Through unique and specialized coursework, extensive practical experiences, and service delivery innovations in the field, Mercyhurst University has earned a reputation for expertise in autism. This expertise allows us to provide top-level training for both established professionals and clinicians and educators new to the field. Our program graduates have become some of the most highly regarded educators and behavior analysts in the region and beyond working with students with autism. 

To solidify our reputation as experts in education for this population, the university's Education Department has become the first program in northwestern Pennsylvania approved to offer an Autism Endorsement from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to any teacher or other education professional who holds a current Level I or Level II certificate.

Program Overview

  • Options: Graduate certificate, master’s concentration
  • Location(s): On campus; limited online courses available
  • Credits: 12 (three courses, plus one lab)
  • Duration: Minimum nine months
  • Cost: $894 per credit; $12,000-19,000 total
  • Deadline: Rolling admissions
  • Start term(s): Fall (preferred) and Spring semesters
  • Careers: Behavioral health, autism support, developmental disability services

The Special Education and Applied Disability Studies graduate program seeks to produce the most skilled special education and behavioral health professionals in the region. Small graduate classes allow students to actively engage with faculty and peers. In fact, regular lab meetings push students to share ideas, collaborate, and think critically about coursework and discussions. 

Learning Outcomes

Mercyhurst graduate programs are designed to give our students a competitive edge in the marketplace. Our curriculum will prepare you as an educator who is able to:

  • Analyze and critique educational research
  • Apply dimensions of applied behavior analysis
  • Utilize evidenced-based practices and assessments in clinical settings
  • Write measurable objectives such as those found in an Individual Education Plan (IEP)

Course Requirements

The four courses required for this certificate are as follows:

  • EDSP 540: Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • EDSP 541: Instructional Assessment and Methods: ASD
  • EDSP 501: Behavior Management: Intro to ABA and Behavior Change
  • EDSP 504: Behavior Management: Intro to ABA and Behavior Change Clinical

A university certificate of completion will be awarded to students who complete the six-course sequence.

Career Paths

Depending on your background and/or choice to continue on for a master’s degree, the Autism graduate certificate program will prepare you for careers related to:

  • Autism support
  • Developmental disability services
  • Postsecondary academic support and career services

Admissions Requirements

Prospective applicants for the graduate certificate in Autism must fulfill the following admissions requirements. At the discretion of the program director, admission may be granted to applicants who have not fulfilled all the admission requirements provided they agree to the conditions of the acceptance prescribed by the director.

Admission decisions are made by the program director on a rolling basis after a holistic review.

Applicants can choose to start in either the Fall (preferred) or Spring semesters.

  • Completed (free) online application
  • A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited school with a preferred overall minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended 
  • A current resume 
  • A 500- to 750-word personal statement outlining your reasons for enrolling and personal and professional goals

Explore Financial Aid

Earn an affordable autism endorsement with competitive per-credit costs. Visit our Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage or contact us at or 814-824-2202.

Contact Us

Phillip Belfiore, Ph.D.
Program Director, Graduate Special Education
Office: Hirt 300B
Phone: 814-824-2267

Colleen Hordych
Assistant Director, Graduate Admissions
Phone: 814-824-2297