A Ph.D. degree, in any specialization, recognizes an individual's high level of scholarly achievement with regard to the generation and dissemination of knowledge within a particular field. Ph.D. programs are distinct from professional doctorate degree programs (e.g., Au.D., Ed.D.) in that they involve scholarly and research activity designed to promote the acquisition of new knowledge and/or the reformulation of existing knowledge rather than emphasizing preparation for service as a practitioner. The requirements and knowledge base for the Ph.D. in Educational Studies or in Human Sciences is consistent with traditional practice, although both degrees have strong applied and professional components. 

The Ph.D. programs in SECD are not a single-focus entity but vary to accommodate students' diverse objectives, career goals and specializations. These Ph.D. programs are designed to be individualized and flexible enough to allow students to be researchers, academicians, and/or program/project administrators. The coursework required targets the major area of specialization along with supportive areas such as learning theory, psychosocial development, pedagogy, psychoacoustics, physical acoustics, sensory physiology, educational technology, neurology, or development across the lifespan. The Ph.D. in Educational Studies requires a common knowledge base in Special Education populations and practices, while the Ph.D. programs in Human Sciences require a common knowledge base either in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology. Furthermore, the Ph.D. programs in SECD require that students become familiar with the scientific and professional literature that underlies the area(s) of specialization study. The common goal of these Ph.D. programs is the development of a thorough understanding of the scientific process, and the knowledge and research skills needed to apply that process to the generation of new knowledge and reinterpretation of existing knowledge. This statement is not to minimize or restrict the extent or type of research training or to imply that such training will be the same for all students; rather it is based on recognition of the applicability of scientific training both to basic and applied knowledge.

Five general principles concerning the integration and sequencing of content govern the scope and structure of the Ph.D. programs in SECD. Specific goals and areas of specialization will vary in accordance with students’ interests.

  1. Ph.D. programs focus on in-depth mastery of subject matter in a specialty area of interest. Achieving this goal generally requires that students broaden their knowledge base in related fields (e.g., psychology, health science, physiology, education, business administration, physical sciences, social sciences, etc.) and synthesize information across areas.
  2. Ph.D. programs provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to carry out research and evaluation procedures related to their goals and interests. This requires sequential experiences in posing questions, developing hypotheses, designing research/evaluation studies to test hypotheses, and executing research/evaluation projects. Such experiences should extend throughout the Ph.D. program, and the dissertation should be the capstone experience rather than the first or only research/evaluation experience. 
  3. Ph.D. programs provide students with opportunities to gain experience and expertise disseminating information to others in a variety of postsecondary and professional education settings. This includes experiences in making professional presentations, teaching courses, supervising practicum experiences, and developing training programs or course curricula. As appropriate, students will have opportunities to learn about principles of adult learning, methods of instruction and instructional evaluation, instructional technologies, and teaching/presentation approaches/tools.
  4. Ph.D. programs ensure students have opportunities to develop professional writing skills to disseminate information to others. Students will engage in activities such as writing technical reports, generating manuscripts for publication, writing grant applications, and writing textbook chapters and other educational materials.
  5. Ph.D. programs also equip students with the skills they need to develop into professionals who provide leadership within their areas of expertise. This includes learning to contribute successfully individually or through collaborative efforts to agencies, institutions, or professional organizations.