Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education

The JOINT Doctoral Program in Special Education prepares leaders in research, teaching, administration, and supervision for the variety of professional needs facing children, youth, and adults with disabilities. It integrates the resources of UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University (SFSU) and provides an opportunity for students to combine theoretical interests with applied practices in a broad spectrum of specializations within Special Education.

Focus of Study

Students select an area of academic specialization in both special and general education. Faculty and program resources at both Berkeley and SFSU are used to develop advanced knowledge of theory and research in an area of exceptionality.

Specializations include human development; early childhood, language and literacy; mathematics, science, and technology; educational policy and administration; and other areas selected by students in consultation with faculty advisers. In the program students develop three areas of emphasis or specialization.

Program Structure

Students in the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education fulfill the same requirements as all doctoral students at Berkeley’s School of Education. They complete a body of coursework, that includes three areas of specialization, three position papers that include one empirical study, oral examination on the areas of specialization, dissertation proposal and defense without a final dissertation defense.

Courses are taken at both Berkeley and SFSU.

Entrance Requirements

Individuals from related disciplines in the social, behavioral, and health sciences who seek leadership and research training in Special Education and Human Development are encouraged to apply.

Consideration is given to successful experience in working with individuals with disabilities, or in programs serving these populations, but not required

For more information, please read the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education Handbook.

Type of Program (PhD)

This program offers a PhD in Special Education.


Graduates have pursued professional positions at major universities nationally and internationally. Our graduates hold faculty positions at: CUNY, Vanderbilt, Florida State University, Gallaudet University, Hebrew University, Tennessee State University, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of California, Irvine and University of Hawaii, among others. Many graduates have also become faculty members and administrators at the various CSU campuses, including East Bay, Northridge, San Francisco State, and San Jose. Other local institutions include the University of San Francisco and College of Alameda.

Graduates have also gone on to serve as directors of special education, administrators, and clinically based programs in public or private facilities. Examples of these position include: Director, King County Vocational Special Education, Seattle, Wash.; Special Education Consultant, California Dept. of Education; Senior Program & Policy Associate, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.


Doctoral students from all UC campuses are encouraged to participate with the UC SPEDDR Center for Research (Research in Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk). UC SPEDDR is a California-wide multi-UC campus research unit that aims to enhance the ability of the UC system to attract from a national pool of talented students, win large extramural grants, improve national visibility, and enhance the doctoral preparation of the next generation of research, teacher education, and other related public service doctorates.


UC Berkeley
School of Education

SF State University
Department of Special Education
& Communicative Disorders

156 Burk Hall
(415) 338-1161