Special Education - Core Curriculum - MS

Program Code: SPEDCORE
Master of Science

Availability: campus

  • Introduction
    The graduate department in Special Education and Applied Disabilites Studies is designed to afford providers of educational and behavioral services opportunities to (a) refine their critical thinking and analytical skills to the highest level of proficiency necessary to attain excellence in the field, and (b) develop applied research competencies necessary to create innovations in education and behavioral services that benefit individuals with disabilities or unique learning needs. Graduate students are encouraged to become scientist-practitioners, in which they refine and redefine the links between teaching and research, theory and researchbased practice. Following a scientist-practitioner model, graduates from our program will have the unique ability to advance both the science and art involved in a meaningful careers in services for individuals with disabilities.

    The graduate department in Special Education provides the candidate with the experiences in field-centered activities, strongly supported by the principles of evidence-based practices, effective and appropriate education, normalization, critical pedagogy, and tolerance of individual differences. Candidates are prepared to assess learning and behavioral strengths and deficits in order to help individuals grow and achieve their goals within the contexts of special education and behavioral service settings.

    Through this program, students may pursue teacher certification, Pennsylvania Behavior Specialist Licensure, and Autism Spectrum Disorder Endorsement from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis is designed to meet the educational requirements for certification by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. Additionally, students may complete concentrations in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Applied Disability Service in Higher Education or English Language Learners. The ASD concentration allows students to receive an endorsement on their Pennsylvania Department of Education certificates.

    Mission Statement
    The mission of the graduate department in Special Education is to provide current and future special education practitioners with the skills and experiences necessary to implement evidence-based practices in the helping professions of teaching, behavior analysis, and disability services. A Mercyhurst, the graduate of Special Education is prepared to create learning opportunities that allow individuals with educational and behavioral challenges to realize opportunities for self-determination and independence. Our graduates are encouraged to follow a scientist-practitioner model, serving the field in three evidence-driven ways: to incorporate research in their practice as teachers and clinicians; to produce applied research or datadriven strategies in both their graduate studies and their professional careers; and to disseminate their clinical or research endeavors through the presentation of resulting data to others in the field.

    Admission Requirements
    Students seeking admission to the graduate program in Special Education at Mercyhurst must meet the following minimum requirements and submit the following items:

  • An undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 overall, with at least 3.0 in their major field.
  • An undergraduate transcript. All official transcripts from accredited higher education institutions are required to apply (transcripts from international universities must be evaluated by World Education Services or an equivalent service approved by the Office of GCE; please use “course-by-course report”).
  • Academic, scholarship and leadership potential as evidenced by three positive recommendations from supervisors or faculty.
  • A personal statement outlining in narrative form the candidate’s career path, professional aspirations and professional interests.
  • A complete application form, which can be found online at mercyhurst. edu/graduate.
  • A professional resume or curriculum vitae.
  • (Optional) A personal interview may be requested after reviewing the application.
  • The graduate program in Special Education operates on a semester schedule. Fall and spring semesters are each 16 weeks long. Summer session courses and advanced institutes are also offered to meet the needs of school personnel in the area. On-campus courses are offered in the evening, meeting once or twice per week. Several courses are available online. New students are admitted to the program each semester.

    Professional Education Portfolio (PEP)
    Students currently employed in the field of special education and disabilities services may earn Credit for Life Experience by completing a Professional Education Portfolio (PEP) The PEP documents the students’ ability to interpret learning outcomes and how they are assessed, consider methods in which the learning outcomes can be addressed (i.e., outside the traditional university course), and critically examine their own prior professional learning opportunities. Specifically, the goal is to produce ethical leaders in the field of education and disability studies who are cognizant of how (a) professional standards and organization policy impact the student’s right to effective programming, (b) educational goals, curriculum assessments, and measurable objectives, drive the implementation of evidence-based practices, and (c) laws, legislation, and the local community impact effective educational practices. The PEP requires the student to document evidence across two domains. Once the PEP has sufficiently met course outcomes as outlined in EDSP 536 and EDSP 623, a maximum of six (6) credits for life experience will be earned by the student

Program Student Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the graduate program in Special Education, graduates will be able to:

  • Analyze and Critique educational research
  • Design a single case research proposal using APA writing style
  • Critically evaluate and apply the ethical guidelines according to Special Education practice standards
  • Apply dimensions of applied behavior analysis
  • Utilize evidenced-based practices and assessments in clinical settings
  • Write measurable objectives such as those found in an Individual Education Plan (IEP)
  • Write procedures for evidenced-based practices across disability groups and lifespans
Program Requirements:

All students will complete a graduate thesis. The Thesis is the culminating scholarly work, requiring the application, synthesis, and critical evaluation of your graduate studies. The thesis may be developed as a result of experiences gained while involved in internships, assistantships, clinicals, and/or independent studies as approved by the graduate advisor. The outcome of the thesis usually result in a publishable manuscript or a fundable project. Additionally, a three-credit seminar, clinical, or independent study may be taken in conjunction with thesis, allowing for additional time devoted to research and writing.

Clinical Experience
Effective December 31, 2014, employees who have direct contact with children will be required to obtain new clearances every 36 months.

Core Courses- Required for all students

Capstone Research - Required for all students (

Capstone Experience


Disclosure Statement
Under the current graduate program, any candidate seeking certification in any content area must complete the prescribed course of study, completion of student teaching, successful completion of PDE’s required certification exams, and application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

4+1 in Special Education
The 4+1 program affords the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in only five years by taking graduate-level courses during your junior and senior years. Undergraduate majors complete EDSP 536 Professional, Legal and Ethical Practices (3 credits) in the spring semester of their junior year, and EDSP 501 Behavior Management (3 credits) in the fall semester of their senior year. After graduating with their bachelor’s degrees, students will complete their remaining 24-27 credits in their fifth and final year. This may include four graduate courses in the fall and four graduate courses in the spring semester.

In addition to the above required coursework, students may select a concentration, and complete the associated courses and electives. If no specific concentration is chosen, students must complete a minimum of 5 additional general elective courses.