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 diagnosis 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, prescription, 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 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 in the mainstream of American life; Providing national leadership in the development of new knowledge in special education; Preparing teachers to use effective practices in special education. Students in the Special Education Program have an opportunity to enroll in an integrated undergraduate – graduate program with the Reading Specialist Program in which students earn a bachelor’s degree and certification in both areas.

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

Baccalaureate degree candidates must meet the following requirements 1-3 by the end of their third semester:

  1. A minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.00
  2. Satisfaction of the ETS Praxis CORE exam, in order to meet the Pennsylvania Department of Education Basic Skills Testing requirement.
  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 candidates own.

Requirements 4-9 must be met by the end of the fourth semester when students typically participate in the Entrance-to-Major process.

  1. A grade of "C" or better in all specified courses.
  2. Completion of an early field experience specified by the certification program.
  3. Completion of a core of Education courses specified by the certification program.
  4. Completion of additional credits as specified by the certification program.
  5. Completion of at least 48 semester credit hours, including ENGL 15 or ENGL 30H, three credits of literature, and six credits of quantification.
  6. Approval from the professional education adviser or the head of the pertinent certification program.

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 (Students may apply 3 credits of ROTC.) 3
Requirements for the Major 86

12-15 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.

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.)

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

Knowledge Domains

  • Arts (GA): 6 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 6 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 6 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 9 credits

Integrative Studies (may also complete a Knowledge Domain requirement)

  • Inter-Domain or Approved Linked Courses: 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.

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
EDPSY 10Individual Differences and Education 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
EDPSY 421Learning Processes in Relation to Educational Practices3
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 401Motivating Exceptional Learners4
SPLED 404Working with Families and Professionals in Special Education3
SPLED 408Meeting Instructional Needs of English Language Learners with Special Needs3
SPLED 411Intervention for Students with Severe Disabilities3
SPLED 412Instruction for Students with Mild Disabilities4
SPLED 454Assessment for Instruction4
SPLED 425Foundations of Special Education, Etiologies, Law, and Implications for Practice4
SPLED 495EExperience with Exceptional Children3
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 418Technologies for Persons with Disabilities3
SPLED 495FPracticum in Special Education15
SPLED 495GExperience with an Integrated Inclusion Classroom4
Red Cross Certification in First Aid and CPR

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

Kathleen McKinnon
Coordinator of Undergraduate Program
203 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 2021-22 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition (Note: the archive only contain suggested academic plans beginning with the 2018-19 edition of the Undergraduate Bulletin).

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
ENGL 15 or 30H*#3EDPSY 101*#†3
MATH 200*#†3EDPSY 10*#†3
PSYCH 100*#†3PSYCH 212*#†3
EDTHP 115*#†3Literature Selection*#†13
EDUC 1001Science Selection*†3
 13 15
Second Year
EDPSY 14*#3CAS 100A*†3
Science Selection3Science Selection3
Art Selection3Art Selection3
Health and Physical Activity1.5Health and Physical Activity1.5
Humanities Selection3Minor/Elective3
 13.5 13.5
Third Year
SPLED 395W*3SPLED 404*3
SPLED 401*4SPLED 411*3
SPLED 408*3SPLED 412*4
SPLED 425*4SPLED 454*4
EDPSY 421*3SPLED 495E*3
 17 17
Fourth Year
SPLED 409A*3SPLED 495F*215
SPLED 409B*3 
SPLED 409C*3 
SPLED 495G*4 
SPLED 418*3 
ENGL 202A or 202B3 
 19 15
Total Credits 123

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy University 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.

GWS, GQ, GHW, GN, GA, GH, and GS are abbreviations used to identify General Education program courses. General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ) and Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS, and Integrative Studies). Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of ‘C’ or better.

Integrative Studies courses are required for the General Education program. N is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate an Inter-Domain course and Z is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate a Linked course.

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 replace both ENGL 30H and CAS 100. Each course is 3 credits.

Career Paths

Career opportunities for graduates with teaching certification include:

Professional Resources


The College of Education educator preparation program is currently NCATE accredited and is seeking accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) in Spring 2019. 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