Sep 20, 2020  
University Catalog 2016-2017 
University Catalog 2016-2017 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education

A doctoral program in Special Education, offered jointly by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), combines the unique resources of the two institutions. The program is designed to prepare graduates for teacher education in special education or other leadership positions in the field. This program offers a focus on disability issues in special education, emphasizing teacher education, theory and pedagogy, and research. Graduates are prepared to assume university faculty positions in which they will conduct teacher education, research, and other scholarly pursuits related to special education and disabilities. This program offers a Ph.D. in special education, thus students are required to obtain both breadth and depth of knowledge in special education and may specialize in specific areas that include but are not limited to: early childhood education, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, intellectual disability, severe disabilities, physical and health impairments, gifted education, visual impairments, cultural and linguistic diversity, and transition to adulthood.

The degree requires major work in special education, and breadth work in related areas as well as work in a cognate field outside of education. Advanced courses and research seminars supply technical backgrounds in the specialization in which students plan to do their dissertation. Practicum, field work, and/or internship assignments are planned on an individual basis.

Admission to the Program

To be considered for admission, applicants must meet the following requirements:

Completion of a Master’s degree in Special Education or a related field.

Acceptable minimum score on such examinations as may be specified by the Division of Special Education and Counseling joint doctoral program committee (currently a minimum of 297 combined verbal and quantitative scores on the Graduate Record Exam).

An upper division undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 and a minimum graduate grade point average of 3.5.

The potential to perform research as demonstrated in evidence submitted to the special education joint doctoral program committee.

At least three years’ successful professional experience, such as teaching, with individuals with disabilities (if an exception is made at the time of admission, the requirement must be completed prior to advancement to candidacy).

Three letters of recommendation, preferably two of which should be written by faculty from whom the student has taken graduate work.

The program coordinator on the CSULA campus will assist in preparation of application materials. Applicants may be asked to participate in an oral interview as part of the screening process. Applicants will be considered for admission by a joint screening committee consisting of special education faculty from both CSULA and UCLA. Students are initially admitted to the CSULA campus with conditional acceptance by UCLA. Upon recommendation of the CSULA special education joint doctoral program committee, students may make formal application to UCLA and be approved for admission to that campus to complete the program of study.

Planning the Program

Upon admission to the program, students meet with an assigned CSULA advisor to plan their program of studies at the CSULA campus. At the time of transfer to the UCLA campus, a UCLA advisor is assigned to complete the program plan with UCLA course work. Course work is taken at both campuses. Course requirements include the following areas: depth and breadth in core content, research methods, research practicum, and cognate, or outside field of study. Specific courses in each of the required areas are determined by the candidate and the faculty advisors within approved program guidelines. Students’ individual programs are based on the students’ backgrounds and are designed to assure their competencies in the above areas.

The program is planned to provide a comprehensive understanding of the entire field of special education as well as an emphasis area. The program is designed to develop competence in statistics and research; provide an understanding of research relating to individuals with disabilities, strengthen background through study in a cognate area; and provide electives to complete a balanced program of study. The program requires a minimum number of course and practicum experiences to ensure the candidate’s competencies in the above areas.

Full-Time Requirements

The first year of the program is primarily at CSULA. In the second year and beyond, students primarily take classes at UCLA. All doctoral candidates are required to be full-time students and available during the day for a minimum of one year on the UCLA campus. However, candidates are encouraged to be full-time students throughout their entire doctoral program. The exact distribution of time on each campus will depend upon the individual program.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

Doctoral Screening Examination

The doctoral screening exam consists of a successfully written 2nd year research project proposal and oral defense of that proposal. The exam assesses a student’s ability to clearly present research, justify its significance, and explain the methods. Upon passing the oral defense, a student then conducts the research project. Students who fail the oral defense will be required to revise their proposal under the supervision of their faculty advisor and 2nd year project committee. Once these revisions are approved students may begin their research project.

Doctoral Written Qualifying Examination

When the candidate has completed (or enrolled in the last of) the course work recommended by the student’s advisors, application is made for the written qualifying examination. The examination consists of two publishable, integrative review papers on topics chosen by the student with the advice of faculty. The examination is scored by faculty at both campuses and follows the guidelines set forth by the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Students who fail this examination will be given a second opportunity to take the examination and can petition for a third opportunity.

Doctoral Oral Qualifying Examination

After the candidate has completed the written qualifying examinations successfully, a joint doctoral committee will be appointed by the deans of the graduate divisions of the two institutions. This committee will be composed of two approved faculty members from the UCLA Department of Education, two from the Cal State LA Division of Special Education and Counseling, and one from the student’s cognate area. Additional committee members may be appointed at the student’s or advisor’s request. This committee will conduct an oral examination covering topics from special education and other disciplines related to the candidate’s research proposal, to determine the candidate’s qualifications to conduct meaningful research in the field. This oral examination is open only to the committee and the student. Upon majority vote of the joint doctoral committee, the oral qualifying examination may be repeated once.

Advancement to Candidacy

Candidates who have passed both written and oral qualifying examinations file an application for advancement to candidacy to UCLA and submit the UCLA application to CSULA. Thereafter, enrollment is required each semester in such course or courses as the student’s committee chair may direct, until the dissertation is completed.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation, required of every candidate for the Ph.D. degree, embodies the results of the candidate’s independent investigation. It must contribute to the body of knowledge in the field and draw upon interrelations between education and the cognate discipline. The dissertation must be approved by the candidate’s assigned joint doctoral committee and, after approval, copies must be filed in the libraries of both institutions. Candidates should check with the committee chairperson regarding the need for additional copies of the dissertation.

Final Oral Examination

Candidates must pass a final oral examination conducted by the assigned joint doctoral committee stressing the interrelation of the dissertation and existing knowledge in education. The major emphasis of this examination is on defense of the dissertation. The final oral examination is open to faculty, students, and other interested researchers at the discretion of the dissertation chairperson and the student.


A faculty member on each campus is designated as doctoral advisor for all students intending to apply for admission to the Joint Doctoral Program. As soon as the decision is made to seek admission, applicants should consult with the joint doctoral program coordinator at the CSULA campus regarding application deadlines and formal procedures required for consideration for admission to the program.

The addresses and telephone numbers for the doctoral advisors are as follows:


California State University, Los Angeles
Division of Special Education and Counseling
King Hall C1064

5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, California 90032-8144
(323) 343-4400


University of California, Los Angeles
Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Human Development and Psychology1009 Moore Hall
Los Angeles, California 90095-1521

(310) 206-3264