Special Education Ph.D. Program

The focal point of the Special Education doctoral program is clinical and applied research that adds to the knowledge base in understanding learning, behavioral, and cognitive difficulties, particularly as they manifest in development of interventions for children with learning disabilities and autism. Students pursue a research agenda under the guidance of faculty. The Graduate School of Education also houses the SEARCH Autism Center, where students can learn about assessment of autism in both clinic and school and be introduced to EEG and neuroscience for education.  

years to complete
unit minimum
students receive multi-year fellowships

Program Overview


Some of the courses you may take include: 

EDUC 214C: Educational Research: Experimental Design
EDUC 246I: Learning Disabilities
EDUC 246N: Early Intervention 
EDUC 246K: Autism Spectrum Disorders 
EDUC 255B: Academic Intervention 

Through your coursework and apprenticeship in any of our ongoing research projects and centers, you will learn how to conduct research using a variety of research methods, and design independent and collaborative studies in your area of specialization. A background in undergraduate or graduate-level special education studies and teacher certification are desirable, but not required. Candidates with background in special education and an ability to pursue the doctoral program full-time can reduce the time required to complete the degree, which is four years, on average.

See our full curriculum overview

Student in the program follow these steps to degree completion:

  1. Complete coursework
  2. Written qualifying exam
  3. Oral qualifying exam/pre-proposal
  4. Proposal approved by dissertation committee
  5. Dissertation/Final defense

Recent graduates are:

  • Project officers at the Institute for Education Services
  • Researchers at Educational Testing Services
  • Coordinators for grants funded by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Targeted Student Advisors, LAUSD

Faculty at universities, including:

  • University of North Carolina
  • California State University, Fullerton
  • California State University, Northridge
  • Seton Hall University

Meet the Special Education Faculty 

We encourage prospective students to reach out to faculty whose research interests align with their own.

Featured Ed Talk

Have you ever looked at a puppy and had the urge to squeeze or even bite it? Or felt compelled to pinch a baby’s cheeks, albeit without a desire to harm it? Dr. Katherine Stavropoulos, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education, helps us understand what happens to the brain when individuals experience this phenomenon called “cute aggression.”

Related Research

Faculty research areas include:

  • Autism
  • Cognition
  • Language and literacy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Math education
  • Reading and mathematics intervention
  • STEM teaching and learning



Student Spotlight

Ann Marie Martin UCR student

Ann Marie Martin, Ph.D. Special Education Student

"When I was applying to Ph.D. programs, I was invited for an interview with the program faculty and with fellow students at the SEARCH family autism center, where I am a current fellow. I really appreciated the supportive relationship between mentors and mentees I witnessed during the interview. Faculty really dedicate themselves to the students they mentor at UCR. After that visit I was sold!"

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