Special Education, Master of Education

Department of Educational Specialties

College of Education

Other graduate certificates available with the Master of Education include the Assistive Technology Certificate and Austism Spectrum Disorders Certificate.  

This plan is appropriate if you are interested in continuing professional development related to supporting individual with learning and behavioral challenges. Please note that although certain courses in this plan may apply toward certification, completing this MEd does not lead to teaching certification. Consult with your advisor and the Arizona Department of Education for information about obtaining Special Education teaching certification.

  • Available Emphasis Areas:
  • Positive Behavior Support - Emphasis
  • Mild/Moderate Disabilities - Emphasis
  • Early Childhood Special Education - Emphasis

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 30
Additional Admission Requirements

Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

Emphasis or Certificate Required

An emphasis or certificate is required for this degree.

Fieldwork Experience/Internship Optional
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study

Purpose Statement

The purpose of the MEd in Special Education Continuing Professional Program is to prepare professionals to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities in human service agencies. Students gain knowledge and skills to develop and expand their leadership and practice in meeting the needs of individuals with learning and behavior challenges. Building upon a foundation in research and a common understanding of individuals with disabilities, students select an emphasis area aligned with professional goals. Students in the mild/moderate emphasis area will develop effective learning and behavioral interventions, differentiate instruction, provide ability-appropriate accommodations, and collaborate to help individuals with disabilities meet their full potential. The Early Childhood emphasis explores the same areas, but for children from birth to age eight years. The Positive Behavior Support emphasis focuses on principles and tactics for improving quality of life for individuals of all ages who exhibit challenging behaviors, and consists of the six courses required by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board for individuals who want to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Students also may select to develop their skills and knowledge in the areas of Assistive Technology, Autism Spectrum Disorder.  This program does not lead to teacher certification.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • At the completion of the program, students will be able to:
  • Analyze the social, cultural, and educational underpinnings of disability, and describe their influences on growth and identity;
  • Evaluate the impact that disabilities may have on the individual, and facilitate appropriate experiences that lead to emotional and social well-being;
  • Identify, examine, and apply evidence-based practices that effectively and efficiently address the needs of individuals with disabilities;
  • Explain the influence of current issues, diversity, and ethical standards on professional practice; and
  • Demonstrate effective collaboration with professionals, peers, and families.
The five learning outcomes are common across the three emphasis areas (Mild/Moderate Disabilities, Early Childhood Special Education, and Positive Behavior Support). Some of the performance indicators will be assessed in courses that are common across the emphasis areas. Other performance indicators may be evaluated in courses unique to an emphasis area, although the signature assignments measure the same learning outcomes. 
Emphasis Area 1: Mild/Moderate Disabilities
  • Explain and apply knowledge of effective communication with families of culturally and linguistically diverse students.
  • Create safe, inclusive, culturally responsive learning environments to engage individuals with exceptionalities in meaningful learning activities and social interactions through collaboration with general educators and other colleagues.
  • Identify and discuss the etiology and characteristics of learning disabilities and language disorders in regard to how they interact with learning.
  • Understand how foundational knowledge and current issues influence professional practice.
  • Modify general and specialized curricula to make them accessible to individuals with exceptionalities.
Emphasis Area 2: Early Childhood Special Education
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the developmental principles and patterns for young children ages birth to eight.
  • Design positive classroom environments and effective behavioral interventions when needed.
  • Conduct appropriate assessments of young children that inform IEP development and implementation and progress monitoring.
  • Describe how services are delivered to young children birth to eight eligible for services under IDEA and their families.
  • Collaborating with others, develop and implement IEPs for students and plan instruction that is grounded in recommended practices.
  • Design appropriate accommodations and interventions for young children with disabilities ages birth to five.
Emphasis Area 3: Positive Behavior Support
  • Demonstrate a functional understanding of operant and respondent conditioning and how each contributes to the development and maintenance of challenging behavior;
  • Develop systems for collecting and analyzing data to determine functional relations between the individual's behavior (including verbal behavior) and surrounding environmental events across settings and activities;
  • Utilize the principles and applications of applied behavior analysis (e.g., discrimination training, shaping, chaining, fading, differential reinforcement, self-management, planned generalization) for making problem behavior irrelevant, inefficient, and ineffective, while increasing the individual's ability to accomplish goals in socially acceptable ways;
  • Design behavior monitoring systems to track changes in behavior/skills over time and summarize the results of those observations in visual (graphic) format to facilitate understanding and data-based decision making among all team members; and
  • Describe a problem-solving process in which ethical dilemmas can be identified and resolved using the BACB Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts (2014).


Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • IVP Fingerprint Clearance Card
    • Teaching certificate (if the applicant has one)
Master's Requirements
  • This Master’s degree requires 30 units distributed as follows:

    • Core Requirements: 12 units
    • Emphasis or Graduate Certificate, plus electives as applicable: 18 units
      • Mild/Moderate Disabilities Emphasis: 18 units
      • Early Childhood Special Education Emphasis: 18 units
      • Positive Behavior Support Emphasis: 18 units
      • Graduate Certificate, plus electives as applicable: 14-21 units

    Take the following 30 units:

    Core Requirements (12 units)

  • Emphasis Areas or Graduate Certificate (Select One):

    • Mild/Moderate Disabilities Emphasis (18 units)
  • Please Note:
    • If students choose to earn a certificate, you may have to take an additional 3-6 units of electives (for a total of at least 18 units). 
    • This program of study is appropriate for students who are not seeking certification in special education.
    • Students cannot apply for teaching certification under this program of studies.
Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.