Meet the needs of students with disabilities in grades pre-K through 12.

Children and teens with learning disorders, developmental delays and other disabilities have special educational needs. Cal U’s B.S.Ed. in Special Education program provides you with the skills, knowledge and competencies to help these students maximize their potential.

This four-year, on-campus bachelor’s degree program prepares you to work in a variety of settings with children from pre-kindergarten to grade 12.

Utilizing research-based instructional strategies and diagnostic tools, you will develop a thorough understanding of child and adolescent development and appropriate methods for teaching learners with special needs at the preschool, elementary, middle school and high school levels.

Practical experience

As a future teacher, you’ll gain real-world experience in special education classrooms. Cal U students in the special education degree program complete three field experience courses, in addition to a 15-week student teaching experience.

The special education program also has a technology lab where you can explore instructional technology and practice teaching with it, so you can use these tools effectively during your field experiences and student teaching.

Program Highlights: Special Education Pre-K - 12

ASD Endorsement: As part of Cal U’s special education program, you’ll complete coursework enabling you to earn the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Endorsement in Autism Spectrum Disorders, in addition to teaching certification in special education. The ASD endorsement recognizes your “demonstrated competencies related to research-based assessment, intervention, instruction and program management for students with ASD,” according to the Education Department.

Top accreditation: Cal U's education programs have been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1954, and we are continuing with the successor organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). 

Personal Attention: Cal U students work closely with top education professors who have experience as special education teachers and can relate theory to real-life experiences. Our faculty members are available and approachable. They are ready to answer your questions, provide personal assistance, and give you the resources you need for career success.

Number of hours spent in a special education classroom during each field experience.
Average salary for special education teachers in Pennsylvania, according to the Department of Labor Statistics.
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Degree Benefits

Cal U students in the special education program demonstrate knowledge and competencies in academic, behavioral, social and emotional growth, as well as instructional strategies that help children and teens with disabilities reach their full potential. Additional benefits include:

  • Hands-on fieldwork and student teaching opportunities in local Pennsylvania schools.
  • Job placement support from faculty, alumni and Cal U's Career and Professional Development Center.
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Graduate Outcomes

Graduates who earn teacher certification in special education are well positioned to seek immediate employment.

Special education teachers are in high demand now, and special education jobs in Pennsylvania are projected to grow by 7% over the next 10 years, according to Projections Central.

In contrast to similar programs at other universities, Cal U’s special education pre-K – 12 program includes coursework required to earn the state Department of Education’s Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement, a valued credential that gives special education graduates a competitive edge.


Special Education Grades PreK-12 
Cal U student teacher educating students in a classroom.

What is special education?

Special education helps students with learning disabilities, developmental delays and other disabilities maximize their capabilities. Special education teachers make a positive impact on the lives of their students; they understand how children develop and have the knowledge and skills to adapt learning activities to each child’s individual needs. In Pennsylvania, students enrolled in public schools who have special needs – including gifted students – are eligible for special education services.

Cal U student teacher at a table with young students.

Service and leadership

The special education program at Cal U includes opportunities for service, leadership and recognition outside the classroom. Through the Council for Exceptional Children, Cal U students may attend conferences, organize dances for community residents with disabilities or volunteer at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Students with high academic achievement and service to the University may be invited to join Sigma PI Epsilon Delta, the Special Education Honorary.

Special Education Bachelor’s Degree Courses

This 121-credit bachelor's degree program emphasizes experiential learning, in-depth courses and field experiences in special education settings. Upon successful completion of this program, you will earn a bachelor's degree and become eligible for Pennsylvania teaching certification and the PDE-approved Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement.


Course Credits
Freshman Year  
First Semester 16
ENG 101  English Composition I 3
ESP 210  Special Education Foundations and Collaboration 3
ESP 311  Assessment and Positive Behavior Interventions 3
PSY 205  Childhood Psychology 3
UNI 100  First-Year Seminar 1
Any 100-level Math Course 3
Second Semester 15
EDU 333  Educational Technology 3
ESP 100  Social Contexts of Disability in Popular Media 3
ESP 329  Intro to Special Education Field 3
PSY 206  Adolescent Psychology 3
Any Health and Wellness Course 3
Sophomore Year  
Third Semester 15
ESP 312  ABA for Special Education 3
ESP 339  Special Education Field II 3
ESP 403  Assessment and Prescriptive Teaching 3
AM/BRIT Literature 3
Any 100-level Math Course 3
Fourth Semester 15
CMD 105  Lang Spch Dev 3
ESP 407  Early Intervention Special Education 3
ESP 411  History, Theory and Exceptionality 3
ESP 419  Evidence-Based Practice for Special Education 3
PSY 208  Educational Psychology 3
Junior Year  
Fifth Semester 15
*ESP 440  Nature of Autism Spectrum Dis 3
*ESP 443  Navigating the Social World - ASD 3
Ethics and Multicultural Awareness Course 3
Natural Science Course w/ Lab 3
Social Science Course 3
Sixth Semester 15
EDU 350  Supporting English Language Learners 3
*ESP 406  Transition Planning and Instruction
*ESP 441  Comm, Beh and Instr - ASD 3
*ESP 442  Life Transition and Partnership 3
Fine Arts Course 3
Senior Year  
Seventh Semester 18
*ESP 349  Special Education Field Experience II 3
*ESP 402  Life Skills: Planning and Instruction 3
*ESP 420  Advanced Evidence-Based Practices 3
Free Elective 3
General Education Elective 3
Humanities Course 3
Eighth Semester 12
ESP 461  Student Teaching
Total 121

Program Notes

  • All courses required for certification must earn C or better.
  • All ESP courses require current clearances and minimum 2.5 GPA to register for courses.
  • Candidate must follow policies for Admission to Teacher Education as stated in the Teacher Education Handbook.
  • Prerequisite for courses marked with an asterisk (*) is Admission to Teacher Education.
  • State licensure exams must be passed before Student Teaching.
  • Courses in bold are scheduled together and must be taken at the same time.

Recommended General Education Courses


  • CMD 350  Sign/Braille
  • PHI 220  Ethics

Social Sciences

  • CMD 108  Nature of Language
  • SOC 315  Social Minorities
  • SOC 325  Sociology of the Family

Health and Wellness

  • HSC 315  First Aid/Personal Safety
  • SOW 303  Human Sexuality in Society

Ethics and Multicultural Awareness

  • PHI 220  Ethics
  • SOC 325  Sociology of the Family

Approved American/British Literature Courses

  • ENG 107  Introduction to Fiction
  • ENG 125  The American West
  • ENG 127  Woman as Hero
  • ENG 135  Re-reading Harry Potter
  • ENG 137  Northern Appalachian Literature
  • ENG 148  Horrors in Literature
  • ENG 150  Baseball in Literature
  • ENG 155  Black Literature
  • ENG 156  Introduction to Native American Literature
  • ENG 160  Introduction to British and American Literature
  • ENG 181  Cultures of American Humor
  • ENG 203  Great Books
  • ENG 301  English Literature I
  • ENG 302  English Literature II
  • ENG 337  Survey of American Literature I
  • ENG 338  Survey of American Literature II
  • HON 150  Honors Comp I
  • HON 250  Honors Comp II

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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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