Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education 

The program offers apprenticeships with top scholars in highly interdisciplinary fields such as the Learning Sciences, Literacy, STEM Education, AI and Technology-enhanced Learning, Teacher Education, Measurement and Psychometrics, Education Policy and Leadership, Applied Physiology, and several other allied and interdisciplinary areas. Search Simmons Ph.D. faculty by research area to explore additional fields of study.

Graduates of our program are prepared for academic and research careers through direct mentoring in the professional domains of publishing, presenting, teaching, grant writing, and community engagement, and are also provided with opportunities for collaborations across departments, schools, university-wide or regional projects (e.g. CORE, RME, Bush, etc.), as well as national and international institutions.

Some of the key research questions/issues our faculty are currently engaged with include (but are not limited to):

  • How do people learn? What are the cognitive, social, cultural, technological, and biological mechanisms underlying learning?
  • How is new technology used to design meaningful learning and educational experiences?
  • Why do colleges and universities behave the way they do? How do they respond to their internal and external environments?
  • What are the relationships between colleges and universities and other organizations (e.g., governments, nonprofits, and each other) and their communities? How do colleges and universities shape their environments via these relationships?
  • How do we develop an evidence base for instruction?
  • How can co-design partnerships enable researchers to be informed by the wisdom, insights, and expertise of teachers, students, and community members?
  • How do adults' ideas about (in)equality shape the ways we learn, teach, and learn to teach?

The Meaning of a Ph.D.

Program Structure

Doctoral students must complete a minimum of 54 credit hours during a three-year full-time program prior to the dissertation year. Students must enroll in a minimum of 9 credit hours of coursework per term and be full-time residents in the Dallas area for the first three academic years of the program. In addition to coursework, students apprentice for 20 hours each week on research projects during the academic calendar year, for which they typically receive fellowship stipends, benefits, and waived tuition.

The program is a model in which students complete a core set of courses as a cohort and a unique set of electives and research experiences. Some of the course topics are: 

  • Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Education Research 
  • Foundations of the Learning Sciences
  • Synthesis and Integration of Knowledge and Skills in Education Policy and Leadership
  • Historical and Social Foundations of Education
  • Technology in Education

Degree Requirements

Degree requirements include the following milestones:

  • 60 hours of coursework (up to 6 credit hours can be transferred)
  • Qualifying exams
  • Major area paper
  • Conference presentation
  • Manuscript submission
  • Dissertation with an oral defense
  • Teaching competency
  • Coursework (5 Fall courses; 5 Spring courses)
  • Approval of Program of Study
  • Approval of Doctoral Academic Program Advisor
  • Research Synthesis
  • Mid-year Review
  • Professional Competencies (Planning)
  • Coursework (4 Fall courses; 2 Spring courses; 3 Spring elective hours)
  • Complete Research Synthesis
  • Research Design
  • Mid-year Review
  • Professional Competencies (Upload Evidence; Continued Planning)
  • Coursework (9 Fall elective hours; 9 Spring elective hours)
  • Complete Research Design
  • Complete MAP
  • Advancement to Candidacy
  • Dissertation Prospectus (Formation of Doctoral Committee)
  • Mid-year Review
  • Professional Competencies (Upload Evidence; Continued Planning)
  • Coursework (determined by individual and advisor)
  • Dissertation Prospectus (Approval)
  • Dissertation (Defense; Approval)
  • Mid-year Review
  • Professional Competencies (Upload Evidence; Continued Planning)

Career Paths Available with a Ph.D. in Education

It is common to confuse a Ph.D. in Education and an Ed.D. as synonymous programs. While this guide will focus exclusively on the Ph.D., it is important to discuss the differences between the two graduate degrees, as the intent of the two programs and available career paths differ greatly. The purpose of attending a Ph.D. in Education program is to develop skills as a researcher, to continue to further the collective understanding of education through scientific research, and to position yourself for a career in a role that will allow you to disseminate that research. In short, a Ph.D. is about one main thing — research.

Those who pursue a Ph.D. in Education are serious about science, about performing research, and about making unique contributions to the existing body of knowledge. Upon graduation, these highly proficient researchers tend to seek employment in one of three areas: academia, public organizations or large school districts, or private for-profit companies. The types of research that can be performed by those who hold a Ph.D. in Education are quite different and vary depending on the profession they choose to enter. In academia, externally funded research focuses on intervention development using experimental research designs. Research in large school districts and for-profit companies tends to center on program evaluation and summarizing existing data.

On the other hand, an Ed.D. program has an administrative focus and explores the practical applications of research and study. An Ed.D. program is grounded in fieldwork and hands-on study, as opposed to theory and philosophical exercises. The goal of an Ed.D. program is to prepare practitioners for roles within administrations, translating and implementing the research that is performed by Ph.D. students.