How to Apply: Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education

The next admissions cycle will begin in September 2024, for admissions to Fall 2025.

Students in the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education select an area of academic specialization in both special and general education. Faculty and program resources at both UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University (SFSU) are used to develop advanced knowledge of theory and research in an area of exceptionality.

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.

Online Application

  • Application deadline: N/A
  • The online application for admission can be found at the Graduate Division website.
    • Select Term: Fall; Degree objective: Education-Special Education (joint SFSU) JtPhD.
    • All uploaded documents should be in PDF format only.

All materials are due by the application deadline.

All application materials become property of the University of California. Materials can neither be returned to you nor released to any other party.

Application Fee

  • When you apply for graduate admission, you will be required to submit the application fee using a major credit card.
  • If you are a U.S. citizen or current permanent resident, the application fee is $135; for all others, the fee is $155.
  • The application fee is non-refundable.
  • You may qualify for an application fee waiver. To check eligibility, visit the Graduate Division website

Program Information

Faculty Adviser
You will be required to select and rank up to three (3) faculty members with whom you wish to work and whose research best reflects your interests.

Adviser Choices
Briefly tell us why you chose these faculty members and why this rank order.


You are required to submit two essays: a Statement of Purpose, and a Personal History.

Statement of Purpose

Describe your aptitude and motivation for graduate study in your area of specialization, including your preparation for this field of study; your academic plans or research interests in your chosen area of study; and your future career goals. Please be specific about why UC Berkeley would be a good intellectual fit for you.

There is no minimum or maximum length for your Statement of Purpose. We recommend one to three pages; 12-point font; and single-spaced.

Personal History 

Consistent with our goal of enhancing the intellectual and social enrichment of the University community, the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education actively seeks and welcomes students from diverse backgrounds. The Personal History essay is encouraged because it provides the committee with further information about you.

Prompt: Please provide a statement about your personal history, family background, and other influences on your intellectual development. The statement should address educational, cultural, and economic opportunities and disadvantages that you have experienced, and ways those experiences have affected the development of your special interests, career plans, and future goals.

Please note that this statement is not an academic Statement of Purpose, but a personal statement that addresses your intellectual growth and development, both inclusive of and beyond academic goals. Your Personal History should be no more than two pages in length; 12-point font; and single-spaced.

GPA Worksheet

You must calculate your Advanced GPA, which is defined as all coursework after the first two years of your bachelor's degree.

For applicants whose undergraduate trajectory was not a standard 4 years at one institution, simply use your last two years of your Undergraduate degree.

If you need a GPA calculator, we recommend this online resource.

If you have a graduate degree, there is a separate box for you to enter your graduate degree GPA.

If your GPA is not on a 4.0 scale there is no need to convert it. Enter it as is, in the appropriate GPA box.


  • Scan and upload PDF copies of all transcripts.
    • Unofficial transcripts should include all information an official transcript would:
      • Student information (i.e., first/last name)
      • Institution information
      • Degree conferral date(s) when applicable
      • All coursework information
  • Hard copies are not accepted.
  • Upload ​​transcripts from every post-secondary school you have attended, including community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs.
    • Upload PDF scans of your final transcripts from institutions where you did not receive a degree (e.g., community college) if you received credit that was later applied toward your degree, or if credit from that institution is listed on your bachelor's degree transcript.
  • Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into our program; please do not send transcripts before official acceptance.

Letters of Recommendation

You are required to submit three (3) letters of recommendation.

  • At least two (2) should be academic letters.

You will add the recommenders' information to the online application. Each recommender is then responsible for uploading their letter directly into the online portal.

Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV)

You are required to submit a resume that includes education and professional work history; other professional activities (e.g., professional organizations); professional productivity (e.g., professional publications or professional development); and other major professional, vocational, community, or recreational activities, interests, and pursuits.

Submit via the online Graduate Division application, Resume/CV section.

Curriculum Vitae

Please upload a current curriculum vitae (CV) as a PDF.

English Language Proficiency

  • All applicants who have completed a basic degree in a country/region in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency.
  • Use recipient code 4833 for UC Berkeley.
  • For current information regarding this requirement, visit the Graduate Division website.

Competitive Applications

Beyond the application requirements, finding a fit with an adviser or adviser(s) is critical to the admissions process. Thus, applicants are strongly advised to establish a dialogue with one (or more) faculty members in the preferred specialization area prior to applying to the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education.

The purpose of the dialogue is to understand how your scholarship interests align and/or intersect with departmental faculty, and to ensure the specialization focus aligns with your interests and skills. Meeting with faculty will assist you to identify a good match of specialization adviser with whom you would like to study. This dialogue will also inform you about the various social, academic, and teaching aspects of the doctoral experience that will complement your development as a scholar.

In sum, competitive applicants research faculty on both campuses, read their research articles, and then reach out and communicate with these potential advisers prior to submitting your application. This process is strongly recommended and is considered vital to the department admissions process.

Review Process

A faculty admissions committee will review all completed application files for their relevant area of study. In accordance with students' active participation in School of Education governance, students will also participate in the admissions process (e.g., admissions interviews). In addition to grades and test scores, we will assess your application by noting achievements in graduate study, employment, and other activities you describe in your statement of purpose.

Some degree programs require interviews of top-ranked applicants. We will notify all applicants who need to fulfill this requirement. Telephone interviews may be conducted by arrangement with program staff.

Notification of Decision

The School of Education sends recommendations for admission to the Graduate Division between February and April for final approval. Notice from the Graduate Division constitutes official approval of admission. Communication or correspondence with the School of Education or an individual faculty member does not constitute approval of admission.


BSE Admissions Office


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Questions about the academic program at the BSE

Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education


Questions about the academic program at SF State

Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education