MSU offers Ph.D. program in education

MSU’s Department of Education received notice on Aug. 26 that the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities granted accreditation to MSU’s new Ph.D. program. Previously, doctoral students could pursue a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.), which focuses on the practical application of theory and research in the field of education. The new Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program focuses on developing researchers and people who will be analyzing and working in policy-making situations in the field of education.

These apparently similar programs actually serve two specific and unique purposes.  As Dr. Ann Dutton Ewbank, assistant professor of education and the program leader for curriculum and instruction, explained, “The doctorate of philosophy is going to help people to tackle brand new problems and issues and generate new knowledge for the field and advance the field of education, whereas the Ed.D. is more about looking at problems of practical importance.”

Dr. Tricia Seifert, associate professor and program leader of adult and higher education, emphasized this as well. “If your career goal and objective is to really work in discovery and research, inquiry, then the Ph.D. is a very appropriate degree path. If your interest is in bringing thoughtful, research based, theoretically informed knowledge to practice based settings, in a classroom, in a school, in a district or board, then the Ed.D. would be an appropriate career degree stream.”

Additional benefits also come with the new program, which will help to maintain MSU’s status as a highly intensive research university, as Ph.D. students at MSU often serve as research assistants and initiate their own original research.

These students also offer benefits to undergraduates. “There’s a benefit to our undergraduates as well because many of these Ph.D. students are going to become graduate teaching assistants and they’re going to be teaching undergraduate level courses in education.” Ewbank said, “They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to those positions that they can translate to the undergraduate classroom.”

Those who choose to pursue a Ph.D. in education must have a master’s degree in education or a related field. The first part of the program involves coursework and upon passing a comprehensive exam, students enter the dissertation phase. The time it takes to complete this program depends on many factors but students can spend a maximum of ten years completing it.

Having received notice of accreditation, the department of education is ready to admit students into the Ph.D. program and all of MSU can look forward to the benefits that will come with the addition of another exciting educational opportunity.  

This is the first Ph.D. program for education in the state and offers many benefits for both MSU as well as Montana. Previously, those who wished to pursue a Ph.D. in education had to leave the state. Some of those people may have returned to Montana, taking away the benefits that come from having educators with a Ph.D. level education.