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Ph.D. in Special Education - On campus at University Park


For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

All applicants are expected to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher from prior coursework.

All applicants are expected to have a minimum of three years professional experience working with individuals with disabilities.

Application Materials

The process of applying for graduate admission at Penn State requires the following application materials, all of which are submitted via The Graduate School's online application.

  • Graduate Application and application fee – Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your online application.
  • Résumé or curriculum vitae
  • Personal statement – A one to two page statement addressing your purpose and objectives in enrolling in a graduate program in Special Education.
  • Transcripts – A copy of an official transcript from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. Upon admission and your acceptance of admission, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.
  • Three references – Reference forms will be uploaded directly to the Graduate School application by the reference writer who will receive an email from the Graduate School after the applicant enters reference contact information into the application.
  • GRE Scores (PSU Institution Code: 2660)Official test results from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) must be submitted electronically by ETS directly to Graduate Enrollment Services at Penn State. Advanced subject results are optional. The GRE website provides information about testing centers and dates. To insure that the scores will reach us in time for consideration of your application, please schedule your exam no later than two (2) months in advance of the semester deadline. Test scores that are more than five (5) years old will not be accepted.
  • Proof of English Proficiency (PSU Institution Code: 2660)The language of instruction at Penn State is English. All international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with some exceptions. For detailed information please visit the Graduate School's Requirements for Graduate Admissions page. Applicants should request that TOEFL scores be sent to Penn State electronically. Applicants should request that IELTS scores be mailed directly to Penn State's Graduate School at the following address:
    The Pennsylvania State University
    Graduate Enrollment Services
    114 Kern Building
    University Park, PA 16802 

How to Apply

Begin the graduate school application

  • Choose “DEGREE ADMISSION” as your enrollment type.
  • Choose "UNIVERSITY PARK" as your campus.
  • Choose “SPECIAL EDUCATION” as your major.
  • Choose “PH D” as your degree.

Application Deadlines

Applications deadlines for each semester are noted below. It is strongly recommended, however, that applications be submitted by December 1 of the prior academic year in order to receive full consideration for financial funding (e.g., submit by December 1, 2017 for funding consideration in Fall 2017).

  • April 1 for Fall semester admission
  • November 1 for Spring semester admission
  • April 1 for Summer semester admission

Earning a Graduate Certificate Concurrently

While pursuing the doctoral degree, students may also earn the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis and/or the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism offered via the World Campus. To do so, a student must complete a separate certificate application on the Graduate School website and pay the associated application fee before completing all of the credits required for the desired certificate. For example, a student wishing to earn the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis along with the Ph.D. in Special Education should submit two separate applications – one for the Ph.D. program and one for the graduate certificate program.