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The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in Early Childhood Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham allows the doctoral student to have a tailored curriculum with enough flexibility to meet the needs of individual candidates while developing a strong developmental foundation in early childhood. The program is one of only a handful in the country providing a Ph.D. in ECE and not a more generic degree with an "emphasis" or "specialty" in early childhood. In contrast to a generic approach to training, candidates immerse themselves in doctoral-level experiences specially designed to focus on early childhood research, teaching, and service. The program offers doctoral-level early childhood seminars, internships, courses, and experiences. Candidates can specialize in one of five areas (Piagetian Theory, early childhood literacy, early childhood curriculum, diversity, EBD, or early intervention/young children at risk). Preparation focuses on the ability to research and teach at the university level successfully.

Concentration Options

The ECE programs offer three concentrations:

  • Curriculum
  • Early Intervention / Young Children at Risk
  • Literacy

Research and Scholarship

Courses and experiences are designed for the candidate to become confident and competent in reading and applying research and designing and implementing studies that guide the field. Complementing the research agenda is an expectation of scholarship (presenting and publishing) contributions to the early childhood field. Faculty mentoring and participation in "emerging scholar communities" help complement master teachers with research and scholarship skills required at the Ph.D. level.

Teaching Experiences

Candidates are provided opportunities to design, implement, analyze, and evaluate varied pedagogical approaches to early childhood education. As a significant proportion of the Ph.D. program is offered using face-to-face and online asynchronous technology, candidates may have the opportunity to develop skills in using and designing 'distance education' that continues to grow faster than traditional face-to-face education.


Through close interactions with and mentoring from the ECE faculty, the ECE doctoral candidate is expected to learn about, develop a service schedule, and provide service through various local, state, national, and international venues.

International Opportunities

As multiple faculty have international backgrounds and experiences, opportunities present themselves to research and present with an international focus. Also, many faculty have held leadership positions with the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) and the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) and use these experiences to provide service and scholarship opportunities.

Urban Opportunities

Collaborative opportunities with the UAB School of Education and Human Sciences, Center for Urban Education allow Ph.D. candidates to focus scholarship activities on issues related to "quality education for socially and economically disenfranchised groups residing in urban areas."

Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center

The Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center (MMFLC) supports and disseminates research in literacy, provides professional development for teachers and students, and creates innovative literacy projects, both locally and globally. Through the MMFLC, candidates have a unique opportunity to build their professional credentials by publishing research articles, presenting at professional development conferences, and volunteering in literacy projects.

  • Core Courses
    ECE 730 - Advanced Developmental Theory 3 hours
    ECE 731 – Children and Society 3 hours
    ECE 749 - Advanced Early Childhood Curriculum 3 hours
    One course from the following: ECE 735, ECE737, ECE 748 or other ECE doctoral classes at discretion of committee. 3 hours
    Total Credit Hours for Core Courses 12 hours
  • Concentration Area (Courses Approved by Faculty)
    Early Intervention / Pre-K, Young Children at Risk  
    Total Credit Hours for Concentration Area Courses 12 hours
  • Research Methodology
    EPR 696 – Qualitative Research 3 hours
    EPR 710 – Multivariate Research 3 hours
    6 hours of Qualitative Research courses from the following: EPR 792 or SOC 708, EPR 796 OR 6 hours of quantitative research courses from the following: EPR 695, EPR 792, HB 714, SOC 704, PY 727, BST 640, BST 661, BST 671, SOC 706 OR 6 hours of Mixed Methods Research from the following: EPR 792, EPR 790, NRM 778Q, NRM 779Q. ECE research courses can be substituted at the discretion of the faculty. 6 hours
    Total Credit Hours for Research Methodology 12 hours
  • Research Internship
    ECE 798 – 3 hours in first 18 hours of study 3
    ECE 798 – 3 hours in second 18 hours of study 3
    Total Credit Hours for Research Internships 6+ hours
  • Dissertation
    ECE 799 –  At least two semesters of dissertation hours 12 + hrs
    Total Credit Hours for Dissertation 6+ hours

    To move into dissertation hours (candidacy), the candidate must have:

    • Completion of the majority of PhD coursework
    • Approval of the dissertation proposal by your dissertation committee and approved by the Program Director and the Graduate School Dean
    • Successfully passed the written and oral defense
    • IRB approval of procedures for dissertation research
    • ECE 799 – At least two semesters of dissertation hours with at least one semester of 6 ECE 799 credit hrs 12 + hrs

    ECE 798 – 3 hours in first 18 hours of study 3 ECE 798 – 3 hours in second 18 hours of study 3 Dissertation – 18-24 hours ECE 799 – At least two semesters of dissertation hours 12 + hrs

Graduate Teaching/Research Assistants

For new students entering the fall semester, the university supports Blazer Graduate Research Fellows and full-time Graduate Research Assistants to perform research-related assignments to benefit the Early Childhood Education faculty and program. Applications for the Ph.D. program and to be considered for this fellowship should be completed in January.

The position requires full-time enrollment (9 hrs/semester, including summer, which equals 27 hrs per year) as a doctoral Early Childhood Education student. Full-time UAB employees are not eligible for these funds.

The award also requires that you be available to work 20 hrs/week on assigned tasks.

Applications are due by January 31.

Application for Graduate Assistantship Funding

  • Admissions Requirements

    The following indicators are considered by the Doctoral Program Admissions Committee when determining program admission:

    • Master's Degree in ECE (or related field) or an Education Specialist degree with prior experience in early childhood education settings. Applicants have been accepted into the program with backgrounds in ECE, elementary education, law, health and human services, maternal child health, etc.
    • Professional experience - preferred at least 3 years
    • Professional resume/CV
    • Writing assessment - statement of research interests and professional goals essay
    • Scores at or above the 50th percentile on the MAT or GRE are preferred but faculty will consider applicants with lower scores if evidence (e.g., high GPA in a master's or Ed.S. program) is provided.
    • GPA (minimum of 3.25 on previous graduate work)
    • Three recommendations/letters of reference
    • Presentations at state, regional and national conferences
    • Publications
    • Professional involvement
    • Interview with faculty
  • Application Checklist

    Applying for admission begins with completing an online application through the UAB Graduate School.

    • Complete and submit online degree-seeking application for admission to the Graduate School
    • Submit professional resume/CV and statement of research interests and professional goals
    • Pay application fee online with credit card or debit card (mailing a check will severely delay the application process)
      • Domestic: fee for Ph.D. is waived
      • International: please check graduate school website for current fee
    • Ask the individuals from whom you request references to respond online to the form that they will receive via email from the Graduate School (NOTE: This form is sent automatically to your references by UAB as soon as you click submit on your degree-seeking application).
    • Request transcripts from all prior institutions to be sent to UAB including institutions where you might have taken only one course (information on how to do this is provided in Apply Yourself). The preferred email addresses for electronic submission of transcripts are as follows: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you have international transcripts, you should send a copy and then bring the original transcript with you.
    • Submit official GRE or MAT test score.
    • Submit official TOEFL or IELTS test score (for international applicants only) NOTE: International applicants must also meet all requirements stipulated at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/international . This includes a mailing your Financial Affidavit of Support
  • Prerequisite Coursework

    If a Ph.D. applicant has completed most / all of the following coursework, they may enter the program and start their Ph.D. coursework the first semester. If applicants have not taken coursework similar to the courses listed below, then the applicant can be accepted into the program and is expected to complete the majority of the prerequisite coursework prior to taking doctoral level classes.

    • EPR 594 Introduction to Educational Research Design
    • EPR 596 Introduction to Qualitative Methods of Educational Research
    • EPR 608 Statistical Methods and Research in Education (with EPR 607 lab)
    • EPR 609 Statistical Methods and Research in Education: Intermediate
    • EEC 610 Curriculum Development in Early Childhood Education
    • EEC 300 Child Development in Early Childhood Education
    • EEC 672 Piaget & Perspectives or ECE 630 Cognitive Curriculum
    • EEC 660 Readings in Teaching and Learning
    • Demonstrated Technology Proficiency

    Determination of whether the following coursework has been completed will be made by the program coordinator from a review of transcripts and conversation with the applicant.

Career Opportunities

Graduates from our program are prepared to take positions in various roles. Careers include higher educational/post-secondary settings. Just within the United States, almost one-third of all institutes of higher education (IHE) offer some early childhood training program. This translates to over 1300 IHE, where the largest program within a college or school of education in early childhood education. Graduates also work with policy development at local, state, national, and international levels. Our graduates come from and work in various countries, including Canada, Taiwan, China, Japan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.

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