SPECIAL EDUCATION AND APPLIED DISABILITY STUDIES
Expand your career and transform the lives of students with disabilities through the graduate special education programs at Mercyhurst University.
Our mission is to produce some of the most skilled special education professionals in northwestern Pennsylvania. Whether you want to complete your master’s in special education or receive a special education certification to pursue licensure, you’ll benefit from the special education curriculum at Mercyhurst.
At Mercyhurst, we continue to shape the field of special education at a national level through our service, publication, and presentation. Join us and develop the critical thinking and analytical skills you need to become a special education leader in your community.
- Prepare for certification from the Association for Behavior Analysis
- Learn from expert faculty with decades of experience
- Explore possible career paths in special education
- Gain hands-on experience as a graduate student assistant
Master of Science in Special Education Degree Overview
- Options: Master’s (with concentrations), graduate certificates, 4+1 (for Mercyhurst undergrads)
- Location(s): On campus; limited online courses available
- Credits: 30 to 39
- Duration: Minimum 21 months
- Cost: $894 per credit; $27,620 total
- Deadline: Rolling admissions
- Start term(s): Fall or Spring semester
Why choose one of Mercyhurst’s special education programs?
The special education curriculum at Mercyhurst will help you become a skilled provider of educational and behavioral services. You’ll refine your critical thinking and analytical skills as well as learn to apply the research competencies necessary to benefit individuals with disabilities and unique learning needs.
You’ll be prepared through our special education programs to:
- Analyze and critique educational research
- Design single-case research proposals in APA writing style
- Critically evaluate and apply ethical guidelines according to professional standards
- Apply dimensions of applied behavior analysis
- Utilize evidence-based practices and assessments in clinical settings
- Write measurable objectives, as found in Individual Education Plans (IEP)
- Write procedures for evidence-based practices across different disability groups
Which special education degree or certification is right for you?
Whether your goal is to earn an advanced special education degree or certification to pursue licensure, Mercyhurst’s special education programs will give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Educational opportunities are available with or without teaching certifications. Within the master’s in special education program, you can choose from concentrations in applied behavior analysis, applied disability service in higher education, autism, and English language learning.
Advanced special education certification programs are also available to prepare you for certification by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board and endorsement by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
No matter which of our special education programs you choose, you’ll learn from expert faculty who are focused on helping you succeed in your chosen career.
What can you do with a master’s in special education?
The job market for special education professionals is on the rise. Job growth in special education is expected to grow by 8% through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The special education certification and graduate degree programs at Mercyhurst can prepare you for careers in:
- Autism support
- Behavioral health and analysis
- Developmental disability services
- English as a second language education
- Postsecondary academic support and career services
- Traditional special education
Master's in Special Education Admissions Requirements
When you apply to the special education degree program, you’ll need to provide the following:
- 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
- A letter of recommendation from a professional or academic source (such as an employer or professor)
- International applicants whose records are written in a language other than English must have their documents translated into English and a notarized statement attesting to the accuracy of the translations
- International applicants whose primary language is not English must attain a TOEFL score of at least 79 on the internet-based exam OR an IELTS score of at least 6.5 OR a Duolingo English Test score of no less than 100.
- Please note: for those seeking special education certification or ABA certification, during the course of your program it will be necessary for you to undergo the following:
- Criminal background check
- Child abuse clearance
- Drug screening
- Medical verification of TB vaccination
To obtain a Master’s Degree in Special Education at Mercyhurst, students must complete a core of 30-39 graduate credit hours. Credit hour requirements may vary depending on concentration selected. The program may be completed in 24 months (full-time), or 30-36 months (part-time).
If a student is seeking special education teaching certification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, he or she must also hold teaching certification in another area, such as early childhood education (grades PK-4), middle level education (grades 4-8), or a specific content area in secondary education (grades 7-12).
Candidates who do not already hold a valid teaching certification may have to take prerequisite or co-required courses in addition to the required special education graduate courses. This will affect the length of the program from start to finish. Additionally, there may be cases where exceptions to the following sequences may be made, based on previous related coursework.
This concentration prepares individuals to work as a behavior analyst within the fields of education and developmental disabilities.
The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified the following courses toward the coursework requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst examination. Applicants will need to meet additional requirements before they can be deemed eligible to take the examination.
- EDSP 640: Concepts & Principles of ABA I (3 credits)
- EDSP 650: FBA & Behavior Interventions III (3 credits)
- EDSP 660: Concepts & Principles of ABA II (3 credits)
As a growing number of students with disabilities seek to continue their education in postsecondary settings—both traditional four-year college settings as well as one- and two-year certificate/vocational settings—skilled professionals are needed to lead the way in this growing field. This concentration will prepare you to provide disability services in higher education and post-secondary education, with the opportunity to get hands-on experience working with staff and students in Mercyhurst’s nationally recognized Learning Differences program and the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst.
- EDSP 531: Curriculum and Instruction: High Incidence Disability
- EDSP 532: Supervised Clinical Experience I (25 hours required in LDP or AIM program)
- EDSP 533: Curriculum and Instruction: Low Incidence Disability
- EDSP 534: Supervised Clinical Experience II (25 hours required in OASIS program)
- EDSP 673: Internship (required in LDP, AIM, or OASIS program)
- One EDSP elective
This concentration is for graduate students who are looking to specialize in providing special education services to students with autism. With associated clinical hours, this concentration also qualifies those who hold any Pennsylvania Department of Education Certification to add an Autism Endorsement to their certificate. This concentration is also available as a graduate certificate.
- EDSP 540 Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder
- EDSP 541 Instructional Assessment and Methods: ASD
- EDSP 501 Behavior Management: Intro to ABA and Behavior Change
This concentration is for graduate students who are looking to specialize in instructing English Language Learners (ELLs). Our education department’s creation of the Carpe Diem Academy, in conjunction with the Erie School District, provides new opportunities for our students to interact with ELLs and witness the need for skilled educators with training in English language learning. The program is a mixture of core special education course plus cross-listed ELL courses including:
- WL 501 Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
- WL 512 Second Language Acquisition (with 20 hour practicum)
- ELL 514 Introduction to Sociolinguistics
- ELL 515 Supporting Literacy for English Language Learners (with 20 hour practicum)
- ELL 500 Teaching English as a Second Language: Issues in Theory and Practice (with 20 hour practicum)
- ELL 505 Professionalism and Program Development for English Language Learners
After completion of the coursework, students may apply for the PDE ESL/ELD Program Special Certificate.
The graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis is designed to meet the educational requirements for certification by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. This 7-course sequence and associated practicum focuses on integrating research, basic principles, and specialized coursework with fieldwork in the areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism, and behavioral health. Prospective students will have a choice to complete either the certificate alone, or as a concentration while pursuing a graduate degree in Special Education. Visit the Applied Behavior Analysis Gradute Certificate webpage for more information.
Mercyhurst University knows autism. Whether through unique and specialized coursework, extensive practical experiences, or innovative service delivery in the field, Mercyhurst has forged a track record of expertise in autism. This expertise has allowed us to provide top-level training for the professionals of today and tomorrow. 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. Click here for more information.
Boost Your Career in Special Education
Take your career to the next level by choosing one of Mercyhurst University’s graduate special education programs.
If you’re ready to get started on a graduate special education program at Mercyhurst, complete your free online application today.
Explore Financial Aid
Our special education programs are competitively priced. We also offer graduate financial aid options. Visit our Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage or contact us at email@example.com or 814-824-3351 to learn more.
Request More Information
If you need more information about special education programs at Mercyhurst, fill out this brief form and we’ll be in touch soon.
Phillip Belfiore, Ph.D.
Program Director, Graduate Special Education
Office: Hirt 300B
Assistant Director, Graduate Admissions