United States Special Education Certificates and Certification
Licensing is required to teach special needs students in all states, so a Certificate in Special Education might benefit individuals pusuing a career in the field. Special credentials have various requirements, and certification with professional organizations such as the National Association of Special Education Teachers might be a potential path.
Sometimes the difference between special education certificate programs and certification can be confusing. A certificate program provides educational training on a specialized topic, for which you receive a certificate after completing the required courses. Whereas, professional certification is a voluntary process in which you are assessed by a professional board or entity to see if you meet a predetermined and standardized criteria (which often involves passing an exam) to practice in the field.
Special Education Certificate Programs and No Child Left Behind
While earning a graduate certificate in special education might not be a professional requirement it might be a great professional development tool. When the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, it outlined minimum qualifications for teachers including: a bachelor’s degree, full state certification and demonstration of subject-matter competency1. As such, some states now require that certified or licensed teachers log a certain amount of continuing education credits each year—and enrolling in special education certificate programs may be a way to help meet these requirements2.
Licensure and Certification Requirements for Special Education Teachers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all states currently require special education teachers in public schools to be licensed. Requirements for certification vary by state—but all states require that teachers earn a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, and that they complete a teacher
preparation program including supervised experience in teaching2. Some states also require a minimum grade point average—and most states require teachers to complete a background check. As we mentioned above teachers may also be required to complete annual continuing education courses—or in some cases earn a master’s degree—to maintain their license2.
Some states might offer general licenses in special education that allow teachers to work with students with a variety of different disabilities—while others might offer licenses based on a specific disability category, such as behavior disorders. Some states may also allow special education teachers to transfer their licenses from another states. However, other states require that teachers pass their respective state-specific licensing requirements. Be sure to check with the state’s requirements for the area where you intend to teach2.
In some cases, special education teachers may decide to pursue optional forms of certification to demonstrate a commitment to excellence in the field. Board Certification in Special Education (B.C.S.E.) is a voluntary form of certification offered by the American Academy of Special Education Professionals (AASEP). It was created to outline specific professional standards that require high professional competency in special education. Accordingly, earning this certification can be a great way to show potential employers—and parents—that you are competent, committed and highly-qualified to teach in the field.3
To be eligible to attain B.C.S.E. certification, you must meet the following requirements:3
- Have earned at least a master’s degree from an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S. or Canada
- Have earned at least a master’s degree from an institution of higher learning outside of the U.S. or Canada that maintained an equivalent standard of training as those accredited in the U.S.
- The master’s degree you earned must be in a field involved with students with special needs
- Complete the five certificates of advanced professional development
- Pass the multiple choice exam with a score of 80% or higher (you may take the exam up to three times)
George Mason University
A standalone Autism Spectrum Disorder certificate is offered from George Mason University. This part-time online program prepares professionals and family members to work with children and adults with autism spectrum disorders in school, home a...
Indiana Wesleyan University
The Indiana Special Education Certificate: Exceptional Needs - Mild Intervention program provides an 18 credit hour post-baccalaureate course of study for teachers seeking to obtain an initial Indiana Exceptional Needs - Mild Intervention (i.e., spec...
- Teaneck, NJTeaneck, NJ
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Train teachers in the use of an explicit, direct, multisensory structured, phonetic approach to teaching.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
One of the best online graduate education programs in the country, according to the 2013 U.S. News and World Report survey.
Emporia State University
Master of Science - Special Education (concentrations in High Incidence and Gifted, Talented, and Creative).
University of North Dakota
Serve those with autism in a variety of settings, including home, schools, hospitals, etc. 100% online. Pay in-state tuition.
- Minneapolis, MNMinneapolis, MN
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
As one of the only master's degrees of its kind in Minnesota, this program is designed for individuals who would like to become licensed to teach in the special education areas of learning disabilities (LD), emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD), an...
- Winona, MN
- Eugene, OREugene, OR
University of Oregon
Developmental Disabilities OptionEarly Intervention OptionExceptional Learner Option...
- Carson, NMCarson, NM
California State University, Dominguez Hills
The Master of Arts in Special Education offers two options: Early Childhood and Learning/Severely Handicapped. The program is designed to provide knowledge and understanding of the foundations and theories of Special Education as well as training in the...
- Columbia, MDColumbia, MD
Johns Hopkins University
At Johns Hopkins, specialized graduate degree and certificate programs prepare and support you as you develop the knowledge and skills to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs. For those starting their careers, Johns Hopkins off...
- Baltimore, MD
- Rockville, MD
- Baltimore, MDBaltimore, MD
Loyola University Maryland
Individual planning. Small classes. Careful placement. These are just some of the distinguishing features of Loyola's graduate program in special education. Designed to provide initial career certification as well as advanced professional development, t...
- Bridgewater, MABridgewater, MA
Bridgewater State University
The Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders offers several programs designed to meet the needs of graduate students. The department offers programs leading to licensure, graduate degrees, and coursework to meet professional developme...
- Caldwell, NJCaldwell, NJ
This program is designed for a certified teacher who has decided to seek the Teacher of Students with Disabilities (TOSD) Endorsement in special education.
- Caldwell, NJ
- Moraga, CAMoraga, CA
St. Mary's College Of California
The Special Education Programs at Saint Mary's College offer graduate students a personalized, professional course of study in teaching individuals with exceptional needs.
- Rochester, MIRochester, MI
Completion of a practicum is required for those seeking an endorsement from the state.
- Berrien Springs, MIBerrien Springs, MI
The Andrews University, School of Education, TLC Department, SPED/LD program seeks to prepare professionals who can work effectively within complex work and cultural systems marked by diversity, interdependence, and accelerating change. It is the phi...
Ball State University
Ball State University’s master of arts in applied behavior analysis with an emphasis in autism prepares ABA therapists, teachers, psychologists, social workers, and other human service professionals to fill a national shortage. This master’s degree...
- Elyria, OHElyria, OH
Have a bachelor degree that did not lead to a teaching license? Check out our Bachelor's Plus initial teacher licensure program.
- Columbus, OH
- Ashland, OH
- Hempstead, NYHempstead, NY
This program is designed for teachers who are certified in special education who wish additional knowledge.
- Hempstead, NY
- Bethlehem, PABethlehem, PA
The graduate program is fully accredited by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and offers special education certification at the Master's level. We are strongly committed to the preparation of highly qualified educators who are not only skille...
- Pomona, NJPomona, NJ
The Master of Arts in Education consists of four major components to enhance classroom teaching and provide professional development: content, pedagogy, research, and electives.
Saint Joseph's University
If you've already earned a bachelor's degree, you may obtain an Online Post Bachelor's Certificate in Autism Studies that is...
- Reading, PAReading, PA
Coursework and field experiences prepare students for success in a variety of inclusive special education classroom settings.
- Garden City, NYGarden City, NY
The special education program prepares exemplary educational professionals dedicated to helping children with a diverse range of abilities and disabilities reach their fullest potential.