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

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/.

The SPEMA Department requires a 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 interview 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 doctoral SPE courses or master’s level SPE courses.

  • SPE 606: Special Topics—Behavior Management
  • SPE 606: Other 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.

Doctoral Residency Requirement

According to the Graduate Catalogue of The University of Alabama, the “residency” requirement is that students must spend an academic year in continuous enrollment in live (i.e., not online) coursework of The University of Alabama as a full-time student in the Graduate School. It does not mean students have to live on campus. Students who enroll in 9 or more semester hours are considered full time. Neither dissertation research hours nor online hours can be used to satisfy residency requirements. An academic year is considered two full-time terms in sequence (Fall-Spring, Spring-Summer, Summer-Fall, Spring-Fall).

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.