretical interests and applied practices in a broad spectrum of specializations within Special Education.

Leaders for Equity and Democracy (LEAD) Berkeleys educational doctorate (EdD) is a three year program that engages passionate, equity-conscious leaders who apply practice, theory, and research design to develop excellence and integrity in education. Using guiding principles, operational efficiencies, and professional networks, LEAD doctoral students influence all-encompassing change and innovation in education.

Contact Info

[email protected]

2121 Berkeley Way

Berkeley, CA 94720

At a Glance


Admit Term(s)

Application Deadline

December 4, 2023

Degree Type(s)

Doctoral / PhD

Degree Awarded

GRE Requirements

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Teaching, learning, and teacher education, doctor of philosophy (ph.d.), you are here, a doctoral program preparing education researchers, teacher educators, curriculum specialists, and instructional leaders..

The Ph.D. in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education focuses on the preparation of researchers and teacher educators in universities and colleges. Focal areas include teaching and learning, research and practice in teacher education, mathematics education, science education, and the study of urban education and urban contexts. 

What Sets Us Apart

About the program.

The Ph.D. in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education focuses on the preparation of researchers in education. The program includes formal courses, mentored research, and informal seminars.  The program is designed to draw together coursework, research apprenticeship, and other professional academic activities to build a complete professional program that is tailored to your interests and needs.

Fall: 3; Spring: 3

Culminating experience Dissertation

Coursework and research experiences address a range of practice-based and theoretical problems in schools and community settings from sociopolitical, cultural, philosophical, psychological, and historical perspectives. Taking an interdisciplinary stance, faculty and students explore issues of equity, social justice, and educational change in a range of formal and informal educational settings. You will build a program of study that includes courses in teaching and learning, social foundations, and research methods.  Applicants interested in the focal area of literacy are encouraged to consider the doctoral program in Literacy Studies .

Field-based research and collaborative projects with practitioners in schools or other educational settings are key components of the program. The program is designed to draw together coursework, research apprenticeship, and other professional academic activities to build a complete professional program that is tailored to your interests and needs.

As a full-time Ph.D. student, you are expected to be in residence and participate in practicum activities, courses, and other academic experiences throughout the first two years, where you will be enrolled in 3 course units per semester. Coursework and experiences are arranged around three areas or strands, including specialization courses, research methods courses, and electives/professional experiences, as well as a set of core courses. For more information about courses and requirements, visit the  Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education Ph.D. program in the University Catalog .

Research Apprenticeship Course (RAC)

The RAC is part of the Professional Experiences strand and is designed to assist you in developing, conducting, and presenting your own original research. The course focuses on the research interests of the students and requires participation in the scheduling of activities, presentations, and directing part of the RAC agenda as it pertains to the collective needs of the group. Students from the different stages of the doctoral program will serve as mentors to one another, with faculty oversight. You will participate in the RAC beginning in the spring of your first year and continue participation until the completion of your dissertation.

Annual Self-Evaluation : Each year, doctoral students complete a Professional Self-Evaluation that is used as part of the ongoing evaluation and planning process. You are introduced to the evaluation form in the proseminar and will work on it in the spring Research Apprenticeship Course (RAC). The deadline for the Professional Self-evaluation falls in mid-autumn or mid-spring.

Qualifying Examination : The Qualifying Examination is taken by all doctoral students, most often at the end of the first year. Passing this exam is an important step in being admitted to program candidacy. In order to take the qualifying exam, you need to have completed the Doctoral Proseminar, Doctoral Foundations of Teaching and Learning, Education, Culture, and Society, 1 RAC, and 1 research methods course.

Program Candidacy : You are assessed for program candidacy after successfully completing the  Doctoral Proseminar, Doctoral Foundations of Teaching and Learning, Education, Culture, and Society, 1 RAC, and 1 research methods course, and passing the Qualifying Examination. You must be in good academic standing to receive program candidacy.

Preliminary Examination : The Preliminary Examination is taken after you have completed all courses and before you begin work on your dissertation. Passing the Preliminary Exam allows you to be admitted to doctoral candidacy. You may submit a Preliminary Exam from the start of the fall semester through April 1. A description of the Preliminary Exam is available from the Division Coordinator. 

Dissertation : To complete the Ph.D., you must design and undertake an original research study under the direction of your dissertation committee. Students should see Penn GSE and Penn-wide policies and speak with their advisor about the requirements of the dissertation.

Our Faculty

Penn GSE Faculty Ed Brockenbrough

Affiliated Faculty

Ryan S. Baker Professor Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University

Bodong Chen Associate Professor Ph.D., University of Toronto

Matthew Duvall Lecturer Ph.D., Drexel University

L. Michael Golden Executive Director, Catalyst @ Penn GSE Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Zachary Herrmann Adjunct Assistant Professor Ed.L.D., Harvard University

Charlotte E. Jacobs Director, Independent School Teaching Residency Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Michael C. Johanek Senior Fellow Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University

Yasmin B. Kafai Lori and Michael Milken President’s Distinguished Professor Ed.D., Harvard University

Andrea M. Kane Professor of Practice, Education Leadership Ph.D., Northcentral University

Rand Quinn Associate Professor Ph.D., Stanford University

Sharon M. Ravitch Professor of Practice Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Susan A. Yoon Graduate School of Education Presidential Professor Ph.D., University of Toronto

A picture of Penn GSE alum Justice Toshiba Walker, a former high school biology teacher.

"Penn taught me, Penn GSE especially, that if you have the right combination of ingredients—commitment from the structure, mentors, and colleagues—then risk-taking, innovation, and progress will for sure ignite."

Justice Toshiba Walker

Our graduates.

Our graduates are prepared for research and academic careers in education, psychology, and related human services fields.

Alumni Careers

  • Adjunct Professor, Moore College of Art and Design
  • Assistant Professor of Special Education, Villanova University
  • Assistant Professor, Montclair State University
  • Assistant Professor, Utah State University
  • Director, Out of School Time Resource Center
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Temple University

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements , as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Graduate School of Education University of Pennsylvania 3700 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104 (215) 898-6415 [email protected] [email protected]

Noemí Fernández Program Manager [email protected]

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

All Ph.D. students are guaranteed a full scholarship for their first four years of study, as well as a stipend and student health insurance. Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.

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Richard Ingersoll discusses teacher preparation

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Students are leaning into AI. Faculty need to catch up, according to Penn GSE study

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Collaboratory for Teacher Education

The Collaboratory for Teacher Education at Penn GSE is a laboratory for the design, implementation, and study of experimental approaches to teacher education.

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Core Practice Consortium

The Core Practice Consortium brings together teacher educators from across institutions, disciplines, and theoretical perspectives to grapple with questions about how better to prepare novice teachers. 

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Our Students

Current students in the Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education program are researching a range of topics including mathematical practices, teacher education, maker-based project education, culturally responsive pedagogy, science education, and media making. 

View Doctoral Student Profiles

You May Be Interested In

Related programs.

  • Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education Ed.D.
  • Reading/Writing/Literacy Ph.D.
  • Reading/Writing/Literacy Ed.D.
  • Learning Sciences and Technologies M.S.Ed.
  • Teaching, Learning, and Leadership M.S.Ed.
  • Education, Culture, and Society Ph.D.

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  • Ph.D. in Education

Ph.D. in Education: Transforming Education in a Diverse Society

The Ph.D. in Education is designed for students with some professional experience in teaching and learning settings as well as in research.  Our mission is to teach students to wield the tools of research to change disparities in educational experiences and student outcomes.

Our Ph.D. in Education is designed for students who want to pursue research and careers in academia, the non-profit sector, or governmental agencies with a focus on how to improve educational practices and policies to achieve social equity and progress. We look for students with both research experiences and professional experience in teaching, leadership, and learning, who want to build their capacities to undertake independent scholarly research. 

As part of the evolution of education research, the field of education will require Ph.D. graduates who are prepared to collaborate with policymakers, educators, families, and communities to transform current education practice and policy. Our Ph.D. program will provide a fresh approach to training much needed and innovative researchers. Rather than training traditional faculty members solely to generate knowledge by documenting outcomes and processes in education, human development, and well-being, we will cultivate future faculty and researchers to serve and partner with communities through their research in order to accelerate the improvement of education in regional, national, and international settings.

With a focus on equity, equality, and justice, our program is designed to support the development of interdisciplinary, rigorous researchers who can improve educational structures, practices, and policies, as well as the use of educational approaches for community well-being, particularly in low resource settings and for socially marginalized youth. The program will explicitly articulate the links between university faculty, students, families, education practitioners, community members and programs, policy-makers, and educational and community stakeholders. 

In addition to developing a solid theoretical and methodological foundation, students in the program have opportunities to deepen and extend their learning through elective coursework within EDS and cognate coursework in other UCSD departments, and through research apprenticeships with EDS faculty,   in order to deepen their knowledge of varied disciplines, theories, and epistemologies. 

Students will also have the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary experiences by engaging in research across UC San Diego divisions, departments, and research units. Education Studies is a partner with Critical Gender Studies (CGS) allowing PhD students to apply for a   Graduate Specialization in CGS . Additionally, students interested in cognitive science development may apply to join the   Interdisciplinary PhD program in Cognitive Science   and Education Studies.

phd education in usa

EDS Ph.D. Student Kirk Rogers, Receives Ford Fellowship

Eds ph.d. students anita caduff and rebecca levine, each received a friends of the international center fellowship, want to learn more, program features.

The program features include:

  • Competitive Funding
  • A commitment to promoting equity and social justice
  • A focus on designing solutions for pressing problems in education
  • A multi-disciplinary approach to training educational researchers, focusing on close collaboration with educators, policymakers, and the community
  • On-campus, full-time course of study
  • Interdisciplinary approach
  • Focus on collaborative inquiry
  • Intensive research internships working with well-renowned faculty
  • Rigorous training in quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • Training to generate and communicate research that transforms practices in local settings and makes an impact nationally and globally
  • The use of technology as a tool for teaching, scholarship, and supporting change in diverse communities

Admissions Information

Our application for Fall 2024 will open on September 4, 2024.

A completed Ph.D. application will include the following components:

1) Application Form 

Fill out the application form online.

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2) Statement of Purpose

Your Statement of Purpose  must  address the following:  (1) research interests, (2) relevant professional experiences, (3)  experiences with teaching and learning, (4) experience in diverse communities; (5) how your professional and research goals contribute to diversity. 

3) Recommendation Letters

Three letters of recommendation need to be submitted via the online recommendation form available within the application.  You may find it useful to consider in advance whom you will ask to serve as recommenders, so that you may contact these individuals and confirm their willingness. We suggest selecting recommenders who can comment on your ability to be successful in a rigorous Ph.D. program which focuses on transforming education in a diverse society. The letters might include a recommender’s knowledge and assessment of your academic preparation, your professional experiences in educational practice, and your research interests and experiences.

An applicant must submit a professional resume. The Ph.D. in Education is designed for students with some professional experience in teaching and learning settings as well as in research. 

5) Writing Sample

An applicant must submit a publication or a sample of academic writing.

6) Transcripts

For application review purposes (only), scan and upload copies of transcripts for all institutions attended post-high school.  In the online application, you will be prompted to upload a PDF of your scanned documents. Please upload both the front and back sides of the transcript, even if the back side is blank. Uploaded transcripts should be recent and include the following: your name, the institution name, dates of attendance, grades/marks received, credits, and grading legend.  If no transcript is available, please upload a statement explaining the circumstances.

*Do not mail hard copies until provisionally admitted.

Upon provisional admission UC San Diego:  Official transcripts from all institutions attended after high school will be required to finalize your admission and must be submitted to the Graduate Admissions office. Official records including transcripts, evaluations, mark sheets, diplomas, certificates, translations, and study abroad work must be delivered in a sealed envelope from the administering institution or service. Documents will not be accepted if opened or sealed by the student. Certified electronic transcripts sent directly to Graduate Admissions from the issuing institution care also accepted.  Electronic transcripts should be sent to  [email protected] .

Applicants with academic work in progress who expect to complete a degree program before the intended date of enrollment at UC San Diego, must provide evidence of degree conferral and a final academic transcript as soon as they are available.

By the time enrollment begins, successful applicants  must hold a bachelor's degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution in the United States or from a recognized university-level academic institution abroad. Completed coursework for both domestic and international applicants must demonstrate the equivalent of at least a B average in the United States .

7) GRE Scores

The  GRE exam  (general exam) will not be required for Applications for Fall 2023. If you do take the exam our program code is R4836. If you have already taken the test and did not have your scores sent to UC San Diego, contact ETS to have your scores sent to us electronically. The test scores are valid for 5 years.

8) Additional Educational Experiences (Required by EDS)

To be considered for admission into the Ph.D. in Education Program, please respond to a minimum of three out of the seven areas included within the application. This part of the application is not optional for EDS.

9) Application Fee 

The application fee is $120 for US citizens or permanent residents; $140 for international applicants. The non-refundable fee is payable by credit card through the online application. You may also pay by check, following the instructions in the online application. If you choose to pay by check, please note that your application will not be processed until your check has been received.

The UCSD Education Studies PhD program uses a structured holistic review process with a rubric-based evaluation. Each application is reviewed in its entirety and rated on academic preparation, potential for scholarship, and potential for contributing to equity and diversity in formal and information learning contexts. While we do not have a minimum GRE score,  we encourage students to take the test seriously, to practice and do your best. You may choose to address low scores in your statement of purpose. Successful applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution in the United States or from a recognized university-level academic institution abroad and at least a B average (3.0 GPA) or its equivalent by the time they enroll. Some exceptional applicants with lower GPAs may be recommended for admission. You may choose to address low grades in Education related courses or GPA in your statement of purpose.

* Former UC San Diego graduate students should contact Amber Rieder to complete the necessary re-admission process. 

Graduate Funding

Admitted EDS PhD students are guaranteed 5 years financial support, which includes halft-time student academic employment, and full tuition & fees during the academci year.

If admitted to the program a detailed funding letter outlining the funding packege will be provided.

For further questions about funding please contact the Graduate Coordinator, Amber Rieder, [email protected].

Financ ial Support FAQs

Faculty use a wide array of research methodologies and discipline-based theoretical tools for analyzing and addressing topics. Our faculty have expertise in quantitative methods and qualitative methods of research, with many using mixed methods research approaches. Faculty research projects range from large-scale, multi-site quantitative analyses to in-depth qualitative studies of schools, classrooms, and communities. Faculty also have expertise in historical research, theory development, and design-based approaches to research.

View a list of Ph.D. Faculty and Research Topic Areas

Program of Study

2023-2024 ph.d. proposed course schedule, 2022-2023 ph.d. course schedule, 22021-2022 ph.d. course schedule, 2020-2021 ph.d. course schedule, 2019-2020 ph.d. course schedule , 2018-2019 ph.d. course schedule , degree benchmarks.

Our signature pedagogy is problem immersion -- we ask students to read research and learn theories and methodologies in the service of understanding existing real-world education situations and contexts.  During the first two years of the program, students will take required courses in foundational areas and in rigorous research methods. Students will also take  Research Apprenticeship Courses (RAC)  in which students are immersed in faculty research with faculty supporting students’ development as researchers. At the end of the first year, and with faculty guidance, students will choose their particular area of focus and select elective courses in education and in other departments accordingly. Students will continue their research immersion experiences and take courses as part of an interdisciplinary cognate strand.

Between the end of year 2 and no later than Spring quarter of year 3 students will submit their  Qualifying Exam Research Review Paper . The written Research Review is designed to assess the student's ability to work in a scholarly and professional way with substantive knowledge in their area of interest. To successfully meet the research review benchmark, a student must submit a scholarly review of research manuscript of publishable quality. The manuscript should demonstrate the student’s knowledge of theory and research in a particular topic area related to transforming education in a diverse society.

After successfully passing the Qualifying Exam, students will present their dissertation proposal between year three and four. Information on this process can begin with the  Dissertation Proposal and Committee document . During the fourth and fifth years students will work with their dissertation advisor and other faculty committee members to complete their dissertation research and writing.

Student Handbooks

  • Ph.D. Cohort 8 Handbook 2023-2024
  • Ph.D. Cohort 7 Handbook 2022-2023
  • Ph.D. Cohort 6 Handbook 2021-2022
  • Ph.D. Cohort 5 Handbook 2020-2021
  • Ph.D. Cohort 4 Handbook 2019-2020
  • Ph.D. Cohort 3 Handbook 2018-2019
  • Ph.D. Cohort 2 Handbook 2017-2018

PhD Program Committees

PhD Program Catalog Description

EDS PhD Approach to Mentoring and Advising

Information on SPSS

EDS Instructional Assistant (IA) Handbook

Financial Support

  • EDS Funding Opportunities
  • UC San Diego Graduate Division
  • IA Expectations for EDS PhD Students

Basic Needs Support

  • Triton Food Pantry
  • Financial Programs including Emergency Loans and Grants
  • Basic Needs Amenities in Central Campus
  • Off Campus Housing 

EDS logo

  • Ed.D in Educational Leadership
  • PhD and EdD Comparison
  • PhD Students
  • PhD Faculty

EDS PhD Brown Bag Lunch Series!

Dr. Judy Nguyen

March 1, 12:30 PM

Humanizing Practices that Advance Student's success and Equity in Higher Education

RWAC Room 0622


Dr. Harper Keenan

April 5th, 12:30 PM

Unmanageable Subjects:  Trans Childhood and the Challenge of Self-Determination in School


 Slides from our Fall P.h.D. Information Session     

PhD in STEM Education

The PhD in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education offers students the opportunity to advance knowledge in STEM Education through original research. Graduates of this program pursue careers as researchers and educators dedicated to improving STEM education.

STEM Education is an interdisciplinary program. We conduct research in many different STEM learning environments including, college-level STEM courses, K-12 classrooms, makerspaces and afterschool programs, and community-based collaborations. We work collaboratively across other departments at Tufts and with the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) and the Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction (IRLI).  

The program enrolls five students each year on average. Both full-time and part-time options are available. Full-time PhD students receive full tuition support for five years, a stipend, and health coverage.

We encourage interested students to look over faculty research areas and email a potential mentor, providing a brief summary of your background and research interests, before the application deadline. Admissions decisions are made by the STEM Education faculty as a whole.

Message from Program Director

Julia Gouvea Director, STEM Education Program

Program of Study

Upon entry into the program, each PhD student is assigned two program advisors, one of whom is a faculty member in STEM Education and serves as the student’s primary mentor. Program advisors help students choose courses, internships, and research activities. These advisors can be changed at any time within the program.

PhD students generally work in research assistantships on externally funded projects and may also have opportunities to serve as teaching assistants, either in education or in STEM courses. We also encourage students to apply for a teaching fellowship through the GIFT Program.

Course Requirements

Students are required to complete 18 courses to fulfill requirements for the PhD in STEM Education degree. These include:

  • 12 graduate-level courses in Education
  • 2 graduate-level courses in a STEM discipline
  • Enrollment in the STEM Education program seminar for 2 years (2 courses)
  • Two courses in dissertation work

These requirements can be adjusted, depending on the student's background as evaluated by their advisors and by the STEM Education Program Committee. Students who have taken graduate-level coursework in education or in STEM may reduce the number of required courses by applying for a transfer of credits. No undergraduate courses will count towards the PhD degree.

Research/Internship Requirement

PhD students must complete an original research study for their dissertation. The program is built around a set of experiences designed to help students reach this goal. In addition to coursework, PhD students complete two qualifying papers. Ideally, qualifying papers lead to professional presentations and publications and into the dissertation project.

Read more about STEM PhD Program Requirements .

Job Placement

Graduates of the STEM Education program pursue careers in many areas of PreK-university STEM Education. About 40% of graduates conduct research or teach in higher education institutions. About 25% of graduates are K–12 educators. And about 35% have research or administrator positions in educational institutions including museums, non-profits, and universities.

Examples of positions held by alumni of the STEM Education PhD include:

  • Program Coordinator for Math and Science at Lakes Region Community College
  • Research Scientist at Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • Manager of Research and Evaluation at the Museum of Science and Industry
  • Tenured and tenure track faculty at research institutions around the world

To learn about our alumni visit the Meet Students and Alumni page.

Related and Joint Programs

Students interested in cognitive science may consider the joint Cognitive Science PhD program. In order to apply to this program through the Education Department, you must identify a primary mentor in the STEM Education program who is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science program.

Students may also consider applying to graduate programs in STEM disciplines, many of which have formal or informal opportunities to conduct education research. Students with strong backgrounds in physics may consider the Physics Education track , which we offer in collaboration with the Department of Physics & Astronomy. 

Students with a strong background in biology may consider the Biology Education Research concentration offered through the Department of Biology. We encourage prospective students to discuss these options with potential advisors.

Program Objectives

The objectives of the PhD STEM Education program will allow students to do the following:

  • Theory and research on learning, development, and teaching; cognitive science; and the sociocultural foundations of education, both broadly and within their discipline
  • Developmental, pedagogical, content specific, and sociocultural challenges inherent in teaching and learning
  • Research methods and results appropriate for the development of studies that will contribute to new theoretical insights and practical approaches to education
  • Knowledge and practices in their respective disciplines
  • Theory and research on learning and teaching in their disciplines
  • Express themselves and disseminate effectively within professional research communities through oral presentations and manuscripts submitted for publication in peer-reviewed venues.
  • Address questions of educational and social relevance grounded in disciplinary knowledge, where relevance refers both to the field at large and to students' particular professional experiences and interests
  • Collaborate with others on joint research projects
  • Situate their research within a global and international community
  • Understand the importance of respecting the children, teachers, students, and educators with whom they work
  • Build on the work of others and eventually contribute to the corpus of human knowledge and understanding in their fields
  • Formulate researchable questions, design methods for addressing them, execute empirical studies, and validate conclusions

Program Faculty

Meet our STEM Education Faculty

phd education in usa

  • PhD in USA – A Guide for 2020/21
  • Finding a PhD

A PhD in USA takes approximately 5 – 6 years of full-time study and can cost between $12,000 – $45,000 per academic year. PhD programs in USA differ from that in the UK and Europe in that students must first take taught classes, coursework and exams before starting their research project.

Why Do a PhD in USA?

The United States has long had some of the most distinguished universities and advanced PhD programmes in the world. Combined with curriculum flexibility, rigorous teaching methods, vast funding opportunities, breathtaking campuses and significant career prospects, it’s no wonder that it is one of the most sought-after study destinations for research students.

In addition to comprehensive training standards, here are a few other reasons why a student may choose to undertake their PhD in the United States:

  • Longer learning timeframes – A PhD in the US lasts longer than a PhD in the UK or Europe. This allows students to more confidently transition from undergraduate to postgraduate studies; more commonly referred to as ‘graduate studies’ in the US. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about your subject, research methods and academic writing in general before starting your research project.
  • World-class universities – It’s no secret that some of the most well-known higher education institutions that continue to dominate global rankings are based in the United States. Although many factors go into determining whether a position is right for you, a PhD at a high-ranking American university will undeniably have many benefits, from excellent learning standards to access to innovative equipment and deep expertise.
  • International network – The US has long been a popular choice among PhD students around the world. As such, the US hosts a diverse and multicultural learning environment in which many research students will quickly feel at home.
  • Opportunities – With over 4,000 universities in the US, we can safely say you will have plenty of opportunities to find the ideal combination of project, supervisor and university that works for you.

Universities in USA

Universities in the United States can be divided into two types: public universities and private universities.

Public universities are financed by the state in which they are based. Because of this, public universities charge less for students from within the state and more for students from outside the state, including international students.

Private universities are not financed by their state, but by private donors, research funds and tuition fees. For this reason, private universities generally charge higher tuition fees than public universities and require all students to pay the same amount, regardless of whether they come from out-of-state or abroad.

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 , eight of the top ten universities in the world are located in the United States. These are:

Method of Study

The main difference between a PhD in the US and a PhD in Europe lies in the program structure. Whereas a European PhD essentially consists of a single phase lasting three to four years , an American PhD consists of three different phases, each with its own time frame.

  • Phase One – The first phase lasts approximately two years and focuses on building a basic foundation for the doctoral student. This phase consists largely of taught components such as lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions, in which the student learns more about theoretical concepts and research methods within their discipline.
  • Phase Two – The second phase can be considered an assessment phase, which runs both periodically alongside and at the end of the first phase. Here, students complete coursework and take exams on the basis of the material they have covered of which they must pass in order to proceed to the third phase.
  • Phase Three – The third phase lasts approximately three years and resembles the European PhD structure. During this period, the student undertakes an independent research project, including forming a research design, conducting experiments, writing a thesis (more commonly referred to in the USA as a dissertation) and sitting a viva exam.

Teaching Requirements

Besides structure, a key difference between a PhD program in the US and in Europe is the focus on teaching requirements. In the US, doctoral students are expected to lecture, lead tutorials, host laboratory sessions, mark coursework and provide office hours for undergraduate students. Although students studying in European will likely contribute to these at some point during their study, this would normally be on a voluntary basis and involve less time commitment.

Research Flexibility

Another difference is project flexibility. In Europe, students typically apply to a PhD project predetermined by a supervisor, and although there may be some scope to adapt the project, depending on the funding provider , it will usually be limited to how the project is carried out rather than what it is about. In the US, however, a student applies to become a doctoral candidate within a department rather than applying for a particular research project. This is because students are expected to decide on their thesis topic (also commonly referred to as a dissertation research topic) near the end of their first phase after they have developed a better understanding of their subject and know where their interests lie. Therefore, research students in the US generally have more flexibility and influence in the direction of their research than students in the United Kingdom or Europe.

PhD Admission Requirements in USA

PhD admission into US universities can be highly competitive, both because of the limited number of positions and the large number of annual applicants.

The eligibility requirements for a doctoral program in the USA can generally be divided into four sections:

How to Apply for a PhD in USA

  • Grade Point Average (GPA) – in the US, a scoring system known as Grade Point Average is used to measure academic ability. A student’s GPA is calculated as a weighted score of the subjects they study during their undergraduate degree; an equivalent score is calculated by universities for international applicants. Although universities rarely set minimum GPA requirements for doctoral study, it’s worth being aware that a GPA of 3.0 is equivalent to a UK second class honours (2:1); the typical entry requirement for UK universities.
  • Graduate Records Exam (GRE) – most universities will require you to take a series of examinations known as Graduate Records Exams, which are used to determine your suitability for graduate study. GREs will assess your analytical, reasoning and critical thinking skills as well as your depth of your subject.
  • Student aptitude – in addition to academic ability, US universities also look for characteristics of a strong researcher. These include traits such as engaging in the subject in your own time, e.g. by attending talks and conferences, demonstrating a high degree of independence and enthusiasm, and a general passion for your subject.
  • English Language Proficiency – international students whose first language is not English must sit language exams such as IELTS or TOELF to demonstrate their English language proficiency.

International students will also require a F1 student visa in order to study in the US, however, you would typically apply for this after you have secured a place into a doctorate program.

How to Apply for PhD in USA

When applying for a PhD position at a graduate school, the application process will differ between universities, however, they will all typically ask for the following:

  • Academic CV – a short document summarising your educational background and current level of experience .
  • Personal statement – a document which outlines why you believe you are suitable for PhD study and your passion for the subject.
  • Academic transcripts – a complete breakdown of the modules and their respective marks you have taken as part of your previous/current degree.
  • GRE scores – a transcript of your Graduate Records Exam results.
  • Research statement – a condensed version of a research proposal outlining your general research interests, if required.
  • Recommendation letters – references from several academic referees who endorse your qualities as a person, your abilities as a student and your potential as a doctoral researcher.

Application Deadlines and Fees

Since PhD programs in the United States have taught components, they commence at the same time as all other taught degrees, and therefore share the same application deadlines and start dates. This corresponds to an application period that typically begins in August and ends in February. Admission decisions are typically made in April, with successful students starting in August/September.

When you apply to a graduate school, you will be expected to pay a fee for each doctorate application to cover the school’s administrative costs for processing your application. The fee varies from university to university, but typically ranges from $50 to $100 .

Funding your PhD in USA

It’s very common for a PhD student to receive financial aid in the form of a PhD scholarship; in fact, this will be the case for the vast majority of students in the US.

PhD funding can be ‘fully funded’ covering the student’s graduate program tuition fees, accommodation and living costs, or ‘partially funded’ covering the student’s tuition fee only in part or full.

Besides funding, a graduate student can take on an assistantship, such as a graduate teaching assistant or research assistant, in which they take on a part-time salaried position at the university alongside their studies.

Due to the international and collaborate nature of American universities, there are also a number of international scholarships available, such as the Fulbright Scholarship and the AAUW International Fellowship .

PhD Duration in USA

In the US, a PhD takes approximately 5 – 6 years to complete if studying full-time, and 8 – 10 years if studying part-time.

If you already have a Master’s degree, your first phase can be shortened by one year at the discretion of the university.

Cost of a PhD in USA

The cost of a PhD program in the US can vary considerably depending on the type of university, i.e. whether it’s a public or private university, the doctoral course, i.e. whether it’s in a STEM subject such as computer science, engineering or a non-STEM subject, and whether you are a home or international student.

In general, however, the typical annual tuition fee for a PhD in the US is between $12,000 and $45,000 per academic year.

As with any doctoral degree, additional costs may include travel for collaborations, bench fees, accommodation and living expenses.

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Top 10 PhD in Education Programs

phd education in usa

Karla Ibarra is a content writer at Scholarships 360. She has worked as an English teacher and writing tutor. As a writing tutor, she has experience editing scholarships and college application essays. Karla graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Communication and a minor in English.

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phd education in usa

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

Top 10 PhD in Education Programs

Earning a PhD in any field is both time intensive and expensive. While the required time to earn a PhD is a given, paying for one is not! Fully funded PhD programs offer students a chance to focus on their studies without worrying about going into debt long (sometimes decades) after graduation. With the average cost of a PhD at nearly $100,000 , potential PhD students should do everything possible to secure a spot in fully funded programs. Keep reading to learn about some of the top fully funded PhD programs in Education! 

Related: Top scholarships for teachers

First, exactly what is a “Doctorate of Philosophy” degree?

A PhD, which is the abbreviated form of “doctorate of philosophy,” is among the highest level degrees one can earn in the United States. Students earn a  PhD after the completion of a lengthy research and writing project known as a “dissertation.” While most students earn PhDs in the humanities or social sciences, they can earn a PhD in a variety of fields. 

Further reading: What is a PhD?

How we chose the fully funded PhD in Education programs on this list

All of the programs on the following list have stellar reputations in the education space. It is not surprising that the most reputable programs offer plentiful resources that are invaluable to PhD students. PhD students are able to fully focus on their studies in well stocked and up-to-date libraries. Students have access to the most distinguished education professors in their respective specialty fields. Upon graduation, students will have strong connections to help launch their own careers. 

All of the fully funded programs included offer full tuition coverage. Most offer living stipends and health insurance as well. Make sure that you read the details of exactly what to expect from each program. Students may be required to contribute to their education by becoming a graduate assistant or working in some capacity at the school they are enrolled in. 

Let’s take a look at some of the top fully-funded PhD in Education programs, which are in no particular order. 

Columbia University Teachers College PhD program in Education Policy 

Columbia University Teachers College PhD program in Education provides students with rigorous academic training and research opportunities. The program offers a range of specializations, including curriculum and teaching, educational leadership, higher education, international and comparative education, psychology in education, and special education.  

  • Location: New York City, New York
  • Focus of study : Curriculum and teaching, education policy and social analysis, health education, and cognitive studies in education.
  • What is included : Tuition coverage for the first, second, and third year

Harvard University PhD in Education

Harvard University offers a PhD program in Education through the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). The program offers students specializations in three concentrations: Culture, Institutions, and Society; Education Policy and Program Evaluation; and Human Development, Learning and Teaching.  

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Focus of study : Human development, instructional practice, institutions and society, learning and teaching, and policy analysis and evaluation
  • What is included : Full financial support for tuition, health insurance fees, and basic living expenses for a minimum of five years

Stanford PhD Program in Education

The Stanford Graduate School of Education PhD program in Education prepares scholars to advance knowledge about learning and education, with a focus on improving educational outcomes for all students. Academic areas students can focus on include curriculum studies and teacher education (CTE), developmental and psychological sciences (DAPS), social sciences, humanities, and interdisciplinary policy studies in education (SHIPS), and other cross-area specializations. 

  • Location: Stanford, California
  • Focus of study : Educational leadership, education policy analysis, learning and teaching, and quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • What is included : Full tuition aid, fellowship stipend, and assistantship salary

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign PhD program in Education

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a Ph.D. program in education that provides students with a strong foundation in educational theory, research methodologies, and practical applications. Students may specialize in a variety of different areas of study. These include educational policy, leadership and administration, curriculum and instruction, educational psychology, and human development. 

  • Location: Champaign, Illinois 
  • Focus of study : Curriculum and instruction, educational policy, educational psychology, higher education, learning sciences, and special education
  • What is included : Full tuition waiver, a partial fee waiver, and a stipend in the first five years of enrollment

University of Michigan PhD program in Educational Studies  

The University of Michigan offers a Ph.D. program in Education through its School of Education. Students have the opportunity to specialize in diverse fields such as educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and policy. Additionally, the University of Michigan provides a vibrant intellectual community and a wide range of resources, including libraries, research centers, and partnerships with local schools and educational organizations. 

  • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Focus of study : Cross-specialization concentration, educational foundations and policy, educational policy, leadership, and innovation, learning technologies, literacy, language, and culture, mathematics education, science education, and teaching and teacher education
  • What is included : Full tuition waiver, health insurance, and a generous stipend package 

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education PhD program in Education

The University of Pennsylvania offers an interdisciplinary and prestigious Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in Education housed within the renowned Graduate School of Education (GSE). Students can choose one of the five programs available: 1) educational linguistics 2) human development & quantitative methods 3) literacy, culture, and international education 4) policy, organizations, leadership, and systems and 5) teaching, learning, and leadership. The GSE also has numerous research centers and institutes, providing opportunities for collaboration and engagement with experts. 

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Focus of study : Educational technology, language and literacy, higher education, policy analysis, teacher education, and urban education
  • What is included : A full scholarship, a stipend, and student health insurance for the first four years of study

Vanderbilt University Ph.D. program in Learning, Teaching, and Diversity

Vanderbilt University offers a Ph.D. program in Learning, Teaching, and Diversity through its Peabody College. The program aims to place a strong emphasis on research and provides students with numerous opportunities for professional development and networking. The program offers four areas of specialization: language, literacy, and culture; justice and diversity in education; mathematics and science education; and learning and design. 

  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Focus of study : higher education, learning and instruction, language and literacy, educational policy, and more
  • What is included : Full tuition support, health insurance, and graduate assistantships that cover living expenses

The University of Texas at Austin College of Education PhD

Within the College of Education at UT Austin , the Curriculum and Instruction department includes a variety of PhD programs to choose from like bilingual education, cultural studies in education, early childhood education, language and literacy studies, learning technologies, social studies education, and more. Other departments in the college of education include: Curriculum and Instruction; Educational Leadership and Policy; Educational Psychology; Kinesiology and Health Education; and Special Education.

  • Location: Austin, Texas
  • Focus of study : Bilingual/Bicultural Education; Cultural Studies in Education; Early Childhood Education, Language and Literacy Studies; Learning Technologies; Physical Education Teacher Education; Social Studies Education; STEM Education; and Urban Teachers Program
  • What is included : Full tuition waiver, a stipend for living expenses, and health insurance for up to five years

New York University Steinhardt

The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University offers many PhD programs in the field of education. Popular concentrations include learning sciences, literacy education, educational psychology, policy studies, and teaching and learning. A PhD in education from New York University offers students a variety of specializations with the added bonus of a fully funded program.  

  • Focus of study : Bilingual Education; Childhood Education; Early Childhood Education; Education and Jewish Studies; Educational Communication and Technology; and more
  • What is included : Tuition coverage for required course work, an annual stipend, and health insurance through the fifth year 

Washington University in St. Louis, PhD in Education

Washington University in St. Louis offers a Ph.D. in Education through its Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. PhD students may choose from two major strands of study; educational policy studies and educational psychology. Students in the Educational Policy Studies concentration focus on analysis of educational policy, address systemic inequities, and study qualitative, quantitative projects. The Educational Psychology program helps students in their focus on psychological research and theories relating to learning and motivation. 

  • Location: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Focus of study : Educational Policy Studies and Educational Psychology
  • What is included : Full tuition remission and a monthly stipend five to six years

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  • 12 March 2024

Bring PhD assessment into the twenty-first century

You have full access to this article via your institution.

A woman holding a cup and saucer stands in front of posters presenting medical research

Innovation in PhD education has not reached how doctoral degrees are assessed. Credit: Dan Dunkley/Science Photo Library

Research and teaching in today’s universities are unrecognizable compared with what they were in the early nineteenth century, when Germany and later France gave the world the modern research doctorate. And yet significant aspects of the process of acquiring and assessing a doctorate have remained remarkably constant. A minimum of three years of independent study mentored by a single individual culminates in the production of the doctoral thesis — often a magisterial, book-length piece of work that is assessed in an oral examination by a few senior academic researchers. In an age in which there is much research-informed innovation in teaching and learning, the assessment of the doctoral thesis represents a curious throwback that is seemingly impervious to meaningful reform.

But reform is needed. Some doctoral candidates perceive the current assessment system to lack transparency, and examiners report concerns of falling standards ( G. Houston A Study of the PhD Examination: Process, Attributes and Outcomes . PhD thesis, Oxford Univ.; 2018 ). Making the qualification more structured would help — and, equally importantly, would bring the assessment of PhD education in line with education across the board. PhD candidates with experience of modern assessment methods will become better researchers, wherever they work. Indeed, most will not be working in universities: the majority of PhD holders find employment outside academia.

phd education in usa

Collection: Career resources for PhD students

It’s not that PhD training is completely stuck in the nineteenth century. Today’s doctoral candidates can choose from a range of pathways. Professional doctorates, often used in engineering, are jointly supervised by an employer and an academic, and are aimed at solving industry-based problems. Another innovation is PhD by publication, in which, instead of a final thesis on one or more research questions, the criterion for an award is a minimum number of papers published or accepted for publication. In some countries, doctoral students are increasingly being trained in cohorts, with the aim of providing a less isolating experience than that offered by the conventional supervisor–student relationship. PhD candidates are also encouraged to acquire transferable skills — for example, in data analysis, public engagement, project management or business, economics and finance. The value of such training would be even greater if these skills were to be formally assessed alongside a dissertation rather than seen as optional.

And yet, most PhDs are still assessed after the production of a final dissertation, according to a format that, at its core, has not changed for at least half a century, as speakers and delegates noted at an event in London last month on PhD assessment, organized by the Society for Research in Higher Educatio n. Innovations in assessment that are common at other levels of education are struggling to find their way into the conventional doctoral programme.

Take the concept of learning objectives. Intended to aid consistency, fairness and transparency, learning objectives are a summary of what a student is expected to know and how they will be assessed, and are given at the start of a course of study. Part of the ambition is also to help tutors to keep track of their students’ learning and take remedial action before it is too late.

phd education in usa

PhD training is no longer fit for purpose — it needs reform now

Formative assessment is another practice that has yet to find its way into PhD assessment consistently. Here, a tutor evaluates a student’s progress at the mid-point of a course and gives feedback or guidance on what students need to do to improve ahead of their final, or summative, assessment. It is not that these methods are absent from modern PhDs; a conscientious supervisor will not leave candidates to sink or swim until the last day. But at many institutions, such approaches are not required of PhD supervisors.

Part of the difficulty is that PhD training is carried out in research departments by people who do not need to have teaching qualifications or awareness of innovations based on education research. Supervisors shouldn’t just be experts in their field, they should also know how best to convey that subject knowledge — along with knowledge of research methods — to their students.

It is probably not possible for universities to require all doctoral supervisors to have teaching qualifications. But there are smaller changes that can be made. At a minimum, doctoral supervisors should take the time to engage with the research that exists in the field of PhD education, and how it can apply to their interactions with students.

There can be no one-size-fits-all solution to improving how a PhD is assessed, because different subjects often have bespoke needs and practices ( P. Denicolo Qual. Assur. Educ. 11 , 84–91; 2003 ). But supervisors and representatives of individual subject communities must continue to discuss what is most appropriate for their disciplines.

All things considered, there is benefit to adopting a more structured approach to PhD assessment. It is high time that PhD education caught up with changes that are now mainstream at most other levels of education. That must start with a closer partnership between education researchers, PhD supervisors and organizers of doctoral-training programmes in universities. This partnership will benefit everyone — PhD supervisors and doctoral students coming into the research workforce, whether in universities or elsewhere.

Education and training in research has entered many secondary schools, along with undergraduate teaching, which is a good thing. In the spirit of mutual learning, research doctoral supervisors, too, will benefit by going back to school.

Nature 627 , 244 (2024)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-00718-0

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Report Helps Answer the Question: Is a College Degree Worth the Cost?

The analysis found that former students at most colleges had an annual income higher than high school graduates a decade after enrollment.

A diploma being swiped through a green device with a clock on it.

By Ann Carrns

Most people go to college to improve their financial prospects, though there are other benefits to attending a postsecondary institution. But as the average cost of a four-year degree has risen to six figures, even at public universities, it can be hard to know if the money is well spent .

A new analysis by HEA Group, a research and consulting firm focused on college access and success, may help answer the question for students and their families. The study compares the median earnings of former college students, 10 years after they enrolled, with basic income benchmarks.

The analysis found that a majority of colleges exceed minimum economic measures for their graduates, like having a typical annual income that is more than that of a high school graduate with no higher education ($32,000, per federal Scorecard data ).

Still, more than 1,000 schools fell short of that threshold, though many of them were for-profit colleges concentrating in short-term credentials rather than traditional four-year degrees.

Seeing whether a college’s former students are earning “reasonable” incomes, said Michael Itzkowitz, HEA Group’s founder and president, can help people weigh whether they want to cross some institutions off their list. Someone deciding between similar colleges, for example, can see the institution that has produced students with significantly higher incomes.

While income isn’t necessarily the only criterion to consider when comparing schools, Mr. Itzkowitz said, “it’s a very good starting point.”

The report used data from the Education Department’s College Scorecard to assess the earnings of about five million former students who had attended about 3,900 institutions of higher education, 10 years after they first enrolled. (The analysis includes data for people who didn’t complete their degree.) The report includes public colleges as well as private nonprofit and for-profit schools; the schools may offer nondegree certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees.

The analysis found that schools where students earned less than their peers who never attended college were generally those offering nondegree certificates, which can often be completed in 18 months or less, as well as for-profit institutions, although the list also includes some public and private nonprofit schools. At 71 percent of for-profit schools, a majority of students were earning less than high school graduates 10 years after enrolling, compared with 14 percent of public institutions and 9 percent of private nonprofit schools, Mr. Itzkowitz said.

“College is, indeed, worth it,” Mr. Itzkowitz said, but paying for it can be “substantially riskier” depending on the type of school you attend or the credential you seek.

(Another report found that former students of for-profit colleges tend to experience more financial risk than those who attended similarly selective public colleges. Those risks include having to take on more debt for higher education, a greater likelihood of defaulting on student loans and a lower likelihood of finding a job.)

Jason Altmire, president and chief executive of Career Education Colleges and Universities, a trade group representing for-profit career colleges, said lumping together schools offering mainly short-term certificate programs with colleges offering four-year degrees didn’t make sense. People who want to work in certain careers — hairdressing, for instance — generally can’t work in the field unless they earn a certificate, he said.

Mr. Altmire also said that income data from for-profit certificate schools might be skewed by “gender bias” because the programs had a higher proportion of women, who were more likely than men to work part time while raising families, lowering a school’s reported median income.

The HEA report also compared colleges’ performance with other benchmarks, like the federal poverty line ($15,000 annual income for an individual), which is used to determine eligibility for benefits for government programs like subsidized health insurance and Medicaid. Incomes at the “vast majority” of colleges exceeded this cutoff, the report found, although 18 — nearly all of them for-profit schools offering nondegree certificate programs in beauty or hairstyling — had students with median incomes below that threshold.

Majors also matter, since those in science, technology, engineering and nursing typically lead to significantly higher salaries than majors in the arts or humanities. (Last year, HEA published a separate analysis of the college majors that pay the most.)

When comparing the earnings after college, students and families shouldn’t look at the data in a vacuum, said Kristina Dooley, a certified educational planner in Hudson, Ohio. Many schools where former students go on to be top earners have programs focusing on health sciences, technology or business, but that may not be what you want to study.

“Use it as one piece of information,” Ms. Dooley said.

She said that students shouldn’t rule out a college just because it wasn’t at the pinnacle of the income list. Do ask questions, though — like whether its career services office helps with setting up internships and making alumni connections to assist you in finding a good-paying job.

Amy S. Jasper, an independent educational consultant in Richmond, Va., said postgraduate income might matter more to students and families who had to get a loan for college. “How much debt do they want to incur?” she said. “That is something that needs to be taken into consideration.”

But, she said, the benefits of college are not just financial. “I’d like to think that picking the right school is also about becoming a better person and contributing to the world.”

Here are some questions and answers about college costs:

What colleges had the highest median incomes?

Marquee names, like most Ivy League schools, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are heavily represented at the top of HEA’s analysis. Their students had median incomes of at least $90,000 a decade after enrollment. (A handful of for-profit schools, focused on careers like nursing and digital production, can be found there as well.) But the highest-earning colleges on the list? Samuel Merritt University, a nursing and health sciences school in Oakland, Calif., and the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, each with incomes above $129,000. You can see the data on the HEA website .

How much does college cost?

The average estimated “sticker” price for college — the published cost for tuition, fees, housing, meals, books and supplies, transportation and personal items — ranges from about $19,000 a year at a two-year community college to about $28,000 for in-state students at a public four-year university to almost $58,000 at a four-year private college, according to 2022-23 data from the College Board . Some students, however, may pay much less because of financial aid.

Are some college programs required to meet income benchmarks?

A federal “gainful employment” rule , which aims to make career programs more accountable, is scheduled to take effect in July. The new rule, which mostly affects for-profit schools but also applies to certificate programs at all types of colleges, requires schools to show that at least half of their graduates earn more than a typical high school graduate in their state and that their graduates have affordable student loan payments. Colleges that miss either benchmark must alert students that the school could lose access to federal financial aid. Schools that fail the same standard twice in three years will become ineligible for federal aid programs.

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Starting this year, some of the money in 529 college savings accounts can be used for retirement if it’s not needed for education. Here is how it works .

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Kent State Online

Kent State Ranks Best Online Master’s in Education Programs, Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs, Best Online Master’s in Business Programs and Best Online Master’s in MBA Programs in the U.S. News 2024 Best Graduate Schools Rankings

College Student Female on Virtual Call Class


Kent State University is recognized nationally for high-quality 100% online graduate degree programs.

U.S. News & World Report recognizes Kent State in the Best Online Master’s in Education Programs, Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs, Best Online Master’s in Business Programs, and Best Online Master’s in MBA Programs lists in its new 2024 Best Online Programs rankings. Notably, three of the university’s online programs rank among the top 100 on the list, with the online master’s in education programs moving up 84 spots to No. 58, the highest ranking for a public institution in northern Ohio on this year’s list.

Kent State aims not only to make quality education more accessible to the meritorious many but also to create lifelong learners. Both aspects have once again been recognized on a national scale.

Kent State University’s Graduate Education Programs

Kent State’s  College of Education, Health and Human Services   currently offers 25 master’s programs and 14 doctoral programs, including Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Education degrees. The breadth of these offerings, coupled with faculty expertise and experience in research and teaching, makes the college an ideal place to pursue graduate study in the disciplines related to education as well as health and human services.

Kent State University Online Master’s Degrees from the College of Education, Health and Human Services

The College of Education, Health and Human Services (EHHS) at Kent State University offers several graduate degrees, concentrations, and certificates 100% online . With the working professional in mind, the college provides quality education on an online platform.

Cultural Foundations (M.Ed.)

The Online Master of Education degree in Cultural Foundations  explores education through a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives: philosophy of education, history of education, sociology of education, comparative/international education, anthropology of education, gender studies, multicultural studies, and religious studies.

Curriculum & Instruction (M.Ed.)

The Online Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction   provides a wide range of graduate study opportunities in progressive, research-based curriculum and teaching practices. The program prepares educators for continuing professional development, education in a multicultural society, and leadership for curriculum reform and renewal.

Educational Psychology (M.Ed.)

The Online Master of Education degree in Educational Psychology  provides advanced study for students interested in the application of psychological principles to learning and instruction. It includes various disciplines, including cognitive psychology, human development, and learning theory.

Educational Technology (M.Ed.)

The Online Master of Education degree in Educational Technology   prepares students to design, develop, and use a variety of technologies in school classrooms, training facilities, or other educational settings. The program’s Online and Blended Learning Certificate and the Computer Technology Endorsement are also offered online.

Hospitality & Tourism Management (M.S.)

The Online Master of Science degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management provides an integrated hospitality and tourism graduate education, emphasizing regional, national, and global implications of the field. Students will develop critical analysis skills, and research abilities, and understand advanced hospitality and tourism issues.

Research, Measurement & Statistics (M.Ed.)

The Online Master of Education degree in Research, Measurement & Statistics   Develops educators and specialists in assessment, measurement, research design, and program evaluation for careers in schools (pre-kindergarten to grade 12) and in higher education.

Special Education (M.Ed.)

The Online Master of Education degree in Special Education   provides students with an advanced understanding of contemporary research and practice issues in special education. The General Special Education concentration, the Autism Spectrum Disorder graduate certificate, and the Behavioral Intervention Specialist graduate certificate are also offered fully online.

Interprofessional Leadership (Ed.D.)

The Online Doctor of Education degree in Interprofessional Studies   allows for the study of leadership from an interprofessional perspective that is framed around questions of equity, ethics, and social justice to bring about solutions to complex problems of practice. The program prepares leaders who can construct and apply knowledge to make a difference for individuals, families, organizations, and communities.

More information on Kent State Online Master’s Degrees from the College of Education, Health and Human Services .

Kent State University’s Online Master’s in Nursing Program

Kent State’s online master’s in nursing program offered by the College of Nursing ranks No. 54 on this year’s list, up 11 spots from last year, making it once again the highest-ranking program among all public and private institutions in northern Ohio.

Kent State’s Master of Science in Nursing program thoroughly prepares registered nurses for roles in advanced practice, education, research, and healthcare administration. Students develop a strong foundation for further postgraduate and doctoral-level study in nursing, with the College of Nursing  helping them during every step of their education and professional practice. 

Kent State University Online Master of Science in Nursing

The online Master of Science in Nursing degree prepares nurses for advanced clinical roles while making them eligible for national certification as clinical nurse specialists (CNS), nurse practitioners (NP) or to serve as nurse educators, health care management, or leadership roles.

This degree meets the educational eligibility requirements for national certification in the respective area of study. The degree program can be completed in four to five semesters (two full academic years) for full-time students. Part-time students typically take three to four years to complete the program.

For more information on Kent State’s Online Master of Science in Nursing degree, visit https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/degrees/master-of-science-in-nursing .

More information on Kent State’s additional online nursing degrees .

Kent State University’s Online Master’s in Business Programs

The university’s online master’s in business program moved up three spots to land at No. 97 on this year’s list, the highest ranking among all institutions in Northeast Ohio. Lastly, the university’s online master’s in MBA program ranks No. 107 on the 2024 U.S. News list, making it the highest-ranked program among all institutions in northern Ohio. Both the online master’s in business program and the online master’s in MBA program are offered by Kent State’s Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

Kent State University’s Online Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)

The online Master of Business Administration degree is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB).

The MBA degree prepares students for responsible leadership positions in private, nonprofit, and public organizations. Upon completion of the degree, graduates demonstrate a global mindset and competence in critical thinking, digital technology, communication, teamwork, and ethical and sustainable management.

The program welcomes students from a full range of undergraduate degrees. Regardless of their undergraduate education, students will find a challenging program designed to prepare them for management positions in organizations.

For more information on Kent State Online’s Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) visit, https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/degrees/mba .

More information on Kent State’s additional online business degrees .

About the U.S. News & World Report 2024 Rankings

To be considered for inclusion on the list, U.S. News evaluated schools in the Best Online Programs list based on a variety of factors, such as student engagement, faculty credentials, and services and technologies. The 2024 list is designed for individuals looking to complete or further their education. This year’s edition evaluates more than 1,800 online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs using metrics specific to online learning. The rankings only include degree-granting programs offered primarily online by regionally accredited institutions.

For more information about the U.S. News 2024 Best Online Programs list, visit www.usnews.com/education/online-education/rankings .

Kent State University Online Degrees

Kent State University is a pioneer in online and distance education, offering its first online program 20 years ago. Kent State now offers 90 online degree and online certificate programs, unmatched by most peer universities with new online programs and online degrees continually added.

Earn your degree anytime, anywhere, with Kent State University’s online graduate degrees, online undergraduate degrees, and online certificate programs.  Kent State Online   brings together online programs and assistance for students, faculty, the community, and global audiences.

For more information on Kent State’s Online Degrees, visit  https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu .

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Remembering Former Associate Professor, Assistant Dean for Diversity Paul F. Bitting

phd education in usa

Dr. Paul F. Bitting, a former longtime faculty member in NC State’s College of Education and a lifelong advocate for educational access and opportunity, passed away on Friday, March 8. Bitting was a member of the College of Education’s faculty for about 30 years and retired in 2016 as associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development . He also served as the college’s assistant dean for diversity from 2006-2007. 

Bitting devoted his career to helping others thrive and harnessing a passion for lifelong learning. He graduated from North Carolina Central University before moving to New York. There, shaped by the height of the Civil Rights Movement, he began his career as a social worker before becoming a middle school teacher during a teacher’s strike in 1968. He taught for several years and then became an assistant principal in Brooklyn. He earned another bachelor’s degree and his first master’s degree from St. John’s College in 1974 and then a Master of Science in Education from the City University of New York in 1975. 

“During that time, I was forced to confront my own biases and prejudices, and reconcile my interests as a philosopher and an educator,” Bitting said when he retired. 

Bitting returned to North Carolina and completed a Master of Arts in Philosophy and then a Ph.D. in the philosophy of education from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1985. Soon after, he joined NC State’s College of Education as an assistant professor in what was then the Department of Educational Leadership and Program Evaluation. He focused on researching and teaching ethics, moral education and development, and multicultural and indigenous education. 

Throughout his distinguished time in the College of Education, Dr. Bitting was known for mentoring students, faculty, and other professionals; and he inspired conversations around the need to produce culturally competent graduates that still influences the College of Education today. As assistant dean for diversity, he also led efforts to create a climate survey for faculty and developed a framework for a college-wide curriculum audit.

Throughout his career, Bitting was guided by one question: “How do we best educate our children?”

His answer ? “If you want to truly educate children — to get them to develop an ability to think critically and reflectively — you need empathy, which is key to creating equity.”

You can view information about arrangements here .

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Doctoral Student Shawnda Cherry Awarded Third Place in Holmes Scholars Dissertation Funding Competition 

How to Apply to Law School as a Minority Applicant

Identify as a minority, focus on the LSAT, show leadership and follow this additional advice from experts.

Applying to Law School as a Minority

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Applicants can learn about a law school through information sessions, visiting their websites, attending conferences and other events, and reaching out to current students and alumni via social media.

While the legal profession remains predominantly white, efforts to diversify are ongoing as law schools accept students who classify as racial minorities, experts say.

Applicants often have assumptions about who can attend law school, says Gabriel Kuris, a law school consultant and founder of Top Law Coach.

“They have a vision in their heads about what a typical law school student looks like," says Kuris, a graduate of Harvard Law School in Massachusetts. "But it’s important to remember that law schools are changing rapidly, and while they are by no means a fair representation of society they may be more diverse than you’d expect.”

Here's some advice from Kuris and other experts about how to apply to law school as a minority candidate.

Identify as a Minority

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2023 that bans using race as a factor in college admissions, law schools are no longer allowed to consider race when making admissions decisions.

“However, schools are looking for diversity for building a balanced class in many ways, and that includes ethnic and visual diversity, national diversity, gender and sexual expression," Kuris says. "It could include veterans . It’s also important to understand that it could get complicated. For example, Native Americans are an ethnic minority in America but also considered a political minority. If you are a member of a Native American tribe, there may be special scholarships and programs available.”

While many prospective law students may be under the impression that they can’t talk about their race or ethnicity, "that’s not necessarily the case,” says Catherine Casiano, assistant dean for admissions at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. “Schools are being more careful about the ethnicity questions they ask, and many are masking that information on applications in order to avoid any accusations that race and ethnicity were sole reasons for admitting students.” 

De’Jonique Carter, an attorney and prelaw adviser at Dillard University in New Orleans, says diversity should never be automatically associated with race.

“You cannot check a box and say, ‘Hey Harvard, hey Yale, I’m black!’" Carter says. "Instead, you have to talk about how your blackness has impacted your life’s outcome and how it influenced you to make the decision to become a lawyer. Or how being a member of the LGBTQ community has shaped and influenced your life. It might be helpful in persuading the committee to accept you into law school.” 

Write a Diversity Statement 

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, which was based on lawsuits against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University , many law schools have changed their prompts for writing diversity statements that applicants may submit, or eliminated diversity statements altogether.

Where such essays can be submitted, the prompts now tend to be “very broad,” Kuris notes.

Depending on the law school, the diversity statement may be called a background statement, supplemental statement or optional statement “because law schools don’t want to make it sound like they are only for people who come from racial minorities,” Kuris says. “Law schools are giving you extra space to tell a more complex story. Don’t be afraid to identify yourself however it makes sense to you.”

Some students say they don’t want to “trauma dump” in their statements, Carter says.

“You are not trauma dumping, you are explaining to the admissions committee how your minority status has impacted your life and as a result you have wanted to do XYZ in the field of law to make a difference,” she says. “You can’t look at an application or applicant and tell their military status or their socio-economic status . If students use that personal statement to tell their story, it gives them an opportunity to be reviewed holistically.”

Many students at St. Mary's are immigrants or are children or grandchildren of immigrants, Casiano says, "and those stories may be very pertinent to a decision to go to law school, so we wouldn’t want an applicant to feel like they couldn’t share that just because they identify their ethnicity as part of that story.”

Kuris advises minority law school applicants to consider writing a diversity statement "grounded in your identity and your heritage. It should ultimately be more about your experience and your personal story and how it has formed your path in life and your future as a law student and as a lawyer. There are many ways to talk about it – your goals, how you relate to others and how you can contribute to a diverse class.”

Lead a Student Group

Becoming involved as an undergrad can be good not only for a law school resume , but for networking and relationship-building with faculty, legal professionals and other students, Casiano says.

“This can be so helpful because the admissions process may seem scary or overwhelming, especially to an applicant who will be the first in their family to attend law school, and having a group to go through the process with can help," she says. "Additionally, many of these groups invite admissions representatives from law schools to speak to them, so hearing from schools about what makes an application stand out can be invaluable. The more information a student has about what law school looks like, and what being an attorney is like, will just better prepare them.”

Carter says it's important to join student groups and to be active in them.

"It’s better if you join one or two groups and stay involved and show a progression of different leadership skills," she advises. "It’s not just important to lead a student group, but have substantive involvement in them. Going from a member to secretary, to vice president to president – those are important steps in understanding dynamics and building soft skills that are needed for success as an attorney and in law school.”

Visit Law Schools

Visiting a school gives a sense of what a community looks and feels like, Casiano says. “Applicants often tell us that a visit helped them decide where they want to spend the next three to four years in law school. For some applicants, it has to do with the city where the school is located – are they comfortable living there and maybe building a network there?”

For other applicants, it might be the actual campus. She says applicants should ask themselves: "Is the interaction between faculty and students, or between students themselves, what they are looking for? Are people nice? Does the school have the type of diversity they are looking for?”

Casiano encourages visitors to bring family members, and to tour schools virtually if travel costs make in-person visits impractical. She notes that the Law School Admission Council hosts virtual law forums to give prospective students one date, time and location where they can talk to multiple schools.

Kuris says applicants can also learn about a law school through information sessions, visiting their websites , attending conferences and other events, and reaching out to current students and alumni via social media .

“Especially as a minority applicant, it’s helpful to speak to current or former students who share your background," he says. "I think you’ll find that students are very happy to speak with you candidly about what it’s like to go there.”

Look for these things

Talk to an Adviser

It’s helpful to speak to a knowledgeable and trusted adviser, experts say.

Many colleges "don’t have the budget to have an adviser," Carter says. "Instead, what you have is a professor who does prelaw advising on the side. It’s combined.”

The adviser may suggest that the applicant review their personal statements and can be helpful with advice about strategy, including letters of recommendation , tutoring and gap years between college and law school, Carter says.

Examine the Curriculum

“It’s important that a student assess the diversity and what resources are available before walking into a particular program or law school,” Carter advises. “When it comes to the curriculum, there is an academic component. What classes are going to help you become the best attorney and what skills will you need to be successful?”

It’s also important to note the demographic makeup of all the professors and staff at a law school.

Additionally, Carter says, applicants should see if law clinics and seminars are available, especially those that focus on minorities in the law profession.

Focus on the LSAT

Minority students with good LSAT scores stand out, experts say.

“Quantitative factors like grade point averages and LSAT tell two stories about a person: How well did they perform over a period of time and how did you perform in a short period of time under intense pressure,” Carter says, adding that a lack of resources may have put some minority students at a disadvantage.

There are several programs geared toward increasing diversity in law schools by helping minority students in areas such as LSAT support , Carter points out, as well as many programs that give minority students early exposure to the legal profession.

Kuris started as an LSAT instructor 20 years ago and went on to start helping with law school applications. In a post for the weekly Law Admissions Lowdown blog that he writes for U.S. News & World Report, he advises test-takers: “If you are studying part time, on top of work or classes, it’s best to set aside at least three or four months to prepare for the LSAT. To make the best use of this limited time, set a study plan with weekly goals.”

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Back view of female college student raising her hand to answer the question on a class at lecture hall.

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