Online Doctorate in Special Education

PhD programs in special education leadership by distance learning

Online special education PhD programs are primarily designed to offer convenient and fliexible learning to prepare candidates for careers in research, university teaching, or as providers of special education services.

Special education professionals who provide services for exceptional/disabled individuals are trained in addressing the developmental problems of individuals with disabilities, as well as their families.

For graduates who choose to work hands-on with students with special needs, the doctoral program enables them to better assist those students.

In addition to training learners how to conduct independent research, a PhD program in special education leadership empowers graduates with the knowledge and skills to serve as leaders in the field. Upon graduation, students are well prepared for leadership roles in the special education community through extensive learning and practical experiences

What to consider in a special education online doctorate program

  • There are currently few accredited schools with online doctoral programs in special education, thus your choices will be limited.
  • If you're interested in carrying out research on special education, it's paramount you evaluate programs carefully, with your intended goal in mind, before making a choice of program to pursue. Discuss your goals with the college advisors before you enroll.
  • To join a doctoral program in special education will require you to already have a master's degree in education, special education, or a related field, although each online college will have specific requirements, thus it’s advisable to consult the school of choice on their program requirements.
  • Online doctoral programs offer working professionals the opportunity to advance their careers without leaving their current job. While pursuing an online special education PhD, you can enrich your learning by finding ways to tie together daily professional experiences with what you are learning in the doctoral program. You may also be able to use your current job experiences to conduct the research required as part of the PhD program.

Featured Universities offering Online Doctoral Programs in Special Education

Walden University

  • PhD in Education - KAM-based - Special Education
  • PhD in Education - Mixed-Model - Special Education
  • Doctor of Education - Special Education
  • Ed.S. in Special Education - General

Capella University

  • PhD - Special Education Leadership

Program expectations

The curriculum for an online special education PhD program includes both educational psychology and focused special education courses. You should expect to take classes in statistics and measurement, social psychology, and research methods as well as courses related to learning styles and issues.

Research is also a major component of a PhD degree program. As an online doctoral in special education student, you will carry out independent research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. This research is aimed to build upon the foundational coursework and culminates in a research dissertation. Different schools may have varying requirements for how many credit hours must be put into preparing and defending the dissertation.

As with most PhD programs, specializations are related to the student’s research interests. These are often in line with the research carried out by the student’s faculty mentor. You are encouraged to contact faculty members prior to submitting a program application in order to discuss possible avenues of research.

Potential areas for research, that should be selected under the guidance of a mentor include:

  • early childhood
  • educational policy and administration
  • higher education and adult learning
  • human development
  • language and literacy

Career possibilities

Because of the highly focused nature of special education programs, graduates can look forward to excellent opportunities. Some researchers have found that up to 50 percent of searches for special education faculty at universities come up empty, leaving a large pool of positions available to qualified graduates.

Graduates with a PhD in special education work as professionals at a variety of major universities, both nationally and internationally. They often obtain faculty or administrative positions, where they can continue and build upon the research that they began during the program. In addition to research and teaching positions at colleges and universities, graduates may also serve in public or private organizations as directors or administrators of special education programs.

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