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Ph.D. in Education: Transforming Education in a Diverse Society

The Ph.D. in Education is designed for students with some professional experience in teaching and learning settings as well as in research.  Our mission is to teach students to wield the tools of research to change disparities in educational experiences and student outcomes.

Our Ph.D. in Education is designed for students who want to pursue research and careers in academia, the non-profit sector, or governmental agencies with a focus on how to improve educational practices and policies to achieve social equity and progress. We look for students with both research experiences and professional experience in teaching, leadership, and learning, who want to build their capacities to undertake independent scholarly research. 

As part of the evolution of education research, the field of education will require Ph.D. graduates who are prepared to collaborate with policymakers, educators, families, and communities to transform current education practice and policy. Our Ph.D. program will provide a fresh approach to training much needed and innovative researchers. Rather than training traditional faculty members solely to generate knowledge by documenting outcomes and processes in education, human development, and well-being, we will cultivate future faculty and researchers to serve and partner with communities through their research in order to accelerate the improvement of education in regional, national, and international settings.

With a focus on equity, equality, and justice, our program is designed to support the development of interdisciplinary, rigorous researchers who can improve educational structures, practices, and policies, as well as the use of educational approaches for community well-being, particularly in low resource settings and for socially marginalized youth. The program will explicitly articulate the links between university faculty, students, families, education practitioners, community members and programs, policy-makers, and educational and community stakeholders. 

In addition to developing a solid theoretical and methodological foundation, students in the program have opportunities to deepen and extend their learning through elective coursework within EDS and cognate coursework in other UCSD departments, and through research apprenticeships with EDS faculty, in order to deepen their knowledge of varied disciplines, theories, and epistemologies. 

Students will also have the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary experiences by engaging in research across UC San Diego divisions, departments, and research units. Education Studies is a partner with Critical Gender Studies (CGS) allowing PhD students to apply for a Graduate Specialization in CGS. Additionally, students interested in cognitive science development may apply to join the Interdisciplinary PhD program in Cognitive Science and Education Studies.



Program Features

The program features include:

  • Competitive Funding
  • A commitment to promoting equity and social justice
  • A focus on designing solutions for pressing problems in education
  • A multi-disciplinary approach to training educational researchers, focusing on close collaboration with educators, policymakers, and the community
  • On-campus, full-time course of study
  • Interdisciplinary approach
  • Focus on collaborative inquiry
  • Intensive research internships working with well-renowned faculty
  • Rigorous training in quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • Training to generate and communicate research that transforms practices in local settings and makes an impact nationally and globally
  • The use of technology as a tool for teaching, scholarship, and supporting change in diverse communities

Admissions Information

Our application for Fall 2025 will open on September 4, 2024.

A completed Ph.D. application will include the following components:

1) Application Form 

Fill out the application form online.

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2) Statement of Purpose

Your Statement of Purpose must address the following:  (1) research interests, (2) relevant professional experiences, (3)  experiences with teaching and learning, (4) experience in diverse communities; (5) how your professional and research goals contribute to diversity. 

3) Recommendation Letters

Three letters of recommendation need to be submitted via the online recommendation form available within the application.  You may find it useful to consider in advance whom you will ask to serve as recommenders, so that you may contact these individuals and confirm their willingness. We suggest selecting recommenders who can comment on your ability to be successful in a rigorous Ph.D. program which focuses on transforming education in a diverse society. The letters might include a recommender’s knowledge and assessment of your academic preparation, your professional experiences in educational practice, and your research interests and experiences.

4) Resume

An applicant must submit a professional resume. The Ph.D. in Education is designed for students with some professional experience in teaching and learning settings as well as in research. 

5) Writing Sample

An applicant must submit a publication or a sample of academic writing.

6) Transcripts

For application review purposes (only), scan and upload copies of transcripts for all institutions attended post-high school.  In the online application, you will be prompted to upload a PDF of your scanned documents. Please upload both the front and back sides of the transcript, even if the back side is blank. Uploaded transcripts should be recent and include the following: your name, the institution name, dates of attendance, grades/marks received, credits, and grading legend.  If no transcript is available, please upload a statement explaining the circumstances.

*Do not mail hard copies until provisionally admitted.

Upon provisional admission UC San Diego: Official transcripts from all institutions attended after high school will be required to finalize your admission and must be submitted to the Graduate Admissions office. Official records including transcripts, evaluations, mark sheets, diplomas, certificates, translations, and study abroad work must be delivered in a sealed envelope from the administering institution or service. Documents will not be accepted if opened or sealed by the student. Certified electronic transcripts sent directly to Graduate Admissions from the issuing institution care also accepted.  Electronic transcripts should be sent to

Applicants with academic work in progress who expect to complete a degree program before the intended date of enrollment at UC San Diego, must provide evidence of degree conferral and a final academic transcript as soon as they are available.

By the time enrollment begins, successful applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution in the United States or from a recognized university-level academic institution abroad. Completed coursework for both domestic and international applicants must demonstrate the equivalent of at least a B average in the United States.

7) GRE Scores

The GRE exam (general exam) will not be required for Applications for Fall 2023. If you do take the exam our program code is R4836. If you have already taken the test and did not have your scores sent to UC San Diego, contact ETS to have your scores sent to us electronically. The test scores are valid for 5 years.

8) Additional Educational Experiences (Required by EDS)

To be considered for admission into the Ph.D. in Education Program, please respond to a minimum of three out of the seven areas included within the application. This part of the application is not optional for EDS.

9) Application Fee 

The application fee is $120 for US citizens or permanent residents; $140 for international applicants. The non-refundable fee is payable by credit card through the online application. You may also pay by check, following the instructions in the online application. If you choose to pay by check, please note that your application will not be processed until your check has been received.

The UCSD Education Studies PhD program uses a structured holistic review process with a rubric-based evaluation. Each application is reviewed in its entirety and rated on academic preparation, potential for scholarship, and potential for contributing to equity and diversity in formal and information learning contexts. While we do not have a minimum GRE score,  we encourage students to take the test seriously, to practice and do your best. You may choose to address low scores in your statement of purpose. Successful applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution in the United States or from a recognized university-level academic institution abroad and at least a B average (3.0 GPA) or its equivalent by the time they enroll. Some exceptional applicants with lower GPAs may be recommended for admission. You may choose to address low grades in Education related courses or GPA in your statement of purpose.

* Former UC San Diego graduate students should contact Amber Rieder to complete the necessary re-admission process. 

Graduate Funding

Admitted EDS PhD students are guaranteed 5 years financial support, which includes half-time student academic employment, and full tuition & fees during the academci year.

If admitted to the program a detailed funding letter outlining the funding package will be provided.

For further questions about funding please contact the Graduate Coordinator, Amber Rieder,

Financial Support FAQs


Faculty use a wide array of research methodologies and discipline-based theoretical tools for analyzing and addressing topics. Our faculty have expertise in quantitative methods and qualitative methods of research, with many using mixed methods research approaches. Faculty research projects range from large-scale, multi-site quantitative analyses to in-depth qualitative studies of schools, classrooms, and communities. Faculty also have expertise in historical research, theory development, and design-based approaches to research.

View a list of Ph.D. Faculty and Research Topic Areas

Program of Study


Degree Benchmarks

Our signature pedagogy is problem immersion -- we ask students to read research and learn theories and methodologies in the service of understanding existing real-world education situations and contexts. 

During the first two years of the program, students will take required courses in foundational areas and in rigorous research methods. Students will also take Research Apprenticeship Courses (RAC) in which students are immersed in faculty research with faculty supporting students’ development as researchers.

At the end of the first year, and with faculty guidance, students will choose their particular area of focus and select elective courses in education and in other departments accordingly. Students will continue their research immersion experiences and take courses as part of an interdisciplinary cognate strand.

Between the end of year 2 and no later than Spring quarter of year 3 students will submit their Qualifying Exam Research Review Paper. The written Research Review is designed to assess the student's ability to work in a scholarly and professional way with substantive knowledge in their area of interest. To successfully meet the research review benchmark, a student must submit a scholarly review of research manuscript of publishable quality. The manuscript should demonstrate the student’s knowledge of theory and research in a particular topic area related to transforming education in a diverse society.

After successfully passing the Qualifying Exam, students will present their dissertation proposal between year three and four. Information on this process can begin with the Dissertation Proposal and Committee document.

During the fourth and fifth years students will work with their dissertation advisor and other faculty committee members to complete their dissertation research and writing.