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Frequently Asked Questions

PhD in Educational Communication and Technology

What is the ranking of the ECT, DMDL and G4L programs compared to others?

There is no authoritative national ranking for programs in digital media design for learning, games for learning or in educational communication and technology. Furthermore, games for learning as a master's program is still novel, with NYU creating one of the first in the country. While some foreign universities and some American magazines do try to rank programs in education, or in educational technology, these rankings usually focus on programs unlike ours.

College level rankings do not adequately differentiate high- and low-quality programs within those universities. The Steinhardt School within NYU is unique in that it incorporates not only education, but also culture and human development. We have preeminent programs in the fine arts, psychology, and media studies, just to name a few. Our school is not directly comparable to colleges or schools of education alone.

Educational technology programs in the US generally fall into several categories. Some are focused primarily on training primary and secondary teachers in the use of technology in the classroom; others are focused primarily on researching technologies in primary, secondary, or post-secondary education; others still focus on the design of instructional materials from textbooks to websites. We do all of those things, but none is our primary focus. Our program emphasizes both world-class design, and world-class research, in all learning settings, including not only formal educational settings like schools and libraries, but also informal education, including for instance contexts like public health, entertainment and video games, and international development. We draw on the traditions of media design, game design, instructional design, cognitive science, and the learning sciences. We believe the programs most similar to ours are those at the Educational Communications and Technology program at University of Wisconsin, the Learning, Design and Technology/Learning Sciences and Technology Design programs at Stanford University, and the MIT Media Lab, but each of these programs has important differences from ours. Most published rankings will be meaningless if they compare our program to those with very different goals and structures. To see the worth of our program, look at the outcomes for our alumni.   

Can I transfer credits into the Ph.D. program?

According to Steinhardt policy, transfer credit isn't accepted at the doctoral level. Steinhardt does have an "exemption" policy, but credits are not actually transferred. Here's a link to the Steinhardt policies page (please scroll down to "Substitutions and Exemptions"):

Do I need to take an English proficiency exam?

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to take one of the following English proficiency exams and submit the scores: TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic. See more information on English proficiency testing.

What are the minimum grade point average, GRE scores, and English proficiency exam scores required by the ECT/DMDL/G4L programs?

We consider the application as a whole. There are no minimum scores. We reject some students with high scores and accept some students with low scores. Please note, however, that GRE scores are currently only required for Ph.D. program applicants.

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to take one of the following English proficiency exams and submit the scores: TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic. See more information on English proficiency testing.

What financial aid/scholarships are available for Ph.D. students?

We only admit students to our full-time Ph.D. program who we can fully fund through a combination of fellowships, research assistantships, and on-campus jobs. If you are externally funded, you should tell us as this increases your chances of admission (since it would increase our admissions quota for that year). We recommend that Ph.D. applicants also apply for any relevant external fellowships (Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Fulbright, National Science Foundation GRFP, and other Pre-Doctoral Fellowships). See more information about funding for full-time doctoral students

I'm a student at NYU School of Engineering. Can I take ECT/DMDL/G4L courses? Do I have to apply for admission?

Yes, you can take courses--cross-registrants are welcomed. No separate admission is required. Many courses do not require pre-requisites but some may. Please contact us directly if you have any questions about courses that are offered through our programs.

When are courses offered? Do you offer any evening classes? Summer classes?

To support our part-time students, almost all ECT/DMDL/G4L courses are offered on weekday evenings, Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters, either 4:55-6:25pm or 6:45-8:25pm. Classes that students take outside our program may be offered during weekdays or weekends as well. See the NYU registrar's site for current course schedules. Unlike Master's students, Ph.D. students are expected to participate in professional scholarship, for example, attending talks, conferences, etc. which will not always take place in the evenings. It’s rare that ECT/DMDL/G4L courses (except internship) are offered in the summer, although many other NYU classes that can count toward the degree are.

What should I do if I have more questions about applying to the ECT, DMDL or G4L program?

First, make sure you have read the program website (including this FAQ) and the Steinhardt Graduate Admissions Guide. If you have questions after this about the admissions or application process, including financial aid, test scores, the online application system, whether your application is complete, etc. you should email If you have questions not answered on our website about what the program is like, academic requirements, visiting a class, etc., contact Finally, please consider attending an admissions information session, webinar, or a program event; not only will you be able to ask questions in person but you’ll also be able to meet our faculty, students, and/or alumni.

Unfortunately, because our department receives hundreds of applications per year, and out of deference to the needs of our existing students, we can not routinely schedule one-on-one pre-admissions counseling. 

Can I expect much faculty contact in the ECT, DMDL, and G4L programs?

Yes. Our program is small and intimate. Class sizes have averaged 15 or less and are never taught by teaching assistants. Every student has a faculty adviser (a professor, not a guidance counselor) who can work with you on your professional goals. Our design classes follow a studio-based learning model, meaning you learn by doing hands-on projects. Students collaborate with faculty and each other in our vibrant scholarly research and design community. Unlike in some doctoral programs, our Ph.D. students typically interact closely with a number of faculty and not just their dissertation chair.  

Can I meet with someone to learn about the ECT, DMDL and G4L programs?

Yes! We have events for prospective students, both face to face and online via webinar, each semester. To be notified about these events, make sure to click the 'Request info' button in the top right corner of any page of our website. We are proud of our community and hope you will join us for these events. Since our department gets hundreds of applications per year, and to be fair to current students' demands on our time, we can not routinely schedule individual meetings for prospective students. We are however happy to answer any questions by email that aren't answered here or elsewhere on our websites, and encourage you to visit a class to see what the program is like; contact us in advance to arrange.  

Do I have to take the GRE?

The GRE is only required to apply for the Ph.D. program. We do not require GRE scores for the M.A., M.S. or Advanced Certificate applications, but you may send them if you like.

What are my chances of admission?

In general, our Master's and Advanced Certificate admissions are criterion-based (meaning we admit as many people as we think are qualified). Historically we have averaged around 50% acceptance. Our Ph.D. admissions are ranked (meaning each admissions cycle is a competition among all applicants.) We have many more qualified applicants for our Ph.D. programs than we can admit. The full-time Ph.D. program typically admits 2-4 students per year (around 5% acceptance).  

If I get external funding, will I be admitted to the Master's, Advanced Certificate or Ph.D. programs?

Not necessarily. External funding has no bearing on M.A., M.S. or Advanced Certificate admissions. For Ph.D. students, external funding is no guarantee of admission, but if you have external funding it's important to let us know since we can't admit full-time Ph.D. students unless we know they are funded, either externally or by NYU.

I have extensive professional design skills. Does this mean I can place out of coursework in the ECT/DMDL/G4L programs?

We don't presume any multimedia, design, or programming skills, although they can certainly be helpful. In general, because of our studio-based approach to learning, we do not allow students to place out of required courses. Whatever level you're at, you'll have opportunities to practice and get better.

Can I study part-time?

Yes. All of our programs are offered both as full- or part-time programs (even the Ph.D).  Note that there is a ten year cap on time-to-degree for the doctoral program, and all programs will continuously review your progress and time toward the degree.

If I want to learn technical skills, do these courses count towards my required credits?

We have many graduate-level technology courses that do count towards the required credits in the ECT, DMDL and G4L programs. Beware of programs that require technology courses that cost money but don't count towards the total credits required. We also encourage students to use courses with a studio format to bring technical skills development into all their coursework.

Will I be required to learn technical skills to complete the ECT, DMDL or G4L program?

While we expect students in the ECT, DMDL, and G4L programs to be comfortable using technology, for instance to mockup or prototype designs, extensive technical skills are not required. Students pursue technical skills according to their own needs. For some students, this means learning programming, game development or web development; for others it might mean film and video editing skills; and for research-oriented students, technical skills might comprise learning research analysis software.

Can I get a research assistantship?

Research assistantships are typically only open to Ph.D. students, not Master's students; frequently they are awarded as part of the admissions package, but otherwise would be advertised to current students via program mailing lists or the Steinhardt Department of Research and Doctoral Studies. Very rarely, students may get research assistantships in other programs or departments; these would also typically be reserved for Ph.D. students. There are no directories of assistantships; we recommend subscribing to relevant department mailing lists and introducing yourself to relevant faculty in other departments (for instance, if your prior background is in chemistry, you might contact the chemistry department).

I'm an undergrad at NYU. Do you offer an undergrad minor, or undergraduate coursework?

We do not offer an undergrad minor, however, advanced undergraduates may take graduate courses in the ECT, DMDL, or G4L programs by permission. We encourage NYU undergrads considering graduate study in our program to get to know us by taking a course.

Do you offer conditional admission if I want to come study English prior to beginning your program?

We do not offer conditional admission. If you apply with a strong application but weak language skills, you may be rejected, or you may be admitted with additional language requirements. Please note that applications with statements of purpose or essays that have been translated by a third party, rather than written by the applicant in English, will be treated as plagiarism and that applicant will be permanently banned. (It's fine to provide us with a translation of work you've published in another language as long as you note that it's a third-party translation.)

I don't have a programming background. Should I still apply to the ECT, DMDL or G4L program?

Yes. we do not presume prior programming background (although it would be useful if you have such a background). Students do not need to learn to program to complete the degree, but technology skills courses are available for those who wish to develop them. Unlike some competing graduate programs, these courses would typically count towards your degree requirements.

Who are the faculty I will be learning from in the ECT (Ph.D.), DMDL (M.A.) and G4L (M.S.) programs?

Our faculty consists of world-class scholars with backgrounds in education, computer science, cognitive science and psychology, and media arts and technologies. Three quarters of our courses are taught by tenured faculty, who are held to the most rigorous peer-review as professional researchers (compare this to Harvard's master's program, where only one of their eight faculty is tenure-track). Our adjunct (non-tenure track) faculty are selected for their deep ties to professional applications and design, and for their teaching skills. Unusually, our faculty are not only researchers, but also designers.

More information about our program faculty can be found here:

I don't have an education/teaching background. Should I still apply to the program?

Yes. We emphasize learning in all contexts, not just schools. Many successful applicants come from a background in teaching, but just as many of our students do not. We welcome people switching careers.

Can I start with the M.A. or M.S. program and switch to the Ph.D. later?

No. Students who complete the M.A. or M.S. can apply at the end of their program to continue on to the Ph.D.

Can I send you a copy of an old score report for my GREs? Or reuse the GRE scores I sent to NYU years ago for my Master’s degree?

GRE scores more than five years old are not acceptable.

Can I waive the GRE for the Ph.D. application? I have already successfully taken graduate courses at NYU.

To ensure a fair comparison of all applicants for our limited slots, we do not grant waivers of the GRE requirement for Ph.D. applicants. Please plan your testing schedule to ensure scores arrive in time for the deadline.

Can I apply late to the ECT Ph.D. program?

No. Please apply the following year.

Can I transfer credits from classes I took at NYU as a non-matriculated student?

As long as they have not been used for a degree, up to 18 graduate credits taken as a non-matriculated student might count towards the degree if they fulfill program requirements. Please note that NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers both graduate and continuing education credits, and only graduate credits (not continuing education credits) would count.

What's the difference between full-time and part-time admissions for the ECT Ph.D.? Are my chances better if I pick one or the other?

Our full-time Ph.D. program, because it is high quality and fully funded, is extremely competitive. This helps ensure that our doctoral students have the support they need to become exceptional scholars, which involves not only course work but also professional apprenticeship and scholarly work. While we get dozens of applicants, we can only admit a few per year.

Our part-time Ph.D. program is a special option typically reserved for prospective students who have unique circumstances in which scholarship is compatible with their professional life: for example, someone employed in a research-oriented workplace who can combine their scholarship with their "day job." While part-time admissions are not as restrictive as full-time admissions, we only consider people who can combine their work and scholarly lives. Part-time Ph.D. students are *not* guaranteed any NYU funding whatsoever (although standard US government financial aid would be applicable). Please note that all students, including part-time Ph.D. students, are required to maintain continuous enrollment for the duration of their program, and must complete within 10 years.

If I attend the ECT Ph.D. program part-time, how long will it take me to finish?

Part-time Ph.D. studies are hard to predict, since the bulk of the work of the Ph.D. is professional scholarship, rather than taking classes. There is a ten year cap on time-to-degree.

Do you offer an online program? Can I take the coursework at a distance?


How long does the full-time ECT Ph.D. program take?

The program is designed to be completed in four years. However, since the program is largely dependent on becoming a professional scholar and completing a dissertation, not on coursework, it can take longer. All Ph.D. students are continuously enrolled in our doctoral colloquium, which serves as a research-supportive community; doctoral students become part of a research community from their first semester, and continue to draw on the support of that community until they defend their dissertation.

Can I get a teaching assistantship?

NYU does not have teaching assistantships. When graduate students teach on campus, they do so as adjunct faculty, typically only at the very end of the Ph.D. program. However, our students have gained teaching experience at other nearby universities that rely heavily on part-time instructors, such as CUNY. Supervised teaching experiences off campus in K-12 settings can be arranged for internship course credit.

Can I take all or part of the program online?

We do not offer any of our programs online at this time.

Are there any special provisions for NYU staff?

We welcome NYU staff who are interested in our programs for their professional development. We believe our programs are highly relevant within the university. Standard tuition reimbursement policies apply; you should communicate early with your supervisor. Because our courses are primarily in the evenings, release time required for coursework is usually minimal. You might want to consider taking a course or two as a nonmatriculated student, or consider completing a degree part-time. We have had Master's, advanced certificate, and Ph.D. students complete their degrees while working full-time as NYU staff.

Do I need a Master’s degree to apply for the ECT Ph.D. program?

Yes. The only exception would be if you have a degree that is the equivalent of a US Master's from another country (e.g., German "diplom" or "Magister").

If I describe my scores and background to you, will you tell me whether I can expect to get admitted?

We can't tell you until you apply; we don't admit solely on scores and we can't pre-review applications.

Is your Ph.D. program only appropriate if I want to work as a professor?

No. The skills learned in becoming a professional scholar are applicable not only in academia but also in research- or scholarly positions in the public, corporate, and non-profit sectors. Many of our alumni work in arenas that allow blending research and design.

I already have a Master's degree, and I want to learn to build new technologies. Should I apply to the ECT Ph.D. program?

Our Ph.D. is a research-oriented degree, not a professional doctorate like an Ed.D. The focus of our program is becoming a scholar. Ph.D. students build new knowledge through research and scholarship, rather than just consuming the knowledge produced by others or by demonstrating a greater mastery of professional practice. It is not appropriate for people who solely wish to deepen or update their technical or professional design skills. Consider our advanced certificate program instead, which may be taken even if you have a Master's degree in our field.