Doctoral Program

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Doctoral study in education at Washington University in St. Louis is aimed at strengthening and deepening the student's analytical understanding of education in both research and practice. Our doctoral program focuses on two major strands of study:

  • Educational Policy Studies
  • Educational Psychology

Educational Policy Studies – Students in this concentration wish to understand the policy and social contexts of schooling, and the theoretical assumptions that shape them.  Students in this concentration engage in the analysis of educational policy (e.g., school discipline, school choice, and school desegregation) and address systemic inequities, counter deficit notions of those marginalized, and develop deep understandings of sociology and history as they undertake qualitative, quantitative, and historical projects. Such projects examine the interconnected experiences and positionality of educational constituents, including teachers and students, at the individual, organizational, and structural levels. Recent dissertations have included foci such as English language learners' constraints and opportunities; shadow education and its structural relationship with school quality and demographics; school discipline policies, including restorative justice and exclusionary practices; factors impacting under representation of the marginalized in STEM fields; and effects of pediatric chronic disease on developmental and educational outcomes.

Educational Psychology – Coursework in this concentration is designed to help students acquire a foundation in psychological research and theories pertaining to learning and motivation. Among other skills and knowledge, students are expected to develop: (1) an appreciation for the challenges and progress in this area of research; (2) an understanding of how theory and research in psychology can be applied to facilitate learning and motivation in educative contexts broadly construed; (3) the ability to analyze educational practice and policy from the perspective of psychological theories of learning and motivation. Coursework will be based on the needs of the student and determined by consultation between the student and the advisor.

Students working toward a PhD in education are expected to acquire an understanding of education as a complex social, cultural, and moral/political activity and as a field of study with rich literature bases and strong ties to disciplinary knowledge, classroom practice, and a variety of technologies.

Our faculty brings special interests and expertise to the examination of educational interactions in such sites as schools, families, and other cultural institutions. Students are expected to acquire theoretical and empirical expertise in an area of concentration even as they demonstrate their broader understanding of educational processes and problems. Finally, students are expected to acquire methodological competence in empirical inquiry and to pursue questions that are of interest and import for the student individually as well as a larger educational community. Graduates of the PhD program should be prepared to join the community of professional educators who contribute to our understanding of the complexity of education and to continue inquiring into educational processes and problems wherever they choose to work.


Graduate Certificate Program in Higher Education

The Graduate Certificate Program in Higher Education (GCPHE) is designed to provide an overview of historical and contemporary issues in higher education for those students who wish to gain a greater understanding of higher education research, policy, assessment and/or administrative practices. Current Washington University doctoral students who are interested in pursuing the Graduate Certificate in Higher Education may begin taking courses pursuant to the Certificate upon entry into the University. 

More About GCPHE

Application & Admission

Decisions regarding admission to the doctoral program are made once a year by the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences in consultation with the Doctoral Admissions Committee of the Department of Education (comprised of Department's tenured and tenure track faculty).

All students are admitted for the fall semester. In order to be considered for admission, an applicant must submit a complete dossier to Washington University by the published deadline.

  1. Completed application
  2. Personal statement: Please explain why you wish to pursue graduate work in the field you have selected and describe your ultimate academic and career objectives. What research question(s), within your general proposed field of study, do you hope to explore in depth during your graduate studies? What are your research-related and lived experiences that will contribute to your ability to be successful in this doctoral program? Finally, please indicate member(s) of the Washington University education faculty (who currently mentor Ph.D. students- a list of these potential advisors can be found below) with whom you might want to pursue a reserach topic, and describe the match between your research interests and their area(s) of expertise.
  3. Writing Sample 
  4. Current CV/resume
  5. Transcripts of all previous college work
  6. Three completed Letters of Recommendation with Recommendation Forms

International applicants are also required to submit proof of English proficiency through official TOEFL or IETLS scores.


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Potential Doctoral Advisors

The following faculty members are accepting new doctoral students for Fall 2024

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why should I choose the Department of Education’s Ph.D. program?

The Department of Education is an interdisciplinary community that bridges the theoretical and research foundations of education, traditional academic disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, history), and the professional practice of education. The programs of research pursued by our faculty span a variety of disciplinary perspectives, methodological approaches, and levels of analysis ranging from the individual to complex systems. The department offers a vibrant student-centered community in which faculty and staff are invested in the mentoring and success of students. Given our department’s small size and low faculty-to-student ratio, our Ph.D. students are able to create strong relationships with their advisors, fellow students, and our broader education community.

What are the most important components of the application?

When making admissions decisions, the Department of Education’s Doctoral Studies Committee takes a holistic approach to assessing each applicant’s potential to thrive in our program and community. Accordingly, the committee considers many factors, including grade-point average in previous programs, research experience, potential advisee-advisor matches, and letters of recommendation. The statement of purpose and the writing sample are important components of the application. Applicants should use the statement of purpose to communicate why they are applying to doctoral program. The essay should describe their research interests and experiences (if applicable) as well as their future goals and how the program will help to achieve them. Although previous research experience is not required for admission, it is highly recommended in order to be competitive with other applicants. Applicants should also carefully consider the writing sample that they plan to submit. The sample should be a paper independently written by the applicant that best reflects their thinking and writing ability. The paper may have been prepared earlier for another purpose, or it may be written specifically for the application. Ideally, the paper would showcase a research experience, such as a thesis, an independent project, or a term paper for a course.

Should I identify a faculty advisor before submitting my application?

The Doctoral Studies Committee wants each admitted student to have at least one faculty member who is willing and able to mentor the student. Thus, it is important for applicants to find a faculty member (or multiple faculty) with whom their research interests align and indicate the potential match in their application. Applicants should only consider faculty from the Department of Education. A list of potential faculty advisors is above. Each advisor has a profile page that describes their research interests and provides contact information. Applicants are welcome to email potential faculty advisors with questions, but responses from faculty are not guaranteed.

Am I eligible to apply?

The Department of Education encourages and gives full consideration to all applicants for admission. Applicants must earn the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree prior to the application semester. Applicants are not required to have a master’s degree.

How do I apply to the Ph.D. in Education program?

Applicants should apply through the Office of Graduate Studies' online application. Application requirements are listed above.

Does the department require GRE scores for admission?

No, GRE scores are not required for admission to the Ph.D. in Education program.

When are applications due?

In order to be considered for admission, applicants must submit a complete dossier no later than the Office of Graduate Studies' published deadline.

How can I inquire about an application fee waiver?

You may inquire about an application fee waiver by emailing the Office of Graduate Studies at

How do I submit official English proficiency test scores (TOEFL or IELTS)?

TOEFL scores may be submitted electronically via ETS to school code 6929.

Official IELTS scores must be mailed from the testing center to:
Washington University in St. Louis Graduate Admissions
Graduate Admissions
1 Brookings Drive 
St. Louis, MO 63130

Is there a waiver for the English proficiency test?

The English proficiency testing requirement may be waived for applicants who meet certain criteria. More information on waiver eligibility can be found on the Office of Graduate Studies’Admissions FAQ page.

What financial support is offered to Ph.D. students in the Department of Education?

Our Ph.D. students receive full tuition remission, a health fee subsidy, and a monthly stipend to defray living expenses. The stipend is paid over 12 months (August-July), meaning summer funding is included. Washington University guarantees funding for Ph.D. students for up to six years as long as satisfactory progress is being made in their program. Competitive fellowships are also available through the Office of Graduate Studies. More information on fellowship opportunities can be found on the Office of Graduate Studies Funding and Support page.

How do I submit my official transcript(s)?

Unofficial copies of transcripts must be uploaded at the time of application for each institution attended. Transcripts should include the applicant’s name, the institution’s name, and all grades received. Transcripts from foreign institutions should be translated by the issuing institution and uploaded with the original transcripts. Translations must bear an original ink signature and seal.

After accepting an offer of admission, official transcripts must be submitted from degree granting institution(s) for all undergraduate and graduate coursework. Transcripts must be in English and list the applicant’s name, the institution’s name, and all grades received. Official transcripts must be sent directly to the Office of Graduate Studies from the issuing institution, or delivered by hand in a stamped and sealed institutional envelope. If the official transcript does not show degree conferral applicants must also send a certificate of graduation (with translation if needed). Transcripts may be mailed to:

Washington University in St. Louis
Office of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences
MSC 1187-0112-02
1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

Can I receive a master’s degree while working on my doctoral degree?

The Department of Education offers an optional “en-route” master’s degree for students enrolled in the department’s Ph.D. program. The program requirements consist of coursework and the completion of a master’s thesis. The coursework has substantial overlap with the requirements for the doctoral degree to avoid adding time to degree. Completing the A.M. in Education is optional for Ph.D. students but strongly recommended for those students with no master’s degree or a master’s degree in a field outside of education. Doctoral students in the Department of Education will be able to opt into the “en-route” master’s program at any point up until they complete or exit the doctoral program. However, students are encouraged to complete the requirements for the A.M. in Education before the end of their second year in the Ph.D. program.

Additional Questions?

Contact us with any questions about the application process or for more information about our programs.

Contact our student services coordinator