Program Requirements — Special Education

Master’s in Special Education for Certified Teachers
Master’s Degree with Initial Certification for Individuals with Previous School Experience or a Related Degree
For Certified Teachers Seeking an Endorsement

The primary focus of this program is to prepare teachers for a Learning Behavior Specialist I (LBS I), Type 10 certification.  Candidates may be existing teachers, or someone who has experience in the schools, or someone with a degree in a related field.  Certification requires teachers to build a knowledge base to identify and intervene with students who exhibit a wide range of disabilities, including learning disabilities, cognitive impairments (mental retardation and traumatic brain injury), autism, social/emotional disabilities, and physical disabilities/other health impaired. Moreover, although the certificate will cover grades K-12, candidates will have a working knowledge of issues and strategies appropriate for the grades P-12. The coursework is designed to allow the candidate both to evaluate research and conduct action research in the classroom. Furthermore, varied clinical practice and field experiences are considered an integral part to all courses so that the candidate can apply theory to practice and practice to theoretical conceptualizations. Please note that candidates with an existing certificate will not be required to student teach, but will participate in an internship that will be tailored to broaden the candidate's base of experience in the field.  Candidates who do not hold an existing certificate will be required to student teach, taking SPED6750 instead of SPED6570.  While completing the entire master's degree is advised, candidates can apply in one of three tracks:  1.) Endorsement (open only to certified teachers), 2.) Certification as an LBS I, or 3.) master's degree in Special Education with certification.

Candidates with an existing certification will qualify for an endorsement in special education after the first 19 hours of coursework. For a candidate with an existing certification, completion of the Master of Arts in Special Education (M.A.S.E.) involves 48 hours of coursework although the core courses necessary for the certification total 42 hours. The remaining six (6) hours to complete the M.A.S.E. degree will involve a cognate of two courses that the candidate will plan with the assistance of his or her advisor. This cognate will enable the candidate to establish an area of increased specialization. Suggested cognates include coursework in areas such as elementary education, the reading specialist, ELL/ESL/Bilingual, or educational leadership/supervision (toward a Type 75 certification)  or early childhood special education areas.  For a candidate for whom this will be an initial certification with student teaching, there are 54 total hours for the master's degree, which includes the two-course cognate.  The main objectives of the coursework are twofold: to build the pedagogical expertise of the candidate; and to facilitate collaboration with his or her students, their families, their colleagues, and the community.

Candidates should be aware that the Illinois State Board of Education requires that these additional tests be passed before an LBS I certificate will be issued:

1.) The LBS I Content Area test (#155)

2.) The Special Education General Curriculum test (#163)

3.) The K-12 Assessment of Professional Teaching examination (#104)

In fact, state certification tests must be passed before the candidate may begin the final clinical experience (the internship or student teaching).

Admission Requirements for the M.A. in Special Education:

1.  Online application with essay.

2.  Three letters of reference from individuals familiar with the applicant's professional potential related to this field.  

3.  A 3.0 grade point average. If the applicant's grade point average is below that of a 3.0, the applicant may be accepted on a probationary basis. If probationary status is granted, a formal review will be conducted by the program director after completion of the first three courses where a 3.0 average must be maintained or the applicant will not be able to continue the program.

4.  A bachelor's degree from an accredited institution (official transcripts from all institutions attended must be submitted).

5.  Passing grades on the Illinois Basic Skills Test.

6.  Passing a National Background Check (Criminal Activity and Sex Offender); completed after admission.

Prerequisite Course Requirements:

  • a course in human development, spanning the P-12 grade years
  • a course in educational psychology

Please note that if a deficiency exists, completion of undergraduate courses will not be counted toward the M.A.S.E. degree.  However, candidates can take a CLEP test to show proficiency.

Application Deadline and Notification:

Applications will be reviewed by the special education admission committee, and applicants will be advised of acceptance on a rolling basis as they are reviewed. Applicants should please note that this program is designed for a Fall semester start.

Academic Standards and Evaluation in the M.A.S.E. Program

In addition to feedback to students in the form of grades, full-time candidates' overall performance will be reviewed at the end of each semester (part-time candidates' work will be reviewed every two semesters) to evaluate whether the applicants are integrating the theoretical knowledge and practical applications at a competent level. At the graduate level, a "C" grade indicates less than complete mastery of the content and methods of the course. A 3.0 grade point average must be maintained to continue in the program. Only two grades of "C" are accepted at the graduate level in the M.A.S.E. program. If a candidate receives a "C" grade within the first semester, the candidate may be removed from the program by action of the program faculty. As is true of admission to the program, candidates may be allowed to continue on a probationary status at the discretion of their advisor and the program director. Candidates must achieve a "B" grade in the Unified Field Experience to be eligible for the internship or student teaching. Additionally, candidates must pass the two state special education content area tests and the Assessment of Professional Teaching test before beginning their internship or student teaching. A grade of "B" or better must be achieved in the internship or student teaching courses to become certified.

Program Requirements

If a candidate has an existing certificate, 48 semester hours are required for the M.A.S.E. degree.  If a candidate does not have an existing certificate and will need to student teach, the degree will take an additional 6 hours (54 hours).  Forty hours (34 of these hours are core hours required for certification) are devoted to content coursework designed to develop expertise across the wide range of disability categories required for the cross-categorical LBS I certification with the state. Each of these content classes focuses on both theory and clinical and educational application. The remaining 8 hours are devoted completely to supervised clinical experience in applying theory to practice in the field. In these experiences, candidates will be exposed to a range of ages and educational/life impact on the student(s). As noted earlier, certification may be granted with the 42 semester hours of core courses (48 hours if student teaching is required), composed of 34 hours of content coursework and 8 hours of supervised clinical experiences (14 hours if student teaching), but the applicant is strongly encouraged to complete the M.A.S.E. curriculum. The objective of the M.A.S.E. is to give the candidate the expertise to understand and teach not only the student, who may have a range of disabilities that manifest differentially at different points in his or her life, but also to be able to understand and collaborate with significant members within the context of the student's family, school, and community.

The sequence of courses for the M.A.S.E. program anticipates that the candidate will generally begin the program in the Fall semester. Applicants may attend either full- or part-time.



Program Requirements

Master’s in Special Education for Certified Teachers
For candidates who have an existing teaching certificate and wish to earn a Master’s in Special Education that will lead to the Learning Behavior Specialist I certification, candidates will complete certification courses plus a two course cognate:

Course requirements for certification in Special Education are as follows:

SPED5510: Characteristics and Identification of Disabilities and the Law 4 hours
SPED5520: Cognitive Development and Disabilities 2 hours
SPED5550: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Development:  Promoting Prosocial Behavior 2 hours
SPED5551: Intervention Strategies for Problematic Behavior 2 hours
SPED5560: Strategies and Assistive Technology for Students with Low Incidence and Multiple Disabilities 2 hours
SPED5570: Trends:  Collaboration, Differentiating Instruction in the Inclusive Classroom, and Transition 3 hours
SPED6510: Psychoeducational Assessment of Students with Disabilities 4 hours
SPED5530: Oral Language Development & Disorders 3 hours
SPED5540: Diversity & Disability Issues:  Students, Families, Schools, and the Community 2 hours
SPED6520: Reading Disabilities Theory and Interventions 3 hours
SPED6530: Written Language Development & Disorders 3 hours
SPED6540: Mathematics and Sciences Interventions for Students with Disabilities 2 hours
SPED6550: Introduction to Educational Research 2 hours
SPED6560: Unified Field Experience 4 hours
SPED6570: Internship and Action Research Seminar (assumes pervious student teaching experience/certification) 4 hours
Hours required to complete certification course work:  42 hours

Cognate requirements:  Candidates will receive a Master’s in Special Education if they complete all requirements for certification as a Learning Behavior Specialist I and a two-course cognate in an area jointly agreed upon by the candidate and his or her advisor.  Suggested areas include:

  • Bilingual Education
  • Reading Specialist
  • Educational Leadership
  • Regular education pedagogy
  • Early Childhood Special Education

With these two additional courses, the minimum number of hours required for the Master’s in Special Education is 48 hours.

Transcript Evaluation:
Candidates may request that their transcripts of previous coursework be reviewed for advanced standing in the program.


Master’s Degree with Initial Certification for Individuals with Previous School Experience or a Related Degree
For individuals who wish to earn a Masters in Special Education with Initial Certification and who qualify as candidates because they have earned an undergraduate degree in a field related to special education and/or have experience in schools. 

Course requirements for the Masters in Special Education are as follows:

SPED5510: Characteristics and Identification of Disabilities and the Law 4 hours
SPED5520: Cognitive Development and Disabilities 2 hours
SPED5550: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Development:  Promoting Prosocial Behavior 2 hours
SPED5551: Intervention Strategies for Problematic Behavior 2 hours
SPED5560: Strategies and Assistive Technology for Students with Low Incidence and Multiple Disabilities 2 hours
SPED5570: Trends:  Collaboration, Differentiating Instruction in the Inclusive Classroom, and Transition 3 hours
SPED6510: Psychoeducational Assessment of Students with Disabilities 4 hours
SPED5530: Oral Language Development & Disorders 3 hours
SPED5540: Diversity & Disability Issues:  Students, Families, Schools, and the Community 2 hours
SPED6520: Reading Disabilities Theory and Interventions 3 hours
SPED6530: Written Language Development & Disorders 3 hours
SPED6540: Mathematics and Sciences Interventions for Students with Disabilities 2 hours
SPED6550: Introduction to Educational Research 2 hours
SPED6560: Unified Field Experience 4 hours
SPED6570: Student Teaching & Graduate Seminar in a Special Education 10 hours
Hours required to complete course work:  48 hours

Candidates will receive a Master’s in Special Education with Initial Certification if they complete all requirements for certification as a Learning Behavior Specialist I and a two course cognate.Cognate requirements: Candiates will receive a Master's in Special Education if they complete all requirements for certification as a Learning Behavior Specialist I and a two-course cognate in an area jointly agreed upon by the candidate and his or her advisor. Suggested areas include:

  • Bilingual Education
  • Reading Specialist
  • Educational Leadership
  • Regular education pedagogy
  • Early Childhood Special Education

  The curriculum for the Master’s in Special Education with Initial Certification consists of completing a minimum of 54 credit hours and passing all required state certification exams.   


For Certified Teachers Seeking an Endorsement
For candidates who have an existing teaching certificate and wish to earn an Endorsement in Special Education

This avenue requires that the candidate take courses that constitute, essentially, the first one half of the certification curriculum.  These courses are based on four broad areas of knowledge required by the Illinois State Board of Education, which are then specifically defined by Aurora University.  The University strongly recommends endorsement candidates consider completing the Master’s program as this provides teachers with the best foundation to become a highly qualified, master teacher.  Courses for the endorsement are as follows:

SPED5510: Characteristics and Identification of Disabilities and the Law 4 hours
SPED5520: Cognitive Development and Disabilities 2 hours
SPED5550: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Development:  Promoting Prosocial Behavior 2 hours
SPED5551: Intervention Strategies for Problematic Behavior 2 hours
SPED5560: Strategies and Assistive Technology for Students with Low Incidence and Multiple Disabilities 2 hours
SPED5570: Trends:  Collaboration, Differentiating Instruction in the Inclusive Classroom, and Transition 3 hours
SPED6510: Psychoeducational Assessment of Students with Disabilities 4 hours

Total for endorsement:  19 hours

Important note to candidate:  Completing the hours necessary for an endorsement may enable you to secure employment as a special educator.  However, completing the certification, and ideally the complete Master’s, will not only make you a better educator, but it may also become necessary for you to retain your position in special education.