Special Education — Certification | Online

Program Type
Master’s Program (Online)
Master of Science (MS)
Mode of Study

Tuition per credit hour

$460 for in-state and
$494 for out-of-state residents. See details and other costs

Credit hours

39 required credit hours. Most courses are equal to 3 credit hours. Browse course list

Financial aid

Over 150 graduate assistantships available with stipend & tuition assistance, plus scholarship & fellowship opportunities. Explore aid


No GRE required. Priority dates: May 1 for fall, Oct 15 for spring, March 1 for summer. View application process & deadlines

Program Highlights

  • Qualify for certification through the Maine Dept. of Education to teach students with mild-to-moderate disabilities in grades K-8 or 7-12.
  • Balance your schedule while completing a degree: Our fully online program allows you to complete coursework from wherever you are — and continue working.
  • Earn your degree on your terms: Study full-time and finish in as few as 2 years, or study part-time and take up to 4 years.
  • Gain field experience including observation, tutoring, and a two-semester internship of student teaching internship.
  • Save money with reduced e-tuition for out-of-state students.
  • Join an alumni network with a 100% job placement rate, including Maine Teacher of the Year recipients, and many serving in leadership roles at both district and state levels.
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Career opportunities

This degree is designed for individuals seeking certification to teach students with disabilities, whether new to the profession or with previous teaching experience. Current general education teachers, related service providers, and paraprofessionals such as education technicians, are among those for whom the program is intended.

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Graduates are qualified for initial certification to teach students with mild-to-moderate disabilities (Certificate 282) in grades K-8 or 7-12 through the Maine Department of Education.

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Hands-on learning

You’ll complete a number of field experiences, including two semester-long internships in special education services in accordance with the Maine Teacher Certification Standards.

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Program requirements

Our program focuses on evidence-based instruction in areas such as reading and math, and on assessment practices for the continuum of needs and specialized services for mild-to-moderate disabilities.

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Dedicated, engaged faculty

Our full-time faculty hold doctoral degrees in special education, and part-time faculty are practicing educators with many years of K-12 experience. Many are leaders in state and national associations and are nationally-recognized for expertise in supporting a Multi-Tiered System of Supports.

Graduate students attend their orientation in a lecture hall, with a staff member speaking at a podium.

Graduate student support

Our Office of Graduate Studies connects you with opportunities for professional development, scholarships, and graduate assistantships. They also foster our graduate student community through Peer Mentorship and the Graduate Student Board.

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Scholarship opportunities

Scholarships offer financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. We encourage students in graduate degree programs to apply for scholarship opportunities.

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National accreditation & state approval

Nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), our program is also approved by the Maine Department of Education.

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Connect with us

Our monthly Graduate Information Sessions are an excellent way to learn more about the benefits of our program, as well as our admissions and financial process.

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Next steps

Our graduate admissions counselors are here to answer your questions about the admissions process, our academic programs, and student support services.

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Meet us

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Admission information: Special Education — Certification MS

Application deadlines

We accept applications on a rolling basis and review them continuously.

Application deadlineFall term startSpring term startSummer term start
RecommendedMay 1October 15March 1
FinalAugust 1December 15April 15
International applicantsJune 1October 15Not available
  • Who this program is designed for: current general education teachers, specialty area professionals such as occupational therapists, education technicians, and people with a bachelor’s degree who are seeking initial certification.
  • 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 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in a baccalaureate degree program. Applicants who do not have a 3.0 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.
  • Prerequisite: Maine certification Exceptionality Course SED 540, SED 335, or equivalent. This course can also be taken in the first year of the program.

Applicants are required to provide the following materials:

General requirements

  • Application: Online application
  • Application fee:
    • In-state, out-of-state, and Canadian applicants: Free to apply
    • International applicants: Submit US $50 fee to apply
  • Transcripts: Official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, excluding the seven campuses of the University of Maine System (UMS transcripts are accessible to USM). A transcript is official when sent directly from the institution.
  • Resume: Submit a resume or CV that outlines professional, volunteer, and community experience.
  • Students whose first language is not English may be required to take one of the following: Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Pearson Test of English (PTE) or Duolingo. Applicants must submit official scores as part of the application process. See additional information regarding test scores and requirements.

Additional requirements

  • Essay: 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.
  • Recommendation: One letter of recommendation attesting to the applicant’s experience working with Pre-K to 12th grade children and 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.
  • References: Two references attesting to the applicants with knowledge of experience with Pre-K to 12th grade students and 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.
  • 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 includes an official transcript showing the course. If students do not have this course completed prior to the start of their first semester, they will be able to take this course as part of their masters program.
  • Interview: The Integrated concentration requires a formal interview. Qualified candidates will be selected on the basis of the application materials and will be invited to interview.

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 descriptions 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 Faculty.

Transferring to a different concentration after matriculation: A candidate must apply to the new concentration by submitting a new graduate application for admissions.  The application and supporting materials are sent to the Office of Admissions. The application will be reviewed by faculty for approval.

International student instructions

View additional application requirements

English proficiency test scores

View test requirements

Where to send application materials

Get our mailing address and email address