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 offered  generally on evenings and weekends.  Many courses are offered in blended format with a combination of face-to-face and distance delivery.

Course Offerings

The doctoral course of study features a combination of face-to-face and online courses. As such, it is considered an on-campus program which blends both formats of instruction. 

Students enter the doctoral program each fall semester as a full-time or a part-time student.

Courses are offered in a regular, predictable rotation as much as possible. Core courses are offered at least once each year. At a minimum, all other courses are offered every other year. During the summer, courses are offered based on student needs.

The Graduate Course Rotation depicts a working schedule of course offerings and delivery methods.

Program Flow  

After acceptance, the student will be assigned a temporary advisor and should then meet with his/her assigned advisor. During the first semester, students will complete the 3-credit Doctoral Seminar (EDU 600). Coursework will be based on the student's previous academic work and advisor/committee approval. By the third semester of enrollment, the student will 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 Dissertation Seminar (EDU 650) to begin preparation of the proposal. During the proposal preparation, the student will work closely with his/her chair and the readers of the committee with progress being made each semester. The student then presents/defends 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

Course Number
Course Title
Education Core Content - choose 9 credits
Advanced Educational Psychology
College Teaching
Ldrshp and Organizational Thry
Leading Social Justice
Required Core Content Courses - 6 credits
Doctoral Seminar
Dissertation Seminar
Adult & Higher Education Required Core - 12 credits
Higher Education History and Philosophy
Organization and Administration of Higher Education
College Students
Institutional Research and Assessment
Program Evaluation
Electives - 3 credits
*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 credits
Educational Statistics II
Qualitative Educational Research
Quantitative Educational Research
Advanced Research Electives - choose 9 credits
Critical Race Theory
Mixed Methods Research Design in Education
Advanced Quantitative Research
Advanced Qualitative Research
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.  
*EDCI 506, EDCI 501 or equivalent are prerequisite courses and do not satisfy research component of the degree.
Dissertation - 18 credits
Doctoral Thesis
Total Credits
View the Graduate Research Methods 3-year rotation for both required and elective research offerings. 

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.

The 1-year of residency affords the opportunity to participate in faculty meetings, participate in shared governance and work on a variety of research and outreach projects.  It also provides an opportunity for one to work closely with their chair and committee on their doctoral work.


Each doctoral student's committee must consist of at least four approved members. The majority of the committee should be made up of faculty from the degree-granting department. 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. For information regarding graduate representatives, please refer to the Graduate School policy.


The student should carefully select his/her graduate committee chair after thorough conversations with those Adult & Higher Education faculty members that he/she believes might have an interest in their doctoral research agenda and/or the ability to work with them toward generating a defensible dissertation. 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: http://www.montana.edu/gradschool/policy/degreq_doctoral.html

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 will complete a written and oral comprehensive exam. The exam is completed in writing and then orally defended in front of the entire Graduate Committee.

Through the comprehensive exam, students will be expected to demonstrate:

  • a competency in the breadth of knowledge covered in their coursework
  • the ability to integrate concepts from courses into a holistic viewpoint
  • the ability to apply material to anticipated real life situations based on the theoretical principles and concepts covered in classes
  • the ability to critically read, analyze, and critique research
  • a readiness to move forward to create their own research

Generally, there will be four primary question areas:

  • Specialization area
  • Foundation of Higher Education
  • Research
    • Read, analyze, and critique a research article
    • 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)

However, these areas may be revised according to individual programs.

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: http://www.montana.edu/gradschool/policy/degreq_general.html and the Department of Education degree requirements listed on the department website.

Contact Information

Dr. Bryce Hughes, Program Leader and Associate Professor
Phone: 406-994-6419 Email: [email protected]

Dr. Carrie Myers, Professor
Phone: 406-994-4203 Email: [email protected]

Dr. Sweeney Windchief, Associate Professor
Phone: 406-994-3339 Email: [email protected]