Feb 05, 2023  
2012-2013 Graduate Catalog 

Special Education Ph.D.

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The Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D.) is designed with an emphasis in the development of skills in scientific inquiry and leadership. Students enrolled in this study program gain an understanding of philosophy and theory as they relate to the conduct of research and program evaluation. Graduates pursue careers in schools, institutions of higher education, research centers and agencies that require the competencies developed through a Ph.D. course of study.

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the Ph.D. program in Special Education must complete the Graduate College Application for Admission and arrange to have official transcripts sent to the Graduate College. Graduate level transcripts should indicate grade point averages (and receipt of a post baccalaureate degree in special education or a related field). The following materials also should be submitted through the online application network.

  1. A letter of application that clearly articulates professional and research goals that are related to the focus of the Ph.D. degree program in Special Education;
  2. Three letters of recommendation – at least one from an individual familiar with the applicant’s academic performance and potential for doctoral degree completion and at least one from an individual knowledgeable of the applicant’s quality of work experience;
  3. Representative samples of scholarly writing, preferably in APA style, and/or other media samples related to professional study;
  4. A resume of professional preparation and experience (a minimum of two to three years of professional experience in special education, general education or other relevant field as a teacher, administrator or related service provider for children and adults with disabilities and/or giftedness is preferred);
  5. Scores from the verbal, quantitative and analytical sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (taken within five years from the date of application for admission). Applicants should arrange to have official notification of GRE scores sent to the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies. The department does not impose minimum GRE scores.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that his/her applicant file is complete. Incomplete files will not be considered. Application materials for U.S. residents requesting financial support are due March 1.

Note: The department admissions committee may request additional materials and/or conduct a personal interview after reviewing initial applicant files.

In general, applicants will be expected to have a 3.50 grade point average on all graduate-level work and an indication of potential to complete all requirements of doctoral study successfully (provided through submitted writings or creative products, letters of recommendation and GRE results) to be admitted as doctoral students in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies.

After Admission Committee review, the Doctoral Program Coordinator may recommend to the department faculty that the applicant be: 1) admitted fully to the Ph.D. program in special education, 2) admitted provisionally to the Ph.D. program or 3) denied admission to the Ph.D. program in special education. A recommendation for provisional admission may occur when an applicant has not met the criteria or prerequisites to do advanced graduate level work. Provisional admission requires the satisfactory completion (e.g., with a minimum 3.50 grade-point average) of nine or more hours in regularly scheduled graduate courses approved by the student’s advisor and departmental faculty. After completion of the provisional program, the Doctoral Coordinator and Department Chair recommend to the Graduate College that the student either be transferred to regular status or dropped from the program.

Note: To apply for a Graduate Assistantship, applicants must complete the Graduate Assistant Application located at http://graduatecollege.unlv.edu/ga/ and send it to the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies.


Doctoral students are required to spend a minimum of two consecutive semesters (Fall-Spring, Spring-Summer or Summer-Fall) in full-time resident study in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies. Full-time resident study is defined as being enrolled in at least nine semester hours of graduate level course work from an approved Program of Study (six semester hours if the student is a graduate assistant). In cases where residency includes a semester of course work prior to submission of the Program of Study, the advisor must approve residency. Work during residency is allowed. However, if the student is employed as a graduate assistant, any additional work beyond that performed as an assistant must conform to the rules of the University and Graduate College.

Program of Study

The program of study requires a minimum of 72 semester hours. Only credits that meet the following criteria may be included on the formal Program of Study:

  1. Those not previously used to fulfill requirements for another degree;
  2. Those taken while enrolled at an accredited graduate degree-granting institution in a degree-granting program;
  3. Those taken as a nondegree student (not to exceed 15 total semester hours); and
  4. Those for which a grade of B or higher was earned.

In addition, two-thirds of the total semester hours included on the formal Program of Study (not including dissertation) must be taken at UNLV. Faculty members of the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies instructing specialist’s and/ or master’s classes initiate an interaction with doctoral students enrolled in these courses regarding the appropriateness of both the content and performance requirements for doctoral students. Students not admitted to the doctoral program in Educational and Clinical Studies (or to another doctoral program in the College of Education) may enroll in: ESP 782 - Professional Seminar in Special Education   (formerly ESP 760) and two additional Core Curriculum Courses with consent of instructor prior to formal admission.

The Department of Educational and Clinical Studies generally tailors its leadership programs to meet individual student needs and career goals. A content core of courses, however, is required of all Ph.D. doctoral students. This content may not be waived. In addition to the core curriculum, students select concentrations in Leadership Studies and Exceptionality Specialties as appropriate. The requirements for the Ph.D. degree are outlined here:

Degree Requirements

Core Curriculum - Total Semester Hours: 24

Doctoral students must earn a grade of B or higher in all core curriculum courses.

Each doctoral student will complete the core curriculum below:

      (To be taken as an independent study supervised by the advisor)
Research Course Work - Total Semester Hours: 15
  Doctoral Students must earn a grade of B or higher in EPY 721 and EPY 722.
  An additional six semester hours in research selected from courses such as:

Research Internship - Total Semester Hours: 3



Leadership Studies - Total Semester Hours: 18*
  Doctoral students complete 18 semester hours including:


  Additional leadership courses may be selected from one or more of the following leadership concentrations: Parenting, Administration, Research, Diagnosis/Assessment, Transition, Early Childhood Special Education, Early Childhood Education, Higher Education, Technology, Consultation, or Curriculum.

Exceptionality Specialties - Total Semester Hours: 18*

  Students complete nine semester hours each in two specialty areas from the following list: Autism, Learning Disabilities, Emotional Disturbance, Mental Retardation, Gifted and Talented Education, Developmental Disabilities/Children at Risk.

Notes: *Hours may be reduced based on student’s previous academic preparation related to leadership studies and exceptionality specialties. However, under no circumstances will the Formal Program of Studies include fewer than 72 semester hours.


Writing Proficiency

  Students shall be required to demonstrate doctoral-level writing proficiency beginning with the first doctoral seminar:     (formerly ESP 760)

Dissertation - Total Semester Hours: 12

  Upon completion of course work, doctoral students enroll in 12 semester hours of dissertation credit:   


  The Educational and Clinical Studies Doctoral Colloquium typically is held one Friday each semester. The Doctoral Coordinator coordinates these meetings with the assistance of the special education faculty and doctoral students.

Doctoral Studies Committee

  Each student is required to select a faculty committee designated as the Doctoral Studies Committee. The committee consists of the student’s advisor, who is to have been selected prior to the time 12 semester hours of course work have been completed, two other faculty members from within the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies, and a Graduate College representative. This committee oversees the student’s progress, including the comprehensive examination process. A temporary advisor may be assigned until a new student becomes acquainted with the faculty.

Comprehensive Examination

  The comprehensive examination is taken during the semester immediately preceding enrollment in ESP 799 Dissertation. The comprehensive examination consists of 16 hours of written examinations with eight hours structured by the student’s major advisor and eight hours structured by the other internal committee members. The examinations are scheduled on two successive Fridays.  The student’s advisor determines the specific dates of the examination. The questions on the comprehensive examination address elements of the Core, Research, Leadership Studies, Exceptionality Specialties, and any course work taken for licensure or endorsements. The student’s Doctoral Studies Committee provides general parameters from which questions are selected. “Take-home” examinations, in whole or in part, are not allowed. Students may use college provided technology for word-processing. Grading consists of three categories: Pass, Fail, and Pass with Distinction. Pass with Distinction occurs contingent upon a unanimous vote of the committee excluding the Graduate College representative.

Dissertation Proposal and Advancement to Candidacy

  Upon successful completion of comprehensive examination, the student selects a dissertation committee (i.e., minimum of three faculty members from the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies and an outside member appointed by the Graduate College) and submits a dissertation proposal to the committee. This proposal includes an introduction, review of the literature, and a discussion of study methods. Two weeks after this proposal is submitted to the dissertation committee, the committee meets with the student to accept or reject the proposal, as well as provide a critique of its relative strengths and weaknesses. Upon acceptance of the student’s dissertation proposal, a recommendation for advancement to candidacy is submitted to the Graduate College.

Dissertation Defense

  Upon completion of the full dissertation, a defense is scheduled. Students need to obtain The Guide to Preparing and Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation from the Graduate College web site.



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