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Special Education

Student and Teacher sitting at a table

The program is respected for comprehensive, rigorous instruction, with both entry-level and advanced studies programs available. Faculty in special education, widely known for research excellence and leadership in their fields, value student mentoring and provide students with opportunities to work together on clinical and field-based research.

Students learn evidence-based strategies and theories to improve the social and learning outcomes for young people with disabilities.

 Contact The Graduate College for general questions about getting started with your application, funding your degree, and more.
If you have program-specific questions after reviewing the program details, we encourage you to contact the following:

Graduate Advisor
Dr. Jennifer Porterfield
Education Building (ED), Room 2108

Advisor Support
Dr. Alyson Collins
Education Building (ED), Room 3013

“Accomplished professors, rigorous curriculum and a supportive environment equates to an exceptional experience at Texas State University’s [special education] program. You will be highly prepared and competitive for any future endeavor in special education.”

— Martin Mendoza, M.Ed. ’15, BD/PBS, current Educational Psychology Ph.D. candidate, Texas A&M University

Course Work

The master of education (M.Ed.) degree offers three areas of concentration:

  • autism/applied behavior analysis (Au/ABA) – for teachers and therapists wishing to work with students with autism in school or clinical settings

  • behavioral disorders/positive behavior supports (BD/ PBS) – for teachers and specialists pursuing careers as behavior specialists or PBS specialists in schools, alternative settings, or residential settings

  • learning disabilities/inclusion (LD/I) – for educators seeking to instruct students with learning disabilities in school settings and/or interested in becoming academic intervention experts

The career alternatives in special education (CASE) program allows post-baccalaureate students to earn the teacher certification and the M.Ed. simultaneously. Students can also complete a paid internship while employed as a teacher in lieu of student teaching.

Students working on a chalk board

Master's Degree Programs

Degree Concentration Hours Thesis Option Minor
M.Ed. Autism/Applied Behavior Analysis 36 hours Non-Thesis Cognate–Special Education Autism required
M.Ed. Behavioral Disorders/Positive Behavior Supports 36 hours Non-Thesis No minor
M.Ed. Learning Disabilities/Inclusion 36 hours Non-Thesis No minor

*Texas State Certificate
The Department of Curriculum and Instruction also offers a Texas State Certificate (autism/applied behavior analysis, behavioral disorders/positive behavioral support, or learning disabilities/inclusion) that corresponds to each concentration. If you would like to apply to both programs, choose the "Special Education (M.Ed. with Certificate)" option when you select your major in the online application. An additional $20 certificate fee will be required.

Master's Degree + Initial Teacher Certification (CASE) Program 

Degree Concentration Certification Program Hours Thesis Option Minor
M.Ed. Career Alternatives in Special Education EC-12 Special Education 36 Non-Thesis Cognate–Special Education

Eligibility Requirements for Teacher Certification
According to the Texas Education Agency, there are specific requirements for becoming a classroom teacher. In addition to the application requirements for the master’s degree, you must also meet the eligibility requirements posted by the Educator Preparation Program.

Certification Plan Information
If you are admitted to the CASE program, please request a certification plan from the Office of Educator Preparation. If you are seeking teacher certification without a master's degree, please review the stand-alone teacher certification information.

Students have published work in professional journals and presented at professional conferences. Graduates have been successful in careers as special educators and in receiving doctoral scholarships.

Program Mission

The mission of the special education program is to prepare educators and specialists who apply current, evidence-based practices in special education for the purpose of preparing individuals with disabilities to live independent, responsible, and personally satisfying lives in a diverse, global society. Graduates engage in practitioner inquiry and research, serve as leaders in special education policy and classroom practice, and apply their knowledge and skills to positively influence the inclusion of, and support for, persons who require the best professional practices of special education.

Visit program website ›

Program Faculty

Ten full-time faculty members have established outstanding research programs in the treatment of challenging behavior and learning difficulties in children and youth with autism, emotional/behavioral disorders, and learning disabilities. Research is conducted in schools, the university autism clinic (CARES), and juvenile justice settings. Special education faculty provide technical assistance and policy consultation for state and national government and advocacy agencies. Faculty members’ research and policy commentaries have been published in top-tier journals, and faculty are frequently invited speakers at national and international professional meetings.

Meet our faculty ›

Career Options

Special education graduates pursue careers as teachers, behavior specialists, and learning interventionists. The program provides a verified course sequence required to be certified as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Graduates work in public and charter school programs, clinic settings, and alternative education settings, including residential programs. Many graduates choose to pursue doctoral studies and have been successful in receiving prestigious doctoral scholarships.

Application Process

Step 1

Review Requirements

Application Deadlines

Deadlines Concentration U.S. Citizen International
Fall - Priority Autism/Applied Behavior Analysis February 1 February 1
Fall - Standard Autism/Applied Behavior Analysis June 15 June 1
Fall - Priority Behavioral Disorders/Positive Behavior Supports February 1 February 1
Fall - Standard Behavioral Disorders/Positive Behavior Supports June 15 June 1
Fall - Priority Learning Disabilities/Inclusion February 1 February 1
Fall - Standard Learning Disabilities/Inclusion June 15 June 1
Spring Behavioral Disorders/Positive Behavior Supports October 15 October 1
Spring Learning Disabilities/Inclusion October 15 October 1
Summer I All concentrations No Admission No Admission
Summer II All concentrations No Admission No Admission
Deadlines (CASE program only) U.S. Citizen International
Fall - Priority February 1 February 1
Fall - Standard June 15 June 1
Spring Semester October 15 October 1
Summer I April 15 March 15
Summer II June 1 No Admission

Application Deadline
This program has a flexible deadline.

Funding Information
Applications must be complete by the priority deadline to be considered for certain types of funding.

Learn more about the Partnering Assessment and Intervention Responsiveness in Interdisciplinary Teams (PAIR-IT) advanced degree training program, which offers fully-funded tuition, additional support (e.g., textbooks, laptop), conference travel opportunities, school-based practica and internships, faculty mentoring, and interdisciplinary experiences.

Decision Timeline
This program reviews applications on a rolling basis.

Application Requirements

The items required for admission consideration are listed below. Additional information for applicants with international credentials can be found on our international web pages.


  Review important information about the online application.

Application Fee(s)

  • $20 nonrefundable certificate fee (if applying to one of the certificate programs)
    and either
  • $55 nonrefundable master's application fee
  • $90 nonrefundable master's application fee for applications with international credentials 

  Review important information about application fees.

Transcripts & GPA

  • baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited university
  • a copy of an official transcript from each institution where course credit was granted
  • minimum 2.75 GPA in your last 60 hours of undergraduate course work (plus any completed graduate courses)

  Review important information about transcripts. Official transcripts, sent directly from your institution, will be required if admission is granted.

GRE Scores

  •  GRE not required


  • copies of certifications or licensures (if applicable)
  • resume/CV (include licenses or certificates and all previous teaching or other education-related experiences)
  • statement of purpose addressing the following questions. Answers should be clear and concise.
    • Why did you choose Texas State University’s graduate program in Special Education?
    • To which concentration Autism/Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavioral Disorders/Positive Behavior Supports, Learning Disabilities/Inclusion, or Career Alternatives in Special Education) are you applying, and why have you selected that area of study?
    • What types of interactions have you had professionally and/or personally with people with learning, behavioral, developmental and/or intellectual disability?
    • What are your career goals post-graduation and what do you hope to achieve professionally in the next 5 years?
    • What attributes do you possess that will empower you to excel academically, if accepted into this program?
    • What are your experiences in collaborative professional and/or academic settings, and how those experiences have prepared you for the demands of the program?
  • two letters of recommendation from persons who can speak to your potential for success in graduate school(one of whom is/was a supervisor). Items to address can include:
    • your relationship to the applicant
    • your knowledge of the applicant’s work performance
    • your assessment of the applicant’s potential to meet the academic and professional demands of a rigorous graduate program
    • your assessment of the applicant’s ability to manage the social and professional demands of graduate school (e.g., getting along with peers and professors, participating in class discussions and activities, attending class, meeting deadlines, responding to feedback)

  Review important information about documents.

TOEFL Scores for CASE applicants

Applicants are required to submit TOEFL scores that meet the minimum program requirements below unless they have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited U.S. institution.

  • official TOEFL iBT scores with minimum individual scores of
    • 22 listening
    • 22 reading
    • 24 speaking
    • 21 writing

TOEFL, PTE, or IELTS Scores for non-CASE applicants

Applicants are required to submit TOEFL, PTE, or IELTS scores that meet the minimum program requirements below unless they have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or the equivalent from a country on our exempt countries list.

  • official TOEFL iBT scores required with a 78 overall
  • official PTE scores required with a 52 overall
  • official IELTS (academic) scores required with a 6.5 overall and
    • minimum individual module scores of 6.0

  These programs do not offer admission if the scores above are not met.

  Review important information about official test scores.