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All About Point Park University’s Master’s in Special Education Programs

What do Point Park University’s Master’s in Special Education programs encompass?

Point Park University offers two paths to earning a master’s degree in special education.

The Master of Arts in Special Education with PreK-12 certification is 30 credits and is designed for teachers currently holding a Pennsylvania Teaching Certification and would like to add a special education teaching certification. Students will complete one three-credit course every eight weeks, completing the program in approximately two years. This program is fully online, which allows students to maintain a full-time teaching position while still pursuing their master’s degree. This program is aligned and fully accredited for Instructional I certification through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

The second program Point Park University offers is the Master of Education in Special Education with PreK-12 certification. This is a 42-credit program designed for candidates who already hold a bachelor’s degree and are looking to obtain an initial teaching certification in special education. The program consists of 11 courses, three credits each, as well as three credits for student teaching and a three-credit seminar. Similar to the M.A. in Special Education degree, this program offers a flexible, online format and is aligned and fully accredited for Instructional I certification through PDE.

Point Park University offers a variety of courses in both programs that cover PDE PreK through 12th grade special education competencies. Program course topics include high and low incidence disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, differentiated instructional practices, intensive subject-based interventions, instructional/assistive technology and universal design, and secondary transition processes and procedures. Graduates will also be further prepared to meet the behavioral and emotional needs of students through courses focused on culturally responsive schools, teachers, and classrooms and positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). The M.Ed. program also covers additional courses including special education and inclusive practices and methods of teaching English language learners in content areas.

Both programs require successful completion of the PECT test from Pearson for Special Education by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to receive certification.

What differentiates Point Park University’s Special Education master’s programs from other schools that offer similar programs?

In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education eliminated the option of a person obtaining a stand-alone special education certification, instead requiring that a person must be certified first in a content area/grade bands and then can add a special education certification onto the existing certification. Act 82 was enacted in 2018 where first-time applicants for special education certification will be issued special education PreK-12 certificates as of January 1, 2022.

Point Park University has redesigned the curriculum/coursework so that teacher candidates will be able to meet the new requirements for certification. Once limited to a PreK-8 or 7-12 grade certification, teachers will now be able to teach PreK through 12th grade.

Point Park University has also added a Secondary Transition course that will be blended into the curriculum. Point Park also recognizes that modern classrooms are incredibly diverse and so have added a course on culturally responsive schools. Depending on which program a candidate pursues, there will either be a culminating Student Teaching Practicum or a Practicum course designed for field experiences in special education classrooms.

The School of Education faculty who teach special education courses have ample expertise in the field and have held multiple positions as special educators, which they bring into the classroom to share with their students. They also provide candidates with specific feedback, additional resources, and other support throughout the program.

What career opportunities are available to students who graduate from the program?

Approximately 13 percent of students in the United States require special education services, and the overall number of students with disabilities is increasing every year. These students require specially designed instruction, accommodations, and modifications to be included in public schools to meet the Free and Appropriate Public Education requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A special educator is trained to have knowledge and skills to work with these students.

Teachers with a master’s degree in special education and a teaching certification can hold various positions such as special education teacher, substitute teacher, teacher assistant, or case manager in multiple settings including public schools, private schools, private licensed facilities, special education centers, hospitals, mental health facilities, sheltered workshops, residential therapeutic camps, and non-profits. They can also add administrative certifications or endorsements to increase the job opportunities available to them.