Have an impact on the lives of children and adults who need the very best.

The graduate program in Special Education and Applied Disability Studies at Mercyhurst University will enhance your talents and give you the skills and knowledge to transform the lives of students and adults with mild to severe disabilities across a variety of settings. The program is designed to assist providers of educational and behavioral services to (a) refine their critical thinking and analytical skills to the highest level of proficiency necessary to attain excellence in the field, and (b) develop applied research competencies necessary to create innovations in education and behavioral services that benefit individuals with disabilities or unique learning needs.

All levels of teachers, from novice to expert, are required to continue their education beyond a bachelor’s degree and earrn a master’s degree within the first five years of teaching. Mercyhurst continues to be a leader in the education field by offering programs that meet both your needs as an educator and PDE certification requirements. By completing the Master of Science in Special Education, you are earning the most diverse certification possible, which will prepare you successfully teach every student in a wide range of potential settings.

In addition to the master’s degree, Mercyhurst offers several different graduate certificates and concentrations which could lead to PA Behavioral Specialist Licensure and/or an Autism Spectrum Endorsement from the PA Department of Education. 

Classes are primarily held in the evenings, allowing participants to continue working while enrolled in the program. Courses are offered year-round, allowing customization for individual students upon consultation with the program director. Since the Fall of 2016, many courses are also now available online as well, providing even greater flexibility to the student juggling work, family and graduate school responsibilities.

Mercyhurst University's has earned a solid reputation for educating those in the fields of special education and behavioral services. Educational opportunities for those service providers range from master's degrees (30-39 credits) to graduate certificates (9-12 credits). Master's degree and graduate certificate options are available to students whether or not they hold a teaching certification.* Please Note: Those seeking special education teaching certification from the PDE must hold a teaching certification in another area, such as early childhood, middle level or secondary education. Please peruse the program offerings below to find the program that's right for you.

Admission Requirements

  • Complete your online application for FREE at http://apply.mercyhurst.edu.
    • The Special Education graduate program has a preferred admission deadline of August 1st. After August 1st, applications will be considered until the class is full.
  • A bachelor’s degree with a minimum overall GPA of 3.0
    • If seeking special education certification, a bachelor’s degree and PDE teaching certification in early childhood, middle level or secondary education
    • If NOT seeking special education certification, a bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited college or university
  •  If seeking special education certification, successful completion of or anticipated successful completion of Praxis Core and Praxis Subject Assessment (formerly the PAPPA and Praxis II tests)
  • PLEASE NOTE, for those seeking special education certification:
    • 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.
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons with whom you have a professional or academic relationship (ex. employer, professor, or volunteer coordinator)
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to grad@mercyhurst.edu
  • A current résumé or curriculum vitae
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to grad@mercyhurst.edu
  • A 500-750 word personal statement discussing:
    • Your reason for choosing this program
    • Your short- and long-term professional goals
    • The strengths you bring as an applicant to this program
    • The skills you hope to develop while in this program
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to grad@mercyhurst.edu
  • PLEASE NOTE, a professional or academic writing sample may be requested after your application and required supplemental materials are initially reviewed
  • An Interview  
    • A personal interview (either on-campus or via Skype) is not required, but may be requested after initial review of your application and required supplemental materials.
  • 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 including
      • Fingerprinting
      • Child abuse clearance
      • Drug screening
    • Medical verification of TB vaccination

The Special Education and Applied Disability Studies graduate program provides current and future special education practitioners with the skills and experiences necessary to implement evidence-based practices in the helping professions of teaching, behavior analysis, and disability services. A graduate of Mercyhurst's Special Education and Disability Studies program is prepared to create learning opportunities that allow individuals with educational and behavioral challenges to realize opportunities for self-determination and independence. Alumni are encouraged to be scientist-practitioners who serve the field in three evidence-driven ways: As consumers of applied research in their practice as teachers and clinicians; as producers of applied research or data-driven strategies in both their graduate studies and their professional careers; and to disseminate their clinical or research endeavors through the presentation of resulting data to others in the field.

Vision Statement

The Special Education and Applied Disability Studies graduate program seeks to produce the best quality special education professionals in the region; be the school of choice for those seeking a program that challenges them to think critically about trends in education while providing them with evidence-based effective approaches; and continue to shape the field nationally through service, publication, and presentation.

  • Write procedures for evidenced-based practices across disability groups and lifespans
  • Utilize evidenced-based practices and assessments in clinical settings
  • Write measurable objectives such as those found in an Individual Education Plan (IEP)
  • Analyze and Critique educational research
  • Design single subject research proposal using APA writing style
  • Discuss the connection between educational assessment and assessment-based instructional decisions
  • Define ethical conduct in the field of education
  • Apply dimensions of applied behavior analysis

Contact Us

Phillip Belfiore, Ph.D.
Chair, Graduate Special Education
Office: Hirt 300B
Phone: 814-824-2267
Email: pbelfiore@mercyhurst.edu