Ph.D. in SLAT

The primary objective of the Interdisciplinary Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) Ph.D program is to provide rigorous graduate-level training to prepare future leaders in the field of Second language acquisition, for all levels of instruction. To achieve this goal, the SLAT program utilizes a strong interdisciplinary approach that examines how second languages are learned, used, and maintained, and that equips graduate students with the knowledge and skills to carry out high-quality research and offer practical solutions to real-world linguistic problems.


Interdisciplinarity: Our program's interdisciplinary emphasis is supported by a large network of programs and faculty across 5 colleges and 19 departments: 

  • College of Education: Disability and Psycho-educational Studies, Educational Psychology, Educational Policy Studies and Practice, Teaching, and Learning and Sociocultural Studies.
  • College of Humanities: Classics, East Asian Studies, French and Italian, German Studies, Public and Applied Humanities, Russian and Slavic Studies, Russian and Slavic Studies, and Spanish and Portuguese. 
  • College of Social and Behavioral Sciences: Anthropology, Communication, English, Linguistics, Mexican American Studies, and Middle Eastern and North African Studies. 
  • College of Science: Cognitive Sciences, Psychology, and Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences.
  • Educational Technology

Research, Teaching, and Community:  Our program offers students a range of academic experiences, in combination with a hands-on apprenticeship in a community of researchers and scholars. In their first year, each student is paired with two faculty mentors and one academic advisor, and begin to collaborate on a research proposal. Further, students have opportunities to teach, co-teach, or lead discussion sections across a broad spectrum of courses across a range of levels, language focused or language-related general education courses. Students also have opportunities to help organize colloquia, workshops, and conferences or work as journal editors and reviewers. Many of our students are also engaged in community work.

Individually tailored courses of study: Our program offers students the opportunity to tailor a course of study that meets their current and future needs. The SLAT Program is dedicated to the University mission in providing graduate education that meets designated criteria for excellence and demonstrates promise for national and international distinction; in having faculty with an outstanding record of publications and research grants, and established collaborative networks with local, regional, national, and international scholars in the field; in providing services of particular relevance to regional multilingual settings; and in stimulating and coordinating interdisciplinary activities that are contributing to new knowledge and innovative developments in practical application.


Candidates are subject to all requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, determined by the Graduate Catalog of the University of Arizona. All incoming SLAT students enter with a completed Master's degree. Depending on the course content and relevance to the SLAT degree program, up to 24 units of previously completed graduate coursework may be transferred to use towards the credit requirements for the SLAT degree program. Transfer units are individually evaluated and must be approved by the SLAT Graduate Advisor, the SLAT Area Chairs, and the Graduate College to be counted towards the SLAT degree requirements. 

In total, candidates in this program complete 24 units of core coursework, and select a 12-unit specialization from one of the following four areas:

  • Instructional Dimensions of L2 Learning, 
  • Sociocultural Dimensions of L2 Learning,
  • Cognitive Dimensions of L2 Learning, 
  • Linguistic Dimensions of L2 Learning,

In addition, candidates must select a minor field, consisting of 9 - 15 units, depending on the chosen minor. Candidates must also complete a minimum of 18 dissertation units. 

Before formal admission to the program, all new SLAT students must demonstrate a thorough knowledge of one language other than English. SLAT Ph.D. students complete a qualifying exercise during their first year in the SLAT program. After finishing coursework, SLAT students must pass a written and oral comprehensive examination in both the major and minor fields of study. After passing comprehensive exams, a SLAT student will advance to candidacy and must present their dissertation proposal. The final required milestone is an oral defense of the candidate's dissertation. 

Please see the SLAT Student Handbook for complete details on degree requirements. 

The SLAT faculty believes that a SLAT scholar must have a solid foundation in linguistics, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics, as well as second language acquisition theory, teaching methods, and approaches. Therefore, the core requirements include courses in each of these areas.

In addition, a SLAT scholar must be well versed in research methods, research design, and approaches to analyzing and interpreting research findings. Accordingly, research related and statistics courses are included as part of the core requirements. 

Students have completed the SLAT Ph.D. program in as few as three and a half years. On average, students may take five years to complete the program. 

The time to degree is different for each student and depends on many factors, such as how many courses are transferred in, how many courses a student takes within the first two years of the program, when comprehensive exams are taken, the amount of data collection for the dissertation research, funding availability, and personal life responsibilities and choices.