Special Education, M.A.

Special Education, M.A.


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.

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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.

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

Accreditation - WSCUC

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.

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

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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.

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):

  • Fall 2022 Quad I - August 29, 2022

  • Fall 2022 Quad II - October 24, 2022

Application Deadline(s): 

  • Fall 2022 Quad I - August 10, 2022

  • Fall 2022 Quad II - October 5, 2022

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. (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:
  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.

Professional Licensure or Certification

PLNU cannot confirm whether or not specific programs meet out-of-state requirements for Professional Licensure or Certification. 

For more information on State Authorization and Program Licensure, please refer to our disclosures page.

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.

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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 is required to be admitted into this program?

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. 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.

Can I work while completing the program?


What scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

You will 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 time is 18 to 24 months.

How many days a week do classes meet?

Face-to-face classes meet once a week from 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. Fifty percent of this program can be completed online. Online classes require a minimum of three logins per week.

How large will the classes be?

Class sizes have a 30-student maximum for face-to-face classes and a 25-student maximum for online classes.

Are international students eligible to apply?

Yes! As an international student, you can apply as a senior in university or any time after you obtain your 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 Ed 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 MASPED afterwards.

What's the difference between PLNU's MAT and MASPED programs?

The MASPED 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! For others, they 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 that you will be, then the MAT is a great choice for you. If you think that at some point you might like to explore other roles and positions, then the MASPED would make you much more marketable and qualified for anything related to special education, differentiating instruction, and student diversity. Also, with a MASPED, you would be able to move into higher education, such as adjunct professor or professor at a community college for the disability student services departments, etc. Another factor that might help you decide one versus the other is the pay scale at your district. The MASPED requires more units. Typically, more graduate units equates to higher salary on the district pay scale.

Can I earn an added authorizations with this program?

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

Is the CBEST a requirement for admission into the MASPED?


How many total units are required for the MASPED degree?

MASPED requires 36 graduate units. Twenty-one of those units are core classes and include a master's research design project. The remaining units can be applied to a variety of elective courses within the School of Education and must be applied in such a way as to earn at least one or more added authorizations. If students want to also clear their credential the MASPED + Clear requires a total of 39 units.

How are courses offered?

Courses for the MASPED degree program are offered in eight-week quads throughout the calendar year. While many of the courses are offered in a traditional classroom, face-to-face environment, others are offered online. Some classes are offered in both formats and provide students with a choice of instructional delivery.

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

Yes. Within the Master's of Arts in Special Education (and like every other master's program within PLNU School of Education), students are required to complete a three-unit semester long course called culminating research and design. This course is designed to prepare students for the research and the writing of a master research paper focused on a single research question. After successful completion of this course, students will receive an university mentor to guide them in completing their research project.

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

No. Students can clear their special ed credential without the MASPED. Students can also earn the MASPED without the clear.

What are the added authorizations available in the MASPED?

There are seven added authorizations for special education: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Other Health Impaired (OHI), Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), Adaptive Physical Education (APE), Orthopedic Impairment (OI), and Emotional Disturbance (ED).

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

Candidates who complete their preliminary education specialist credential with PLNU can apply 12 units of coursework toward the MASPED. University catalog specifies that six units of graduate credit from a regionally accredited institution may be used in the MASPED, providing the coursework is less than seven years old at the time the MA 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 the School of Education and the vice-provost for academic administration.

Can undergraduate courses be used for the MASPED?

No. All courses must be graduate level.

Can I clear my special ed credential during this program?

Yes, students can select to clear their credential (induction) while in this program. Please note the induction takes two years and entrance is only offered in the fall. Candidates may start the induction program leading to a clear credential only after they hold a valid preliminary education specialist credential AND only while employed as an education specialist in a public, private, or non-public California school.

What is included in the clear portion of the MASPED degree?

Candidates will be required to complete course work and induction. The course work includes 15 units that lead to an added authorization.GED 622 or GED 650, GED 656 and an added authorization course. Induction includes two years of coursework GED 613 A, B, C and GED 614 A, B, C.

Course List

For information about the courses required for the Special Education, M.A. program, view the PLNU Catalog. 

Course Information

Department Faculty