The Ph.D. program in the Department of Special Education and Multiple Abilities (SPEMA) is non-categorical, suiting the interests of the student and the expertise of the faculty. The student’s plan of studies (POS) committee, including the committee chair (usually the student’s advisor), will determine, with the student, a sequence of learning experiences that fit the match of interests with expertise. Before acceptance to the program, the department sees if a student’s interest matches faculty expertise in that particular area. Once accepted, the student works with the POS committee if interests change. Our intent is to produce top scholars, which is best achieved by fostering the student’s interests. Furthermore, our philosophy is that doctoral students and faculty often learn together; therefore, many interests in the special-education field can be accommodated in SPEMA. The doctoral program prepares researchers and future university faculty in the following subfields of exceptionalities:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Behavior disorders and prevention
  • Early childhood special education/early intervention
  • Gifted and talented
  • Non-categorical special education
  • Severe disabilities
  • Transitions

Program Coordinator: Dr. Nicole Swoszowski

Admission and Application Process

Doctoral students are admitted throughout the year to start in the fall, spring, or summer. Applicants can begin the process at any time.

Applicants must submit an application to the University of Alabama’s Graduate School. For a complete listing of graduate application forms please visit the Graduate School at http://graduate.ua.edu/application/.

All applicants must have a required GRE score of 300 or above, an accomplished scholarly record at the master’s level, a demonstrated commitment to a scholarly career in special education, and a successful presentation to the department, and pass the interview process with faculty members.

Program and Course Requirements

A minimum of 72 semester credit hours beyond the master’s degree is required for completion of the Ph.D. program, but highly recommended additional research courses would extend the hours to 78.  These 72 hours consist of the following courses:  24 hours of special education courses; 12 hours of educational foundations courses; 12 hours of research courses; and 24 dissertation hours.

Of the 24 semester hours in special education two courses (6 hours) are required:

  • SPE 600: Introduction to Doctoral Studies (usually taken in first semester)
  • SPE 601: Teaching in College

The remaining 18 semester credit hours in the major can come from the following SPE courses or other courses on campus closely linked to special education.

  • SPE 606: Behavior Management
  • SPE 606: Special Topics
  • SPE 609: Practicum (teaching a course, with faculty guidance, or other field experience; can be taken more than once)
  • SPE 611: Independent Study (may be taken up to four times)
  • SPE 612: Pre-Dissertation Study (e.g., pilot study; practice data collection; IRB submission)
  • SPE 616: Advanced Professional Development (deliver PD, with faculty guidance, such as training early intervention or special education personnel in practices and models)
  • SPE 617: Administration in Special Education
  • SPE 621, 623, 681: Issues in Exceptionality (ECSE, collaborative/non-categorical, gifted)
  • SPE 622, 624, 682: Advanced Curriculum Design (ECSE, collaborative/non-categorical, gifted)

Most of the doctoral seminars are taught every 2 years, to ensure sufficient enrollment.

A comprehensive exam designed to assess the breadth and depth of a student’s knowledge and skills is administered twice each academic year.

Academic Engagement Policy

The University of Alabama recognizes that doctoral students should be immersed in advanced study and inquiry, interact extensively and meaningfully with faculty and peers, engage with the academic community in their field, and have access to the educational resources of the university. To achieve these goals, a minimum of 50 percent of coursework hours to be counted in a student’s doctoral program must be from The University of Alabama (exclusive of dissertation research hours and subject to the Graduate Catalog’s Transfer of Credit policies). Additionally, 100 percent of dissertation credit hours must be from The University of Alabama. Diverse academic traditions, rapidly changing instructional modalities, and new student populations are acknowledged and accommodated with this policy.

Consult the Graduate School Catalog for student policies.

Student Funding

Some graduate research assistantships are available for 20 hours a week or 10 hours a week. These pay a stipend and tuition costs.