Ph.D. in Education - Applied Developmental Science

Students in the EP-ADS Ph.D. program benefit from a strong sense of community and unique opportunities to work closely with faculty on cutting-edge research, preparing them for careers in academic, policy, and research organizations. This is a research-based, full-time program that is offered in Charlottesville only.

“The strong community is by far the School of Education and Human Development's biggest strength. There is a lot of help and guidance and support available if you need it. They're also well connected with important people in the field.”

– Jeff Kosovich, Ph.D. Student, Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science

VEST 2018_0.jpgThe Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science (EP-ADS) doctoral program provides opportunities for students to learn how to conduct research and develop and evaluate interventions on children and youth in school and out-of-school settings. EP-ADS doctoral students attend classes, work on mentored research, collaborate with their research team and support the learning of undergraduates. EP-ADS students and faculty engage in intensive dialogue about ideas at the School of Education and Human Development and across UVA. Workshops and lectures given by outside speakers complement students' training experiences. EP-ADS students work in mentorship relationships with faculty and research teams on all aspects of research. Over the course of roughly four years, students learn theory and research relating school and out-of-school settings to child and youth development. Students become familiar with a strength-based perspective on youth development and learn research design methods and statistics needed to contribute to the development of new knowledge in educational and applied developmental science.

All students participate in hands-on experiences with research teams in government agencies or school districts to learn how to develop research studies that are highly relevant and address pressing questions raised by practitioners and policy-makers. Doctoral study is a rigorous process. All of our students are eligible to receive funding for four years as an integral part of doctoral study. Learn more about our faculty.


Program Benefits

Students in the EP-ADS doctoral program have rich research training experiences here at U.Va. and become part of a national network of new-generation education researchers. They have the opportunity to interact individually with top researchers in the field of education, attend cutting-edge statistics and methods workshops, and use research and travel funds to enhance their program experience and work. Students become researchers on day one of their program and continue to partner with faculty in a hands-on research experience that serves as a springboard for them as they transition into their careers as educational researchers.

Students conduct their own research with faculty (see research opportunities for EP-ADS students). Here are a few questions explored by students and their faculty mentors in the EP-ADS doctoral program:

  • How do we best prepare preschool teachers to support reading and mathematics learning of young children?
  • How do mothers from immigrant backgrounds prepare their children for school?
  • What are the qualities of adult relationships that contribute to student engagement in learning in both classrooms and out-of-classroom settings?
  • How can we socialize youth effectively to be successful in their relationships with people from ethnic groups other than their own?
  • What are the effects of highly enriching after-school programs for children from very poor families?
  • What can adults do to improve students' curiosity, interest, and engagement in math and science learning?

Program Life

A typical day in the EP-ADS doctoral program involves working on research with other students and faculty members; taking courses on developmental theory, methods and statistics; preparing presentations and papers for conferences; attending talks in education policy and developmental sciences; and working within districts or government agencies alongside practitioners.

Our faculty and students meet socially a couple of times a year to celebrate the success of the program. Our students regularly support each other socially.

  • Holland Banse Wants to Bridge the Gap Between Research and Practice

    "I am very passionate about helping teachers become better, because I can speak from experience. I want to research what it is they really need and make that happen."

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  • Katherine Ross Creates a Social and Emotional Mindfulness Research Agenda

    "I was looking for a place where I could collaborate with a lot of different types of researchers and not be limited to exploring one area of the education field."

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Program Details

  • Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

    The GRE is required for applicants applying to begin in 2023.

    • CONTACTING FACULTY:  Identification of a core faculty member with interests similar to yours is strongly recommended. It is highly encouraged that you find and read articles describing recent research conducted by one or more faculty members and directly contact them to discuss your research interests.  Please contact faculty via email to set up a time to talk either over the phone or in person.
    • APPLICATION FORMS: Application for admission is made to the Admissions Office of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Application forms and other information may be obtained from the School of Education and Human Development Admissions and the University of Virginia prospective student information. (Alumni of our Summer Undergraduate Research Program receive a fee waiver when applying to the School of Education and Human Development graduate programs; please contact us for details.)
    • REQUIRED MATERIALS include the online application (which includes the statement of professional goals), unofficial test scores (taken within the past 5 years), unofficial transcripts, and two recommendations. Please also submit a resume and writing sample.  When submitting a statement of professional goals, identify your specific interests in applied developmental science, your rationale for applying to this program, your long term goals, and the faculty under whom you wish to train. Official test scores and transcripts are required after acceptance of admission.
      • A committee of faculty in EP-ADS, comprising core and associated faculty, makes decisions regarding admission. Preference is given to individuals whose application materials show potential for outstanding performance in a rigorous and interdisciplinary doctoral training program and who are likely to make significant contributions to the study of applied developmental science.
      • A master’s degree is not a prerequisite for admission.
      • The faculty is especially interested in considering applications from persons of traditionally underrepresented groups in higher education.   
      • We receive many qualified applicants for our doctoral program every year, yet we are only able to admit a few students. Please include a statement in your letter of application if you would like to be considered for our master’s program in the event that you are not admitted to the doctoral program. Then, we will forward your application to the master's program admissions committee with no additional application fee and notify you if you are accepted.
      • More information is available from the School of Education and Human Development Admissions and in the Prospective Graduate Students Gateway.

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Application Due Date

    December 1st

    Application decisions will be released by February 15th.

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Degree Requirements

    The Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Science (formerly Risk and Prevention in Education Sciences) Doctoral Program is designed to require approximately four years of full-time on-Grounds research-intensive training.  The typical program of study involves the following:

    • INTERDISCIPLINARY CORE REQUIREMENTS - A set of courses common to all EP-ADS students, with limited choice and substitution. Includes courses in community psychology, developmental psychology, and other areas such as family processes and education policy.
    • COURSEWORK IN A SUBSTANTIVE AREA (e.g., social development, language and literacy, health, teacher education) for an 15-hour specialization, including up to 9 credits outside of education in disciplines such as economics, health sciences, psychology, or sociology.
    • A set of rigorous METHODS COURSES (including at least 5 courses in statistics, as well as several courses in research design and grant writing).
    • An ongoing, personalized, intensive RESEARCH APPRENTICESHIP during each semester.
    • TEACHING EXPERIENCE at the undergraduate or graduate level.
    • PRACTITIONER-PARTNERSHIP EXPERIENCE involving 8-14 weeks of collaborative work with nearby school districts, policy-making agencies or other organizations to experience a different perspective on applied developmental science.
    • Completion of a COMPREHENSIVE EXAM and DISSERTATION REQUIREMENTS.  (See sample comprehensive exam questions.)

    Please see the EP-ADS Guidelines for Prospective and Current Students for details. 

    In May, each student will meet with her/his primary advisor and other faculty.  See the Guidelines above and this link to Annual Review Meetings

  • Funding Opportunities

    The program faculty aims to provide financial support to all of its trainees so that they may focus their attention fully on their training experiences. Although the faculty cannot guarantee financial support, we work closely with students to identify means for funding that match their interests and goals.  All applicants are automatically considered for funding. The minimum funding package includes (a) a minimum of $18,000 for 9 months in a combination of wages and stipends, (b) tuition and all mandatory fees, and (c) funds to cover student health insurance costs. Typically, doctoral students are paid for work related to the content of their doctoral program during the summer, which adds to their total wages. Possible sources include:

    1. Research Assistantships

    Applicants are automatically considered for research assistantships funded through faculty grants or the EDLF Department.  A typical package through the School of Education and Human Development provides tuition, health insurance, and biweekly compensation in return for 20 hours of weekly work.

    2. IES-funded VEST Fellowships

    The School of Education and Human Development has been awarded a number of training grants from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences to fund the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) program to train future leaders in education research. A limited number of fellowships are available each year and application is very competitive.  All applicants to the EP-ADS PhD program are automatically considered for VEST Fellowships

    3. Federal Need-Based Financial Aid

    To apply for need-based financial aid, applicants should submit: 1) Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to the U.S. Department of Education by February 1 and 2) University of Virginia Financial Aid Application (UFAA) form to the UVA Office of Student Financial Services by February 1. Please also see the School of Education and Human Development’s Financial Aid page.

    4. Additional Sources

    Students are encouraged to apply for funding from other sources. A few options are listed below. If you are already receiving IES-VEST or UVA support, please contact your advisor to discuss the specifics of the grant you are applying for and how that would work with your current funding.

    • Jacob K. Javits Fellowships Program (stipend of up to $30K/year)
    • American Educational Research Association Minority Fellowship Program in Education Research ($25K for dissertation research)
    • Spencer Foundation Fellowships ($25K for dissertation research)
    • School of Education and Human Development Foundation Scholarships (ranging from a few hundred dollars to 10K)

    5. Optional Monthly Payment Plan

    If you will be paying for your tuition or part of your tuition yourself, please see information about billing and setting up monthly tuition payments on the Student Accounts website and contact Student Financial Services to discuss your payment options.

  • Typical Length of Study

    The typical length of study for this degree is 4 years.

    Semester of Entry:

    Fall semester only.

    Full or Part Time:

    Students are full-time.

  • Course Overview

    Below is a sample program of study.  Please see the EP-ADS Guidelines for Prospective and Current Students for details about course requirements.

    Year 1


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Research Foundations (EDLF 7300)
    Community Psychology and Prevention Science (PSYC 7480)
    Research Design and Methods (EDLF 8300)
    Directed Research (EDLF 9998; 3 credits)


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Research Design and Methods (EDLF 8310)
    2 Specialization Courses
    Directed Research (EDLF 9998; 3 credits)

    Year 2


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Research Design and Methods (EDLF 8350)
    Grant writing (EDLF 8853)
    Specialization Course
    Data Management for Analysis (EDLF 5500)
    Directed Research (EDLF 9998; 3 credits)


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Research Design and Methods (EDLF 8360)
    Causal Inference (EDLF 5500)
    1 Specialization Courses
    Directed Research (EDLF 9998; 3 credits)

    Year 3


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Research Design and Methods (EDLF 8150)
    1 Specialization Course
    Area Requirement (for ex., EDHS 8100)
    Directed Research (EDLF 9998; 3 credits)


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Internship/practicum in teaching (EDHS 9740)
    Directed Research (EDLF 9998; 3 credits)
    Dissertation Research (EDLF 9999; 3 credits)

    Year 4


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Dissertation Research (EDLF 9999; 9 credits)


    Proseminar (EDLF 5500)
    Dissertation Research (EDLF 9999; 9 credits)

  • Sample Jobs After Graduation

    Graduates are prepared for careers in the educational sciences in academic, policy, and research organizations.  Recent alumni hold positions as faculty in psychology and education departments (Western Michigan University, University of Louisville, University of Michigan, George Mason University), while others are educational researchers in research organizations (Edvance Research Inc.) and university research centers (SUNY-Buffalo, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and UVA).

    Read more about some of our Alumni in this Question & Answer Series

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at