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 Graduate School of 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 no later than January 1 which includes:

  1. completed application and personal statement
  2. writing sample
  3. current CV/resume
  4. transcripts of all previous college work
  5. three completed reference forms from academic or professional sources. 

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


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Potential Doctoral Advisors


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

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