Master’s Degree in Moderate to Severe Special Education

Master of Education in Special Education: Moderate to Severe (Leads to Initial Teacher Licensure)Initial Program – Leads to Initial Teacher Licensure

Offered By: College of Education

Develop Skills for Teaching Moderate to Severe Special Education Students

The Master of Education (MEd) in Special Education: Moderate to Severe program is designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree who are interested in teaching K-12 children who have advanced special needs and exceptionalities. This master’s degree program can prepare you to seek initial teaching licensure in the field of moderate to severe special education. You will study topics ranging from ethical and legal practices to diagnosis and assessment in special education. In addition to taking 47 credits, you must complete a full-time,15-week student teaching component with a certified special educator.

Work Toward Teaching Moderate to Severe Special Education in K-12 Classrooms

This special education master’s degree program is offered in person and online. If you find yourself balancing personal responsibilities with earning your MEd in special education, the online and evening formats can make your education goals possible.

Grand Canyon University cares about promoting the well-being of students at a large scale, including academic, spiritual and vocational growth. For this reason, academics are supported by our Christian worldview and strong academic heritage. GCU also sees the benefit of achieving a balanced lifestyle. The on-campus and online master’s degree in moderate to severe special education licensure program creates room for both academic excellence and personal flexibility that can suit your individualized needs. 

The online format for the moderate and severe special education master’s degree can offer the convenience of flexible scheduling, allowing you to balance coursework with professional commitments and personal life. With accessible resources and a supportive virtual learning environment, this format can enable you to engage deeply with the curriculum at your own pace. Embracing modern technology and interactive tools, GCU’s online platform aims to foster an enriching educational experience tailored to accommodate diverse learning needs. However, it's important to note that many teaching programs also include practicum/field experience hours that require in-person and hands-on experiences.

The moderate and severe special education master’s degree at GCU offers in-person, one-night-per week evening classes in a dynamic learning environment that facilitates face-to-face interactions and immediate support from experienced faculty and peers. This format can offer a collaborative setting where discussions and networking opportunities can thrive, fostering deeper engagement and shared insights among students. By attending evening classes, you can integrate academic pursuits into your schedule, balancing work or daytime commitments while advancing your education in a personalized and interactive setting.

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Special Education Moderate to Severe Curriculum and Teaching Courses

This graduate program includes a rigorous curriculum, relevant courses and faculty to support your journey to begin teaching students with moderate to severe exceptionalities. In this program, you will study special education moderate to severe curriculum that includes a variety of topics, such as:

  • Characteristics of intellectual exceptionalities and other physical health impairments
  • Ethical and legal practices
  • Developmentally appropriate skills
  • Instructional planning
  • Collaboration strategies
  • Diagnosis and assessment in advanced special education
  • Communication and behavior strategies
  • Assistive technologies
  • Classroom management methods

The special education degree program concludes with a full-time, 15-week student teaching component that must be completed with a certified special educator. You are expected to have access to K-12 settings with students who have significant special education needs in order to complete the 103 hours of practicum/field experience requirements. Additionally, upon successful completion of this program, graduates may go on to pursue a moderate to severe teaching credential online or in person.

Career Paths for MEd in Moderate to Severe Special Education Graduates

Upon completion of this MEd program, graduates may be prepared to apply for a moderate to severe special education license to be able to adeptly support students facing advanced exceptionalities. Graduates are taught to become skilled in crafting personalized education plans tailored to meet the unique requirements of each individual student.

As a graduate, you may go on to pursue a career as a licensed special education teacher in various grade levels, including:

  • Preschool
  • Kindergarten
  • Elementary school
  • Middle school
  • Secondary school

Accredited Master of Education Degrees

This moderate to severe special education master’s degree is accredited by the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP), an accrediting body endorsed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Additionally, GCU maintains accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), affirming our commitment to delivering quality education at both national and regional levels. Our MEd programs have received full accreditation from AAQEP, signifying our commitment to fostering effective educators who can evolve professionally and maintain the highest standards of quality in education.

MEd in Special Education: Moderate to Severe FAQs

Explore the questions and answers below to help provide clarity on various aspects of the special education track, helping you make well-informed decisions about your academic pursuits.

Programs such as the Master of Education in Special Education: Moderate to Severe (Licensure) degree qualifies you to apply for your teaching license following completion. If you already have a teaching license, a master’s in special education (non-licensure) program may be a good option for you to build on your previous teaching knowledge and obtain your graduate degree.

The different levels of special education encompass varying degrees of needs, with categories spanning from mild to moderate to more intensive, such as moderate to severe exceptionalities. According to the Arizona Department of Education, these categories can include conditions like autism, intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injury, emotional disability, specific learning disability, orthopedic impairments, developmental delay, health/hearing impairments, among others, each requiring specific interventions and support.1

GCU offers different graduate certificates and degree options available for the specific levels mentioned above, including a Graduate Certificate of Completion Special Education, Mild to Moderate and Master of Education (MEd) in Special Education: Moderate to Severe (Non-licensure) degree.

Yes. While this master’s degree program at GCU requires you to hold a bachelor’s degree to be eligible, it does not need to be a bachelor’s in education. The program is designed to help prepare you to possibly change careers or help you work toward enhancing your current career in the education field. 

An online master’s degree in special education from GCU delivers the same quality education as a traditional, on-campus degree while providing you with a more convenient format. Online degrees are becoming increasingly popular, and employers are typically most concerned with an institution’s accreditation status rather than the format in which the degree was obtained.2, 3 

The main difference between mild to moderate and moderate to severe special education lies in the varying levels of severity. Mild to moderate special education typically addresses conditions such as autism, traumatic brain injury, certain emotional or behavioral disorders, developmental delay and/or other health impairments.4 Students in this category may require specialized instruction and support but often participate in general education settings for a significant part of their school day.

On the other hand, moderate to severe special education involves more profound impairments that can significantly impact a student's cognitive, behavioral, social or physical functioning. This category includes severe intellectual challenges, significant developmental delays or health impairments, severe autism spectrum disorders, orthopedic impairments and severe behavioral or emotional disturbances.5 Students with moderate to severe exceptionalities usually need more intensive and individualized support, specialized educational settings, extensive accommodations and may often face challenges accessing the general education curriculum.

Yes. Specialized focuses in advanced special education, like autism spectrum disorders or emotional and behavioral disorders are available depending on the school you attend. At GCU, you have the potential to advance your focus in special education programs by pursuing one of our master’s programs in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). These concentrations can offer more focused coursework and interventions like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), communication skills, social development, behavior management, and tailored support strategies for ASD or EBD challenges. These specialized tracks can help you support individuals with diverse needs in educational settings. 

Embark on your journey in specialized education with our MEd in Special Education: Moderate to Severe. Enroll now to work toward acquiring teaching skills that can make a lasting impact on diverse learners.

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 Arizona Department of Education. (n.d.). Disability Categories. Retrieved on Dec. 19, 2023.

2 Hamilton, I. (2023, May 24). By The Numbers: The Rise Of Online Learning In The U.S. Forbes. Retrieved on Jan. 17, 2024. 

3 Best Colleges. (2023, May 24). How Does Online College Accreditation Work? Retrieved on Jan. 17, 2024. 

4 Arizona Department of Education (n.d.). Special Education Mild/Moderate Disabilities, K-12. Retrieved on Jan. 17, 2024. 

5 Arizona Department of Education (n.d.). Special Education Moderate/Severe Disabilities, K-12. Retrieved on Jan. 17, 2024. 

TOTAL PROGRAM CREDITS & COURSE LENGTH:
Total Credits: 47
Online: 6 weeks
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TRANSFER CREDITS:
Up to 12 credits or 1/3 of the total program requirements in transfer (whichever is less)
PROGRAM TUITION RATE:
Online: $605 per credit
[Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid]

Cost of Attendance

Course List

Major:
47 credits
Degree Requirements:
47 credits

Core Courses

Course Description

Teacher candidates will survey the philosophical, historical, and sociological influences upon which special educational theories and practices are constructed, and explore a variety of the common issues, trends, and opportunities that professional special educators face in the field. Special Education Teacher candidates will prepare for the graduate learning experience at Grand Canyon University by developing and strengthening the skills necessary to succeed as graduate students in the College of Education. Practicum/field experience hours: 6. Fingerprint clearance not required.

Course Description

Candidates examine the United States Constitution, and the constitution of the State of Arizona. From this foundational review, candidates will explore application of the United States Constitution and the constitution of the State of Arizona in educational contexts. Practicum/field experience hours: 3. Fingerprint clearance not required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates are introduced to the educational needs of students with moderate to severe exceptionalities including the definitions, characteristics, prevalence, causes and educational approaches to these disabilities and disorders. Candidates define low-incidence disabilities and identify cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and behavioral patterns of learning and development for individuals with moderate to severe exceptionalities. Practicum/field experience hours: 3. Fingerprint clearance not required. Prerequisite: SPD-501.

Course Description

Teacher candidates survey professional ethical principles, professional practice standards, laws, and regulations that guide special educators. Candidates build upon this foundational knowledge to examine the multiple roles and complex situations of professional practice related to individuals with moderate to severe exceptionalities. Practicum/field experience hours: 3. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-506 or approved enrollment in the Graduate Certificate of Completion: Special Education, Moderate to Severe.

Course Description

Teacher candidates investigate diagnostic and assessment tools for determining student eligibility and monitoring for progress. Foundational knowledge is built regarding the use of multiple methods of assessment and data sources for diagnostic and educational decisions for individuals with moderate to severe exceptionalities. Candidates analyze assessment data and develop an individualized education plan (IEP) for a student. Ongoing collaboration with IEP team members and external stakeholders is emphasized. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates explore effective collaboration and communication techniques and strategies used in moderate to severe special education settings. Collaboration among teachers, other school professionals, families, and outside service agencies is analyzed to meet the individual needs of this special population. In addition, evaluation of the techniques and strategies used to meet the unique medical and educational needs of students within the moderate to severe classroom setting is addressed. Practicum/field experience hours: 6. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-556.

Course Description

Teacher candidates examine how instructional planning advances the learning of students with moderate to severe disabilities by creating a variety of specialized curricula aligned to content standards. Candidates are guided in designing engaging instruction that meets the needs documented in a student’s individualized education plan. Plans for accommodations, differentiated instruction, and strategies are identified in the lesson planning process. Formative and summative assessments are created to evaluate student progress and identify if instructional adjustments are necessary. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-558.

Course Description

Teacher candidates examine how to create safe, inclusive, culturally responsive learning environments through collaboration with colleagues and other professionals so individuals with disabilities become active and effective learners. Strategies to develop students' emotional well-being, positive social interactions, and self-determination are emphasized. Candidates focus on functional behavior assessments, behavior improvement plans, activities of daily living, and positive behavior interventions and supports. Practicum/field experience hours: 9. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-562 or approved enrollment in the Graduate Certificate of Completion: Special Education, Moderate to Severe.

Course Description

Teacher candidates examine curriculum needs of individuals with moderate to severe disabilities to develop and integrate the skills needed to transition students from the educational environment into successful postsecondary opportunities. Candidates focus on writing measurable postsecondary goals, creating aligned activities, and identifying the importance of family and interagency involvement. Practicum/field experience hours: 9. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-564.

Course Description

Teacher candidates examine typical and atypical language development, and associated disabilities and disorders. Coursework emphasizes research-based phonics development and the science of reading, including phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Candidates investigate how speech-language pathologists, special education teachers and others assist individuals with moderate to severe exceptionalities in the use of augmentative and alternative assistive technology, modifications, and accommodations to enhance their communication skills and literacy development. Practicum/field experience hours: 9. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-566 or approved enrollment in the Graduate Certificate of Completion: Special Education, Moderate to Severe.

Course Description

In this course, teacher candidates examine the fundamentals of the legal, historical, and educational foundations of Structured English Immersion (SEI) and other instructional programs for English language learners. Theoretical principles of language acquisition and the role of culture in learning are examined. Methods of assessment are identified and analyzed. Teacher candidates identify strategies to promote English language development and improve student achievement. Through Universal Design for Learning they plan, deliver, and evaluate standards-based instruction for English language learners. Practicum/field experience hours: 15. Fingerprint clearance required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates build foundational knowledge on a variety of research-based instructional strategies to provide individuals with moderate to severe exceptionalities access to content areas. From this foundational knowledge, teacher candidates select and adapt research-based instructional strategies to plan lessons with a focused attention on functional mathematics and sciences. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-568 or SPD-569.

Course Description

Teacher candidates select and adapt research-based instructional strategies to provide individuals with moderate to severe exceptionalities access to language arts content. With this foundational knowledge, teacher candidates plan a functional approach to literacy instruction. In addition, disabilities, such as dyslexia, are reviewed to understand how they affect the acquisition of reading skills and how they vary in presentation and degree. Teacher candidates select, adapt, and use research-based instructional strategies and interventions in language arts to advance the learning for all students, including those with moderate to severe disabilities, with attention focused on reading. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-569.

Course Description

This course supports the special education clinical field experience through a full-time student teaching experience. Candidates select a K-Grade 12 special education moderate to severe classroom setting to engage in the student teaching experience that includes practical classroom experiences, research, analysis, and teaching to support the creation of a Student Teaching Performance of Evaluation (STEP) and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Performance Template related to special education services. Fingerprint clearance required.

Program Locations

GCU Online Student


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* 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.