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Ph.D. Special Education

Our graduate programs at Clemson University build on the rich experiences and expertise of faculty and students to provide an educational environment in which both groups share in research, exploration and inquiry. The result of this synergy is impact — on our community and beyond.

  • Overview

    The Ph.D. program prepares scholars to be researchers, teacher educators and leaders in the field of special education in order to address the needs of individuals with mild/moderate disabilities from high poverty and culturally diverse backgrounds. The Ph.D. special education students will benefit from a faculty that has an individualized approach of study to meet their students’ needs and enhance graduates’ marketability for positions in higher education and leadership positions.

  • Program Goals

    Graduates of the Ph.D. in special education program will:

    • develop, revise and implement an effective personnel preparation program by focusing on identification and implementation of evidence-based practices and culturally-responsive teaching practices;
    • develop, implement, analyze and disseminate high-quality research related to the unique needs of students with disabilities and teachers in high-needs schools;
    • design and implement research studies that meet high-quality research standards;
    • provide high-quality, targeted professional development in academic and behavioral interventions for students with disabilities to teachers and leaders in high-needs schools; and
    • apply leadership skills in a variety of contexts (e.g., teaching in higher education, collaborating with school partners and involvement in professional organizations).
  • Admission Requirements

    Admission to the Program
    The Special Education doctoral program admits students for a fall entrance term. Only complete applications are considered for admission. To ensure consideration for an assistantship or University Fellowship, applicants are encouraged to apply by the priority deadline.

    Application Deadlines
    All application materials must be submitted by the following deadlines:

    • January 15, priority deadline
      • Applications will be reviewed and considered for assistantships
    • April 15, traditional deadline
      • Applications will be reviewed, but assistantships may or may not be available

    Application Requirements
    To be considered for the program, applicants must:

    • Have a minimum of two years teaching experience or the equivalent
    • Have completed a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
    • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
      • Competitive GRE or GMAT scores
      • A current resume
      • Two letters of recommendation
      • Letter of intent – Writing sample that communicates the applicant's professional philosophy and goals, research interests and purpose for seeking the doctorate. The letter should be two to three pages in length.
      • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students
    • Participate in an on-campus or Skype interview (meritorious applications only)

    Additional information concerning supporting materials can be found at:

  • Program Requirements

    For more detailed program information, please refer to the program handbook.

    Special Education Ph.D. (63 credit hours minimum):

    Research and Methodology Courses (15 credit hours):
    EDF 9270 Quantitative Research Designs and Introduction to Statistics for Educational Contexts
    EDF 9770 Multiple Regression/General Linear Model in Educational Research
    EDF 9780 Multivariate Statistics for Educational Research
    EDF 9790 Qualitative Research Methods
    EDSP 9360 Single Subject Research Design

    Specialty (18 credit hours):
    EDSP 9390 Professional Writing in Special Education
    EDSP 9340 Evidence-Based Research in Instructional Design and Delivery
    EDSP 9350 Preparing Highly Qualified Special Educators: Research in Teacher Education
    EDSP 9370 Research in High Incidence Disabilities
    ED 9380 Grant Writing in Education and Related Fields
    EDSP 9400 Accountability and Assessment for Diverse Populations in High-Needs Schools

    Choose at least one course from the following (a minimum of 3 credit hours):
    EDSP 9310 Advanced Research in Learning Disabilities
    EDSP 9320 Advanced Research in Emotional/ Behavioral Disorders
    EDSP 9330 Advanced Research in Intellectual Disabilities

    Choose at least one course from the following (a minimum of 3 credit hours):
    EDSP 9530 Legal Trends in Special Education
    EDF 9200 Philosophy of Educational Research
    EDF 9710 Case Study and Ethnographic Research Methods and Design
    EDF 9720 Phenomenology and Grounded Theory Research Methods and Design
    EDF 9730 Narrative and Historical Research Methods and Design
    EDF 9750 Mixed Methods Research
    SOC 8030 Survey Designs for Applied Social Research
    PSYC 8730 Structural Equation Modeling in Applied Psychology
    MATH 8070 Applied Multivariate Analysis

    Teaching and Supervision Internship (6 credut hours):
    EDSP 9800 Internship in Special Education

    Dissertation (18 credit hours):
    EDSP 9910
     Doctoral Dissertation Research

  • Financial

    Tuition and Fees

    Explore information on tuition and fees using the Student Financial Services’ tuition and fee calculator. ( Be sure to choose the ‘graduate’ tab at the top of the page.)

    Financial Aid

    For information regarding Financial Aid, please contact the office of Student Financial Aid.


    A limited number of graduate assistantships are available each year through the department, and they tend to be competitive. Assistantships are available to full-time students (enrolled in at least nine credit hours per semester) and typically require a 20-hour per week work commitment. To be considered for an assistantship, we encourage applicants to submit their applications by the priority deadline.

  • Faculty

    Abby Allen - Special Education

    Shanna Eisner Hirsch

    Janie Hodge - Learning Disabilities

    Antonis Katsiyannis - Emotional/Behavioral Disorders

    W. Kent Parker - Special Education

    Beverly Romansky - Special Education

    Joseph Ryan, Program Coordinator - Emotional/Behavioral Disorders

    Pamela Stecker - Learning Disabilities

  • Find Out More

    For more information regarding the program or questions associated with applying to this program, please contact Dr. Joe Ryan at or 864-656-1531.

View the brochure

Program Handbook

Download the SPED Handbook