Get Your Geek On: Choosing a Doctoral Specialization

Choosing Your Specialization by Tracy Wilson

This post will discuss my specialization at Capella University, my specific interests in that specialty, career goals, program requirements, workforce expectations, planning, and the research questions and methods in my area of study. 

Specialization, Interests, and Career Goals

            As an adjunct instructor, Educational Psychology with an emphasis in psychology teaching and instruction is a natural fit for me.  I have a heart-felt interest in helping students succeed.  I want to be a tenured professor at a university, preferably where I am employed already.  However, if that is not possible, I will utilize the Career Center at Capella to find other opportunities.  Moreover, I want to contribute to the field by finding innovative ways to teach and engage with students.

Workforce Requirements, Degree Requirements, and Planning

I spoke to colleagues at the university where I teach before enrolling in the Educational Psychology program.  I wanted to understand what my department expected from potential employees.  I also wanted a solid understanding of the time and effort it would take to complete a doctoral program. 

I will not be required to obtain a license.  The coursework that I am completing is more than adequate.  According to the discussions I have had with my department chair, coursework in psychology, instruction, and a successful dissertation are the primary requirements for employment.  Capella’s program meets that criteria.  Therefore, I will be taking core classes, specialization courses, and emphasis courses.  Some of my graduate credits transferred, so I am pretty pleased with that.

The program consists of many core requirements, including several statistics courses.  This makes me very anxious because I am terrible at math.  Although I received an “A” in graduate level statistics, I suffered many sleepless nights and panic attacks.  Frankly, I am dreading these classes, but I already plan to utilize tutoring services to survive. 

In addition to core coursework, I am required to take specialization courses.  Two of my graduate classes transferred to suffice for a core course requirement and another for a specialization course.  The specialization courses I have on my academic plan are Lifespan Development, Learning Theories in Psychology, Motivation, and Principles of Educational Psychology (Academic plan, 2017).  My emphasis is in psychology teaching and instruction, so I will be taking The Psychology of Teaching, Principles of Instructional Design, Adult Learner in the Classroom, and Online Teaching in Psychology Practicum (2017).

           I also am required to complete three residencies, take a comprehensive exam, and then finish with a dissertation.  I am looking forward to the residencies.  I love traveling and networking.  I am a little anxious about the comprehensive exam.  I have heard horror stories about folks flunking it and then unsuccessfully completing a retake.

I am not apprehensive about the dissertation.  In fact, I am looking forward to researching areas that interest me.  Having my contributions published is another added bonus. 

To complete the requirements, I have decided to take two classes in the summer quarters and only one in the fall, winter, and spring.  Although that was not the original plan, I have realized how difficult it would be to set aside 30 hours per week for studying while teaching.  I will complete the program in a little over four years (2017). 

Research Questions and Methods in Educational Psychology

For this portion of the discussion, I was asked to look at my specialization broadly.  However, as an instructor, I use a blended learning model with a transfer of learning component.  Therefore, I wanted to know more about the current research, designs, and implementation.  One of many articles I found include one written by Botam, Van Rensburg, Coetzee, and Heyns (2015) and they focused their research on a transfer of learning and health care.  Using Bloom’s taxonomy, I went beyond the realm of health care and evaluated how the transfer of learning could be applied across disciplines.  I came up with several ideas, but because I am still looking at the research, I do not want to present claims without evidence.


The road ahead will be challenging, but knowing what is expected of me in the Educational Psychology program at Capella serves as a road map.  Most of all, understanding current research and methodology will allow me to work toward my dissertation and give credibility to my teaching methods.


Academic plan.  (2017, April 20).  Retrieved from

Botma, Y., Van Rensburg, G., Coetzee, I., & Heyns, T. (2015).  A conceptual framework for

          educational design at modular level to promote transfer of learning.  Innovation in Education and Teaching International,

          52(5), 499-509.  doi:  10.1080/14703297.2013.866051


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s