Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


About the program

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education program is a 90-quarter credit, post-master’s, interdepartmental degree offered by the School of Education. It follows a low-residency model, with courses being offered online during the regular academic year and an on-campus component in summer. 

The aim of this program is to educate and prepare scholars to serve as college and university-level educators who can effectively prepare teachers and conduct publishable research and other scholarly work. This PhD program emphasizes teaching and learning theory, research, teacher preparation, and university teaching.

Course of study

Using the educational benefits of collaborative and cooperative learning combined with continued professional association, the program uses a cohort approach for core doctoral classes. Once admitted to the program, you proceed through these cohort courses as part of a group, following a defined schedule and sequence.

Because this is an interdepartmental degree, you select courses and learning experiences with the assistance of the director of doctoral studies from a variety of areas and opportunities in the School of Education, or from other schools within Seattle Pacific University (subject to approval by the School of Education Doctoral Committee).

Prerequisite coursework

Depending on your educational background, the following prerequisites may be required for the doctoral degree.

  • EDU 7300 Introduction to Educational Research and Statistics 
  • EDU 6975 Interpreting and Applying Educational Research I
  • EDU 6976 Interpreting and Applying Educational Research II
  • EDU 6655 Human Development & Principles of Learning
  • EDU 6524 Curriculum Design
  • EDU 6526 Survey of Instructional Strategies

Leadership colloquium and comprehensive exams

After approximately one year of coursework, or 24 credits, you may register for EDU 7990 Leadership Colloquium. This requires you to write a scholarly paper and present that paper in a formal setting to the educational community.

Graduate faculty of the School of Education conduct an evaluation of the scholarship and Colloquium. The Leadership Colloquium must be taken before you can take the comprehensive exams.

Upon completion of all courses, you must pass two written comprehensive examinations. These examinations will cover the foundations and research components of the core courses. Successful completion of the comprehensive examination advances you to doctoral candidacy.

The dissertation

The doctoral dissertation is the culminating experience in the PhD in Education degree. It is a scholarly inquiry into an area of professional and intellectual interest, and it is a highly individualized experience.

Working with faculty throughout the coursework and with a dissertation advisor, you will develop a research question and proposal. Using the expertise and knowledge developed in the research courses and under the direction of a faculty dissertation advisor and committee, you will conduct the research and produce a quality report of the findings. As a final demonstration of scholarly competence, you will conduct an oral presentation and defense of the research.

While it is expected that the dissertation will follow standard accepted research methodologies and format, the topic of the research may vary depending on your professional goals, area of specialization, and the expertise of the faculty.

Admissions requirements

Applicants must submit the following items to Graduate Admissions.

  • Online application and $50 application processing fee.
  • Official transcripts documenting excellent undergraduate and graduate GPAs from an accredited institution where an academic degree was conferred. Include post-master’s degree graduate coursework. 
  • Personal statement(no more than 500 words) expressing your professional plans, goals, and focus of study, as well as a rationale for pursuing a PhD in Education.
  • Four recent letters of recommendation, including two academic and two professional recommendations.
  • Writing sample that demonstrates graduate-level writing skills.
  • Résumé documenting a minimum of three years of successful professional experience in an educational setting (P–12, higher education, or other related setting). 

Following the submission of all of these items, your file will be reviewed by the core graduate faculty. You will be contacted regarding the status of your application, and to schedule an interview, within approximately two weeks.

All correspondence regarding the interview process will be carried out by email using the address you provide in the application. Please set your email filters accordingly.

Enrollment policy

  • Students must be continuously enrolled in required SPU courses to earn this doctoral degree, or until officially withdrawing from the program. Exceptions to continuous enrollment must be approved by the program director.
  • Students may be granted a leave of absence for up to four quarters by the program director. Once the leave of absence has expired, the student will either enroll in graduate coursework or be dropped from the program.
  • University academic policy requires continuous enrollment to remain admitted in a graduate program. After four quarters of non-enrollment, students will be placed in “inactive status” and will need to reapply for admission.
  • If a student decides to no longer pursue a doctoral degree, the student may officially withdraw from the program and SPU by notifying the program director and the associate director of graduate programs.

    Grade point average

    A minimum 3.2 overall GPA is required for graduation.

    Degree completion

    All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within five years from the quarter the first post-admission course was taken. Students needing more than five years to complete the degree must file a time-extension petition with the director of doctoral programs.


Admissions materials should be directed to Graduate Admissions. If you have questions about graduate education or certification programs: