Ed.D. Program: Special Education Concentration

    Program Overview

    The Ed.D. concentration in Special Education helps school leaders develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to act as change agents in their communities. The GSE’s inquiry-oriented curriculum will focus specifically on the individual challenges and issues our students face as educational leaders and graduates of the program will exit with the ability to use research to improve educational practices for students with disabilities and other at-risk populations. Students will read and critique research, analyze and discuss case studies, participate in simulations, practice communication skills, and conduct their own investigations into meaningful issues and problems. They will be challenged to understand and use research and data effectively in meeting the problems of practice, particularly those related to equity and social justice. Potential participants in this concentration might include those aspiring to become a special education supervisor as well as principals or other educational leaders or administrators who want to further develop expertise in special education. 

    The Rutgers Ed.D. program is intended for working professionals and is designed to be summer intensive (9 credits per summer) and lighter in the fall and spring semesters (6 credits per semester). Students begin their doctoral education as part of a cohort and are encouraged to follow the recommended curriculum sequence to complete the program with their cohort in a little more than three years. Alternative sequences can be followed as needed. However, the cohort is a key element of the learning experience in this program.

    Program Goals as of 2022-2023
    (Last updated: 7/18/2022)


    Students will learn how to be change agents in educational settings by: 

    1. recognizing and valuing multiple perspectives on the social process of education, learners and learning, research inquiry and assessment, and leading for diversity, equity and inclusion; 
    2. using theory and research to frame, diagnose, and respond to problems of practice; 
    3. developing a professional knowledge base that integrates practical and research knowledge; 
    4. conducting research to inform and guide improvement of policy, programs, and practice; 
    5. identifying instances and patterns of discrimination and inequality and advocating for social justice; and 
    6. communicating and collaborating to build partnerships within and across communities. 


    Students will develop deep understanding of and expertise in the following: 

    1. Core: Four core or focus areas designed to be essential framing lenses for understanding problems of practice in education: a) Leadership, Organizations and Change (at the organizational, systems, and classroom levels); b) Social Contexts of Education (historical, economic, political, sociological, historical, and epistemological); c) Learners and Learning (K-12 and adult learning theory and practice); and d) Inquiry (research design and program evaluation). 
    2. Concentration: One of the five specialty areas of study/discipline to acquire content-specific and context-specific knowledge, skills, and dispositions: 1) Design of Learning Environments; 2) Educational Leadership; 3) Education, Culture, and Society; 4) Special Education; and 5) Teacher Leadership.
    3. Dissertation Research: Designing principles and inquiry focused on identifying and investigating a problem of practice using current literature and inquiry methodology.

    Communication/Community Building 

    Students will actively and purposefully:  

    1. participate in professional and scholarly communities through communication and collaboration (research, publications/presentations, professional development, and program evaluations and interventions); and 
    2. communicate and collaborate across various educational contexts to build partnerships within and across communities. 

    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) 

    Students will understand the importance of the role of social justice in educational settings and promote educational equity by:  

    1. recognizing and valuing multiple perspectives (educational, cultural, personal, social, economic); 
    2. identifying instances and patterns of discrimination and inequality and advocating for social justice;  
    3. communicating and collaborating to build partnerships within and across communities; and  
    4. engaging in research that will positively influence the lives of students, families and communities. 

    Research/Professional Practice 

    Students will conduct original empirical research to inform their professional practice and address problems of practice that may guide improvement of and facilitate change in policy, programs, and practice. 


    Students will identify, evaluate, and use models and approaches that will be effective in the successful design and implementation of assessment within their educational contexts. 

    Professional Development/Self-Reflection 

    Students will capitalize on opportunities for continuous professional learning and development, including reflective self-inquiry, in order to become change leaders that can guide improvement of and make significant contributions to the chosen area of study/discipline. 



    Learning experiences in the program will be guided by a: 

    1. commitment to improving educational practices for students with disabilities and other at-risk students; 
    2. grounding in evidence-based practice; 
    3. focus on challenges of real-world educational settings; 
    4. leveraging of doctoral students’ experiences within courses; 
    5. flexible course schedule meeting individual student needs; 
    6. balanced development of knowledge, strategies, and skills; 
    7. strong mentorship support from faculty; 
    8. Ed.D. student voice in program and course enhancements; and 
    9. expertise in special education. 

    For more information about this program:

    Program Details

    Application Deadline

    Jan 15

    Entry Term(s)


    Program Level


    Program Type






  • What You’ll Learn

    Students who complete this 72-credit program will exit having developed theoretical frameworks and critical perspectives needed to use research to both address issues, and effectively influence change in the educational communities they serve. The core courses of the Ed.D. program will explore topics including the sociocultural foundations of education, the history of educational reform, and educational leadership as it relates to communities and organizational change, amongst others. Courses required for the Special Education concentration will prompt deeper inquiry into subjects such as intervention design and outcome measurement in special education, and elective course requirements will allow for students to shape a specialization in a particular area or set of areas to meet their own practical and intellectual goals. Regardless of the student’s learning path, they can expect strong mentorship support from expert faculty, a focus on real-world application, and the leveraging of doctoral students’ leadership experiences throughout the completion of coursework. 

    For more information about the courses in this program, please visit the course catalog and online schedule of classes.

  • Program Requirements

    This program typically takes just over 3 years to complete and requires:

    • 72 Graduate Course Credits
      • 9 Credits – Completed in the 1st Summer
      • 6 Credits – Completed in the 1st Fall
      • 6 Credits – Completed in the 1st Spring
      • 9 Credits – Completed in the 2nd Summer
      • 6 Credits – Completed in the 2nd Fall
      • 6 Credits – Completed in the 2nd Spring
      • 9 Credits – Completed in the 3rd Summer
      • 6 Credits – Completed in the 3rd Fall (Dissertation)
      • 6 Credits – Completed in the 3rd Spring (Dissertation) 
      • 9 Credits – Completed in the 4th Summer (Dissertation)
    • Dissertation 
      • The Ed.D. culminates with a yearlong dissertation experience. The dissertation requires students to identify and investigate a problem of practice systematically using current literature, and inquiry methodology. Students are to write a final report that is presented publicly that may include a conference presentation, journal article or book chapter, or presentation to a local community. Students will have the option of working on their dissertation projects individually or in groups organized around key topics of interest. Students may also choose to pursue more traditional dissertations.
  • Faculty
  • Careers and Outcomes

    Graduates of the Ed.D. program who pursued the Special Education concentration are prepared to be change agents in the educational communities they serve. Educators who complete the program may go on to pursue roles as administrators of special education services in schools, teacher educators at colleges and universities, teacher leaders among school faculty, and leaders in allied service agencies and organizations. 

  • Admissions Requirements
    • Personal Statement
    • Current Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
    • Academic Writing Sample
    • Official Undergraduate Transcripts
    • Official Graduate Transcripts
    • 1-2 Letters of Recommendation (optional)

    Click here for more information on the Ed.D. Program Admissions Requirements.

  • How to Apply
    1. Collect the materials required for admission
    2. Submit your application online at http://gradstudy.rutgers.edu/
    3. Submit supporting materials online
    4. Any supporting materials that cannot be submitted electronically should be mailed to Graduate Admissions’ New Brunswick office. Their mailing address can be found here: https://gradstudy.rutgers.edu/about/contact-us
  • Tuition & Financial Assistance


    For tuition and fees information please visit the tuition landing page.

    Financial Aid:

    While students are encouraged to apply for federal student aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), there are a number of other merit- and need-based support options, including loans and college work-study programs within and external to Rutgers. For more information, please visit the Office of Financial Aid website.

    Scholarships, Fellowships & Assistantships:

    Generous GSE alumni, friends, and community members have established and continue to donate to more than one dozen fellowships and scholarships to help deserving students reach their goals. These awards are granted on the basis of academic achievement and or financial need. While these awards are competitive, interested students are encouraged to apply for consideration and submit the required materials. Students must also submit a FAFSA application to be eligible.  

    To review all current awards and learn more about the donors that established them, please click here.

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