UMass Boston

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Early Childhood Education & Care PhD

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Preparing future leaders to transform opportunities and outcomes for young children.

UMass Boston's PhD in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) prepares you to transform opportunities and outcomes for young children through skilled research, policy development, and innovative practices. This will be accomplished through a program that is both research-intensive and policy- and practice-oriented. The focus will be on using and developing knowledge to address pressing, meaningful problems in the development of young children, especially in underrepresented and underserved populations, including those living in poverty, with disabilities or developmental delays, and from immigrant or refugee groups, within the U.S. and also in low-income countries.

Through their research, students will address applied questions in policy and practice. The focus will be on young children, especially the first five years of life, a period often neglected in schools of education.

Why apply to UMass Boston's Early Childhood Education and Care PhD program?

The Early Childhood Education and Care PhD program is all about preparing the next generation of early childhood scholars, teachers, and social justice advocates. We believe in the benefits of working with a variety of research methods and theoretical approaches, learning with multiple mentors, and knowing how to think about children, families, and social justice as they apply to local and transnational contexts.

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How to Apply

Applicants must meet general graduate admission requirements in addition to the following program-specific requirements

  • Evidence of a master’s degree in early childhood or related field. Transcripts must include at least one introductory course in statistics.
  • Scores on the Graduate Record Examination Combined Aptitude Test (GRE). All students must submit the general GRE scores even if they have a master’s degree. We do not accept the MATs.
  • For international students, a minimum TOEFL score of 600 (paper), 250 (computer based), or 100 (Internet based), with a minimum score of 23 on the speaking section or an IELTS score of 7.0.
  • Short [3-5 page] writing sample: Any substantial piece of academic writing of which the applicant is the sole author.
  • Statement of purpose [1500 words maximum] that addresses the following questions:
    • What are your career objectives?
    • How will a PhD in Early Childhood Education and Care advance those objectives?
    • In what ways does the UMass Boston Early Childhood Education and Care program address your particular academic, career, and personal goals?
    • What professional, personal, and academic experiences or strengths have especially equipped you for the challenges of pursuing a doctorate?
    • What research issues are you interested in pursuing at UMass Boston? Which professor(s) would you like to work with in this program?

Deadlines & Cost

Deadlines: January 15 for Fall.

Application Fee: The nonrefundable application fee is $75. UMass Boston alumni and current students that plan to complete degree requirements prior to graduate enrollment can submit the application without paying the application fee.

Program Cost Information: Bursar's website


Core Courses (15 Credits)

  • ECHD 701 - Early Education and Care Policy and Practice 3 Credit(s)
  • ECHD 702 - Advanced Child Development and Early Learning 3 Credit(s)
  • ECHD 704 - Leadership and Change in Early Education and Care 3 Credit(s)
  • ECHD 705 - The Science of Early Learning 3 Credit(s)
  • ECHD 706 - Historical and Theoretical Foundations of Early Childhood Education and Care. 3 Credit(s)

Research Methods Courses (18 Credits)

Complete one introductory course, one quantitative course, one qualitative course, and three advanced qualitative research electives.

Introductory Course:

  • ECHD 703 - Translating Early Education Research into Practice 3 Credit(s)

Qualitative Courses (choose one):

  • PPOL-G 609L - Qualitative Methods and Field Research 3 Credit(s)
  • EDLDRS 740 - Research Methods in Educational Leadership I 3 Credit(s)
  • HIGHED 752 - Research Methods in Higher Education: Qualitative Analysis 3 Credit(s)

Quantitative Courses (choose one):

  • EDLDRS 741 - Research Methods in Educational Leadership II 3 Credit(s)
  • CSP 708 - Intermediate Statistics in CSP 3 Credit(s)
  • HIGHED 751 - Research Methods in Higher Education: Quantitative Analysis 3 Credit(s)

Advanced Quantitative Research Courses (choose three):

  • EDLDRS 743 - Measurement and Research Instrument Design 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 605L - Statistical Methods in the Analysis of Social Problems II 3 Credit(s)
  • CSP 770 - Advanced Statistics in Counseling and School Psychology 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 704 - Advanced Discourse Analysis 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 705 - Advanced Ethnography 3 Credit(s)
  • SOCIOL 655 - Evaluation Research 3 Credit(s)
  • SOCIOL 660 - Fundamentals of Survey Methodology 3 Credit(s)

Teaching Seminar (3 Credits)

  • ECHD 707 - Teaching Early Childhood Education and Care in Higher Education 3 Credit(s)

Doctoral Seminars (6 Credits)

  • ECHD 709 - ECEC Doctoral Seminar I 3 Credit(s)
  • ECHD 710 - ECEC Doctoral Seminar II 3 Credit(s)

Research Team Seminars (3 Credits)

Complete two semesters.

  • ECHD 708 - Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Research Team Seminar 1.5 Credit(s)

Concentration Courses (9 Credits)

Take three courses from one of the concentrations below.

Learning and Teaching in the First Five Years Concentration

Example Courses

  • PSYCLN 710 - Child Assessment 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 605 - Theories and Principles of Language Teaching 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 614 - Foundations of Bilingual/Multicultural Education 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 704 - Advanced Discourse Analysis 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 707 - Current Research on Language and Pedagogy 3 Credit(s)

Capstone Requirement

Leadership, Policy and Finance Concentration

Example Courses

  • PPOL-G 611 - Public Policy Processes: Environments, Power and Outcomes 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 612 - Approaches to Policy Analysis: Epistemology, Theory and Institutions 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 621 - Microeconomics for Policy Analysis 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 760 - Sociological Perspectives on Public Policy and Social Justice 3 Credit(s)
  • EDLDRS 732 - Organization and Leadership in Educational Institutions 3 Credit(s)
  • NURSNG 741 - Health Policy I 3 Credit(s)

Urban, Multilingual and Global Contexts Concentration

Example Courses

  • CSP 705 - Social and Cultural Psychology 3 Credit(s)
  • CONRES 624 - Cross-Cultural Conflict 3 Credit(s)
  • EDLDRS 720 - Teaching, Learning and Curriculum in Urban Contexts 3 Credit(s)
  • EDLDRS 730 - Historical Roots of Contemporary Urban Schooling 3 Credit(s)
  • PSYCLN 610 - Culture and Mental Health 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 753L - Epidemiological Thinking and Population Health 3 Credit(s)
  • HLTH 644 - Global Perspectives on Health; Exploring the Intersection of Equity, Economics and Culture 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 603 - Language, Culture and Identity 3 Credit(s)
  • APLING 665 - Immigration and Education 3 Credit(s)
  • SPE G 630 - Building Collaborative Partnerships with Families of Students with Disabilities 3 Credit(s)
  • GISD 605 - International Responses to Social Inclusion 3 Credit(s)
  • GISD 606 - Research and Evaluation in Diverse Settings: Methods and Implications 3 Credit(s)
  • GISD 608 - Ethics and Professionalism in Global Inclusion and Social Development 3 Credit(s)
  • GISD 609 - Justice: A Global Transdisciplinary Framework for Culture and Innovation 3 Credit(s)
  • GISD 610 - Strategies for Systemic Change 3 Credit(s)

Individual Concentration

Complete nine credits of coursework chosen in consultation with your faculty advisor.

Graduation Criteria

Complete 63 credits from 19 courses including five core courses, six research methods courses, one teaching seminar, two doctoral seminars, two research team seminar, and three concentration courses; as well as a nine credit dissertation.

Doctoral candidacy: Completion of a comprehensive examination.
Dissertation: Compose and defend a dissertation based on original research.

Statute of limitations: Nine years.


Graduate Program Director Songtian (Tim) Zeng
songtian.zeng [at]
(617) 287-6409

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