A doctoral degree in special education will prepare you to serve in an exciting career in which you can lead the educational or behavioral professions through administration, scholarship, and entrepreneurship—from teacher educator to special education manager to curriculum specialist to director of a treatment center.
This program is about 85-90 percent online, but you will need to come to campus for some courses in your cognate. The program director can explain the on-campus commitment in more detail.
- Focus on core knowledge and skills for advanced professional practice.
- Provide flexibility for candidates to develop specialized expertise in focused areas of study that are critical to the field.
- Emphasize scholarship as a means of closing the gap between research and practice.
- Provide training on evidence-based education and practice.
- Build on the strength and collaboration of faculty within the department and other departments. Solving problems requires creative and united commitment.
- Emphasize learning in the context of communities as a means of producing socially meaningful improvements in the lives of individuals with disabilities.
- Offer courses in a blended (online/main campus) format.
Focused Areas of Doctoral Study
Graduates of the program earn their doctorates with an emphasis on one or more focus areas:
Doctoral students seeking training in American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf studies will prepare students with an understanding of the language as well as the culture. You’ll learn how to communicate in ASL, interact with deaf individuals, learn about the history of deaf culture, and how to collaborate with families and professionals.
The cognate will primarily focus on related fields within special education, Teachers College, or speech and audiology so that students have more systematic programming around deaf studies and ASL.
Doctoral students seeking training in applied behavior analysis and autism will learn to apply the principles and theories of applied behavior analysis to support individuals with disabilities in making socially important improvements in their quality of life. This focused area of study provides an emphasis in applying behavioral strategies to increase important life skills and/or decrease problem behaviors that interfere with opportunities in schools and communities.
Understanding principles of behavior, developing behavior consultation techniques, establishing organizational structures supporting skills acquisition and behavior change, and learning evidence-based treatment/intervention strategies are core concepts of this focused area of study.
Candidates have the opportunity to earn certifications in ABA and Autism from Ball State University as well as complete coursework required to become certified by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board.
Doctoral students seeking advanced training on serving low incidence populations will learn evidence-based strategies and instructional approaches that are used to teach persons with low incidence disabilities to acquire critical skills to increase their opportunities in their communities. This focused area of study provides an emphasis on severe disorders that impact learning and behavior.
Understanding principles of behavior, developing communication skills (including alternative and augmentative systems), making appropriate accommodations, and selecting treatment/intervention strategies when serving individuals with severe and moderate disabilities are key concepts of this focused area of study.
Candidates have the opportunity to expand their teaching repertoire as they work with learners with low incidence in special education settings. Teacher education preparation is also a focus of the program.
Doctoral students seeking advanced training on serving high incidence populations will learn evidence-based strategies and instructional approaches that are used to teach persons with high incidence disabilities to reach their full potential. This focused area of study provides an emphasis on commonly occurring disabilities that can be supported to help learners master educational materials.
Understanding principles of assessment, use of effective instructional methods, making appropriate accommodations, and selecting treatment/intervention strategies when serving individuals with mild disabilities are key concepts and skills of this focused area of study.
Candidates have the opportunity to expand their teaching repertoire as they work with learners with high incidence in special education settings. Teacher education preparation is also a focus of the program.
Doctoral students seeking training on serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders will learn evidence-based strategies and instructional approaches that are used to teach persons with emotional and behavioral disorders to develop skills that help their reach their full potential. This focused area of study provides an emphasis on commonly occurring emotional and behavioral disorders that can be supported to help learners master educational materials.
Understanding causes of emotional and behavioral disorders, principles of assessment, use of effective instructional methods, making appropriate accommodations, and selecting treatment/intervention strategies when serving individuals with emotional and behavioral disorders are key concepts and skills of this focused area of study.
Candidates have the opportunity to expand their teaching repertoire as they work with students who benefit from appropriate assessment and intervention in special education settings.
Doctoral students seeking training on Response to Intervention/Multi-Tier System of Supports will learn evidence-based strategies and instructional approaches that are used to develop systems within schools that have the goal of meeting the needs of all learners. This focused area of study provides an emphasis on creating systems that will establish the structure to enhance the performance of all students while simultaneously assessing and targeting specific educational and behavioral challenges as needed by individual learners.
Understanding causes the need to address professional development, the school culture and leadership as part of the solution needed to improve assessment, curriculum, and instruction are key concepts and skills of this focused area of study.
Candidates have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of creating supporting educational systems and their teaching repertoire as they work to support all students in reaching their highest potential.
Doctoral students seeking general special education training at the doctoral level typically assume leadership roles in special education in one or more of the following positions in higher education: teacher educator, special education manager, and curriculum specialist and researcher/evaluator.
Candidates who successfully complete the program will hold a doctor of education degree with a noncategorical major in special education degree, i.e., with generic training emphasis rather than a specific disabilities training emphasis.
The doctoral degree in special education, which is a blend of on campus and online courses, consists of 91 graduate credits post-bachelor’s degrees. Typically, a maximum of 30 credits, earned towards the master's degree, may be applied to the total 91-credit requirement.
Additional credit requirements include:
- at least 40 credits, excluding dissertation credits, must be in the major (SPCE)
- at least 48 credits must be completed at Ball State University
- at least 10 dissertation credits (DISS 799)
Entering doctoral students select initial coursework in collaboration with the Director of the Doctoral Program. They then work with the chair of their doctoral committee to develop a comprehensive program of study. The full committee then adjusts or approves the program of study.
Doctoral students are expected to acquire research skills by taking a variety of coursework in research design and statistics. They complete a rigorous research component in which they demonstrate competency with research tools applicable to Special Education, Applied Behavior Analysis, and/or their Focused Area(s) of Study. Examples include but are not restricted to: Research Methods, Introduction to Statistical Methods, Analysis of Variance, Introduction to Qualitative Research, and Single Subject Research Design.
After admittance, doctoral students will complete coursework for a cognate in research methods. In addition, doctoral students work with their committee chairperson to select:
- a second cognate, of which you must complete nine credits at Ball State
- a second concentration within the department
- all doctoral students are strongly encouraged to complete a research cognate consisting of coursework recommended by the chair of their doctoral committee
You must complete at least 15 credits in two consecutive semesters beyond the master’s degree in order to meet our residency requirement. Residency will encourage you to:
- concentrate on coursework or research
- collaborate with faculty and other candidates
- develop specialized skills that support professional goals
At all times after completing nine credits of doctoral study, you must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.2 for courses taken toward the doctoral degree.
Your cumulative GPA is reported and monitored as part of the Doctoral Program Decision Point Process within the Department of Special Education.
Near the end of your coursework, doctoral students take a comprehensive examination based on their coursework in Special Education and research as well as their focused area of study Graduate students will work with their doctoral committee to determine the coursework and other preparation needed to successfully prepare for the written and oral portions of the comprehensive examination.
Under the general supervision of your committee chairperson, doctoral students develop and receive approval on a dissertation topic. Dissertations for doctoral candidates in Special Education typically contribute to the solution of important problems in education and/or applied behavior analysis.
Using their knowledge of research methods and intensive examination of the literature regarding their dissertation topic, doctoral students write their dissertation proposal. Once approved by the chair of the doctoral committee, doctoral students distribute their work to the doctoral committee for review. The proposal meeting involves the doctoral student presenting their topic and proposed methodology. The doctoral committee recommends or requires changes prior to proposal approval. Subsequent to conducting their dissertation research, doctoral students complete their dissertation defense, in which doctoral students provide a presentation to committee members committee members, who then ask in-depth questions about the study and topic as well as its implications for the field.
For a complete list of required courses, see the course catalog.
The Director of the Doctoral Program in Special Education meets with doctoral students when they are admitted to the program. Doctoral students are guided through the process of forming a doctoral committee, which begins with the selection of a chair for the doctoral committee. Doctoral students are encouraged to select chairs whose scholarly interests match topics they may wish to pursue with their dissertation.
Chairs of the doctoral committee will guide students in the selection of committee members—usually during the first year of doctoral study. Upon the recommendation of the departmental program director, the dean of the Graduate School will appoint the candidate’s committee.
Doctoral students will then consult with their committee to finalize a plan of study and guide the development of the dissertation. The plan of study will be filed in the departmental office and the Graduate School.
The committee will consist of either four or five voting members, depending on your program of study.
All committees will consist of:
- two members from the major (i.e., Special Education)
- an at-large member from a field or department not already represented
- a voting member for each cognate or focused area of study as identified on your program of study
Paying for Your Education
A graduate assistantship is an excellent opportunity to gain meaningful professional experience while helping cover the costs of your degree. Learn more.
Ready to Apply?
Are you interested in pursuing a PhD in Special Education? The first step is to apply as a graduate student to Ball State University. Begin the journey today.