The Master of Science degree in Special Education is designed for those who want to work with students who have disabilities, including learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, and mild intellectual disabilities. The Master of Science in Special Education is offered with a certification option for those who wish to become teachers and features concentrations including early childhood, mild to moderate disabilities and severe disabilities.

Whether you’re an experienced special education teacher, someone interested in becoming a special education teacher while acquiring your teaching certification, or an educational administrator who wants to acquire a deeper understanding of educating students with special needs, you’re likely to find a Master’s in Special Education program that fits your educational needs and the demands of your busy life.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Special Education Masters programs, we invite you explore this website through the links below, view an online information session with Dr. Laurie deBettencourt ( ), or contact Academic Coordinator Camilla Mika-Simms by calling 410-516-9760 or via email (

Contact Us

Faculty Contact
Dr. Laurie deBettencourt

Academic Coordinator
Camilla Mika-Simms

Our faculty are recognized as national leaders in special education and our master’s programs train individuals to support students with unique needs. We offer a number of master’s programs that will lead to initial teaching licensure as well as programs that will build on a candidate’s initial licensure.

Our special education programs are unique in that they prepare educators and other related professionals to work with students with disabilities across settings (e.g., general education classrooms, special education resource rooms or self-contained special schools).

We offer master’s degrees emphasizing training in evidence-based practices, behavior management, technology and collaborative practices. We offer three distinct program areas:

  1. Mild /Moderate Disabilities (i.e., learning disabilities, mild emotional disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities) with a focus at the elementary or secondary levels;
  2.  Early Childhood Disabilities (i.e., birth to 3rd grade); and
  3. Severe Disabilities (i.e., Autism, significant intellectual disabilities).

Our applicants may have majored in psychology, sociology, English, religious studies or any of many other disciplines as undergraduates. When they finish our master’s programs, they will be able to apply evidence-based teaching procedures that build on the basic background knowledge acquired during undergraduate studies. With the combination of two supervised internship experiences (6 credits) and 11 course-based instruction experiences (33 credits), our candidates are prepared for success in helping students with disabilities across settings.

Candidates who complete our master’s degrees are eligible for Maryland State Certification (i.e., generic special education). Our programs are approved by Maryland State Department and this approval will allow our graduates to be employed as special educators in 47 states.

Highlights of our Master’s Degree Programs:

  • All candidates complete two supervised internships (10 weeks each) with supervision from mentor teachers, university supervisors and faculty instructors.
  • Candidates in the Mild Moderate Disabilities Master’s Program complete two methods courses at the elementary or secondary levels (e.g., Math Methods, and Spoken and Written Language Methods, or Transition/Career Assessment and Diversifying Secondary Content Classes).
  • All candidates receive training in managing behavior and in most programs complete two behavior management courses (e.g., Applied Behavior Analysis and classroom behavior management).

How we measure success of our candidates:

  • All candidates complete four milestones:
  1. Scores on Praxis Core Exams in reading, writing and math at entry,
  2. Passing scores on Praxis II exams in content area of special education, within first two semesters of study,
  3. Passing score on written comprehensive examination during the final half of their study, and
  4. Passing score on Advanced Graduate Project, which includes completing a presentation and a written paper demonstrating their knowledge and application of evidence-based practices in of special education during the final semester of study.
  • All candidates complete course-based assignments that are based on theory and best practices, and provide evidence that our candidates can apply the skills that they are taught.

Jobs after graduation include special education teacher, para-educator in a special education setting, special education leader and special educator within a specialized program such as a hospital, preschool or residential school.

We offer several specialized certificates that provide specific training in the areas of Autism, Early Intervention and Differentiated Instruction

  • Certificates can be completed by general educators, parents, related professionals or special educators for more in-depth understanding of the areas of focus.
  • Certificates consist of a maximum of six 3-credit courses and two certificates may be combined together to earn a master’s degree in special education (without state certification) when students also complete a graduate project.
  • Certificates can be completed within a one-year period with course assignments featuring applied projects in schools.
  • Ideal for general educators working in classrooms serving diverse student populations.

Autism Certificate (*will be offered online beginning Fall of 2017)

This 15-credit graduate certificate program, designed for certified special educators and professionals from the related services disciplines, provides training on a wide range of competencies that are necessary for the provision of effective and empirically supported educational programming for students diagnosed with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders. Candidates who complete this certificate gain the expertise to address the instructional needs of the increasing number of students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Graduates become leaders who can assist general educators, parents, administrators, among others, in understanding the identification, characteristics and services that are most appropriate for this population of students in both general and special education classrooms.

Early Intervention Certificate

This 15-credit certificate program is designed for students who are already certified in preschool/primary education and who wish to acquire knowledge and skills associated with highly effective practices of early intervention for young children with disabilities from birth to 5 years of age.

Differentiated Instruction Certificate

This 15-credit certificate program is designed for educators who are challenged by students’ varied learning backgrounds and needs. Program content provides practical classroom-based methodologies for educators teaching within heterogeneous classroom settings. Candidates acquire methodologies for differentiating curriculum outcomes and instructional techniques to effectively teach the range of students in classrooms today, including students with disabilities, bilingual backgrounds, at-risk students, typical learners and gifted learners. Graduates are better prepared to meet the needs of today’s increasingly diverse student population.

We offer a Post-Master’s Certificate for individuals interested in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Applied Behavior Analysis, which includes numerous empirically supported interventions based on the principles of behavior, is used to improve socially significant behaviors, including academic, social and behavioral skills acquired within a classroom setting.

This 24-credit certificate program, with courses offered in the fall and spring semesters, is designed for special educators, administrators and school counselors to become experts in the evidence-based practice of ABA. Candidates complete coursework (18 credits) and two supervised practica (6 credits) over a two-year program. The coursework and practica experience is verified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Graduates of our program are trained in evidence-based practices for teaching students who require special education services. Training that focuses on the science and methodology of ABA results in educators who are better prepared to meet the growing needs of a population of students requiring special education services. Graduates of the program are prepared to sit for the certification exam and become board certified behavior analysts (BCBA). For more information on becoming a BCBA, see the following website:

  • Completion of online application
  • Submission of application fee
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (Cumulative GPA must be 3.0 or better)
  • An essay describing your goals and how the program will assist meeting those goals
  • A current resume or CV
  • Two (for part-time program options) or three (for the full-time program) letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your work with children with disabilities
  • Test Score requirements for certification programs:
    • Full-time master’s degree–submission of GRE scores is required
    • Part-time master’s degrees / Montgomery County partnership program–submission of passing scores on Praxis I, SAT, ACT, or GRE
    • For information on passing score requirements, please refer to the Maryland State Department of Education website
  • Applicants invited for interview will be asked to provide a written response to a prompt and will be asked to “audition” by responding to classroom scenarios provided by faculty interviewers

For more information on the application process, please view the SOE admissions page.


Mission Statement:

To prepare exemplary special education professionals (teachers and related services personnel) who can provide all students with quality educational experiences and serve as positive agents of change within their educational environments.


  1.   Secure accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP—formerly NCATE) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), as well as approval by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).
  2.   Graduate highly qualified special educators as measured by the successful completion of coursework, comprehensive exams, graduate projects and presentations, and required state Praxis exams.
  3.   Graduate highly qualified special educators who possess the requisite competencies to effectively educate students with exceptionalities from a diverse range of backgrounds and needs in a variety of educational settings.


  1.   To prepare qualified and credentialed special education professionals who are prepared to apply evidenced-based strategies.
  2.   To provide multiple opportunities to bridge theory with practice.
  3.   To prepare qualified and credentialed special education professionals who possess and exhibit collaborative and ethical behaviors with students and colleagues.
  4.   To prepare qualified and credentialed special education professionals have acquired the knowledge to access necessary resources and the professional networks that will further their professional development.
  5.   To provide cutting edge research and excellent instruction as evidenced by faculty scholarship and teaching evaluations.

The expected learning outcomes for graduates of the School of Education’s MS in Special Education certification programs are measured across seven content standard areas, as outlined by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC, 2012).


Field Experience Office

The Field Experience Office coordinates the internship and practicum placements for students participating in the Teaching and Learning, Special Education, Counseling and Human Development, and School Administration and Supervision programs, within Professional Development Schools, partner private schools and in surrounding cooperating public school districts.

Placement in practicum and internship field experiences is an integral part of your program of study at the JHU School of Education. Information on this site is relevant for students whose program of study requires an internship or practicum placement.  The field experience process begins one term prior to placement and the first step is to contact with your faculty advisor. Placement in school and community settings provides the opportunity for you to put your coursework knowledge into practice while refining your skills and collaborating with other professionals in your field.

Visit the Field Experience Office for more information.


Upon completion of 4 core courses (12 credit hours) and 6 Program Specific courses (18 credit hours for a total of 30 completed credit hours; not including the internships) students must successfully complete a 3-hour Comprehensive Exam.

The Comprehensive Exam assesses general and specific knowledge of special education. The three hour on-site sit-down Comprehensive Exam allows faculty to evaluate courses, programs, and the knowledge base gained by individual and groups of students during their Masters studies. The Comprehensive Exam also allows faculty to determine that all students have a knowledge base to prepare them to be successful educators. The questions on the comprehensive exam will be aligned with the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) standards.

Students should contact their advisor for more information about the comprehensive exam.


The graduate project and presentation serve as a culminating activity for students to demonstrate application of knowledge and competency in the field of special education. Since the graduate project is individualized, the graduate project will be aligned to CEC standards based on the focus of the project. The final product will be decided upon between the student and the faculty advisor. 

Students should plan to complete their graduate project during their last semester of enrollment. The graduate project can be completed during the same semester the student completes the culmination internship.

During the first two weeks of the their last semester of enrollment, students must meet with their faculty advisor to discuss the type of graduate project they will complete and fill out the Special Education Master’s Degree Graduate Project form. The student and faculty advisor will sign the form. Once the form is complete, students can begin working on their graduate project. The final due date for the graduate project will be agreed upon by the student and faculty advisor and will be listed on the form.