Online PhD in Special Education Leadership

At the doctorate level, special education leadership instruction provides not only a foundation in administrative studies, curriculum design, and educational laws and policies, but also an in-depth study on the development and implementation of special education programs. An online doctorate in special education leadership prepares students to forge careers in administrative, consulting and teaching positions that will lead to the improvement of special education services for students. Online PhD programs in special education leadership usually take an average of four years to complete, during which students take coursework in areas such as human development, diversity, and educational practice. Once coursework has been completed, students take a comprehensive examination, which is then followed by a thorough research project known as a dissertation. The culmination of all of this hard work is a graduate who is prepared to advocate for students with special needs. With an online PhD in special education leadership, the graduate will have the tools and knowledge necessary to make improvements to the educational programs used in schools. Online special education leadership PhD graduates become leaders in their field, and pave the way for students’ futures.

About Online PhD Programs in Special Education Leadership

The curricula of online doctorate programs in special education leadership are formulated to give students the skills necessary for effective leadership in the education field. These skills include advanced research, critical thinking, and curriculum design skills. As most of the curriculum is provided online, students can complete coursework, research and other requirements with the use of the internet, digital resources, and, if necessary, their local libraries. However, it is becoming increasingly common for online programs to require students to visit the physical campus for a residency period, as a method of networking. Online doctoral degrees in special education leadership may also require the utilization of schools or other facilities in order to perform dissertation research, and some, such as Capella University‘s director of special education concentration, require the fulfillment of internships. Therefore, online doctoral programs in special education leadership can be seen more as hybrids than purely online degrees. Though there are travel requirements for internships and residencies, all coursework is provided on the internet. Below is a list of examples from Capella's course requirements for its online special education leadership PhD.

Year One:

  • Principles of Education Administration. By providing an overview of the history of educational leadership, this course teaches students to analyze the role of various social, fiscal and governmental policies on the administration of educational programs.
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Educational Process . As educational leaders, graduates must be prepared to assess educational programs to ensure that students are getting the most out of their education. This course instructs online PhD special education leadership students in how to evaluate education programs and processes.
  • The Funding of Educational Institutions. In today's economy, there are many social and political issues that affect the funding of schools and other educational institutions. This course examines governmental funding, endowments, budget cuts, and other factors that impact educational funds.

Year Two:

  • Education and the Law. Education is governed by laws and policies. In order to be effective educational leaders, online PhD special education leadership students must have a thorough understanding of the laws and policies behind educational programs.
  • Curriculum Development. This course provides an in depth study on the creation and implementation of educational programs that lead to effective learning processes for students.
  • Teacher Supervision and Evaluation. Educational leaders are often called upon to help improve the learning programs employed by institutions, including the instructional methods used by teachers. This course instructs students on proper supervision and evaluation of teachers, and how one can effectively coach and guide teachers toward effective instruction.

Year Three:

  • Leadership for Director of Special Education. A course tailored specifically for students that plan on becoming directors of special education departments within institutions, this course overviews effective methods for leading and driving program change.
  • Special Education Curriculum and Instructional Strategies. As a study of the pros and cons of various teaching practices, this course examines the strategies behind instruction, accommodations, and curriculum development for students with special needs.
  • Special Education Law and Finance. This course serves as an in depth look at the effect of laws and funding on special education programs, as well as how budget cuts affect the development and implementation of such programs.

Year Four:

  • Research Sequence. Students will take coursework that prepares them for the in depth research their dissertations will require.

Once special education leadership PhD online students have completed their coursework, they take a comprehensive examination. This exam reviews the knowledge and skills that students have acquired from their classes, and questions them over areas such as educational policy, laws, finance, teacher evaluation, curriculum development and other areas relevant to the online special education leadership doctorate. After students successfully pass their comprehensive examinations, they begin work on their dissertations, which are in depth research projects on a contemporary topic in the field of special education leadership. Past dissertation topics include Evaluating the Reliability of Selected School-Based Indices of Adequate Reading Progress by Courtney E. Wheeler and An Evaluation of the Good Behavior Game in Early Reading Intervention Groups by Billie Jo Rodriguez. As the field is broad, there are many possible subjects to study within special education leadership.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Special Education Leadership

Obtaining an online PhD in special education leadership is an excellent choice for students that feel motivated to positively impact educational programs. The special education field has excellent job prospects, and a PhD will give graduates the upper edge over their peers. There are many reasons to pursue a special education leadership PhD online, including daily time constraints or a preference for independent research, however candidates must keep in mind that most online PhD programs in special education leadership have residency requirements, during which students must stay on the school's physical campus for a few days. Students must also consider whether their concentrations require internships, as Capella's director of special education concentration does, as well as whether their dissertations will require the participation of schools and/or students in order to facilitate research findings. If all these requirements can be met, then an online doctorate in special education leadership is a very viable alternative to campus programs. Many instructional practices involve the utilization of technology, including the internet. Many assessments – for both teachers and students – are performed on computers or with other technology. Students that use the internet and digital resources for their coursework will therefore gain great exposure to the technology that they will be using within their careers. Such exposure makes the pursuit of special education leadership PhD programs online very relevant to educational practice.

Application & Admission Requirements

Accredited online doctoral programs in special education leadership usually require applicants to have completed a Masters degree in a field related to education prior to enrollment, and expect students to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their graduate education. Work experience in education is preferred as well, with some programs seeking applicants that have three years of teaching or school administrative experience. If a candidate does not have work experience in the field, knowledge of education, policy, and instruction will be beneficial. The best applicants will have an interest in research, curriculum design, and program evaluation as well, as this degree will involve coursework in those areas. Some programs require applicants to submit letters of recommendation and a writing sample as a way of seeking out students that have strong communication and academic skills.

Career Options & Job Market

With the advanced research, curriculum development, and program evaluation skills that graduates with their online doctorate degrees in special education leadership harbor, there are a number of career opportunities available. Many graduates decide to impart what they have learned onto future generations of students, and become professors of education, a career that averages an annual salary of $64,370. Others forge careers in consulting, which is projected to be the fasting growing industry. Graduates that have obtained their special education leadership doctorate degrees online can also become education administrators, which averages an annual salary of $89,990, or special education teachers, which averages an annual salary of up to $58,080. With a multitude of opportunities with good pay and good job outlooks, obtaining a PhD in special education leadership is a great way for students to expand their career options.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

No matter what medium students choose for their coursework, education is costly. Though only courses are usually cheaper than on-campus courses, the associated fees and expenses for online PhD degrees in special education leadership are still pricey. For example, Capella University charges $4,485 per quarter for their special education leadership PhD, a fee that doesn't include travel and residency related expenses. Walden charges $4,380 per quarter, and like Capella, also requires visits to the physical campus. With prices like these, it's important to have an idea of the financial aid available to students that are pursuing their online doctorate degrees in special education leadership. In addition to federal and personal loans, there are a number of scholarship and fellowship opportunities available for students enrolled in special education leadership programs. Some examples are listed below.

Essential Advice

  • Make your resume stand out with diverse education experiences, such as teaching or volunteer work.
  • Talk to current students or graduates to get an idea of what will be expected of you as a top doctoral student in special education leadership.
  • Don't be afraid to contact professors to get an idea of their expectations and research interests prior to applying for a program.
  • If you have any questions about a school's online special education leadership doctorate program, call the admissions department. They are there to help.