Special Education, B.S.

Program Code: SPLED_BS

Program Description

The emphasis throughout the Special Education program is upon a broad clinical teaching model. Course work and practicum experiences focus upon the identification and management of a wide range and degree of educational and behavioral problems of students with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21. A core of Special Education courses aimed at general skill development in the areas of diagnosis, identification, development of materials and teaching strategies, implementation, and evaluation is required of all students.

This major focuses on teaching principles and methodologies, classroom and behavioral management, and the development of teaching materials for children and youths with mild, moderate, and severe disabilities. This program helps prepare special education teachers to meet the needs of students enrolled in early intervention, elementary and secondary public school special education programs.

What is Special Education?

Our goal is an educational system in which teachers, families, and communities share responsibility and commitment for preparing students to live independent, productive, and personally satisfying lives to the fullest extent possible. This goal includes: Having a positive influence on the inclusion of persons who are culturally, physically or intellectually diverse; Providing national leadership in the development of new knowledge in special education; Preparing teachers to use effective practices in special education. Teachers will be eligible to earn PA Teaching Certification in Pre-K through age 21 upon completion of the program.

You Might Like This Program If...

  • You want to make a difference in the lives of children, families, adolescents, and adults.
  • You like working with individuals with disabilities in the home, schools, or community.
  • You like a challenge.
  • You want to teach, to be an agent of change, and to be an advocate.
  • You seek out solutions.
  • You want to know more!


Entrance to Major

Eligibility for entry to the Special Education program is based on the following set criteria:

  1. Cumulative grade-point average of 3.00 is required (all PA teacher preparation programs require a 3.0 at entry and exit of program)
  2. Applicants must complete a number of prerequisite courses and other requirements. The following courses must be passed with a grade of "C" or better: CI 280, EDPSY 10 or EDPSY 11, EDPSY 14, EDPSY 101, EDTHP 115, MATH 200, PSYCH 100, PSYCH 212.
  3. Documentation of at least 80 hours of volunteer or paid education work experience with learners of the age group the candidate plans to teach. Candidates for Special Education must document two separate 40-hour experiences in two different settings, with learners who have special needs. One experience should include learners with a different level of severity or functioning (e.g., mild/severe, young/adult) from those learners in the other experience. One experience should also include learners with cultural, social, or ethnic backgrounds different from the candidate's own.
  4. Completion of at least 48 semester credit hours, including ENGL 15 or ENGL 30H.
  5. Approval from the professional education adviser or the head of the pertinent certification program.

Students may be admitted to the program by declaring Special Education as a major, transferring from a previously declared major, or transferring from another institution of higher education.

Students cannot be formally admitted to Special Education before their fifth semester.

Students are assigned to one selection pool. For example, Freshmen admitted in the summer or fall of 2014 are automatically assigned to the spring 2016 selection pool. Students who wish to transfer into Special Education from another major or university will be assigned to a selection pool based on the total number of credits they have earned and their completion of College of Education prerequisite courses.

Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education, a minimum of 122 credits is required (See also Teacher Education Programs):

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 6
Requirements for the Major 89

18 of the 45 credits for General Education are included in the Requirements for the Major. This includes: 6 credits of GQ courses; 6 credits of GS courses; 6 credits of GH courses.

Requirements for the Major

A grade of C or better per course is required for all Special Education prerequisites and teacher certification. 

Prescribed Courses
Prescribed Courses: Require a grade of C or better for all Special Education prerequisites and teacher certification
CI 280Introduction to Teaching English Language Learners Keystone/General Education Course3
EDPSY 14Learning and Instruction Keystone/General Education Course3
EDPSY 101Analysis and Interpretation of Statistical Data in Education Keystone/General Education Course3
EDTHP 115Education in American Society Keystone/General Education Course3
MATH 200Problem Solving in Mathematics Keystone/General Education Course3
PSYCH 100Introductory Psychology Keystone/General Education Course3
PSYCH 212Introduction to Developmental Psychology Keystone/General Education Course3
SPLED 395WObserving Special Education Settings Spanning Across School Transitions3
SPLED 401Motivating Exceptional Learners4
SPLED 404Working with Families and Professionals in Special Education3
SPLED 409AFundamental Literacy Skills for Students with Special Needs3
SPLED 409BWriting and Content Literacy for Students with Special Needs3
SPLED 409CMathematics Instruction for Students with Special Needs3
SPLED 410Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Special Education3
SPLED 411Intervention for Students with Severe Disabilities3
SPLED 412Instruction for Students with Mild Disabilities3
SPLED 415Early Special Education3
SPLED 418Technologies for Persons with Disabilities3
SPLED 425Foundations of Special Education, Etiologies, Law, and Implications for Practice3
SPLED 454Assessment for Instruction3
SPLED 495DProfessional Development for Special Education Teacher Candidates3
SPLED 495EExperience with Exceptional Children3
SPLED 495FPracticum in Special Education12
SPLED 495GExperience with an Integrated Inclusion Classroom4
Additional Courses
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better for all Special Education prerequisites and teacher certification
EDPSY 10Individual Differences and Education Keystone/General Education Course3
or EDPSY 11 Educational Implications of Individual Differences in Childhood Keystone/General Education Course
Select 3 credits from the following:3
American Sign Language I
Children and Families in Rehabilitation Settings and Human Services
Medical Aspects of Disability
Rehabilitation Services for Transition Age Youth with Disabilities: Theory and Practice
Employment Strategies for People with Disabilities
Trauma-informed care for school & human service professionals
Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders: Issues and Concerns
Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol Keystone/General Education Course appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required and Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits

Breadth in the Knowledge Domains (Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Arts (GA): 3 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 3 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits

Integrative Studies

  • Inter-Domain Courses (Inter-Domain): 6 credits


  • GN, may be completed with Inter-Domain courses: 3 credits
  • GA, GH, GN, GS, Inter-Domain courses. This may include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the 12th credit level or the requirements for the student’s degree program, whichever is higher: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits

Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

Integrated B.S. in Special Education and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction

Requirements for the Integrated B.S. in Special Education and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction can be found in the Graduate Bulletin.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university's academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.


University Park

Lauren Cozad, Ph.D.
Coordinator of Teacher Education in Special Education
226 A CEDAR Building
University Park, PA 16802

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2024-25 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition.

Special Education, B.S. at University Park Campus and Commonwealth Campuses

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
EDTHP 115*#†3EDPSY 10 or 11*#†3
EDUC 1001EDPSY 101*#†3
ENGL 15 or 30H*#3PSYCH 212*#†3
MATH 200*#†3Literature Selection*#†13
PSYCH 100*#†3General Education Course (Inter-Domain)3
General Education Course (GN)3 
 16 15
Second Year
CI 280 (GH)3CAS 100A*†3
EDPSY 14*#3General Education Course (Inter-Domain)3
General Education Course (GN)3General Education Course (GA)3
General Education Course (GHW)1.5General Education Course (GHW)1.5
 13.5 13.5
Third Year
SPLED 395W*3SPLED 404*3
SPLED 401*4SPLED 411*3
SPLED 410*3SPLED 412*3
SPLED 415*3SPLED 454*3
SPLED 418*3SPLED 495E*3
SPLED 425*3 
 19 15
Fourth Year
ENGL 202A or 202B3SPLED 495D3
SPLED 409A*3SPLED 495F*212
SPLED 409B*3 
SPLED 409C*3 
SPLED 495G*4 
 16 15
Total Credits 123

Course requires a grade of C or better for the major

Course requires a grade of C or better for General Education


Course is an Entrance to Major requirement

Course satisfies General Education and degree requirement

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy Cultural Diversity Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ), Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS) and Integrative Studies (Inter-domain) requirements. N or Q (Honors) is the suffix at the end of a course number used to help identify an Inter-domain course, but the inter-domain attribute is used to fill audit requirements. Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of 'C' or better.

All incoming Schreyer Honors College first-year students at University Park will take ENGL 137H/CAS 137H in the fall semester and ENGL 138T/CAS 138T in the spring semester. These courses carry the GWS designation and satisfy a portion of that General Education requirement. If the student’s program prescribes GWS these courses will replace both ENGL 15/ENGL 30H and CAS 100A/CAS 100B/CAS 100C. Each course is 3 credits.


 Literature Selection list of acceptable courses available here.


 No additional coursework permitted during student teaching.

Career Paths

Career opportunities for graduates with teaching certification include:

Professional Resources


The College of Education educator preparation programs are fully accredited at the Initial and Advanced levels by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The next CAEP program review will be Fall 2026. CAEP advances excellence in educator preparation through evidence-based accreditation that assures quality and supports continuous improvement to strengthen P-12 student learning.


Professional Licensure/Certification

Many U.S. states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map.


University Park

125 CEDAR Building
University Park, PA 16802