Master of Science in Special Education

This program allows admission in the Fall. The next application cycle will be for Fall 2024: 

  • Application period begins: October 1, 2023
  • Application due date for domestic applicants: June 1, 2024

How to Apply

Request to be added to the prospective student list for this program.

Program Overview

The Master of Science in Special Education Degree program is an advanced academic program which is aimed at developing advanced skills and knowledge of current research in special education and demonstration of the ability to engage in reflective inquiry. In our graduate coursework, we provide candidates with multiple opportunities to build upon their critical thinking and writing skills with those skills being applied in the capstone experience of a comprehensive exam or a thesis. With a Master of Science in Special Education, our graduates have been able to serve in leadership positions in their school districts or agencies, pursue and earn a Doctorate Degree in Education or related fields at top-tiered universities, and teach as part-time lecturers at CSULB and other higher education institutions. The Master's program is comprised of a total of 30 units. Typically students complete the program in 1.5 to 2 years.

Two pathways are currently offered to meet individual needs:

  • Pathway 1 is a fully online program designed for classroom teachers who completed an accredited post-baccalaureate credential program. These students complete 6 core classes and would potentially use 12 post-baccalaureate semester units to reach the 30 unit minimum required for the degree. Students may finish the program in three semesters.  
  • Pathway 2 is designed for credentialed classroom teachers who completed an accredited credential program during their bachelor's degree or non-credentialed education-related professionals. These students also complete 6 core classes as well as an additional 4 courses (12 units) that support their educational interests to reach the 30 unit minimum required for the degree. Students may finish the program in three or four semesters and classes may be offered in a combination of online, hybrid and in-person.

  • Fully online program for candidates in Pathway 1
  • Highly personalized advising from the program advisor and Graduate Studies Office
  • Evening classes for full-time professionals
  • Opportunities to participate in research projects with faculty
  • Grant opportunities for admitted MS students who are Special Education are available. To learn more about this these grant opportunities, please visit the Financing Your Education website, review the Scholarship Opportunities (PDF) brochure or email Dr. Edwin Achola at

  • Individualized Education
  • Collaboration
  • Cultural Responsiveness
  • Evidence-based Practices
  • Advocacy & Leadership

  • Effectively apply theory to practice
  • Analyze data to guide instructional decision-making
  • Determine effective behavioral, emotional, and environmental supports for student learning
  • Effectively plan for transition
  • Effectively collaborate and consult with teachers, parents, and other school professionals
  • Demonstrate leadership skills in systems change efforts
  • Analyze and synthesize research in special education through written communication

While a preliminary Education Specialist credential is not an eligibility requirement for the Master's degree in Special Education, core courses in the program are at an advanced level and build on coursework in our initial credential program. Candidates who have not had this coursework will work with the program advisor in developing their program plan. Candidates who want to teach special education must earn their Preliminary Education Specialist credential.

We acknowledge the diverse work and lived experiences as well as relevant coursework from other disciplines. Therefore candidates with experience working with populations with disabilities who are not educators (ABA therapists, for example) are encouraged to apply. 

Please note: The Master of Science in Special Education Degree does not result in a credential for teaching individuals with disabilities. Candidates who want to teach special education must earn their Preliminary Education Specialist credential.


Are you seeking a teaching credential? This program is for practicing teachers or other educational professionals and offers a master’s degree only. If you’re interested in obtaining a teaching credential, please visit the Teacher Preparation Advising Center. Students who are pursuing a teaching credential complete that program first, and then apply to the master’s program.