Special Education

MS in Special Education

Career Options

special education teacher (K-8 or 7-12)

The Master of Science in Special Education is designed for people teaching exceptional children, whether new to the profession or already having experience. The Special Education master's provides:

  • courses and internships for initial teacher certification in teaching students with mild to severe disabilities,
  • coursework in various specialty areas such as teaching students who are gifted and talented and students on the autism spectrum, and
  • preparation to collaborate effectively in school-wide, multi-tiered systems of support, e.g., Response to Intervention (RTI).

Current general education teachers, specialty area professionals such as occupational therapists, special education teachers, paraeducators, and people with a bachelor's degree seeking a new teaching career in special education are among those for whom the program is intended.

The program has two strands:

1. Initial Certification: Teaching Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities

The strand includes the coursework for two initial special education teaching certificates: teacher of students with disabilities K-8 and 7-12 (Maine 282) or teacher of students with severe disabilities K - 12 (286). Maine initial special education teacher certification requires student teaching. Student teaching in both areas is available.

2. In-service: special education, and gifted and talented education

The in-service concentration includes a core set of courses specficially designed for teachers. The concentration requires teaching in a teaching position and professional teacher certification for entrance.

There are two strands within the M.S. in Special Education. They are:


Program Requirements – Initial Certification Strand

Teaching Students with Mild to Severe Disabilities

The special education teacher certification and master's degree program integrating the requirements for Maine certification as a Teacher of Students with Disabilities (K-8 and 7-12) and a Teacher of Students with Severe Impairments (K-12).

The 39 credit Master's degree program includes :

  1. Recommendation for Maine provisional special education teacher certification in one of two areas: (1) Maine 282 K-8 or 7-12, for mild to moderate disabilities, or (2) Maine 286 provisional special education teacher certification, K-12, for severe disabilities.  
  2. Six elective credits selected by the candidate and approved by the advisor. Elective credits can contribute to graduate certificates in Applied Behavior Analysis, Gifted and Talented Education, and Special Education Consultant, among others.
  3. Master of Science in Special Education

Teacher of Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities: 282 Certification Concentration (39 credits, plus prerequisite)

Prerequisites:  Maine certification Exceptionality Course SED 540, SED 335, or course course approved by the Maine Office of Certification.  Passing scores for Praxis I  Pre-Professional Skills Test.

SED 518 Instructional Strategies for Learners with Special Needs
SED 615 Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports  
SED 653 Assessment in Special Education  
SED 682 Special Education Law 
SED 693 Transitions Among Agency, School, and Community 
SPY 620 Multi-Tier Systems of Student Support 
SPY 625 Multi-Tier Mathematics Instruction for General and Special Education
SPY 627 Multi-Tier Reading Instruction for General and Special Education
SED 688 Internship in Special Education for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities 

Recommended for 282 certification following completion of internship, above coursework, and meeting Maine passing scores for Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills Test and Praxis II Special Education:  Core Knowledge and Applications

Continuing coursework for Master’s degree:

EDU 600 Research Methods   
Electives six (6) credits with advisor approval

Teacher of Students with Severe Disabilities: 286 Certification Concentration (39 credits, plus prerequisite)

Prerequisites:  Maine certification Exceptionality Course SED 540, SED 335, or course course approved by the Maine Office of Certification.  Passing scores for Praxis I  Pre-Professional Skills Test.

SED 612 Youth with Moderate to Severe Disabilities
SED 615 Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports
SED 621 Teaching Functional Life Skills 
SED 653 Assessment in Special Education   
SED 682 Special Education Law 
SED 693 Transitions Among Agency, School, and Community
SED 695  Internship in Special Education for Students with Severe Disabilities
SPY 601 Behavioral Principles of Learning
SPY 629 ABA and Developmental Disabilities

Recommended for 286 certification following completion of internship, above coursework, and meeting Maine passing scores for Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills Test and Praxis II Special Education:  Teaching Students with Mental Retardation

Continuing coursework for Master’s degree:

EDU 600 Research Methods   
Electives six (6) credits with advisor approval

Tk20 Subscription:

All undergraduate and graduate students who matriculate into an Educator Preparation program or pathway in USM summer 2013 or later are required to subscribe to the Tk20 online data management system. The subscription allows students to use the system for assessment, advisement, field-experience and career portfolio management. The subscription fee of $103 covers some of the expenses related to the administration and assessment of the program. For loan purposes, it will be eligible for consideration as part of costs. The subscription is a one-time payment and must be made by each student during the first semester of program or pathway matriculation (check with individual programs and pathways for specific subscription timelines). Subscription instructions are posted on the Office of Educator Preparation web site: http://usm.maine.edu/educatorpreparation 

Please note Professional Education Council Policy:  In order for USM’s Education Preparation Unit program completers to be recommended by the institution to the state for certification or licensure, the candidate must provide evidence of meeting all certification requirements including proficiency on the standards relevant to his/her state approved professional program and this evidence must be compiled and assessed with in the context of the Unit’s data management system (i.e., Tk20). 

Professional Licensure and Certification Notice

Students who are pursuing degrees leading to application for professional licensure or certification, and/or who will be participating in clinical placements, internships, or practica through their USM program should be aware that their host facility may require a criminal background check, finger printing, or drug screening. In such situations, each student is responsible for obtaining and paying for the background check or other screening process and for delivering required documentation to the facility. Although the University will make reasonable efforts to place admitted students in field experiences and internships, it will be up to the host facility to determine whether a student will be allowed to work at that facility. Students should further be aware that a criminal record may jeopardize licensure by the state certification body. Students may consult the certification body corresponding to their intended occupation for more details. Successful completion of a program of study at USM does not guarantee licensure, certification, or employment in the relevant occupation.


Program Requirements – In-Service Strand (certified educators):

This strand is especially designed for educators who are interested in working with students who have disabilities. The flexibility of twenty-four elective credits makes this program unique, as students can take courses that are geared towards the special education environment in which they are working. Through this concentration, students can also complete the Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate or one of the Certificates of Graduate Study in Gifted and Talented Education, Teaching ALL Students, or Youth with Moderate-to-Severe Disabilities. In addition, the courses that graduate students may select for their electives range from working with students with mild disabilities in a general education classroom to working with students in a life skills classroom who have severe disabilities. Educators in this strand already certified in special education can apply for an area of certification not already held, i.e., teaching students with disabilities (282) or teaching students with moderate to severe disabilities (286) while in the program, through the state.

Core Courses (9 credits)
     EDU 600 Research Methods and Techniques (3 credits)
     Two of the following research courses:
     SED 697 Universal Design Implemented (3 credits)
     SED 699 Directed Study (3 credits)
     SPY 602 Clinical Research Methods (3 credits)

Electives (24 credits)

The elective courses allow students to tailor their master's programs to their interests and the areas they feel they need further study in to become better teachers for students with exceptionalities. These courses will be discussed with the student's advisor and written in an agreement between the student and his/her advisor. Any course changes from this agreement will need to be approved, in writing, by the student's advisor.

At least fifteen of these credits need to be directly related to working with students with disabilities. All courses need to be graduate level. They can be taken from any graduate department at USM or through the Professional Development Center at USM with prior approval by the advisor.

Admission Requirements -


Admission Requirements for Initial Certification Strand:

Minimum Requirements: Applicant must have a bachelor's degree, from a regionally accredited college or university, and have earned a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale) in a baccalaureate degree program.

Applicants who do not have a 2.5 overall GPA must enclose a letter asking for special consideration, in which they provide evidence of an ability to complete graduate studies successfully. Without such a letter, applicants who fail to meet eligibility requirements may be automatically denied. The applicant must also have attained teacher certification in any subject and in any state.

Prerequisites:  Maine certification Exceptionality Course SED 540, SED 335, or course course approved by the Maine Office of Certification.  Passing scores for Praxis I  Pre-Professional Skills Test.

Application Deadline

Application Deadline for the Initial Certification Strand: Rolling with priority deadlines: March 1 for summer matriculation, May 1 for fall matriculation, Oct 15 for spring matriculation

Candidates should submit all application materials to the USM Office of Graduate Admissions, P.O. Box 9300, Portland, ME 04104-9300 by the application deadline.

Application must include:

  • A submitted online graduate admission application;
  • The application fee of $65.00;
  • Official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, excluding the seven campuses of the University of Maine system. A transcript is official when it comes directly from the institution. If an applicant is submitting an official transcript, it must be in a sealed envelope from the institution indicating that it is an official document. If the envelope has been opened prior to arriving at the Office of Graduate Admissions, it is no longer considered an official transcript;
  • Three letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant's knowledge of current scholarship, capacity to connect theory and practice in posing and solving educational problems, achievement of success in educational practice, and demonstrated capability and motivation to engage in advanced graduate study. Recommendations are easily submitted using our online application form. You will simply need to provide the name and email address for each of your recommenders during the application process. Once you submit your application, an email will be automatically generated to your recommenders directing them to fill out the electronic letter of recommendation;
  • Essay: see essay question below;
  • Current resume;
  • Praxis I exam passed based on Maine's standards;
  • Completed and signed Completion of Exceptionalities Course Form. Completion of Maine’s required exceptionality course for all teachers at USM or another institution.  If not from USM, the candidate provides documentation that the course has been approved as an exceptionality course by the Maine Office of Certification and include an official transcript showing the course;
  • Certification of finances (international students only);
  • Submission of official TOEFL or IELTS scores (if English is not the applicant's first language);
  • In addition to the above submitted materials, applicants must complete a free Tk20 Application in order for your application to be reviewed. The link to the instructions can be found here: http://usm.maine.edu/sites/default/files/educatorpreparation/How-to-Create-Free-Admission-Application-Account-in-Tk20.pdf

Special Essay Question for Initial Certification Strand

A free appropriate public education for students with disabilities represents our democratic society's commitment to educating all its children. A teacher lives out this commitment in his/her daily instruction and professional activities as an educator. Please describe what you think it means as a teacher to provide equitable learning opportunities for all students, including students with disabilities.

Testing Requirement

Submit official TOEFL scores of 550 or higher on the paper-based test, 79 or higher on the Internet-based test, or 213 or higher on the computer-based test, or an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher if the applicant is an international student whose first language is not English. International students who have received their undergraduate degree from an English-speaking institution may apply for a waiver of this requirement.

Transfer Policies

Transferring courses into the degree: Non-matriculated students may take two graduate-level courses (six credit hours) that they pass with a grade of 'B' or better prior to applying. Students may enroll in up to two graduate-level courses for the semester in which they apply (six graduate credit hours). A possible total of twelve graduate-level credits may be completed before matriculating in the program. Only courses taken within five years of application will be considered. Transfer credits are evaluated during the admissions process, so syllabi and course description of courses for transfer credit requests should accompany the application. If an applicant has questions on whether courses will transfer into a program or not, s/he should discuss the credit transfer with the Program Coordinator.

Transferring to a different strand after matriculation: A candidate must apply to the new strand using a Re-Application form with a processing fee of $15. The application and supporting materials are sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions. The application will be reviewed by faculty for approval.


Admission Requirements for the InService Strand:

Minimum Requirements: Applicant must have a bachelor's degree, from a regionally accredited college or university, and have earned a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale) in a baccalaureate degree program.

iApplicants who do not have a 2.5 overall GPA must enclose a letter asking for special consideration, in which they provide evidence of an ability to complete graduate studies successfully. Without such a letter, applicants who fail to meet eligibility requirements may be automatically denied. The applicant must also have attained teacher certification in any subject and in any state.

Application Deadline

Application Deadline for the In-Service Strand: Rolling with priority deadlines May1 for fall matriculation and October 15 for spring matriculation

Candidates should submit all application materials to the USM Office of Graduate Admissions, P.O. Box 9300, Portland, ME 04104-9300 by the application deadline.

Application must include:

  • A submitted online graduate admission application;
  • The application fee of $65.00;
  • Official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, excluding the seven campuses of the University of Maine system. A transcript is official when it comes directly from the institution. If an applicant is submitting an official transcript, it must be in a sealed envelope from the institution indicating that it is an official document. If the envelope has been opened prior to arriving at the Office of Graduate Admissions, it is no longer considered an official transcript;
  • Three letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant's knowledge of current scholarship, capacity to connect theory and practice in posing and solving educational problems, achievement of success in educational practice, and demonstrated capability and motivation to engage in advanced graduate study. Recommendations are easily submitted using our online application form. You will simply need to provide the name and email address for each of your recommenders during the application process. Once you submit your application, an email will be automatically generated to your recommenders directing them to fill out the electronic letter of recommendation.
  • Essay: see essay question below;
  • Current resume;
  • Completed and signed Teacher Credential Summary form
  • Certification of finances (international students only);
  • Submission of official TOEFL or IELTS scores (if English is not the applicant's first language);

Special Essay Questions for In-Service Strand
Describe why you are enrolling in this program.
     a. What goals do you have for yourself by obtaining a master's in Special Education in this concentration?
     b. What is at least one aspect of your teaching that you feel you will strengthen through earning this master's degree?
Describe your past experience with youth, either in teaching or in another capacity.
     a. What did you learn about youth through this experience?
     b. What did you learn about yourself through this experience?

Transfer Policies

Transferring courses into the degree: Non-matriculated students may take two graduate-level courses (six credit hours) that they pass with a grade of 'B' or better prior to applying. Students may enroll in up to two graduate-level courses for the semester in which they apply (six graduate credit hours). A possible total of twelve graduate-level credits may be completed before matriculating in the program. Only courses taken within five years of application will be considered. Transfer credits are evaluated during the admissions process, so syllabi and course description of courses for transfer credit requests should accompany the application. If an applicant has questions on whether courses will transfer into a program or not, s/he should discuss the credit transfer with the Program Coordinator.

Transferring to a different strand after matriculation: A candidate must apply to the new strand using a Re-Application form with a processing fee of $15. The application and supporting materials are sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions. The application will be reviewed by faculty for approval.