Special Education, M.A.

Program Overview

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.

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

When you join PLNU’s Master of Arts in Special Education program, you will challenge yourself to be more effective in serving students with special needs. 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.

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

Choose from multiple locations, full- or part-time schedules, and face-to-face, online, and hybrid course options. Benefit from specializations offered through added authorizations with even more options pending.

Lasting Network of Support

PLNU’s education alumni network, Education Associates, 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

Deborah Erickson

Dr. Deborah Erickson, dean of the School of Education, has been on faculty at PLNU since 2013, after serving 11 years in faculty and leadership positions at the Graduate School of Education at California Lutheran University. Learn more about Dean Erickson's background and the School of Education's program initiatives. 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 will develop advanced-level knowledge, skills, and dispositions aligned with professional standards, and you will directly apply research-based theory and “best practices” as you teach students with special needs in your own classroom.

The Clear Education Specialist Credential requirements can be incorporated into this advanced degree and are strategically aligned and blended with induction requirements to equip special education teachers in induction programs to address the clear (level II) credential proficiency requirements.

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

Accreditation - WASC, NCATE, CTC

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


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


  • 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.


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


Course List

Detailed course information is available on the course catalog: 

Master of Arts in Special Education

Department Faculty

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.

Application Deadlines:

  • Summer 2018 Quad II – May 28, 2018
  • Fall 2018 Quad I – July 16, 2018
  • Fall 2018 Quad II – September 10, 2018
  • Spring 2019 Quad I – November 5, 2018
  • Spring 2019 Quad II – January 28, 2019

Note: Not all programs offer entry for new students each quad. Check with your enrollment counselor for programs and start dates.

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 of Arts in Special Education program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript.

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.

    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:
  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.

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

Career Opportunities

The Master of Arts in Special Education will allow you to advance your practice or further specialize. The program is designed for current education specialists.