Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Degree

Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum DisordersAdvanced Program for Continuing Professional Education

Offered By: College of Education

Help ASD Students Transition Into Adult Life

This Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum Disorders degree program, offered by Grand Canyon University, offers a research-based curriculum designed to help empower educators who are licensed in special education to work with students who have autism by using inclusive teaching strategies. The increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD)1 emphasizes the necessity for educators who possess comprehensive knowledge of ASD characteristics, including fundamental challenges in language, communication, social skills, behavior and sensory processing.

Pursuing this degree may be particularly appealing for licensed educators who are passionate about making a significant impact on the lives of students with ASD, as early intervention and education are vital in establishing a solid foundation for lifelong growth.2 As an ASD specialist, you have the opportunity to play a key role in facilitating the development of essential social skills and learning abilities, paving the way for greater independence for your students.

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Earn Your Autism Master’s Degree at GCU

Offered by the College of Education, this graduate autism program will teach you the transitional skills needed to help students with ASD transition from school to independent living. The proven and innovative approaches in this degree will be delivered by knowledgeable faculty and help you complete 110 practicum/field experience hours, as well as a capstone course to apply hands-on techniques in practical settings. The program integrates an action research project specific to the field and in consideration of becoming an ASD specialist.

At GCU, you can further your education while fulfilling your current professional responsibilities. Enroll in online classes and complete coursework via our intuitive e-learning platform, allowing collaboration and lively academic discussions with peers and instructors. Work through the curriculum from virtually anywhere and enhance your career qualifications on a conveniently flexible schedule.3

Students who prefer in-person instruction are invited to enroll in an evening cohort for this ASD degree. As a member of an evening cohort, you’ll join fellow learners and instructors on our campus in Phoenix one evening per week. By taking one class at a time, you can progress toward completing your degree while accommodating your schedule to continue working and fulfilling other commitments.

Total Credits: 32
Online: 6 weeks
[More Info]
Up to 12 credits or 1/3 of the total program requirements in transfer (whichever is less)
Online: $590 per credit [More Info]


GCU’s Master’s in ASD Degree Offers Relevant Education

This 32-credit degree is designed for licensed teachers who understand the importance of specialized strategies when educating students on the autism spectrum. You will be immersed in research-based learning techniques and inclusive teaching strategies, including effective instructional strategies that can help equip you to teach students with autism spectrum disorders.

Within this program, you will be exposed to comprehensive knowledge spanning various competencies within the field — from assessments and eligibility determinations to the implementation and adjustment of students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). You will have opportunities to apply evidence-based techniques directly in the field and be encouraged to consider leadership and advocacy opportunities aimed at creating more inclusive school environments for children of all ability levels.

In this master’s in autism spectrum disorders program, you will be taught the special transitional skills needed to help these exceptional students transition from school to independent living. Discover techniques and competencies for assisting children with ASD, including:

  • Instructional strategies
  • Behavior management techniques
  • Social skills development
  • Sensory processing interventions
  • Individualized education plan (IEP) implementation

Similar Programs That Lead to Licensure

The advanced coursework in this ASD degree is conveniently designed for professionals who already hold a teaching license. If you’re seeking a similar degree that leads to licensure, you may want to consider pursuing an MEd in Special Education or an MEd in Special Education Moderate to Severe degree. In addition, financial aid and scholarships may be available for eligible students to help you follow your calling to support or teach students with autism.

As a student aiming to become an ASD specialist through this degree program, you will receive instruction in main content areas encompassing various essential topics, such as:

  • Practices promoting inclusivity for those with ASD
  • Instructional strategies to assist in transitional life skills
  • Data-driven assessments
  • Assistive technology behavioral supports
  • Leadership and collaboration
  • Advocacy and professional ethics
  • Investigate collaboration, conflict resolution and productive environments in a capstone and action research project

This degree program will explore how current research and policies translate into classroom and school environments, as well as how best to connect students and families to post-secondary options. The emphasis on leadership and collaboration in working with students with ASD is intended to help prepare you to pursue a career in advocating for, working with or teaching students with ASD.

The core focus of the practicum/field experience is to assist educators in developing expertise in utilizing evidence-based and comprehensive approaches to effectively engage and educate your students. The purpose of this action research project is for educators to investigate scholarly research in an autism-related area of interest and conduct their own action research.

The culminating action research project underscores leadership and advocacy opportunities. These include roles for educators working with stakeholders in delivering services for students with autism spectrum disorders.

Through hands-on practical experiences, graduates will be taught to set career goals, apply research knowledge for professional growth, collaborate effectively, resolve conflicts and foster supportive work environments when working with ASD students.

Career Paths With an Autism Master’s Degree

With this degree, you’ll have opportunities to develop a firm foundation of competencies that are aligned with various career opportunities in the field, such as:

  • Postsecondary education teacher
  • Special education teacher in a preschool, elementary or middle school environment

Families of children with ASD need an educator who will understand and advocate for their developmental, educational and transitional needs. Specializing in ASD can help further these aims as you may be empowered to develop relationships with students and families as you support them through their K-12 education and postsecondary goals.

Graduate With an ASD Degree From an Institutionally Accredited University

As an institutionally accredited university, GCU takes pride in offering a quality, goal-oriented academic experience to educators. In addition, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has continually accredited GCU since 1968. The College of Education shares the university’s commitment to upholding the principles and standards established by our accrediting bodies.

Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder FAQs

GCU has gathered some frequently asked questions about the subfield of special education and earning an autism master’s degree. If you’re still unsure of whether a graduate degree could be right for you, the following answers may provide some clarity.

If you’d like to explore curriculum that surveys ASD, you may decide to enroll in an undergraduate teaching degree program that emphasizes special education. For example, you may work toward a teaching degree that examines special education in either early childhood education settings or elementary school. Another option is to earn a general undergraduate teaching degree, followed by specialized graduate-level education in special education in general or ASD in particular.

Qualification requirements for aspiring special education teachers vary by state and setting. To work with children with autism in a public school, you will need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree plus a state-issued teaching license or certification.4 In addition, depending on your state, you may be required to earn an autism master’s degree.4 Continuous professional development to stay current with advancements in autism research and interventions may be essential for effectively supporting individuals with autism.

If you are passionate about empowering children with ASD to acquire the academic, social and communication skills they need to flourish, you may find earning this master’s degree to be a worthwhile endeavor. Furthering your career qualifications may provide the following benefits:5

  • Opportunities to position yourself for possible career advancement
  • A better understanding of child development and developmental needs
  • Increased knowledge of best practices in pedagogy
Master ASD Online or Evening Programs Available

Prepare to have a meaningful and positive impact on the future of children with ASD. Apply today to enroll in the online or evening Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum Disorders at GCU.

If seeking licensure or certification, applicants to the program are responsible for contacting their state department of education for licensure requirements and program approval. In addition, fingerprint and background clearance is required.

1 CDC Newsroom Releases. (2023, March 23). Autism prevalence higher, according to data from 11 ADDM communities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2024.

2 Autism Awareness Australia. (2023, May 26). Autism and early childhood education. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2024.

3 While all courses are completed online, you will need to complete practicum/field experience hours in person locally.

4 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a special education teacher. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2024.

5 Elmore, H. D. (2021, Oct. 22). Why you should pursue a degree, endorsement, or certificate in autism spectrum disorder. Graduate Programs for Educators. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2024.

Course List

32 credits
Degree Requirements:
32 credits

Core Courses

Course Description

This course is designed to prepare students for the graduate learning experience at Grand Canyon University. Students have opportunities to develop and strengthen the skills necessary to succeed as graduate students in the College of Education. Emphasis is placed on utilizing the tools for graduate success.

Course Description

This course orients professional educators to the theoretical foundations of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Educators will focus on the exceptional needs of students with ASD and teacher's responsibilities in determining eligibility and assessment. This course also examines diagnoses and evidence-based practices in the school environment. An emphasis is placed on ethical behaviors and looking at different perspectives within ASD. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required.

Course Description

In this course, professional educators will look at how individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience difficulties in the areas of social acceptance and social communication. Emphasis is placed on how interactions with their typically developing peers can allow for opportunities to learn social skills and increase communication skills. Educators will determine the definition of inclusion and research how it impacts students with disabilities. Specific focus is placed on how to support students with ASD in an inclusive environment, including supports in the areas of environmental, social/emotional, behavioral and communication. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-504.

Course Description

Professional educators will determine strategies to align with the different ways individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) think, learn, and behave in the classroom. Educators will use differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) strategies to design interventions based on process, content and product, including specific strategies for engagement and speech and language support. Educators will support an inclusive environment with all instructional strategies. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-507.

Course Description

This course provides professional educators the opportunity to explore how behavioral, academic, and social assessments are used when determining effective instructional strategies and interventions for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A focus is placed on synthesizing data to make instructional decisions that support students in a variety of settings. Educators will look at how to gather data during instruction and monitor progress of students' IEP goals. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-511.

Course Description

This course explores functional communication training and specific strategies to promote effective communication behaviors or skills of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In addition, professional educators will survey assistive technology in relation to enhancing communication of students with autism spectrum disorders. Consideration of how to manage challenging expectations, show respect and improve ethical practice to promote advocacy and collaboration will extend to the home environment for life-skill application. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-517.

Course Description

This course explores how individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may require specific sensory and behavior supports in order to be successful in the classroom. Professional educators look at Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports (PBIS), including strategies that encourage and support desired behaviors. Educators will review the principles of PBIS and research interventions and supports for students with ASD in all school environments. Additionally, they will determine how to assess a student and best support their needs when creating behavior accommodations for the inclusion classroom. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-567.

Course Description

This course addresses key requirements of the postsecondary transition plan and collaboration with stakeholders in school and the community. Professionals will learn about age appropriate assessments, aligned activities, and preparation for adult life. In addition, professionals explore postsecondary options, adult services, and living options for adults with autism spectrum disorder. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-527.

Course Description

Professional educators acquire knowledge of legal policy and ethical practices associated with students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This course focuses on rights and responsibilities, trends, and advocacy for students with ASD. Educators will also review creation and delivery of individualized education plans for students with ASD. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-557.

Course Description

This course addresses leadership and advocacy opportunities for professionals working with the many stakeholders involved in the delivery of services for students with autism spectrum disorders. Professional educators describe strategies to promote the advancement of the profession. Collaborative practices with stakeholders, conflict resolution strategies, and creating and sustaining productive work environments will be emphasized. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-537.

Course Description

This course is the culminating course in the Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum Disorders that emphasizes leadership and advocacy opportunities for professional educators working with the many stakeholders involved in the delivery of services for students with autism spectrum disorders. Educators will develop future professional goals and apply knowledge of professional literature and research to promote professional development opportunities. Collaborative practices with stakeholders, conflict resolution strategies, and creating and sustaining productive work environments will be investigated. Experience will culminate in a completed electronic portfolio. Practicum/field experience hours: 30. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: Completion of all other courses required for the Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum Disorders program.


GCU Online Student

Pursue a next-generation education with an online degree from Grand Canyon University. Earn your degree with convenience and flexibility with online courses that let you study anytime, anywhere.

GCU Evening Student

Grand Canyon University’s evening programs cater to the demands of working professionals who prefer an in-person learning environment. Our night classes meet just once per week and offer the interaction and discussion of a typical college classroom.

* Please note that this list may contain programs and courses not presently offered, as availability may vary depending on class size, enrollment and other contributing factors. If you are interested in a program or course listed herein please first contact your University Counselor for the most current information regarding availability.

* Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more information. Programs or courses subject to change.

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