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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

Student sitting at table with teacher playing with finger puppets

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.

Enhance your own education and earn professional credit at Western’s Summer Teacher Institute.

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)
Course List
Code Title 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
EDUC 630Inclusivity in the Content Areas3
EDUC 631Inclusive Methods and Strategies for Literacy3
EDUC 632Overview of Special Services3
EDUC 633Differential Literacy Assessment3
Total Credits24
Post-Licensure Coursework (3-6 credits)
Course List
Code Title Credits
One to two EDUC 600 level electives3-6
EDUC 603
Content Area Learning
EDUC 606
Reading and Writing Across the Content Areas
EDUC 607
Rethinking Learning in the 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 & Blended 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
EDUC 696
Engaging External Stakeholders
Total Credits3-6
Capstone Coursework (7 credits)
Course List
Code Title Credits
EDUC 680Action Research for Educational Leaders4
EDUC 693Conduct, Reflect, and Present Action Research3
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) 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 Action Research for Educational Leaders 4
EDUC XXX EDUC Elective (only added-endorsement) 0-3
EDUC 693 Conduct, Reflect, and Present Action Research 3
EDUC XXX EDUC Elective 3
 Total Credits37-40


Top Skills

  • Child Development
  • Classroom Management
  • Communication
  • Disabilities Management
  • Early Intervention
  • Individualized Education Programs

Career Pathways

  • Adapted Physical Education Specialist
  • Behavior Specialist
  • Special Education Coordinator/Administrator
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Specialized Instructional Support
  • Teaching Assistant

Take the first steps toward your academic and personal growth.

Fostering your intellectual development is the primary focus of every academic program at Western. Our professors and Office of Career Services will help you identify your strengths, hone your skills, define your goals, and prepare for a fulfilling and enriched life after graduation. Wondering how you can apply your program of choice to your intellectual and personal journey? Check out our “What Can I Do With This Major?” tool to explore the diverse opportunities and pathways within any degree program.

How It Works

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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

Western Earns Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission

Western Earns Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission

Read More about Western Earns Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission
Girl typing on computer keyboard

Special Education Master’s Focuses on Differences, Not Deficits

Read More about Special Education Master’s Focuses on Differences, Not Deficits

Additional Resources

Teacher Institute

Celebrating our 20th Anniversary! This summer’s Teacher Institute runs June 3rd – June 15th, 2024.

Learn More

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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Initial Licensure Content Areas & Post-Licensure Added Endorsements

Western Colorado University is approved by the Colorado Department of Education to prepare students for licensure or added endorsement in the 24 content areas.

Learn More

Department Information

Education Department

Department Chair

Brooke Hanks, M.A.

Senior Lecturer

Contact Information



Campus Location

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

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