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Ph.D. in Second Language Education


The Ph.D. program in second language education offers students the opportunity to research language use, teaching, learning, and policy as it impacts language minority and language majority learners in ESL/EFL, language revitalization, world language education, and bilingual and immersion education programs. The ideal candidates for the program have a master’s degree in a related field and at least three years of teaching experience and diverse backgrounds with interests in furthering education and research in second language education.

Graduates leave the program prepared for research and teaching careers in higher education, and as policy leaders and language specialists in a variety of settings.

Research Opportunities

Students can engage in research that advances the field of second language education and ties into their area of interest. Faculty advisors work closely with each student to achieve research and educational goals and improve educational opportunities students.

Examples of recent student dissertations:

  • Revitalizing language, reframing expertise: An ecological study of language in one teacher-learner’s Ojibwe classroom
  • Migrant adult learners and digital literacy: A collaborative study for sustainable change
  • Recuperating heritage languages, becoming transformative educators: Multilingual teachers and students of color transforming schools
  • Student Oral Proficiency in Grade Three Spanish Immersion: Linguistic Diversity, Student Interaction, and Differentiated Scaffolding
  • Language education policy in (post/neo)colonial Pakistan and the life trajectories of low SES students
  • Language instructors learning together: Lesson study in higher education

View more examples of student dissertations.

View faculty researcher areas here.

Career Outlook

Graduates of the program have assumed positions as university faculty, instructional leaders in the public schools, curriculum development specialists, and assessment specialists. Recent graduates have found employment in the following positions:

Faculty positions:

  • Augsburg College
  • Colby College
  • Hamline University
  • Indiana University
  • Minnesota State Universities
  • Monterey Institute of International Studies
  • New York University
  • Osaka University Japan
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • University of Iowa
  • Warsaw University
  • University of Minnesota-Duluth

Administrative/Research Positions:

  • Hamline University
  • Lesin American School in Switzerland
  • St. Catherine University
  • University of Minnesota:
    • Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition
    • College of Education and Human Development International Initiatives
    • Department of French and Italian
    • Office of Teacher Education
    • Minnesota English Language Program
    • National Center for Education Outcomes


Martha Bigelow Professor
Martha Bigelow
Mary (Fong) Hermes Professor
Mary Hermes
Kendall King Professor
Kendall King
Diane Tedick Professor
Diane Tedick
Blanca Caldas Assistant Professor
Blanca Caldas
Sam David Assistant Professor
Sam David

Ph.D. Curriculum

Your Ph.D. coursework will center on your research interests. The program consists of 51 course credits and 24 doctoral thesis credits for a total of 78 credits.

Students take classes in research methodology, second language education and acquisition, and a supporting academic area.

You will plan your PhD curriculum based upon your research interests with your faculty advisor. To see the curriculum requirements in detail visit the course catalog under second language education.


Support is available in the form of:

  • Financial support through Graduate Assistantships in the department including student teaching supervision, research assistantships, and teaching assignments.
  • Fellowships such as FLAS

You must have a complete application in by December 1 to be given fullest consideration for these positions, but we will consider applications on a rolling basis through May for the following academic year.

While support is not guaranteed, we make every effort to financially support full-time Ph.D. students through completion (up to 4 years of support). You may also explore assistantships available outside our department on the University's employment page.

Admission Information

Priority deadline: December 1

For detailed funding and admission information including transfer credits and international student admissions, visit our admissions page.

Zhongkui Ju

"The program has helped me construct knowledge about language education from very different perspectives—as both a researcher and an advocate for bilingual and minority language education."

Zhongkui Ju Ph.D. candidate 2019