Doctor of Philosophy in Education
The Ph.D. in Education is an interdisciplinary doctoral program offered jointly by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. As a Ph.D. candidate, you will collaborate with scholars across all Harvard graduate schools on original interdisciplinary research. In the process, you will help forge new fields of inquiry that will impact the way we teach and learn.
The program’s required coursework will develop your knowledge of the interdisciplinary nature of education and expertise in a range of quantitative and qualitative methods needed to conduct high-quality research. Guided by the goal of having a transformative impact on education research, policy, and practice, you will focus on independent research in various domains, including human development, learning and teaching, policy analysis and evaluation, institutions and society, and instructional practice. You will assume roles as university faculty, researchers, senior-level education leaders, and policymakers.
The Ph.D. in Education requires five years of full-time study to complete. You will choose your individual coursework and design your original research in close consultation with your HGSE faculty adviser and dissertation committee. The requirements listed below include the three Ph.D. concentrations: Culture, Institutions, and Society; Education Policy and Program Evaluation; and Human Development, Learning and Teaching.
We invite you to review an example course list, which is provided in two formats — one as the full list by course number and one by broad course category. These lists are subject to modification.
Ph.D. Concentrations and Examples
- During the first two years of the Ph.D., you will take a minimum of 16 courses, including:
- Doctoral Colloquia (year 1 and 2)
- S809Y Colloquium in Culture and Institutions
- S811Y Colloquium in Education Policy
- S813Y Colloquium in Learning and Development
- One (1) Concentration Core Seminar (depending on strand)
- S801 Culture, Institutions, and Society Core Seminar (spring)
- S802 HDLT Core Seminar (spring)
- S803 Education Policy and Program Evaluation Core Seminar (spring)
- At least four (4) research methods courses: two courses in quantitative methods, one course in foundational qualitative methods, and an additional course of your choosing in qualitative methods.
- S804 Reading time in preparation for the written portion of the Comprehensive Exam
- Three (3) concentration electives, identified courses from Program Materials
- Five (5) additional elective courses, selected from HGSE and all Harvard graduate schools
Summary of Ph.D. Program
In year one and two you are required to attend. The colloquia convenes weekly and features presentations of work-in-progress and completed work by Harvard faculty, faculty and researchers from outside Harvard, and Harvard doctoral students. Ph.D. students present once in the colloquia over the course of their career.
The Research Apprenticeship is designed to provide ongoing training and mentoring to develop your research skills throughout the entire program.
The Teaching Fellowship is an opportunity to enhance students' teaching skills, promote learning consolidation, and provide opportunities to collaborate with faculty on pedagogical development.
The Written Exam (year 2, spring) tests you on both general and concentration-specific knowledge. The Oral Exam (year 3, fall/winter) tests your command of your chosen field of study and your ability to design, develop, and implement an original research project.
Based on your original research, the dissertation process consists of three parts: the Dissertation Proposal, the writing, and an oral defense before the members of your dissertation committee.
Culture, Institutions, and Society (CIS) Concentration
In CIS, you will examine the broader cultural, institutional, organizational, and social contexts relevant to education across the lifespan. What is the value and purpose of education? How do cultural, institutional, and social factors shape educational processes and outcomes? How effective are social movements and community action in education reform? How do we measure stratification and institutional inequality? In CIS, your work will be informed by theories and methods from sociology, history, political science, organizational behavior and management, philosophy, and anthropology. You can examine contexts as diverse as classrooms, families, neighborhoods, schools, colleges and universities, religious institutions, nonprofits, government agencies, and more.
Education Policy and Program Evaluation (EPPE) Concentration
In EPPE, you will research the design, implementation, and evaluation of education policy affecting early childhood, K–12, and postsecondary education in the U.S. and internationally. You will evaluate and assess individual programs and policies related to critical issues like access to education, teacher effectiveness, school finance, testing and accountability systems, school choice, financial aid, college enrollment and persistence, and more. Your work will be informed by theories and methods from economics, political science, public policy, and sociology, history, philosophy, and statistics. This concentration shares some themes with CIS, but your work with EPPE will focus on public policy and large-scale reforms.
Human Development, Learning and Teaching (HDLT) Concentration
In HDLT, you will work to advance the role of scientific research in education policy, reform, and practice. New discoveries in the science of learning and development — the integration of biological, cognitive, and social processes; the relationships between technology and learning; or the factors that influence individual variations in learning — are transforming the practice of teaching and learning in both formal and informal settings. Whether studying behavioral, cognitive, or social-emotional development in children or the design of learning technologies to maximize understanding, you will gain a strong background in human development, the science of learning, and sociocultural factors that explain variation in learning and developmental pathways. Your research will be informed by theories and methods from psychology, cognitive science, sociology and linguistics, philosophy, the biological sciences and mathematics, and organizational behavior.
The most remarkable thing about the Ph.D. in Education is open access to faculty from all Harvard graduate and professional schools, including the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard Kennedy School, the Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The following is a complete listing of successful Ph.D. in Education dissertations to-date. Dissertations from November 2014 onward are publicly available in the Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH), the online repository for Harvard scholarship.
- 2022 Graduate Dissertations (265 KB pdf)
- 2021 Graduate Dissertations (177 KB pdf)
- 2020 Graduate Dissertations (121 KB pdf)
- 2019 Graduate Dissertations (68.3 KB pdf)
An opt-in listing of current Ph.D. students with information about their interests, research, personal web pages, and contact information:
Outcomes and Alumni Profiles
Read more about the exciting work our doctoral students are engaging in.
Computing with Creativity
Computing with Creativity
Doctoral candidate Paulina Haduong on understanding the challenges that K–12 teachers and students face in learning computing together
Is it Time to Rethink Recommendation Letters?
Is it Time to Rethink Recommendation Letters?
How counselors can make college recommendations more equitable
Tell us about yourself so that we can tailor our communication to best fit your interests and provide you with relevant information about our programs, events, and other opportunities to connect with us.
More information about our admissions application requirements and instructions, funding, and answers to frequently asked questions is available on our website. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have additional admissions-related questions.
Learn more and download the doctoral brochure.
Connect with Program Staff
To learn more about the application process, visit Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions for a complete list of application requirements and deadlines.
Virtual Information Sessions
View the Doctor of Philosophy in Education recorded virtual information session to learn more about the program from faculty, students, and staff.