Child Development/Early Childhood Education (Ph.D.)

Child Development/Early Childhood Education (Ph.D.)Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The comprehensive Ph.D. program in Child Development/Early Childhood Education is designed to prepare students to be independent scholars in research and education professions. To meet this objective, all students admitted to the program will have the opportunity for:

  1. An intensive research experience
  2. An independent teaching opportunity
  3. An opportunity for international engagement

What is an intensive research experience?

Research experience and expertise distinguishes the doctoral degree from other degrees in higher education. Doctoral students are offered many and varied opportunities to gain research experience through graduate research assistantships, working on faculty research projects, designing and carrying out research through a doctoral seminar, and thesis and dissertation research. We ensure that students experience all phases of a research project from conceptualization and design to data analysis, presenting results at a professional conference, and submitting scholarly papers to peer-reviewed journals. Our students present their work at local, state, regional, national, and international conferences and have their work accepted and/or published prior to graduation. Because our faculty members engage in a wide range of research using a variety of methodologies, students have opportunities to conduct qualitative and quantitative research, secondary data analysis, and to use various methodologies such as survey, interview, and observation techniques. In addition, students may choose to complete a series of courses to earn relevant certificates.

What kinds of teaching experiences will I have?

Doctoral students are required to take a seminar in college teaching (CYAF 920) but all students also have additional teaching experiences such as guest lecturing, teaching a module of a course in a topic area of interest, or working with a faculty member through a graduate assistantship. Students are mentored by award-winning faculty members in all aspects of teaching including conceptualization and design of class experiences and assignments, lecture design and techniques, grading and rubrics, effective communication and presentation skills, and theories of teaching and learning. We encourage students to develop skills in both in-person and online teaching. We guide our students in preparing a teaching portfolio that highlights their teaching experiences and that includes a philosophy of teaching that guides their practice. The teaching portfolio helps our students be competitive on the job market.

What are the opportunities for international engagement?

Our doctoral students have a variety of opportunities for international engagement. Students have conducted international research, presented their research at international conferences, and have taken study tours. Each year there are several study tours sponsored by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies and the College of Education and Human Sciences.  Our faculty members have developed international collaborations and routinely offer study tours to China, Brazil, India, and Italy. Students have traveled to conduct research in Turkey, Colombia, Brazil, and Australia.

Each year, a small group of CYAF students (graduate and undergraduate) spend 6-8 weeks at the Anubhuti schools operated by Jain Irrigation in Jalgaon, India. Students live on the campus of the Anubhuti residential school and spend most school days embedded in the Anubhuti English Medium School, which serves children living in extreme poverty. Living on the campus provides rich opportunities to engage with the students and the faculty, develop relationships, and learn about Indian culture. Students also go on excursions to awe-inspiring cultural sites.

Application to this program

Deadline: December 1

Required materials:

1. Graduate Studies Application
2. Unofficial Transcripts
3. Resume
4. Statement of Professional Goals
In your Statement of Professional Goals, address the following: 
-What personal and/or professional experiences have led you to want to pursue a degree in Child Development/Early Childhood Education?
-What are your professional goals and how will this degree help you achieve those? 
-Identify potential mentor(s).
5. Sample of Writing
6. Three Letters of Reference
Ensure that at least one reference letter is academic (e.g., instructor, advisor) and any non-academic letters are professional (e.g., relevant employer)
Other Application Materials


Degree Requirements

Program Tracks:

The CD/ECE doctoral specialization consists of two tracks:

  1. Comprehensive Ph.D. program that combines a M.S. and Ph.D. into one program;
  2. Ph.D. program for students with a M.S. degree.

The minimum amount of graduate credit for the Ph.D. is 90 credit hours, including a disseration. At least 45 credit hours must be completed at the University of Nebraska after the filing of the program of studies. Students who have completed a Master’s degree prior to admission may have some of their previously earned credits count toward the degree, and the student’s supervisory committee makes this determination.  

Required Coursework:

Child and Family Theories (CYAF 972)
Professional Development Seminar (CYAF 901)
Teaching Practicum (CYAF 920)

Research and Statistics (15 credits):

Minimum 9 credit hours of statistics
Minimum 3 credit hours of research methods

Supporting coursework related to the discipline (39 credits):

Select courses in CYAF and other departments within the University that will support you in meeting your professional goals. Your supervisory committee will assist you in selecting these courses. Some students complete additional certificates as part of their supporting coursework.

Doctoral Seminar (15 credits):

Doctoral seminar (CYAF 995) is designed to provide supervised experiences developing the skills of a scholar, such as engaging in all phases of research from conception to presentation or publication of research findings; conducting literature review; coding and analyzing data; designing measures; conducting a program evaluation; or writing a grant application. Students contract with faculty members to complete 995.

Dissertation (12-18 credits):

Students enroll in dissertation when they begin working on their dissertation proposal, typically after they have completed and passed their comprehensive exam and have completed their other coursework.

 Child Development/Early Childhood Education Doctoral Handbook

Faculty advising students in this program area include: