About Special Education

FAST FACTS

  • The undergraduate baccalaureate degree in special education was one of the first programs in the country.
  • The undergraduate special education program at Western Michigan University is an innovative and demanding preparation program preparing special education teachers to meet the unique needs of a diverse range of K-12 students with learning disabilities and emotional impairments.
  • Students apply to be admitted to the undergraduate special education program in the second semester of their sophomore year. The program admits one cohort per year. The admitted cohort commences the following fall. Once students begin the sequence of special education coursework the program takes three years including two semesters of intern teaching (one semester in elementary education and one semester in special education).
  • The master’s degree in the special program includes multiple options: first endorsements, additional endorsements, special education administration, behavior intervention specialist, and a NEW graduate certificate in positive behavior interventions and support.

HISTORY

  • The Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies emerged during a reorganization during 2005-06.
  • The doctoral program in special education was approved as a degree in 1976—the first doctoral program established at WMU.
  • Teaching certifications with endorsements in special education has and continues to have one of the highest job placement rates in the University.
  • Special Education has been identified as a critical teacher shortage area in the state of Michigan for the past 30 years.

Programs

Undergraduate program

Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Elementary Education

Upon completion of this five-year program, graduates will be eligible for Michigan teacher certification in Elementary Education K-5, Elementary Education K-8 (self-contained), Special Education endorsements in Learning Disabilities (K-12) and Emotional Impairment (K-12). Students will have the option to earn a minor in the core content areas.

Graduate programs

To begin your application process, go to the Graduate Application page.

Master’s Degree in Special Education with a First Endorsement – Clinical Teacher Option

At the graduate level students may earn first endorsements in one of the following areas: Autism, Cognitive Impairment, Emotional Impairment, and Learning Disabilities. Students interested in a first endorsement should apply to our Clinical Teacher program indicating their area of endorsement. Each endorsement is a minimum of thirty credit hours. A Master’s degree with a first endorsement is a minimum thirty-six credit hours.

Master’s Degree in Special Education with a Second or Additional Endorsement or concentration area—Master Teacher Option

At the graduate level students may earn a second or additional endorsements in the following areas: Autism, Cognitive Impairment, Emotional Impairment, and Learning Disabilities. Students may also earn a concentration as a Behavior Specialist. Students interested in any of these areas should apply to our Master Teacher program indicating their area of interest. Each endorsement is a minimum of twenty credit hours. A Master’s degree with a second or additional endorsement or concentration is a minimum of thirty credit hours.

Master's Degree in Special Education Administration

At the graduate level students may earn a master’s degree in Special Education Administration. Students interested in this program will need to have at least one endorsement in special education or related area. Students should apply to our Special Education Administration program that is a minimum of 31 credit hours. Students who earn this degree must also take a sequence of 25 credit hours in Educational Leadership to receive a State approval as a Special Education Supervisor or Director and a Central Office Certificate. There is the option to earn a K-12 Principalship with additional credits instead of the Central Office Certificate.

Doctoral Degree in Special Education (Ed.D)

This program is designed for students who have earned a Master’s degree in special education or related area and completed one endorsement area in Special Education. Students interested in this program should carefully read the criteria necessary to apply to the program. See Doctoral program description and admission requirements. To begin your application process go to the Graduate Application page.

GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT

The Special Education Program offers multiple study abroad experiences at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can complete their 15-week special education internship with the United States Department of Defense Schools throughout Europe. During the summer I session, students may engage in a three-week study abroad experience, conducting active research by studying the impact of globalization on systems in Senegal, West Africa. For more information about this program, visit the Study Abroad page.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Why teach special education?

There is a critical ongoing shortage of special education teachers nationally as well as locally. We have the highest job rate in teacher education at WMU.

MISSION

The Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies offers undergraduate and graduate programs focused on preparing educational professionals with expertise in meeting the needs of K–12 students with diverse abilities. Special education faculty offer a number of program options at the undergraduate, master and doctoral levels with an emphasis on the application of research-generated practices to improve students’ educational and post-school outcomes. Within each program area, faculty are engaged in research initiatives that enhance both student engagement and learning.

ACCREDITATIONS/EXTERNAL PROGRAM REVIEW

  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • Council on Exceptional Children
  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation