M.A. in Special Education

Master of Arts in Special Education

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Education Department

Being a special educator is one of the most rewarding education careers. The field of special education is characterized by passionate, loyal education professionals who are not afraid to advocate for their students.

Program Overview

Enhance opportunities for students with disabilities.

Our fully online Western Special Education programs are grounded in the Colorado State Standards for Special Education and Teacher Quality Standards. We teach our students to focus on the whole child and to tailor students’ experiences by collaborating with teaching teams, administration and families. Each course includes the philosophical and legal perspective of “the why” alongside the practical application of the primary roles and tasks of a special educator. The program includes multiple pathways for graduate students.

Leading the field

Western’s graduates are No. 1 in Colorado for producing more than expected growth in student learning, according to state-level data.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Program Requirements

Special Education Licensure (24-27 credits)
EDUC 611Strategies for Teaching Students with Exceptionalities3
EDUC 612Assessment and Programming3
EDUC 614Inclusivity with Collaboration3
EDUC 615Student Teaching for Students with Exceptionalities (Can be taken twice for credit)3-6
EDUC 630Inclusivity in the Content Areas3
EDUC 631Inclusive Methods and Strategies for Literacy3
EDUC 632Overview of Special Services3
EDUC 633Differential Literacy Assessment3
Total Credits24-27
Post-Licensure Coursework (3-6 credits)
One to two EDUC 600 level electives3-6
EDUC 603
Content Area Learning
EDUC 606
Reading and Writing in the Content Area
EDUC 607
Rethinking Learning through 21st Century
EDUC 608
Methods and Strategies of Effective Writing Instruction
EDUC 613
Methods and Strategies of Effective Mathematics Instruction
EDUC 621
Creating Effective Online Learning Environments
EDUC 622
Using Data to Plan for Online & Blended Learning and Targeted Interventions
EDUC 624
Managing to Differentiate
EDUC 628
Pedagogies for English Learners
EDUC 629
Inclusion and English Learners
EDUC 682
Shaping School Culture
EDUC 683
Legal and Ethical Issues in Education
EDUC 694
School Law for Teachers
EDUC 695
Resource Management in Education
EDUC 696
Engaging External Stakeholders
Total Credits3-6
Capstone Coursework (7 credits)
EDUC 680Research and Critical Inquiry for Leaders4
EDUC 693Capstone3
Total Credits7
Degree Plan
Plan of Study Grid
Year One
EDUC 611 Strategies for Teaching Students with Exceptionalities 3
EDUC 614 Inclusivity with Collaboration 3
EDUC 615 Student Teaching for Students with Exceptionalities (only initial licensure) 0-3
EDUC 630 Inclusivity in the Content Areas 3
EDUC 632 Overview of Special Services 3
EDUC 612 Assessment and Programming 3
EDUC 615 Student Teaching for Students with Exceptionalities 3
EDUC 631 Inclusive Methods and Strategies for Literacy 3
EDUC 633 Differential Literacy Assessment 3
Year Two
EDUC 680 Research and Critical Inquiry for Leaders 4
EDUC XXX EDUC Elective (only added-endorsement) 0-3
EDUC 693 Capstone 3
EDUC XXX EDUC Elective 3
 Total Credits34-40


Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.


Available to:

Graduate students who are degree-seeking, demonstrate financial need and maintain a minimum of 3.0 grade point average.

Provided by:

Dr. Donald P. Timm (B.A. ’52) through The Greater Milwaukee Foundation.


Eight to ten scholarships of up to $1,000 are available to students enrolled in the licensure year of  the program. Two to three scholarships of up to $500 are available to students who have earned their teaching license and are pursuing a Master’s degree in Education.

Selected by:

Western Education Department Scholarship Selection Committee.


Students who are accepted by March 15 will be eligible to apply.

  • The Graduate Scholarship Application Cover Sheet
  • A Word document consisting of one paragraph on how you meet the scholarship’s criteria and another paragraph on what sets you apart from other candidates.


Graduate Student Scholarship Application form should be emailed to education@western.edu.

Tuition scholarships will be awarded on a competitive basis by the Education Department to a limited number of incoming M.A. in Education students who demonstrate the potential to make outstanding contributions to the profession.


To be considered, you must be accepted to the M.A. in Education by March 15.

Preference will be given to:

  • Applicants with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a conferred undergraduate or graduate degree.
  • Applicants with a proven dedication to or intention to work with students in rural areas or with underrepresented populations.
  • Applicants seeking credentials in Math, Science, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education, or Special Education.
  • Applicants from underrepresented populations.
  • Applicants who demonstrate a high level of financial need.

How to apply:

Students admitted to the program by March 15 will be sent instructions on how to apply.

The Exceptional Resident Award is given to one undergraduate or graduate Education student, per year, who exhibit the following criteria:

  • Shows respect for differences and a commitment to serving all students regardless of their race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, cognitive ability, gender, or sexuality.
  • Demonstrates a growth mindset in the face of challenges and responds constructively to feedback. Shows willingness to reflect upon practice.
    • Goes above and beyond to builds strong relationships with students, parents, colleagues, and the local community. Is supportive and positive when interacting with others.
    • Exhibits curiosity and is innovative in lesson design and delivery.
    • Shows a willingness to try new things and to thoughtfully assess their effectiveness.
    • Demonstrates leadership by taking initiative to be part of the school team. For example, shares strategies and ideas learned in Western courses with mentor and other colleagues in a constructive manner.

• Recognition at graduation with a cord and reimbursement of up to $500 for travel expenses to attend graduation at Western
• Certificate presented at the placement school by the resident’s regional coordinator and/or clinical coach
• Recognition on Western’s Education Department website
• Scholarship of up to three graduate credits to be used towards completion of a master’s degree at Western

Interested in serving Colorado’s rural schools? The Education Department at Western Colorado University, in partnership with Montrose and Delta County School Districts, was recently awarded a grant by the Colorado Department of Education to expand its successful residency program for teacher licensure. The grant will fund fellowships to fully cover tuition for Western’s yearlong teacher residency program. Fellowship recipients must complete their residency in schools within Montrose and Delta County School Districts, and then serve for two additional years in the partner districts as a teacher of record. Preference will be given to applicants who pursue teaching licenses in STEM, special education, and other areas of identified need within Montrose and Delta.

Review of fellowship applications for the 2021-2022 academic year will begin April 15th and conclude June 15th. Please contact Marilyn Krill (mkrill@western.edu) with any questions.

How to apply:

  • Complete the online application for the Montrose and Delta School Districts Teaching Fellowship
  • Interested applicants must also be admitted to Western’s Teacher Residency Program

How It Works

Discover the route built for you.

The M.A. in Special Education includes multiple pathways for those seeking an initial licensure, added-endorsement or alternative licensing for non-licensed or already-licensed graduate students.

Each of our asynchronous, online courses has been built to match four sets of teacher preparation standards in the state of Colorado: Colorado Special Education Generalist Standards, Special Education Professionalism Standards, Culturally-Linguistically Diverse Teacher Standards and the Teacher Quality Standards.

In addition to coursework, you will complete a master’s capstone project and create a special education milestone electronic teaching portfolio.

Our program provides a yearlong-residency model complete with a coaching team both locally, in the resident’s K-12 school and district, regionally for initial licensure students and through Western with a clinical coach.

Help students succeed.

The state and country need well-prepared, knowledgeable special educators who are experts in both pedagogy and the legal dimensions of serving students designated as requiring special services.

News & Research

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Additional Resources

Costs and Admissions

Learn more about admissions requirements and tuition costs for our affordable and effective M.A. in Education program.

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Frequently Asked Questions

View a list of frequently asked questions answered by our knowledgeable faculty to familiarize yourself with what you can expect as an M.A. in Education student.

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Summer Licensure Orientation

Summer Licensure Orientation For Summer 2020, we will be reimagining and recreating our typical face-to-face session into an engaging and exciting virtual experience. We can’t wait for you to join …

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Optional Added Endorsements

Supplement your master’s degree in education with additional endorsements to enhance your resume and your professional experience. Program Overview Bolster your credentials and gain a competitive …

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Residency Information

Know what to expect and how to prepare for your yearlong teaching residency experience.

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Department Information

Education Department

Department Chairperson

George Kamberelis, Ph.D.

Professor, Chairperson

Undergraduate Assistant

Barbara Woerner, B.Ed.

Placement Coordinator, Undergraduate Program Advisor

Graduate Assistant

Marilyn Krill

Department Support Coordinator

Contact Information



Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Crawford Hall 101
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231