Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Development, Early Childhood Policy

School of Education & Human Development


Degree: PhD

Classroom Type: On campus

Prepares candidates to be leaders, policymakers, policy advisors and analysts, faculty members, and researchers who successfully shape, direct, implement, and evaluate early childhood services, infrastructure, and policy and contribute to the scholarly knowledge that undergirds the discipline. Graduates will enter a growing and dynamic field with burgeoning research about the critical years in children's brain development, learning, and health. This concentration holds institutional and system reform as its unit of change and equity in opportunity and outcomes as the purpose for change.

Program Details

Interest Categories: Education & Counseling

Campus: CU Denver

What you’ll learn 

Given its unprecedented growth over the past five decades, the early childhood field logically has focused most of its efforts on program expansion and on the provision of high-quality services for young children. Although there is increasing attention to enhancing equity, most work in the field concentrates on practice improvement, typically pedagogical in nature, either for children or by the workforce. CU Denver’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with a concentration in Early Childhood Policy tilts this focus. It acknowledges the importance of pedagogy but suggests that without explicit and specialized attention to policy, it will be difficult for the field to achieve quality, equity, and scale. The concentration holds institutional and system reform as its units of change.  

Students in this concentration will: 

  • Prepare for leadership positions in government, private sector, and public sector organizations that require individuals who can create systemic, institutional, and equity-infused ECE policy change and prepare for positions in higher education and policy-focused research think-tanks to advance the scholarship in the field 
  • Learn policy theories and existing ECE policy research in order to successfully shape, direct, implement, and evaluate early childhood services, infrastructure, and policy for the future. 
  • Contribute to new research efforts that lead to more equitable outcomes and new understandings of complex ECE policy issues. 
  • Benefit from close mentorship by national faculty leaders in ECE policy. 
  • Culminate the program with a dissertation that contributes to the knowledge base in the field of early childhood policy. 

Faculty advisors for this concentration

PhD student funding

PhD student funding may be available for this concentration. The financial support we provide our PhD students is often tied to federal and state funding decisions. Typically, students are admitted into this program through funds associated with scholarships, internships, funded grant projects, teaching assistant opportunities and/or a mix thereof. Student funding support varies based on funding streams. Students can elect to self-pay and thus, self-support. 

Choose CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development

You can trust CU Denver to provide an education that will prepare you for excellence in your career as a faculty member or researcher. The university and school are recognized for preparing leaders of distinction who value educational excellence and social justice. Additionally, CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development is counted among U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools,” making us one of the top education schools in the country. 

Program Courses

Course Catalog

Recommended Completion Time:4 to 8 years

Required Credits for Completion:75

Admission Requirements

Application Deadlines

The following deadlines are firm, early submissions are encouraged.

Fall Semester: December 1

The core course rotation begins every fall. We encourage students to review the concentration area choices on our website and contact one or more of the faculty associated with that concentration area for an appointment prior to submitting their application. This ensures the students have an opportunity to discuss their research area of interest, as well as introduce themselves to the faculty. Also, the financial support we provide our PhD students is often tied to federal and state funding decisions, so meeting with a faculty member will let you know if any funding opportunities will be available in the upcoming year.

As part of gaining admission to the PhD program, students are paired with a doctoral faculty advisor/mentor. The doctoral faculty may request a personal interview to complement the information provided in the application materials.

Application Requirements

  • Minimum requirements:
    • Master's degree or equivalent
    • 3.5 GPA in graduate-level course work recommended
  • 3 recommendation letters: two letters should come from faculty in a university program in which you were previously enrolled
  • Official Transcripts from all institutions attended
  • If applying for a license, a copy of your teaching license is required
  • Resume/CV: Applicants must have and show evidence of relevant professional and/or academic experience.
  • Written Statement: In 4-6 pages (double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 point font or larger), discuss research goals and a problem of practical or theoretical importance that could lead to a research study. Be sure to address how your research would fit within one of the concentration areas.
  • Recommended: Master's thesis and/or published materials — Examples of published materials include articles, book chapters, newsletters and technical reports.
  • Students applying to the Research, Assessment and Evaluation Concentration should submit a transcript that shows statistics proficiency. To demonstrate proficiency, please contact
  • $50.00 application fee
  • Admissions Interview: An interview may be required as part of the admissions process. If so, applicants will be contacted with more details.
  • International Applicants only: Proof of English Language Proficiency (International applicants should review the following information regarding English language proficiency)
For more information, email or call 303.315.6300.

Application​ deadlines

December 1