Credits and costs
Gain Knowledge and Skills to Support Students with Special Needs
Teachers and educational professionals enrolled in the online Master of Education in Special Education program from Penn State World Campus can learn about evidence-based practices to support individuals with special needs or those who are at risk. This program focuses on current issues and topics in the field of special education and gives you the opportunity to choose an emphasis in Academic and Behavioral Supports, Applied Behavior Analysis, or Autism.
Emphasis in Academic and Behavioral Supports
This emphasis is designed for educational professionals who want to learn skills to effectively support students with disabilities. Topics include, but are not limited to, effectively managing behaviors, designing and delivering instruction, and developing and administering educational assessments.
Emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
This emphasis is for professionals who want to gain in-depth knowledge of the principles and procedures of ABA, with or without the goal of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA). Educational professionals certified as BCBAs develop, implement, and monitor programs to promote positive behavior change in individuals with special needs.
This emphasis includes a 21-credit, 315-hour, seven-course sequence based on the BACB’s 5th Edition Task List and is intended to prepare you to sit for the 5th Edition BCBA certification examination. The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified the seven courses specific to the ABA emphasis toward the course work requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® examination. Applicants will need to meet additional requirements, such as a completed graduate degree and supervised fieldwork experience, before they can be deemed eligible to take the examination.
Emphasis in Autism
The emphasis in autism is designed to help you acquire comprehensive, evidence-based knowledge to assist in developing effective educational programming for all students with autism spectrum disorders. It includes course work on assessing individuals with autism spectrum disorders; developing strategies to foster social, behavioral, communicative, and academic gains; using applied behavior analysis when working with children with autism; and enhancing collaboration among individuals with ASD, their families, and educators.
In addition to being an emphasis in the M.Ed. program, the Educating Individuals with Autism Postbaccalaureate certificate can also be taken as stand-alone program or a step up to the M.Ed. To receive a separate completion certificate for Educating Individuals with Autism, a certificate application and acceptance from that program is also required.
How Long Is the Program?
The master’s program consists of 11 courses (33 credits) and while the length of your program depends on the number of courses you take each semester, most students complete the program in one and a half to two years. Your adviser will help you create a personalized program plan that matches your ideal timeline with the curriculum sequence.
Who Should Apply?
If you have a background in education or human services and are interested in learning more about working with children and youth with disabilities, this program is ideal for you. Behavior specialists, social workers, mobile therapists, educational consultants, speech pathologists, mental health counselors, and psychologists can also benefit from this program.
Please note that this master's degree program is not designed to lead to initial teacher certification in any state; however, it may help you renew or maintain your existing certification if you are already a certified teacher. Please check with your state's Department of Education for initial licensure requirements and renewal and maintenance requirements.
The online Master of Education in Special Education program requires you to complete 33 credits. You will complete the core and capstone courses and choose an area of emphasis to round out your program of study, which is composed of:
- Prescribed core courses in special education (6 credits)
- Emphasis courses that you choose to provide a greater depth of content knowledge (24 credits)
- Prescribed capstone course to prepare you in the field (3 credits)
Required Courses (6 credits)
Choose an Emphasis Area
Applied Behavior Analysis (24 credits)
Autism (24 credits)
Students who choose this emphasis area will also need to select 9 elective credits at the 500 or 800 level.
Academic and Behavioral Supports (24 credits)
Students who choose this emphasis area will need to select 3 elective credits.
Capstone Course (3 credit)
If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.
Costs and Financial Aid
Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.
|How many credits do you plan to take per semester?||Cost|
|11 or fewer||$1,007 per credit|
|12 or more||$12,082 per semester|
Financial Aid and Military Benefits
Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.
How to Apply
Deadlines and Important Dates
Your degree application, including receipt of all application materials, must be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete, including completed reference forms;
- Fall Deadline: Apply by July 1 to start August 21
- Spring Deadline: Apply by November 1 to start January 8
- Summer Deadline: Apply by April 1, 2024, to start May 13, 2024
If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.
For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.
All applicants are expected to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher from prior coursework.
What You Need
Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:
Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.
GPA and Test Scores — postsecondary (undergraduate), junior/senior (last two years) GPA is required.
GRE scores are not required
English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.
References (3) — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each recommender requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program.
The letter should address the nature and quality of the applicant’s professional/workplace performance and an assessment of the applicant’s readiness to pursue online graduate degree study. The references must be provided by professional colleagues such as coworkers, supervisors, academic instructors or advisers, classmates, business partners, etc. We are unable to accept references from family members or personal friends/acquaintances. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.
Résumé or curriculum vitae — Upload your résumé (one to two pages) to the online application.
Personal Statement — A statement (one to two pages) addressing your purpose and objectives in enrolling in a graduate program in special education.
Start Your Application
You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.
Begin the graduate school application
- Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
- Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
Applying as a Nondegree Graduate Student
Apply as a "nondegree" graduate student to begin taking courses right away. You may take up to 15 credits in nondegree status before submitting your application portfolio. If you apply as a nondegree graduate student, you must re-apply to the master's degree to be considered for admission into the Master of Education in Special Education degree program.
To apply as a nondegree graduate student:
- Begin the application process
- Select "Nondegree Admission"
- Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
Earning a Graduate Certificate Concurrently
While pursuing the master's degree, you may also earn the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis and/or the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Educating Individuals with Autism. To do so, you must complete a separate certificate application on the Graduate School website and pay the associated application fee before completing all of the credits required for the desired certificate. For example, to earn the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis along with the Master's in Special Education, you will need to submit two separate applications — one for the master's program and one for the graduate certificate program.
Review the technical requirements for this degree program.
Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.
Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?
Advance Your Career
Advance Your Career
You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.
Earn a Valuable Credential along the Way
Earn a Valuable Credential along the Way
Show mastery of specific subjects before your degree is complete. Thanks to shared courses across programs, students can often earn a certificate along with their degree in less time than if they earned them separately.
To learn more about the Master of Education in Special Education, offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Education, please contact:
World Campus Admissions Counselors
Email: [email protected]
Administrative Support Assistant
Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education
125G CEDAR Building
University Park PA 16802
Email: [email protected]
Mary Katherine Harris
DegreePh.D., Disability Disciplines and emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis, Utah State University
DegreeSpecial Education Credential, Chapman University
DegreeB.A., Psychology, University of California at Berkeley
Dr. Mary Katherine (Katie) Harris is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral Level and assistant professor of special education. She has worked with children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities in a variety of educational and community-based settings. She is passionate about supporting teachers and providing instruction in the science of Applied Behavior Analysis. She teaches courses in Ethics, Foundations, Concepts & Principles, and Behavior Change Procedures & Management in the Verified Course Sequence for the Applied Behavior Analysis program.
Elizabeth M. Hughes
DegreePh.D., Curriculum and Instruction, Clemson University
DegreeM.Ed., Special Education, Clemson University
DegreeB.A., Elementary Education and Human Development, Boston College
Dr. Elizabeth M. Hughes is an assistant professor of special education at Penn State. Her scholarship focuses on the role of language when learning mathematics, specifically for students with learning disabilities. Her research evaluates mathematical writing strategies, vocabulary supports, and video modeling as evidence-based practices to support learning mathematics.
DegreePh.D., Special Education, The Ohio State University
DegreeM.A., Special Education, The Ohio State University
DegreeB.A., Psychology/Sociology and Women’s Studies, Youngstown State University
Dr. Rick Kubina, BCBA-D, is a professor of special education at Penn State and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with doctoral designation. Dr. Kubina's research focuses on the science of individual measurement and performance/learning improvement. He is the co-author of The Precision Teaching Book and the co-founder of Chartlytics, a web application system for precisely pinpointing and recording behavior for making decisions and using repeated problem-solving to help learners experience effective and efficient learning outcomes.
DegreePh.D., Special Education, Purdue University
DegreeM.Ed., Special Education, California University of Pennsylvania
DegreeB.S., Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. David Lee, BCBA-D, is a professor of special education. The focus of Dr. Lee’s research is to develop, evaluate, and disseminate programs to support students with or at risk for emotional/behavior disorders. His research draws upon a behavior analytic framework to create positive, function-based interventions for students, primarily in middle/high school.
Kathleen M. McKinnon
DegreePh.D., Early Childhood Special Education, University of Pittsburgh
DegreeM.Ed., School Consultation, University of Pittsburgh
DegreeB.S., Special Education/Elementary Education, Penn State
Dr. Kathleen M. McKinnon is an associate professor of special education at Penn State, where she serves as the undergraduate program coordinator and director of field experiences for special education majors. Her areas of expertise and research interests include early intervention and pre-service teacher preparation and supervision.
David B. McNaughton
DegreePh.D., Special Education, Penn State
DegreeM.S., Special Education, Penn State
DegreeB.Ed., Special Education, University of Windsor
Dr. David B. McNaughton is a professor of special education at Penn State. His teaching and research focus on the development of effective educational programs for individuals with severe disabilities. He is especially interested in the effective use of technology by individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and how AAC can be used to achieve important educational and vocational outcomes.
DegreePh.D., Applied Behavior Analysis, Columbia University
DegreeM.S., Applied Behavior Analysis, Columbia University
DegreeB.S., Psychology, Fordham University
Dr. Kelly Mercorella, BCBA-D, is an assistant professor of special education at Penn State and teaches a variety of courses for the online M.Ed. program in Special Education. Dr. Mercorella's research interests center around facilitating reading comprehension for elementary students with disabilities, particularly designing interventions to instruct students on visualization strategies related to reading. Prior to earning her doctorate, Dr. Mercorella was a special education teacher in both self-contained and inclusive settings, serving students from Pre–K through fifth grade.
Tracy J. Raulston
DegreePh.D., Special Education, University of Oregon
DegreeM.Ed., Special Education, Texas State University
DegreeB.S., Special Education, Texas A&M University
Dr. Tracy J. Raulston, BCBA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education at Penn State. Her scholarship focuses on the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based practices for children with autism spectrum disorder and related developmental delays/disabilities. Specifically, she is interested in supporting caregivers to implement behavioral interventions in home, community, and school settings.
Paul J. Riccomini
DegreePh.D., Special Education, Penn State
DegreeM.Ed., Special Education, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
DegreeB.A., Mathematics, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Paul J. Riccomini, an associate professor of special education at Penn State, began his career as a middle and high school general education and special education math teacher. His research focus is on effective instructional strategies and assessments for students with dyscalculia and students with learning disabilities in mathematics. He is a co-author of Response to Intervention in Math (Corwin, 2010) and Building Number Sense through the Common Core (Corwin, 2013), as well as three math intervention programs targeting fractions, integers, and algebraic equations.
Jonte C. Taylor
DegreePh.D., Special Education, Auburn University
DegreeM.Ed., Collaborative Teaching and Special Education, Auburn University
DegreeB.A., Mental Retardation Education, Tuskegee University
Dr. Jonte Taylor (“JT”) is an assistant professor of special education at Penn State. He taught for approximately 10 years with a variety of populations from pre-K to adult in settings ranging from inclusive classrooms to residential treatment facilities. His research interests include science education for students with disabilities, evaluating innovative classroom practices, and bullying issues for students with autism, learning disabilities, and emotional/behavioral disorders.
DegreePh.D., Special Education, University of Virginia
DegreeM.S., Special Education, University of Kansas
DegreeB.S., Special Education, University of Kansas
Dr. Pamela Wolfe is an associate professor of special education at Penn State and the director of the Educating Individuals with Autism certificate program. Her teaching and research center on work with persons having autism spectrum disorders (ASD), severe disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. Her research includes interventions related to social skills and sexuality for persons with ASD, as well as advocacy and transition. She has presented at international and national conferences on topics such as teacher training, application of evidence-based instruction, and intervention models.