Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Adult & Higher Education

Program Objectives

The PhD in Education with the Adult & Higher Education specialization educates individuals who wish to become faculty members and/or who wish to conduct research to inform post-secondary policy and practice. Students will work with their advisor on designing a program of study that meets their educational and professional objectives. 

Coursework is divided into two categories: required and electives, and research and statistics. Doctoral students must conduct research and write an original theory-based dissertation. Courses are generally offered on evenings and weekends. 

Program Flow  

After acceptance, students are assigned a temporary advisor and should then meet with their assigned advisor. During the first semester, students complete the Doctoral Seminar (EDU 600). Coursework is based on the student's previous academic work and advisor/committee approval. By the third semester of enrollment, students identify a graduate committee chair and committee members, establish and submit their program of study to the Graduate School, and clarify plans for the comprehensive examination.

Near the end of completing course requirements, the student will write the comprehensive exam and will later meet with the committee for the oral defense of the comprehensive exam. If deemed necessary by the committee, the student may be required to take additional coursework to make up identified deficiencies. Toward the end of the program, the student will take 3 hours of a Dissertation Seminar (EDU 650) to begin preparation of the proposal. During the proposal preparation, students work closely with their chair and the readers of the committee with progress being made each semester. Students then present/defend their proposal, which includes the study introduction, literature review, and research methodology. The student conducts the research and writes the dissertation with progress being made each semester towards completionWhen the chair determines the student is ready, the student defends the dissertation.

Program of Study

Core Content - choose 9 credits 9
Advanced Educational Psychology
Leadership and Organizational Theory
College Teaching
Leading Social Justice
Required Core Content Courses - 6 credits6
Doctoral Seminar
Dissertation Seminar
Adult & Higher Education Required Core Content - 12 credits12
Higher Education History and Philosophy
Organization and Administration of Higher Education
College Students
Institutional Research and Assessment
Planning Program Assessment
Electives - 3 credits3
Approved electives may be selected from other Education programs or departments that strengthen the student's program of study. These courses need to be selected in consultation with the chair.
Required Research Courses - 9 credits9
Educational Statistics II
Quantitative Educational Research
Qualitative Educational Research
Advanced Research Electives - choose 9 credits9
Mixed Methods Research Design in Education
Advanced Quantitative Research
Advanced Qualitative Research
Critical Race Theory
Indigenous Methodologies in Educational Research
Electives also may be taken that are appropriate to the research area of specialization and approved by the graduate advisor.
Dissertation - 18 credits18
Doctoral Thesis
Total Credits66

Residency Requirement

The PhD requires one year of on-campus full-time residency. The residency requirement consists of two consecutive semesters (fall and spring) of full-time enrollment (6-9 credits per semester) in PhD coursework.


Each student's doctoral committee must consist of at least four approved members. The chair and one other approved member must be from the Adult & Higher Education faculty. Two other approved members will be selected based upon their ability to contribute to the student's studies leading up to and through the dissertation research. These two committee members must have academic credentials in the area of the student's program of study and be approved by the Head of the Department of Education and Dean of The Graduate School.


Students should carefully select their graduate committee chair after thorough conversations with those Adult & Higher Education faculty members who have expertise in the dissertation topic and can support the student to completion. The chair will give leadership and approval regarding the balance of the committee's potential membership. The committee, as a whole, is subject to the approval of the Head of the Department of Education. The chair will facilitate program approval, comprehensive exam planning and clarification, proposal hearing, and dissertation defense. Chairs and members of a student's committee are subject to change. Revision to the program of study can be made during the course of study with the chair's approval.

Comprehensive Examinations  

Comprehensive examinations are required for completion of all graduate degrees at Montana State University. Students are expected to demonstrate mastery of the program of study and the ability to interact with the research in that area. Students should refer to The Graduate School's web page at: and the Department of Education Graduate Handbook at for more detailed information on comprehensive exams.

The comprehensive exam must be completed by the posted Graduate School deadlines.

Near the end of completing coursework and before the dissertation proposal defense, PhD students complete a written and oral comprehensive exam. The exam is completed in writing and then orally defended in front of the entire Graduate Committee. Generally, there are three primary question areas: 

  1. Specialization area
  2. Foundation of Higher Education
  3. Research
    • Design a project - will be expected to demonstrate a mastery of aspects of both qualitative and quantitative projects (such as sampling, validity, reliability, and data analysis).
    • These areas may be revised according to individual programs.

Mode of Course Delivery 

Doctoral level courses are offered in a variety of modalities including face-to-face in-person courses, synchronous and asynchronous online learning, and a combination of both.  

Additional Requirements

The Doctor of Education degree must meet the minimum requirements in the For Doctoral Students section of the Graduate School's website. Additional requirements for the PhD degree beyond these minimums are available through the Department of Education. All PhD degree candidates are expected to be familiar with both The Graduate School's degree requirements listed here: and the Department of Education degree requirements listed on the department website. 

Contact Information

Dr. Bryce Hughes, Associate Professor and Program Leader

Dr. Carrie Myers, Professor

Dr. Sweeney Windchief, Associate Professor

Application Process for the PhD in EducationAdult & Higher Education 

Applicants are required to complete the online application and submit the following documentation via the Graduate School Online Application System.  Prior to applying to the Adult and Higher Education doctoral program applicants must hold a Master's degree.

1. Completed Graduate School Application

2. Academic Transcripts: Applicants must provide official transcripts verifying all Bachelors degree and Masters degree coursework (as well as confirmation of bachelor’s and master's degree earned) from the applicant's certifying university.  Unofficial transcripts may be uploaded during the application process. Official electronic transcripts may be emailed directly from the Institution to or  Transcripts may also be mailed to the Department of Education Graduate Programs Office, 215 Reid Hall, PO Box 172880, Montana State University, 59717. Transcripts from a degree awarded through MSU do not need to be provided. NOTE: We require an undergraduate and graduate GPA of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale). Transcripts will be evaluated for rigor and academic fit. 

3. Personal Essay: Suggested length is 2-3 typed, double-spaced pages. The applicant should briefly describe the following

  • Education and other educational professional experiences
  • Research interests and experience including alignment with faculty interests and expertise and an example of research experiences using educational theory, research methods, and application.
  • Professional goals

4. Research and Data Analysis Skills Summary. You will be asked to upload a separate document (less than one page) addressing the following

  • Describe your research experience skills.
  • Summarize your experiences using different research methods.
  • List scholarly products such as peer-reviewed conference publications and peer-reviewed publications.
  • Describe data analysis skills and experience using different data analysis software (i.e., SPSS, ENVIVO, SAS).

5. Writing Sample: Please upload a selected example of writing that demonstrates academic potential such as an artifact that highlights your interest, strengths, context and goals/desires more conducive to holistic review.

6. Resume/Curriculum Vitae

7. Three (3) Professional References: The letters should be from individuals qualified to assess the following

  • Knowledge in chosen field
  • Motivation and perseverance toward goals
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to express thoughts in speech and writing
  • Ability/potential for college teaching
  • Ability to plan and conduct research

8. For International Applicants ONLY: Please visit the Graduate School International Application Process website for application submission information. 

*Note: Applicants may be contacted for an interview by the program specific applicant review committee.

Application Deadline

Below is the deadline by which all application materials for the PhD in Education must be submitted via the online application system. Students matriculate into the PhD program in the fall semester only. Applications to the PhD programs are reviewed once per year at the April 1st deadline. Applications received after the deadline may be reviewed for acceptance on a case-by-case basis.

  • Fall Semester:  April 1st

* An early review deadline of February 1st has been set for those applicants wanting to be considered for Graduate Assistantships. Applications must be complete for an early review. A student must be accepted to an education program before requesting a Department of Education Graduate Assistantship.  Graduate Assistantships require students to work on campus 19 hours per week.  For further information regarding teaching assistantships visit webpage:

Admission Process

Complete applications will be reviewed by the Graduate Admissions Committee who then convene to make final admission decisions. Once a decision has been made the application will be forwarded to The Graduate School for final administrative processing.  Please note that the application review process will begin at the close of the application deadline and not before. 

We strongly suggest that doctoral applicants contact faculty with whom their planned research would align.  This will assist us in identifying an appropriate advisor for program applicants and provide us an opportunity to get to know  you.  E-mail addresses of our professors are listed on the Faculty and Staff Directory:

Contact Information

Graduate Program Assistant
PO Box 172880, Reid Hall 215
Department of Education, Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717-2880 
Phone: 406-994-6786 Email: