What you can earn


4-5 years

Credits earned




Time commitment


Upcoming deadline

January 5, 2024

Our graduates are leaders and change agents

The Special Education Doctoral Program is more than a traditional Ph.D. It's a transformative journey designed to create special education leaders who bring systemic change to educational and community settings. With a strong focus on inclusive education, we will prepare you with the skills, knowledge and relationships needed to drive structural and systemic change.

You'll craft a tailored program of study, blending advanced coursework in special education with diverse perspectives from outside disciplines. Our apprenticeship-style model combines face-to-face learning with real-world experiences, ensuring you're ready for impactful roles in research, teaching and service.

Program commitments
  • We are a community that values the range of strengths, interests, and career goals that lead one to pursue a Ph.D. in special education
  • We approach our work with a spirit of inquiry and collaboration, leading to differentiated experiences with each student
  • We view doctoral graduates as leaders and change agents, equipped with the skills, knowledge, and relationships for advancing structural change
Faculty specialization

Our faculty specialize in the following areas:

  • Research methodologies in special education (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, single case design)
  • Teacher education and ongoing professional learning of special educators
  • Intersectional issues of and approaches to addressing educational (in)justice
  • Early intervention and early childhood 
  • Critical and disability studies perspectives on inclusive education 
  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Literacy and reading instruction for individuals with disabilities
  • Mathematics learning disabilities (dyscalculia)
  • Positive behavior interventions and supports, social emotional learning, and multi-tiered systems of support
  • Supporting learners with disabilities in inclusive settings  
Young students working on an arts and craft project

What you'll learn

In our program, you'll delve deep into specialized topics within special education and master research traditions, explore the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the field and construct meaningful research designs. You'll gain expertise in addressing the critical issues that affect children/youth (birth-21) and their families: access, inclusion and equity

After graduation

Upon graduation, our Ph.D. alumni go on to shape the future of special education. Whether as faculty members, researchers or leaders in educational institutions, they drive innovation and advocate for equitable access. Our graduates impact communities locally, nationally and even internationally.

Let's connect

We're excited that you're interested in our program! By joining our mailing list, you can receive updates on info sessions, deadlines, financial aid and more!

Connect with us

For additional information or questions regarding the doctoral degree, please email edinfo@uw.edu or Maggie Beneke, Program Director.


    Our program is designed to be both flexible and comprehensive. While most students complete their Ph.D. in 4-5 years, we understand that each academic journey is unique. You'll work closely with advisors to tailor your program, focusing on areas of research specialization that align with your goals and interests.

    Within the first year of study, each student enrolls in the Educational Inquiry series with other first-year doctoral students across the College of Education. This helps you learn more about research traditions in educational research.

    Special education doctoral students also enroll in a seminar which supports your:

    • Understanding of the historical and theoretical background of special education
    • Writing of a literature review related to a topic of interest
    • Constructing of a research design

    Admission requirements and process

      As one of the top-rated doctoral programs in the U.S., we have more applicants than we can admit. Please pay close attention to all admission requirements. We also strongly encourage you to contact individual faculty members whose work aligns with your interests. Finding a fit with an advisor is critical to the admissions process.

      To meet the individualized needs of students and advisors, our acceptance rate may vary. We generally accept annual cohorts of roughly 5-8 students.

      Application deadlines are usually in January of each year for incoming fall cohorts.

      Master's degree from an accredited institution

      Your degree can be in-progress when applying but must be completed before program starts

      Unofficial transcript(s) with minimum 3.0 GPA
      • Include one from each institution from which you've earned a degree and one from every institution you have attended in the previous 5 years.
      • Your transcripts must include your name, coursework and degree (if completed)
      • If you are offered admission, the UW Graduate School will request an official transcript from your most recent degree earned

      The UW Graduate School requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0, or 3.0 for your most recent 90 graded quarter credits (60 semester credits). However, we review your application holistically. If your GPA is below 3.0, contact us at edinfo@uw.edu for advice on how to strengthen your overall application.

      Three letters of recommendation

      During the online application process, you will be given instructions for adding your recommenders and getting their letters submitted electronically. All recommenders must submit their letters online.


      A current academic and professional resume or vita is required. In addition to educational degrees and professional experience, you should include a listing of all relevant awards, publications, presentations or other achievements that will help us evaluate your application.

      Statement of purpose

      The admissions committee uses your statement of purpose, along with other evidence, to determine whether your goals are well-matched with our programs. Your statement should address goals, relevant experience, future plans and how the desired specific program meets your needs. Be sure to include personal experiences that have prepared you for the challenge of graduate school, topics like:

      • Scholarly interests
      • Career goals
      • Your match for the program
      • Faculty interests

      Your statement should be 3-5 pages, double-spaced.

      Writing sample

      Submit one sample of scholarly writing (e.g., course papers, articles, essays). The sample should demonstrate how well you can analyze or synthesize and critically reflect on information. The writing sample must have been written by you alone.

      If you have no appropriate examples of scholarly writing, we urge you to consider preparing a medium-length (10-12 page) critical essay review of a book that you feel is central to your interests in education. The writing sample will be uploaded in your online application.

      Personal history statement (optional)

      While optional, you can add to your application by submitting a personal history statement with each application. This statement should address your intellectual growth and development, inclusive of and beyond your academic goals. Speak to topics like:

      • Educational, cultural and economic opportunities and disadvantages you've experienced
      • Ways these experiences affected the development of your special interests, career plans and future goals.
      • Any additional topics requested on a specific program's page

      Statements should be no longer than two pages long. And while there are no standard formatting requirements, we encourage double-spaced text with a legible font.

      1. Gather all required documents
      2. Visit the Graduate School website
      3. Log into your account or create a new profile if you are a first-time applicant
      4. Complete all steps in application process and upload your documents
      5. Pay the nonrefundable $85 application fee
        • You may request a fee waiver during the application process
      6. Submit your application

      Here is our general timeline for decisions. Have questions about the process? Visit our graduate admissions page.

      Step 1: Application processing

      • Within 7 business days after the deadline, we will check if your application if fully complete
      • We will email you whether your application is complete or incomplete
      • If your application is missing anything, you will have a short amount of time submit these items
      • You can also log into the online application and check your status and see any missing items

      Step 2: Application review

      • Committees begin reviewing applications about three weeks after the deadline
      • You will receiving an email when your application has entered the review phase

      Step 3: Decision notification

      • The final decision will be emailed to you
      • Your status will also be updated in the online application

      We value and welcoming applications from international students! If you are applying from outside the United States, there are additional requirements and application materials.

      Prior degree requirements
      • At minimum, you must have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree (a four-year degree from an institution of recognized standing)
      • Evaluation of your degree will be based on:
        • The national system of education in the foreign country
        • The type of institution
        • The field of study and level of studies completed
      • International transcripts must be submitted in the original language.
      • Your transcript should include date of graduation and title of the awarded academic degree
      • If your transcript is not in English, you must also provide a certified English translation
      • You do not need to have your transcript evaluated for the degree by an agency
      English language proficiency

      Per UW Graduate School policy, you must submit a demonstration of English language proficiency if your native language is not English and you did not earn a degree in one of the following countries:

      • United States
      • United Kingdom
      • Australia
      • Bahamas
      • Canada
      • Ireland
      • Jamaica
      • New Zealand
      • Singapore
      • South Africa
      • Trinidad and Tobago

      The following tests are accepted if the test was taken fewer than two years ago:

      • TOEFL
        • Minimum score: 80
        • Recommended score: 92+
        • The UW's 4-digit code is 4854
      • IELTS
        • You must request from the center where you took the test that your scores be sent electronically using the IELTS system (E-TRF) to the following address:
          • University of Washington All Campuses, Organisation ID 365, Undergrad & Graduate Admis, Box 355850, Seattle, WA, 98105, United States of America
        • Minimum score: 6.5
        • Recommended score: 7.0+
        • School information for submission:
          University of Washington, All Campuses
          Undergraduate & Graduate Admission
          Box 355850
          Seattle, WA 98195
      • Duolingo
        • Minimum score: 105
        • Recommended score: 120+
        • Follow the instructions on the Duolingo website to submit your scores
      Financial ability

      If apply and are offered admission to UW, you will need to submit a statement of financial ability.

      Costs and funding

        We are a tuition-based program. Estimated tuition rates are based on your residency: 

        • Washington state residents: $19,584 per year
        • Out-of-state students: $35,352 per year

        Estimates are subject to change and may differ due to course load and summer quarter enrollment. Estimates include building fees, technology fees, U-Pass, etc. Additional program-specific fees are not included in this estimate.

        View the UW tuition dashboard →
        Visit the Office of Planning & Budgeting →

        Currently, nearly all students seeking funding are supported throughout their program. Our special education program and associated research centers strive to fund each student throughout their program. Funding is contingent upon various factors including levels of funding, student prior experience (e.g., practical experience as a former teacher or therapist), enrollment status as a full-time student, and student performance.

        Graduate students can be awarded $2,000 - $5,000 if they are earning their M.Ed, Ed.S, Ed.D or Ph.D through a College of Education program.

        Frequently asked questions

        Are students funded throughout the program?

        Currently, nearly all students seeking funding are supported throughout their program. Our special education program and associated research centers strive to fund each student throughout their program. Funding is contingent upon various factors including levels of funding, student prior experience (e.g., practical experience as a former teacher or therapist), enrollment status as a full-time student, and student performance.

        What should I consider when looking to study at UW?

        Your primary consideration should be specialization and fit with a potential advisor based on your research interests and career goals. We strongly encourage you to review the faculties’ areas of specialization, read faculty bios, and contact individual faculty about your interests in pursuing a special education doctoral degree at UW.

        What specific supports and affinity spaces are in place for international students, students of color and/or disabled students?

        There are a number of supports and affinity spaces for graduate students within and beyond the College of Education. These include (among others):

        What is it like living in Seattle?

        Seattle is a city of self-starters who believe that anything is possible when we work together. We’re adventurous and entrepreneurial, caffeinated and connected. This global hub for innovation is an international epicenter for turning ideas into actions, and the UW is at the heart of it. Whether you’re into art or food, history or tech, city living or the outdoors, there’s a community for you here.

        Can I visit?

        We hold a virtual interview process for applicants with competitive applications. You are welcome to schedule a visit on your own - please let us know if you are planning to come! The College of Education also holds annual Admitted Student Day in the spring. Once applicants are admitted, advisors may apply for funds to support student visits. If you have been admitted and are interested in visiting, we encourage you to speak with your advisor about applying for student visit funds.

        How competitive is the admissions process?

        As one of the top-rated doctoral programs in the U.S., we have more applicants than we can admit. Please review admission requirements. Beyond the application requirements, finding a fit with an advisor or advisor(s) is critical to the admissions process. Again, we strongly encourage you to contact individual faculty members whose work aligns with your interests.

        How many students are accepted on an annual basis?

        To meet the individualized needs of students and advisors, our acceptance rates vary. We generally accept annual cohorts of roughly 5-8 students.

        How often are students admitted into the program?

        Our application deadline is usually in January of each year for incoming autumn quarter cohort.

        Can this program be completed at a distance or online?

        No. The doctoral program is designed for face-to-face coursework and experiences. Such an apprenticeship model is critical for doctoral preparation in the areas of research, teaching, and service. 

        What kind of careers do alumni have?

        Graduates of the Ph.D. program in Special Education go on to a range of careers locally, nationally, and internationally. Graduates go on to careers as faculty members, researchers, or leaders in school districts, state agencies, or educational businesses.

        Program Faculty

        Associate Professor
        Assistant Teaching Professor
        Associate Professor
        Associate Professor
        Associate Professor
        Teaching Professor
        Associate Professor
        Associate Teaching Professor
        Associate Teaching Professor