Skip to navigation menu

Skip to main content

Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
teachers college logo columbia univertsity logo

Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education
In the Department of Health and Behavorial Studies

Degree Requirements > Doctor of Philosophy

Site Navigation


Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy Exceptionality Focus Areas:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Intellectual Disability/Autism
  • Physical Disabilities (including Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

Research and Evaluation Emphasis:

Students with excellent potential as researchers and theoreticians who are interested in scholarly careers in special education, education, and related social sciences may apply for the Ph.D. degree program, which represents the highest level of achievement in the Arts and Sciences. This degree program is administered jointly by Teachers College and the graduate faculty of Columbia University. Prospective students may obtain information on program offerings by contacting the program office.

 Ph.D. Program in Teaching as Applied Behavior Analysis

The Teaching as Applied Behavior Analysis MA and PhD Programs incorporate an approach to teacher training in which all instruction used by teachers is based on scientific evidence and the use of scientific procedures to fit the appropriate science- based practices to individual students’ varied learning and language developmental needs. The MA program prepares graduates to be dually certified from birth to grade 6 in New York State and reciprocal states. Students accepted in the program are placed in paid teacher assistant positions (MA students and PhD students taking the MA core) or paid teacher positions (PhD students who have completed at least 3 semesters of the MA core) in schools and classrooms that practice teaching as applied behavior analysis. The training of teachers is also based on scientifically tested procedures.  Teacher trainees are taught until they master the science and its application with all children from 2-years through grade 5.

Research is a central component of the training—both the applications of research using science based tactics and measurement, and the generation of new research. The focus of the MA program is in the application of scientific procedures in classrooms, while PhD students engage in research throughout their program, building on their research training in the MA, culminating in a dissertation that identifies and investigates a topic related to our mission. Dissertations must make contributions to both the applied and basic science. The faculty and the students generate a substantial body of research leading to publications and presentations at international scientific conferences each year and this is a key component of the PhD training. Programmatic research is conducted in the following areas: effective classroom practices, language/verbal development interventions that result in children learning to learn in different ways, observational learning, and systems wide scientific approaches to education.

Students who already hold MA Degrees from other institutions must take the ten MA core courses because the core prepares them with the means to be successful in completing milestone PhD requirements. PhD students also need to be dually certified in New York State for teaching children from birth to grade 6. The teaching placement is a critical part of the program, because it provides opportunities to learn the science and its application to teaching children. In that role PhD students are critical instructors for the first and second year MA students, an experience that prepares the candidate to teach and mentor graduate level students. Our PhD candidate teachers play a significant role in our record of providing measurably superior instruction and bridging the educational gap.  For more information please see the Teaching as Applied Behavior Analysis MA program description.

Department Courses Required for All Student Majors in Degree Program

Core Requirements for all Ph.D. Special Education Majors

  • HBSE 5010     Study of the philosophic foundations of special education
  • HBSE 6001     Research in special education: Research/experimental design
  • HBSE 6003     Research in special education: Qualitative approaches
  • HBSE 6005     Research in special education: Single-case design
  • HBSE 6010     Advanced study of problems and issues in special education
  • HBSE 7500     Dissertation seminar in special education
  • HBSE 8900-8910     Dissertation advisement in special education

Non-Department Courses Required for All Student Majors in Degree Program

  • HUDM 4122     Probability and statistical inference
  • HUDM 5122     Applied regression analysis 


Specialization Requirements, Applied Behavior Analysis:

  • HBSE 5304     Advanced practica in special education: Behavioral disorders
  • HBSE 5904     Problems in special education: Behavioral disorders
  • HBSE 5915     Supervision and administration of special education and human resources agencies through organizational behavior analysis
  • HBSE 6008     Behaviorism
  • HBSE 6015     The verbal behavior model: Individual educational programming
  • HBSE 6031     Single case experimental design in education, medicine, and therapy
  • HBSE 6504     Advanced seminar in special education: Applied behavior analysis and behavioral disorders 



Ph.D. Program in the Education of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing 

There are two possible doctoral degrees available: the Ed.D. and the Ph.D.  The Ed.D. and Ph.D. doctoral programs are divided into several areas of study including 1) advanced study in general special education, the philosophy of science, and theory building; 2) advanced study in a minimum of two paradigms of research; 3) advanced study in the education of the d/Deaf and hard of hearing, including advanced study in linguistics, psycholinguistics, and developmental psycholinguistics; and 5) a professional spe­cialization. 

Although the program requirements for the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. are very similar there are differences.  The Ed.D. is in the Education of the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing and is administered and awarded through Teachers College itself as an affiliate of Columbia University.  The Ph.D. is in Physical Disabilities, which includes a specialization in the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The Ph.D. in Physical Disabilities with an emphasis on the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing is administered and awarded through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University and requires the equivalent of an undergraduate liberal arts degree.  Both degrees require a minimum of 70 credits beyond the master’s degree and both presume a background in and/or direct professional experience in working with individuals who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. The major difference between the two degrees, aside from the administrative issues noted above, has to do with the nature of the dissertation itself.  Typically, the Ed.D. dissertation is more applied and field-based, whereas the Ph.D. requires the work to be theoretical in nature. Another difference has to do with the composition of the dissertation committees and the title of the degree: I.e., The Ed.D. will be in Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Ph.D. be in Physical Disabilities. The program requirements for both degrees are essentially the same and entail the following:

Core and Research Sequence  (34 credits)

Core Requirements for all Ed.D. and Ph.D. Special Education majors (15):

  • HBSE 5010     Study of the philosophic foundations of special education (3)
  • HBSE 6001, 6003, 6005    Research in special education (6 total)  
  • HBSE 6010     Advanced study of problems and issues in special education (3)
  • HBSE 7500     Dissertation seminar in special education (3)
  • HBSE 8907     Dissertation advisement in special education: Deaf and hard of hearing (0)

Research Requirement (6)

  • HUDM 4122     Probability and statistical inference (3)
  • HUDM 5122     Applied regression analysis (3)

Course work in: group design, single-subject Design, qualitative research, policy study

Area of Concentration: Deaf and Hard of Hearing  (23):

Deaf and Hard of Hearing (8)

  • HBSE 5307     Advanced practicum in special education: Deaf and hard of hearing (1-6)
  • HBSE 5907     Problems in special education: Deaf and hard of hearing (1-4)
  • HBSE 6070     Psychology of deafness (2)
  • HBSE 6407     Advanced internship in special education: Deaf and hard of hearing (1-6)
  • HBSE 6507     Advanced seminar in special education: Deaf and hard of hearing (2)

Linguistics (15)

Depending upon the student’s background, the student is expected to choose 15 credit hours of study in any of the following areas either through Teachers College or the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium

  •  Phonology
  •  Syntax
  •  Semantics
  •  Pragmatics
  •  Discourse
  •  Child Language
  •  Linguistics of American Sign Language
  •  English as a Second Language
  •  Verbal Behavior

 Specialization - Individualized Course Selections (13-15)

  •  Possible areas of concentration include but are not restricted to
  •  Cognitive Science
  •  Developmental Psychology
  •  Policy Studies
  •  Reading
  •  Curriculum Development
  •  Second Language Learning

Ph.D. Program in Intellectual Disability/Autism

Intellectual Disability/Autism is one of the exceptionality focus areas that may be selected by applicants to either the Ed.D. or the Ph.D. Program in Special Education. Individuals who are interested in and committed to contributing to special education through leadership and applied research may apply for the Ed.D. degree program (90 credits), which represents the highest level of achievement in the profession. Individuals who are interested in scholarly careers as researchers and theoreticians in special education, inclusive education, and related social sciences may apply for the Ph.D. degree program (90 credits), which represents the highest level of achievement in the Arts and Sciences. Interested students should read the admission requirements and general information about the Ed.D. and Ph.D. Programs in Special Education in the Teachers College catalog (available online at the Teachers College website) before reading this supplementary statement.

The program of study in the intellectual disability/autism exceptionality focus area has been designed to prepare graduates for a variety of leadership roles in the education of individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities. Doctoral students may orient their preparation towards careers as college and university professors, researchers and evaluators, program directors, or curriculum and instructional specialists in a variety of school and community programs. Students may also choose to emphasize a particular age or ability level through supervised internships, independent study, and research. Successful doctoral candidates will pass a doctoral certification examination in general special education and will complete a doctoral certification project in their area of specialization. Upon achieving official status as a doctoral candidate, students will be eligible to select a faculty committee and begin work on their doctoral dissertation research. 

Procedures for admission to the Ed. D. and Ph.D. programs in Special Education in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College are administered jointly by the Office of Admission and the Department. Applicants are evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Strong academic record and potential,
  2. Two to three years of successful teaching experience in special education,
  3. Scholarly and professional promise,
  4. Appropriate career objectives,
  5. English proficiency (TOEFL score of at least 600), if applicable,
  6. Non-academic attributes which demonstrate ability to meet the challenge of working with people with developmental disabilities,
  7. Academic or professional writing sample.

Course requirements in each of the following categories must be satisfied in order to complete the 90-credit Ed.D. or Ph.D. program:

Major/Exceptionality Focus (51 credits)                                         

Masters-level courses in intellectual disability/autism (32 total)

  • HBSE 5010     Study of the philosophic foundations of special education (3)            
  • HBSE 6010     Advanced study of problems and issues in special education (3)
  • HBSE 6501     Advanced seminar in special education: Intellectual disability/autism (2 semesters; 3 credits each semester)
  • HBSE 5901     Problems in special education: Intellectual disability/autism (3) 
  • HBSE 6401     Advanced internship in special education: Intellectual disability/autism (2) 
  • HBSE 4880     Opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities - Annual conference (2)                                                                                  

Research Core (15 Credits)

  • HUDM 4122     Probability and statistical inference (3)                                            
  • HUDM 5122     Applied regression analysis (3)
  • HBSE 6001      Research in special education: Research/experimental design (3)
  • HBSE 6003      Research in special education: Qualitative approaches (2)
  • HBSE 6005      Research in special education: Single-case design (2)
  • HBSE 7500     Dissertation seminar in special education (3)

Professional Specialization (12 credits)

Students in the Ed.D. Program may select, in consultation with their advisor, a 12-credit block of courses in instructional leadership, administration/supervision, research and evaluation, or an academic cognate to constitute their area of professional specialization.

Students in the Ph.D. Program must complete a 12-credit block of courses in advanced statistics and research/evaluation/measurement in lieu of a selected area of professional specialization.

Electives (12 credits)

Students in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs may select both general elective courses (6 credits) and elective courses in special education (6 credits).