Master’s in Special Education

Master’s in Special Education

Designed for current credentialed education specialists. If you’re not currently working in a classroom, consider the education specialist credential instead.

Overview

Receive your master's in special education fully online in the state of California. Our program is built to support schedules as unique as our students. When you join PLNU’s master's in special education program, you’ll challenge yourself to be more effective in serving students with special needs. 

You don’t work in special education because it’s easy — you do it because it matters. You want to be an educator who makes a difference in your students’ lives. That’s what we want, too.

Everyone you encounter here will share that goal with you, from your admissions counselor to your professors. Rest assured, PLNU’s School of Education will take a personal interest in you and care about your concerns, experience, beliefs, and goals.

At PLNU, we’re here for the same reasons as you: We truly believe in the power of education, and we care deeply about individuals — including you. Like you, we believe all students, no matter their challenges or needs, have value and promise. We believe the right teacher can make every student’s life better.

Relevant Topics

District partnerships ensure our curriculum addresses current needs and topics facing educators, and our added authorizations increase depth in areas important to you. As a Christian institution, PLNU equips you for the spiritual, emotional, and personal benefits and challenges of special education practice.

Customizable and Convenient

Complete courses and study material when it works best for your lifestyle. Our fully online program is offered through the state of California to allow our students the flexibility to create their own schedule. We understand your scholastic goals are unique to you and your lifestyle — and we’re here to support you through each step of the way.

Customize your experience based on your future goals. PLNU’s master’s in special education offers two tracks to choose from:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.) in Special Education  
  • Master of Science (M.S.) in Special Education

The M.A. includes an action research project and has a shorter completion time; this track can be completed in as little as 16 months. This program is meant for you if you seek to continue working in a classroom after graduation and not pursue further education — such as a doctorate.

In the M.S. track, you’ll complete a thesis that prepares you for entry into a doctorate-level program. Both options require the same number of units to complete.  

Both tracks include the following embedded in the program:

  • Reading and literacy authorization 
  • One additional authorization 
  • Google teacher certification level 1 

M.A. vs M.S. Comparison

 Master of Arts (M.A.)Master of Science (M.S).

Who it's for

The master of arts degree designates a terminal ending of the candidate’s scholarship; the degree is designed with a final action research project that integrates the candidate’s learning in the program with a field-based project that draws conclusions that are practical, relevant, and are reflective of the candidate’s teaching or leadership experience.

The master of science degree prepares a candidate for future scholarship in an area of interest. The candidate completes a five-chapter thesis that includes a relevant literature review, applies research methodology, and critically analyzes data to inform practice and theory. This degree provides a direct pathway into the proposed PLNU Ed.D. doctoral program

Program start

Spring, summer, fallSpring, summer, fall

Program Structure

Online Online  
Length16-20 months 20-24 months

Schedule

AsynchronousAsynchronous
Accreditation

WSCUC

*Approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California.

WSCUC

*Approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California.

Program Highlights Receive your M.A. online in the state of California, have a flexible schedule, work closely with your local district partnerships, add customizable added authorizations, and develop knowledge and skills that align with professional standards.

Receive your M.S. online in the state of California, have a flexible schedule, work closely with your local district partnerships, add customizable added authorizations, and develop knowledge and skills that align with professional standards.

Scholarships

Available?

YesYes

International Student 

Eligible?

YesYes

 

Lasting Network of Support

PLNU’s Education Associates alumni network keeps you connected long after graduation. Faculty members have a reputation for staying in touch and continuing to mentor students. Career counseling and additional professional development opportunities are always available to you.

Deborah Erickson Headshot

Spotlight

Deborah Erickson

Dr. Deborah Erickson, dean of PLNU’s School of Education, has been on faculty since 2013, after serving 11 years in faculty and leadership positions at California Lutheran University’s Graduate School of Education.

Read More

 

PLNU's Master of Arts in Special Education builds on the foundation of the Preliminary Education Specialist Credential and the Council for Exceptional Children’s Professional Standards. In this program, you’ll develop advanced-level knowledge, skills, and dispositions aligned with professional standards, and you’ll directly apply research-based theory and “best practices” as you teach students with special needs in your own classroom.

The following added authorizations can be taken on their own or as part of the Master of Arts in Special Education:

*The curriculum includes one embedded program in addition to Reading and Literacy Added Authorization. If you’re a credentialed teacher, the 12-unit Reading and Literacy Added Authorization will give you specialized certification to teach reading in the pre-K-12 setting.

Accreditation - WSCUC

Candidates who complete the Master of Arts in Special Education program will be prepared to:

Equip

  • Promote the success of all students by being a servant leader who serves collaboratively and effectively with professional excellence, honesty, integrity, and sensitivity.

Transform

  • Engage in ways of thinking and being to embrace the positive power of diversity and advocacy for universal social justice within classrooms, schools, districts, and communities.
  • Apply faith-based influences and beliefs within educational organizations.

Empower

  • Reflect and engage in ongoing scholarly, professional, and spiritual growth.
  • Serve as research-based transformational leaders within their classrooms, schools, districts, and communities.

Professional Licensure or Certification

This program is approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California, where Point Loma Nazarene University is physically located. PLNU cannot confirm whether or not specific programs meet out-of-state requirements for professional licensure or certification. Information about out-of-state requirements in teacher credentialing is available on this website

For more information on state authorization and program licensure, please refer to our disclosures page.

 

San Diego educator teaches students in a classroom

A Reputation for Excellence: PLNU Forms Committed San Diego Educators

PLNU’s School of Education is one of the top producers of education candidates not only within San Diego, but the state of California. Read more about the work being done at PLNU.

Application Information

Are you ready to take the next step and apply?

We're here to make the entire process a simple one. We'll walk you through the application process, answer your questions, and get you one step closer to earning your degree.

Program Start Date(s):

  • Spring 2023 Quad I — January 9, 2023
  • Spring 2023 Quad II — March 13, 2023
  • Summer 2023 Quad I — May 8, 2023
  • Summer 2023 Quad II — July 3, 2023
  • Fall 2023 Quad I — August 28, 2023
  • Fall 2023 Quad II — October 23, 2023

If you have additional prerequisites you need to complete for the program, you may start other quads. Speak with your enrollment counselor to find out more information. 

Application Deadline(s): 

  • Spring 2023 Quad I — December 19, 2022
  • Spring 2023 Quad II — February 22, 2023
  • Summer 2023 Quad I — April 19, 2023
  • Summer 2023 Quad II — June 14, 2023
  • Fall 2023 Quad I — August 9, 2023
  • Fall 2023 Quad II — October 4, 2023

Start Application

The Selection Process

The educational context at PLNU will challenge you to live a full life that integrates the pursuit of knowledge with beliefs, values, and actions. While honoring diverse perspectives and beliefs, Christian values and principles are woven into the educational experience. We understand your application is not only a reflection of you as a student; it reflects you as a person. At PLNU, we holistically evaluate your academic history, work and life experience, background, and circumstances to determine admission into a graduate program. Your undergraduate GPA is an important piece of your application, but if you do not meet the minimum GPA requirement of a 3.0, you may still be eligible for admission based on your application package as well as the exceptions policy per your particular program.* Therefore, we strongly encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor, who will advise you regarding your qualifications and provide specific information about the admission under exceptions process.

To be admitted into PLNU's master's in special education program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript.

Admissions Interview: You may be eligible for an interview waiver. Eligibility can be discussed in more depth with a PLNU admissions counselor once you've started your application. 

If you have any questions about your qualifications or the program in general, we encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor.

Application Checklist

Note: The application is completed entirely online with the exception of transcripts (which can be submitted electronically or directly to PLNU) and test scores, which should be submitted electronically.

 

  1. Submit an online application for admissions (including $50 non-refundable application fee, which is waived for PLNU alums, current or former military and their dependents, and PLNU employees).
  2. Submit official transcripts with proof of earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution. (If you are a PLNU alumnus, please notify your counselor to have your transcripts retrieved. You do not need to request transcripts from the PLNU Office of Records.)

    Official transcripts must be sent to:
    Point Loma Nazarene University
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    3900 Lomaland Dr.
    San Diego, CA 92106

    Official electronic transcripts must be emailed to:
    gradprocessing@pointloma.edu

    *Please note, official transcripts must be sent directly from the regionally accredited institution.
  3. Submit a personal essay, 2-3 pages in length and double spaced, that addresses the following topics:
    • Describe your professional career goals for the next five years.

    • Describe the variety of experiences that helped you determine these goals.

    • Explain what motivates you to work in California’s diverse schools.

    • Explain why you are applying to PLNU, a private Christian university.

  4. Provide two professional recommendations. You will be asked to register your recommenders by providing their names, titles, and email addresses.
  5. For credential seekers only: Submit basic skills exam (CBEST or equivalent) scores. This can be demonstrated by taking the CBEST exam.

    • OR Multiple Subject CSET plus writing skills examination.
    • OR CSU Early Assessment Program or the CSU Placement Examination.
    • OR providing proof of a valid California teaching credential.

Start Application

*Exceptions Policy: If you have below a 3.0 GPA in your baccalaureate degree, you will need to speak with your enrollment counselor for more information on the exceptions materials needed for your particular program.

Career Opportunities

PLNU's master's in special education will allow you to advance your practice or further specialize. The program is designed for current education specialists.

Viewpoint Article Image

A Reputation for Excellence: PLNU Forms Committed San Diego Educators

Our School of Education is one of the top producers of education candidates not only within San Diego, but the state of California. Read more about the work being done at PLNU.

 

Financial Aid and Student Support

We take seriously the role of providing you with financial, academic, and career support so you have the tools you need to be successful at PLNU and beyond. That’s why we offer a holistic support system that focuses on your unique experiences, particular needs, and personal and professional goals — resulting from our deep concern for you, our student.

With a focus on authentic relationships and personalized attention, our goal is to help transform you so you can follow your calling in your own career and life.

Financial Aid and Student Support

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s required to be admitted into this program?

To be admitted into PLNU's master's in special education program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript. You must also have an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. If you don’t meet the minimum GPA requirement, please contact your enrollment counselor regarding the exceptions process.

Should I choose an M.A. or an M.S.?

If you plan to someday earn a doctorate degree, you should pursue the M.S. 

If you do not plan to earn a doctorate, then the action research project in the M.A. will be more relevant to your teaching.

Can I work while completing the program?

Yes! This degree is designed for active teachers, and you’ll receive your fieldwork hours in the classroom. 

What scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

You’ll have the option to apply for a number of scholarships through Student Financial Services. This program qualifies for state and federal financial aid options. Contact your enrollment counselor for more information.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The expected completion depends on which track you choose. 

The M.A. track completion time is estimated to be about 16-20 months. The M.S. completion time takes longer, about 20-24 months, even though they’re the same number of units because of the time it takes to complete a thesis. 

How often do classes meet?

This entire program is offered online asynchronous.  

Are international students eligible to apply?

Yes! International students can apply during senior year of university or any time after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. If you earned your baccalaureate degree outside of the United States, all documents must be translated into English and evaluated by members of National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). You must also submit official proof of English proficiency (TOEFL). Please contact Graduate Financial Aid and Student Support Services for more information.

PLNU is a Christian university, but I am not a Christian. Would I feel out of place in this program?

We welcome and encourage people of all backgrounds as students in our programs. Issues that relate to faith may be discussed in some classes, and engaging in discussion with individuals with alternative points of view will be encouraged as learning opportunities. Students will work within a learning community that is supportive academically, spiritually, and emotionally.

If I want to become a special education teacher, is this the right program for me?

This degree does not have a preliminary credential embedded. Aspiring teachers should first enter our special education credential program to earn their credential and then enroll in the master's in special education program afterward.

What's the difference between PLNU's MAT and master's in special education programs?

The master's in special education program is an advanced degree that will identify you as having increased expertise and knowledge in special education. The MAT, although a master's degree, is a general degree. For some students, the MAT is fine. Others may want to have a degree that demonstrates a concentration area and an area of expertise. 

If you think the classroom will be the one and only place you’ll be, then the MAT is a great choice for you. If you think at some point you might like to explore other roles and positions, then the master's in special education program would make you much more marketable and qualified for anything related to special education, differentiating instruction, and student diversity. Additionally, with a master's in special education, you’d be able to move into higher education, such as adjunct professor or professor at a community college for disability student services departments, etc. 

Another factor that might help you decide one versus the other is the pay scale at your district. The master's in special education requires more units, which typically equates to higher salary on the district pay scale.

Can I earn added authorizations with this program?

Yes, students can earn one or more added authorizations of their choice within the program.

The Reading and Learning Added Authorization along with one of the following authorizations are embedded in the program. The following added authorizations can be taken on their own or as part of the Master of Arts in Special Education:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Adapted Physical Education
  • Orthopedic Impairment

Is a teaching credential a requirement for admission into the MASPED?

Yes, a teaching credential is required for admission. Other credentials such as: mild to moderate, moderate to severe, or educational specialist credential are accepted and meet admission requirements. 

How many total units are required for the MASPED degree?

The degree consists of 36 units. There is an option for 37 units if you choose to add an adapted physical education authorization (APE). 

How are courses offered?

Courses are asynchronous and offered fully online. Work toward your M.A. or M.S. in Special Education on a schedule that works best for you. 

*All fieldwork must be done in person. 

Is a master's thesis required for earning the degree?

A master’s thesis is only required if you choose to pursue your M.S. This track is designed for those who seek to continue their education through a doctoral program. 

The M.A. requires a culminating action research project, not a thesis. 

Does a candidate have to complete their MSPED degree in order to be recommended for the clear teaching credential?

No. Students can clear their special education credential without the MSPED. Students can also earn the MSPED without the clear.

What are the added authorizations available in the MSPED?

The following added authorizations can be taken on their own or as part of the Master of Arts in Special Education:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Adapted Physical Education
  • Orthopedic Impairment

How many hours of transfer credits are allowed in the MSPED?

Candidates who complete their preliminary education specialist credential with PLNU can apply 12 units of coursework toward the MSPED. The university catalog specifies that 6 units of graduate credit from a regionally accredited institution may be used in the MSPED, providing the coursework is less than seven years old at the time the master's degree is conferred and was not counted toward another degree or credential program. The minimum grade for transfer courses is B-. Transfer credits are approved by the dean of PLNU’s School of Education and the vice provost for academic administration.

Can undergraduate courses be used for the master's in special education?

No, all courses must be graduate level.

Can I clear my special education credential during this program?

PLNU only provides a clear administrative services credential. Other clear credentials were removed in 2020.

Course List

For information about the courses required for the master's in special education, view the PLNU Catalog. 

Course Information

Department Faculty

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