Special Education

Special Education Master of Education (M.Ed.) With Dual Pre-K - 4/Pre-K - 8 Certification

About Special Education: Grades Pre-K - 4/Pre-K - 8 Dual Certification

Start your teaching career with a specialty in one of the most dynamic and in-demand fields.

Make a daily impact as a special education teacher. PennWest California's dual certification master of education in elementary/special education is designed for students who are seeking to become certified teachers for the first time, while also gaining in-depth training in the teaching of educationally and physically handicapped students.

In addition to obtaining a master's degree, you'll graduate from this program eligible for dual certification in Pennsylvania in pre-K to grade 4 and pre-K to grade 8 special education. PennWest California's hands-on approach to teacher's education will also ensure you'll develop the skills, expertise and confidence you need for a top teaching career.


Act 82 of 2018 changed the grade spans and age levels for certification of special education instruction certificates after December 31, 2021, combining current special education certificates into one category. Under the bill, all special education certificates issued after December 31, 2021 would cover PK-12, or up to age 21, with no additional content or dual certification required.

As a result of these changes, PennWest California has prepared a new Special Education PK-12 program that combines the PK-8 and 7-12 programs. Once approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), students may enroll in this program for initial certification in Special Education PK-12 which requires student teaching or add Special Education PK-12 certification to their current licensure that does not require student teaching.

In the meantime, students can apply to our M.Ed. Special Education Autism Spectrum Disorders program. All coursework taken in this major will transfer over to the PK-12 program. Students in the Special Education ASD program will be notified of the approval and have the option to opt-in to the newly approved major.

For more information, please contact our Program Coordinator, Dr. Jason Kight (kight@pennwest.edu).


Internship: As a PennWest California special education graduate student, you'll complete internships working with children and adults with physical or mental disabilities in a variety of settings, including inclusive classrooms, special public school classes and classes in residential treatment centers, special schools and hospitals.

Field Experience: In addition to your internship, you'll participate in field experiences that will enable you to work with various groups of children with physical or mental disabilities, in places such as public schools, institutions, sheltered workshops, activity centers, summer camps or community MH/MR facilities - or by doing specific research with a particular population of students.

Top Accreditation: This  degree program is approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits PennWest California. CAEP promotes excellence in educator preparation through quality assurance and continuous improvement. See CAEP reporting measures of program impact and outcomes.


Top 5 
Pennsylvania is in the top five states for highest employment level of special education teachers in kindergarten and elementary schools.
160+ years 
PennWest California has a 160-year reputation of producing top-quality teachers in Pennsylvania and beyond.
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Degree Benefits

As an elementary/special education M.Ed. student you will benefit from:

  • The insights of expert faculty who have years of real-world special education experience.
  • Comprehensive training in special education within a non-categorical, behavior analytic model.
  • Career and job placement support through faculty connections and PennWest California's Career and Professional Development Center.
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Graduate Outcomes

The field of special education is steadily growing, providing excellent professional career opportunities for today's graduates. Program graduates can be found working in public, private and charter schools throughout Pennsylvania and the United States in roles such as:

  • Special education classroom teacher.
  • Resource room teacher.
  • Homebound instruction teacher.
  • Hospital teacher.

Curriculum, Admission Requirements, and Related Programs

This comprehensive 63-credit graduate degree is an on-campus program intended for applicants who do not already hold Pennsylvania teaching certification.



Course Credits
Core Courses
ESP 610*  Special Ed: Foundations and Collaboration  3
ESP 620  Special Ed. History, Theory and Exceptionality 3
ESP 639  Field Experience Seminar in Special Education 3
ESP 701*  Introduction to Behavior Analysis  3
Specialized Courses
ECE 703  Literacy Development 3
ECE 707  Leadership and Management in Early Childhood  3
ELE 701  Teaching Language Arts 3
ELE 702  Teaching in Reading 3
ELE 711  Teaching in Mathematics  3
ELE 718  Teaching Expressive Arts 3
ELE 721  Teaching in Science 3
ELE 731  Teaching in Social Studies 3
ESP 602  Life Skills Planning and Instruction 3
ESP 603  Assessment and Prescriptive Teaching 3
ESP 607  Early Intervention: Special Education 3
ESP 612  Evidence-based Practices for PreK-8 Inclusion 3
ESP 622  Advanced Evidence Practices for PreK-8 Inclusion 3
Capstone Courses**
ELE 795  Student Teaching Internship 3 to 9
ESP 661  Student Teaching Internship 3 to 9
ESP 800  Seminar in Advanced Behavior Analysis & Research Design 3
Total 63

* ESP 610 and ESP 701 are prerequisite courses for all other ESP courses.

** Total of 12 credits for capstone courses.

Program Requirements

PA certification requires the following at the undergraduate or graduate level:

  • College-level Mathematics (6 credits)
  • English Composition and English/American literature (3 credits/3 credits)
  • Health and Wellness (3 credits)
  • Citizen: Geography, Political or Economy (3 credits)
  • English Language Learners (3 credits)
  • Instructional Technology (3 credits)
  • U.S. History (3 credits)
  • Physical Science (3 credits)
  • Environmental/Earth Science (3 credits)
  • Biology (3 credits)

Students must take the Graduate Comprehensive Exam.


Admission Requirements


Regular Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.80 or a 3.00 in last 48 credits earned (Students with a GPA below 2.80 may apply for conditional admission)
  • Official transcripts from an accredited undergraduate institution

Conditional Admission Requirements

  • Conditional Admission may be granted with the following modifications of the Regular Admissions Requirements:
    • Bachelor's degree with a GPA under 2.80 will be reviewed for a decision


Program Requirements

  • The following Undergraduate/Graduate classes are needed for certification:
    • Mathematics (6 credits)
    • English Composition I (3 credits) or English/American literature (3 credits)
    • Instructional Technology
    • U.S. History
    • English Composition II
    • Physical Science
    • Biology
    • Environmental / Earth Science
    • Educational Psychology
    • Economics

How to Apply:

School of Graduate Studies and Research
PennWest California
Box 91
250 University Ave. 
California, PA 15419


For additional information:
Phone: 724-938-4187 

Out of State Students:
All students who will be seeking certification outside of Pennsylvania are responsible for securing and following the certification requirements in the state in which they intend to apply for certification. 

Related Programs
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Top Accreditation

PennWest California education programs have been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1954, and we're continuing with the successor organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). In addition, this program meets the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

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Distinguished Faculty

PennWest California's special education master's degree faculty offers a diverse set of skills that meets the clinical, theoretical and personal growth needs of our graduate students. Your professors are actively involved in research activities and in national and local counseling organizations.

Special Education Faculty

Dr. James Burton
Associate Professor


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Dr. Peter Heh
Assistant Professor


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Dr. Jason Kight
Associate Professor and Chair


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Dr. Kalie Kossar
Associate Professor


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Please Note: All students who will be seeking licensure/certification outside of Pennsylvania should consult the State Authorization web page for more information.