PhD admissions and planning

IOE PhD Program Admissions Overview

The PhD degree requires four to five years with one to two years of intensive course work and two to three years of intensive research. The PhD is intended for students who wish to conduct, manage or interpret research in academic, industry or government settings. Please note:

  • You may apply for the PhD degree directly from an undergraduate degree. You do not need to start with a Master’s degree.
  • Full fellowship funding is standard for admitted students.
  • With a few exceptions, all PhD students start in the Fall term.
  • Application deadline: December 10, 2023

IOE PhD recruitment weekend

February 2024 (By invitation only)

Admission to the PhD program is based on:

Academic preparation of the candidate: Previous institutions, degree programs, courses and grades.

Recommendations: You should select references from people who can best assess your ability to succeed in the program and professionally. If you are applying to the PhD program this will probably be a faculty member who has supervised your previous research or other work that is indicative of your ability to do research. It also may be a supervisor from a summer or post-graduate job in which you were engaged in research or problem-solving. You should ask the person writing the letter to specifically address your ability to perform advanced graduate courses and research and to cite specific examples of your work that illustrate this ability.

Research/work experience: Persons who are considering graduate school should seek opportunities to become involved in research during their junior or senior years. This could be a summer job in a research laboratory, a directed study/research course or a bachelors thesis. This will help the applicant assess their interest in research and help the admission committee assess their qualification for graduate school.

Availability of intellectual support: The PhD research must be original and significant. It is expected that the work of all of our PhD students should be worthy of serious consideration by leading journals in their field. To this end, it is important that the PhD candidate work with a faculty advisor who is familiar with the student’s area of interest and can help him select courses and find the necessary resources for a world-class research project. In some cases, dissertations may be co-chaired by two faculty members. One of the advisors must be a regular U-M IOE faculty at the rank of Assistant, Associate or Full Professor.

General research areas at U-M IOE: Explore IOE research areas here.

In some cases, students may define a research project that draws on resources in two or more areas of the department. Students who are applying to the IOE PhD program should take time to familiarize themselves with these research areas and with the work of faculty in those areas. Most of the faculties maintain web pages that describe their research, list their research publications and the courses they teach. Applicants are allowed up to a three-page “statement of purpose1” for describing their research interest. In describing your area of interest, you should also consider the work of one or more faculty with which you might work. In addition to describing your area of interest, you should describe relevant courses, research experiences, work experiences or faculty interactions that have helped to shape your interest and prepare you for work in this area.

Financial support: The department recognizes that PhD students require financial support for personal needs as well as research needs and makes every effort to determine how each student will be supported before they are admitted to the program.

Financial support may come from various sources such as fellowships, Graduate Student Research Assistantships (GSRAs), Graduate Student Instructorships (GSI) or employers. The department usually provides a full fellowship during the semester year in the program. A fellowship consists of a stipend, tuition coverage and healthcare.

In a few cases, students may support themselves from their own resources. If a student is able to secure their own funding for five years this may help their application. Therefore, students are encouraged to secure their own funding. Some of these funding options, such as National Science Foundation (NSF), are restricted to domestic students. Students will not be admitted to the program unless there is at least a general idea of how they will be supported.

Some domestic students may qualify for a local fellowship called the Rackham Merit Fellowship (RMF). RMF awards provide fellowship support for the first and fourth years and two summers. RMF awards are based on students’ demonstrated commitment to diversity, e.g., volunteer and/or community service, extra-curricular activities, leadership activities, educational, cultural, geographic or socio-economic background, financial hardship and first-generation U.S. citizen or first generation in family to graduate from a four-year college. Your commitment to diversity should be explained in the personal statement2 portion of your application.

1 The statement of purpose should be a concise, well-written statement about your academic and research background, your career goals, and how Michigan’s graduate program will help you meet your career and educational objectives.
2 How have your background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan?

For example, if you grew up in a community where educational, cultural, or other opportunities were either especially plentiful or especially lacking, you might discuss the impact this had on your development and interests. This should be a discussion of the journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree.

Additional Information

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