The doctor of philosophy degree program with an emphasis in learning disabilities supports advanced instruction in learning disabilities. Candidates will develop a program to meet their learning and research goals in the field of learning disabilities.

Degree Requirements

Students meeting entrance criteria will be conditionally admitted to the program, assigned an advisor, and expected to enroll in designated requisite coursework.

After completion of 9 credit hours, including 3 credits of quantitative methods plus 6 credits of special education doctoral core coursework, students must pass a qualifying examination to be fully admitted into the department. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, students form a program committee and develop a program plan.  The committee shall consist of four or more graduate faculty members (at least three from within the department and at least one from outside the department). The program plan will delineate coursework and competency activities to meet department requirements.

Once the majority of course-work and competencies are completed (80-90%), students will be required to pass a comprehensive examination to advance to candidacy.

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, students will form a dissertation committee and develop a research proposal.  The dissertation committee may be the same as the program committee or may change based on the need to include faculty members with specific areas of expertise. Once all committee members approve the proposal, students can begin implementation of the dissertation study.

Upon completion of the study, students must submit a written draft to the dissertation committee and orally defend their work. Students will graduate only after all dissertation committee members approve the written dissertation and oral defense.

Students must also comply with all College of Education and Graduate Studies guidelines.

Full degree requirements are listed in the Doctoral Student Handbook.



  • For fall semester: Jan. 15
  • For spring and summer semesters: Aug. 15

Admission Requirements

  • Graduate GPA above 3.5
  • Minimum GRE scores within the past five years:
    • Combined score of 297 or better on the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections and analytical writing score of 4.0 or better
    • For more information, contact MU Testing Services.
  • A minimum of three years full-time appropriate teaching or professional experience in PK-12 or other direct services with persons with disabilities
  • If English is not your native language, please submit a TOEFL score of at least 100 (internet-based test), an IELTS score of at least 7, a Pearson Test of English (PTE) score of at least 66 or a Cambridge C1 Advanced score of at least 190.
    • The exam should be taken six to nine months before to the term the student wishes to start their program.
    • International students who have completed one year of college-level full-time study in a country where English is the native language may waive this requirement if they meet all the conditions set by the Graduate School.
    • Get more information about testing from MU Testing Services.

How to Apply

Complete the following steps before your application deadline.

  1. Complete the Graduate Studies application online.
    • If you’re a former MU degree-seeking student wishing to resume the same program/degree, use the Graduate Re-activation Form instead.
    • Current MU graduate students changing or adding degrees should use the Change of Degree, Program Adviser Form.
    • Post-baccalaureate (non-degree seeking) graduate students who have applied in the past three semesters should contact Graduate Studies to request their application be made available to us.
  2. Confer or correspond with one of the special education faculty members in the proposed area of concentration prior to submitting an application. If you do not know who to speak to, contact Chad Rose at
  3. Write a statement of purpose, usually around 500 words, in which you summarize your professional goals, including career objectives, research interests, your motivation for advanced graduate work and other pertinent information.
  4. Submit at least three letters of recommendation.
    • The letters should attest to your professional competence, academic preparation and potential for graduate work.
    • Ideally, two letters should be from college or university professors who can discuss your academic abilities, and one should be from an administrator or colleague who can describe authoritatively your professional experience and potential.
    • Letters are submitted through the online application system.
  5. GRE scores from the past five years
  6. English Proficiency test scores from the past two years (only required for students whose native language is not English.)
  7. Upon department acceptance, have official transcripts from all previous college work at institutions other than MU sent directly to: Office of Graduate Studies, 210 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211.

Conditional acceptance

Conditional acceptance into the program is not provided for those students who wish to pursue English language training in the U.S. prior to starting their graduate studies. Applications submitted will be reviewed for admission into the program as per the criteria noted below.

An interview may be required by the admissions committee. Please feel free to submit any other materials that you feel would give a clearer picture of your qualifications. If you have questionsc ontact the Department of Special Education at

Admission Decisions

Each applicant’s credentials are reviewed by a committee of faculty that is committed to using professional judgement to find applicants with great potential for success and contribution to the profession. The department cannot assure admission to all applicants who meet minimum admission requirements.