Graduate Degrees in Education

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Graduate Study

Graduate study in education at the University of Colorado is administered through the Office of Student Services, School of Education, and all inquiries regarding programs should be directed to the following address: Office of Student Services, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder, 249 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0249.

Detailed program materials and The School of Education Graduate Student Handbook are available on the School of Education Student Services website at The degrees available in the various areas of graduate study are listed below: 

1. Curriculum and Instruction (K–12 humanities education; K–12 mathematics and science education; K–12 literacy education; research on teaching and teacher education) 

  • Master of arts 
  • Doctor of philosophy 
  • Secondary Master’s Plus (MA+) Licensure Programs
    CU-Boulder offers special programs for prospective secondary teachers that combine a master of arts degree in curriculum and instruction in a content area and teacher licensure to qualified students already holding bachelor’s degrees. Admission is highly competitive, and program completion requires a two-year commitment of course work and school placements. Students in the MA+ programs become eligible for a Colorado teaching license after three semesters; they complete remaining course work for the master’s degree in the fourth semester. Applicants must meet all graduate requirements listed below and undergo an extensive screening process. This program admits students for fall semester only. Complete program information is available in the Office of Student Services, Education 151 or by calling 303-492-6555.

2. Educational-Psychological Studies (educational psychology and learning sciences) 

  • Master of arts 
  • Doctor of philosophy 

3. Research and Evaluation Methodology (methods of educational research and evaluation, including statistics, measurement, and qualitative methods) 

  • Doctor of philosophy 

4. Multicultural, Social, and Bilingual Foundations (bilingual and multicultural education; bilingual/special education; education and cultural diversity; English as a second language; cultural, historical, social, and philosophical foundations; education policy) 

  • Master of arts 
  • Doctor of philosophy 

CU-Boulder does not offer programs in early childhood education, physical education, art education, counseling, school administration, higher education, school psychology, or educational technology. 

Teaching Endorsements at the Graduate Level

Through the School of Education (and in conjunction with other departments), the University of Colorado Boulder offers advanced course work leading to graduate level teaching and special services training in the following areas: 

  • Culturally and linguistically diverse education (grades K–12) 
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse education specialist: bilingual education (grades K–12)
  • Reading teacher (grades K–12) 
  • Special education generalist (grades K–12) 
  • Special education specialist (grades K–12) 
  • Special services (offered through SLHS): Audiologist (ages 0–21); Speech/language pathologist (ages 0–21) 

All of the above programs have degree, licensure, or experience requirements that must be fulfilled before admission. Please check with the department before applying. 


Prospective students seeking admission to a graduate degree program should view electronic application materials at Prospective graduate students should also read the Graduate School section for additional admission information. If test scores are required for admission to the desired program, applicants should request that the Educational Testing Service send their scores on the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to the Office of Student Services. A doctoral applicant who has not taken the GRE should arrange to do so. 

Admission to all programs and degrees in the School of Education is selective. Meeting minimal admission requirements  does not guarantee admission. 

Application papers and all supporting documents, including GRE or Miller’s Analogy Test (MAT) scores, if these scores are required for admission to the desired program, must be submitted electronically by the admission deadline. Master’s deadlines are September 1 for spring semester and February 1 for summer session and fall semester. The PhD deadline is January 1. The PhD program only has one admission cycle each year. The international student deadline for PhD students is December 1. Students should visit the International Student Admission website for additional forms and information, The Secondary Master’s Plus (MA+) deadline is January 1.


Graduate students are assigned an individual faculty advisor after admission and are required to submit a formal plan of study, approved by their advisor, before the end of the first full year of study. Graduate students may obtain program information from the School of Education, Office of Student Services, Education 151, or from their faculty advisors. 

General Information

Maximum Load and Part-Time Study 

A maximum of 15 semester hours in any one semester may be applied toward degree requirements. During the summer, 9 semester hours is the maximum that will be counted toward education graduate degrees. Within this limit, students may take up to 6 semester hours in a five-week summer term, and/or 3 semester hours in a three-week term. During the academic year for financial aid purposes, students will be regarded as having a full load if they are registered for 5 or more semester hours in courses numbered 5000 or above, or are registered in a minimum of 5 dissertation or 1 MA thesis hour. At least four semesters of residence credit, two of which must be consecutive in one academic year, must be earned for work taken at CU-Boulder. See the Graduate School section for clarification.

Quality of Work 

A grade average of B (3.00) or better is required for all work taken for any graduate degree. Transferred credits are not included when calculating grade averages. 

A mark below B- will not be credited toward the PhD program; a mark below C is not acceptable for MA students. Any graduate course in which a mark of D or F is reported as failed and must be repeated and passed if it is required in a student’s degree program. Students who do not maintain at least a B (3.00) average or better may be suspended by the dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the associate dean of graduate studies in the School of Education. Students may also be suspended from the Graduate School for continued failure to maintain satisfactory progress toward the degree sought. 

Opportunities for Assistantships 

The School of Education has a limited number of assistantships administered by the dean on the recommendations of faculty and the associate dean for teacher education or associate dean for graduate studies. Some assistantships involve the supervision of student teachers; others involve helping professors in their teaching or research. Taxable stipends in amounts set by the university are paid for all assistantships. Appointments are usually made in terms of one-fourth time (10 hours a week) or one-half time (20 hours a week). Inquiries should be directed to the associate dean for graduate studies. 

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Master of Arts in Education

The master of arts degree is available, comprising one academic year or more of graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree. 

The master’s degree must be completed within four years of initial enrollment. The MA plan II (nonthesis) degree requires a minimum of 30 semester hours. See the Graduate School section for discussion of plan I and plan II. Students may transfer no more than 9 semester hours of work taken at another institution or as a nondegree student at CU-Boulder. 

All program areas have outlined a recommended or required program of study, and students pursuing a degree are expected to follow that program unless they have appropriate substitutions arranged in advance with their advisors and the associate dean for graduate studies.  

At the beginning of the final term of study, each student must submit a form titled, “An application for admission to candidacy for an advanced degree.” These forms are available in the Office of Student Services. If a minor is included, the form must first be signed by a representative of the student’s minor department or program area. The form must be signed by the student and the student’s advisor, and then submitted to the school’s Office of Student Services for School of Education approval and then to the Graduate School for final approval. All students are required to pass a comprehensive-final examination or its equivalent, as determined by the program’s faculty committee. (For time limits and other information, see the Graduate School section under Master’s Degree.) 

Education as a Minor Field 

In MA programs for majors outside the School of Education, students may include education as a minor if both their major department and the associate dean for graduate studies in the School of Education approve. For master’s degrees, a minor in education consists of at least 9 hours of study in related courses. Not more than 2 semester hours may be transferred from another institution. A minor in education alone will not meet Colorado licensure requirements. 

Students who propose to minor in education must have had sufficient undergraduate work in education to prepare them for graduate study in the field. Appraisal of undergraduate preparation will be made by the associate dean for graduate studies. 

Doctoral Study in Education

In addition to the information included here, prospective PhD students should see the Graduate School section, and obtain a current copy of the School of Education Graduate Handbook

The School of Education offers the doctor of philosophy (PhD) in education. Most students take five to six years to complete the course work, examinations, and dissertation required for the doctoral degree. 

The school requires at least two semesters of full-time study in residence (one semester must be during the first two years of doctoral study). The School of Education expects that students will not hold a full-time job during their two semesters of residence. 

In addition to course work requirements, doctoral students should be immersed in ongoing research with the faculty as early in their program as possible. All doctoral students in the school will be required to complete, at a minimum, one scholarly product; other research endeavors prior to the dissertation are desirable. Each of the program committees has established a structure for implementing this requirement. For example, in some programs students work individually with their faculty advisors; in other programs students make the research product an extra course requirement attached to a professional seminar. 

Admission Requirements. Applicants for admission to doctoral study are expected to have a strong liberal arts background. A minimum undergraduate grade point average of 2.75 is required, but applicants are judged competitively so that most admitted applicants have GPAs of 3.00 or higher. A GPA of 3.00 or above is expected on all graduate work completed. PhD applicants are not required in all cases to have a master’s degree; the decision rests with the program area faculty. At least two years of professional teaching experience relevant to the applicant’s proposed area of study is strongly encouraged and recommended for programs in curriculum and instruction. 

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (verbal and quantitative reasoning) is required for admission; there is no established minimum score. Faculty consider the GRE score as one factor among many in making admission decisions. An interview with a faculty admissions committee may be required. 

Degree Requirements. Incoming doctoral students are required to complete a one-year introductory sequence as a cohort. The sequence is comprised of courses in Perspectives on Classrooms, Learning, and Teaching (EDUC 8210); Introduction to Educational Research and Policy (EDUC 8220); Quantitative Research Methods (EDUC 8230/8240); and Qualitative Research Methods (EDUC 8250/8260). In the second year, students also enroll in the Doctoral Seminar in Multiculturalism and Education (EDUC 8014). All other required course work is determined by the student’s program area.

Fifty-six semester hours of course work beyond the master’s degree is the normal requirement for the PhD. All program areas committees have outlined a program appropriate for individuals pursuing study in their area, and students are expected to follow that program unless they have arranged appropriate substitutions in advance with their advisor and the associate dean for graduate studies. 

No continuing education work is accepted for the PhD. 

Culture/Language Requirement. The culture/language requirement consists of two components: the Multiculturalism seminar (EDUC 8014) and a language component. The Multiculturalism seminar is scheduled every fall semester, is a doctoral-level course, and should be taken in the third semester of the student’s course sequence (first semester of second year). Introductory language courses (see item #1 below) are recorded on the Degree Plan form as having satisfied the language requirement but may not be listed as doctoral course work. To fulfill the language component one of three options are possible:

  1. Satisfactory completion of two semesters of college-level conversational language course taken at an accredited institution within the three years preceding admission with a grade of C- or better. The conversational language requirement also can be met by:
    a. Conversational courses offered through Continuing Education. If the courses are taken for no credit, the instructor must provide written documentation of second-semester oral proficiency. Students should inform instructors before the start of the courses that such certification is sought.
    b. Introductory Boulder campus courses such as SPAN 1010, ITAL 1010, FREN 1010, GRMN 1010, etc. These traditional courses meet the conversational requirement because instruction is conducted in the language and substantial language labs are part of the course expectations. Courses taken at another institution must be equivalent to the above courses to count toward this requirement.
    c. Satisfactory performance on an oral proficiency examination indicating sufficient mastery to complete a second-semester college course. (Given a specific request, arrangements can be made for such exams to be available through language department faculty or from Continuing Education instructors on a case-by-case basis.)
  2. The BUENO Puebla experience or a similar alternative experience to be approved by an EECD faculty member.
  3. Course on Language Issues in Educational Research.

Comprehensive Examination. Before taking the comprehensive examination, students must submit the “Application for Admission to Candidacy for an Advanced Degree,” available in the school’s Office of Student Services at least two weeks prior to the exam. 

Near the end of the term when students complete their course work and if their advisor approves, they take a comprehensive examination given by program area faculty that covers foundational knowledge in the program area. Students who fail this examination may repeat it once, at a time to be determined by the examining committee. 

Dissertation. In addition to course work, a doctoral dissertation for 30 semester hours of credit is required. A student registers for EDUC 8994 Doctoral Dissertation for three or more terms, for not more than 10 semester hours in any term. Not more than 10 dissertation credit hours taken in semesters prior to the semester in which the comprehensive examination is passed may be counted in the required 30 dissertation hours. After satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examination, the student must continuously register for a minimum of 5 dissertation hours during fall and spring semesters until the final defense. Off-campus students may register for 3 dissertation credit hours. On- and off-campus students must be registered for 5 hours during the semester the defense is completed. 

When the student and the chair of the dissertation committee agree on a dissertation subject, they work with the associate dean for graduate studies to identify a five-person committee. Then the student prepares a detailed prospectus and arranges for a meeting with the committee. After committee approval, the student may proceed with the research. Research involving human subjects must also have the approval of the university Institutional Review Board. During the research for and the writing of a dissertation, a grade of IP (in progress) is reported for the credit hours taken; if the dissertation is completed and accepted as satisfactory, a grade is reported for the student’s record.

Time Limits. Time limits for the PhDs is six years; see the Graduate School section for PhD time limits. 

When students have passed the comprehensive examination, they must register each semester until the degree is attained, and pay the standard fee as announced by the Graduate School.