M.A in Special Education | Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Skip to Main Content

First year students deposit here

  1. Home
  2. /
  3. M.A. in Special Education...

M.A. in Special Education with Initial Licensure

Play a crucial role as a licensed special education teacher.

Are you currently a Tier 1 teacher or paraprofessional needing Tier 2 teaching licensure to continue working within your school district or in the field of special education (SPED) in Minnesota? Our online program, approved by PELSB, meets the specific criteria and provides the necessary coursework and assessments required to obtain the license tailored to your chosen specialization.

Additionally, benefit from the opportunity to facilitate a master’s level lane change, elevating your professional qualifications and career trajectory. Upon successful completion of our program, eligible candidates can apply for a Tier 3 or 4 professional SPED teaching license.  

Are you inspired to pursue a career in teaching? Whether you’re pivoting into teaching or starting a new career path, this program is also designed for individuals with a bachelor’s degree, regardless of prior teaching experience. 

Our dedicated faculty members, well-versed in the field, offer individualized support, mentorship, and advising throughout teacher preparation. Rooted in Lasallian Catholic values, our teaching philosophy empowers you to incorporate compassion, patience, and a deep understanding of students’ unique challenges into your approach. 

Help us fulfill our mission to provide effective education, compassionate care, and equitable access to learning for our nation’s most vulnerable learners.

Read More




per credit


start dates

2 years

completion time

Individual completion times may vary. 





per credit


start dates

2 years

completion time

Individual completion times may vary. 


Program Highlights

  • Immerse yourself in coursework based on the standards required by the Minnesota Professional Educator and Licensing Standards Board (PELSB).
  • Learn more about grants and financial aid including how your district could help provide tuition assistance and other financial support.
  • Flexibility to choose individual or combined licensure concentrations; K-12 Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD), Birth through Age 21 Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and K-12 Specific Learning Disabilities.
  • Engage in classroom observations and clinical field experiences. Student teaching lasts 12-15 weeks, predominantly taking place in the classroom where you are employed.

What You'll Learn

  • Core skills and foundations of the special education teaching profession
  • Disability-specific instructional methods
  • Current evidence-based research and educational theories
  • Collaborative relationships with learners, families, educators, and community
  • Intercultural competence to understand and inform educational practices
  • Critical thinking skills for analysis and decision-making

Virtual Information Sessions

Join us for an information session to learn more about the program, the application process, and more. We offer live information sessions where you can meet program staff, as well as an archive you can view on your own time.

Special ed teacher shortage, and the solution.

As the program director for the M.A. in Special Education, Kate Nelson's passion for special education is rooted in supporting vulnerable learners. "I am dedicated to ensuring equitable education by cultivating trained, empathetic, and compassionate professionals to support Minnesota's special needs population," she said. Listen to our podcast where Kate discusses the shortage of special education teachers in Minnesota and across the nation — and how learners can thrive.

Listen now


Ready to apply? Learn about taking the next steps.

    • Applicants may apply for admission to master’s degree programs at any time during the year.
    • Applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution and maintained an overall grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.00 scale.

  • Students with transcripts from universities located outside of the United States or a waiver country listed here are required to take and pass English Proficiency testing.

    Saint Mary’s accepts:

    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a minimum score of 72
    • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with a minimum score of 6.0
    • International Test of English Proficiency (ITEP) with a minimum score of 4.0 or Pearson Test of English with a score of 51
    • Duolingo with a minimum score of 100. Please see our academic catalog for a list of all approved waiver countries.

  • Applicants must submit the following:

    1. Completed application form with the nonrefundable application fee (fee not required for alumni or students seeking readmission or veterans and active military personnel), and
    2. An official transcript(s) issued to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota from the institution posting the applicant’s completed bachelor degree and other relevant transcripts documenting program prerequisites and potential transfer credits.
    3. A personal statement which includes:
      • brief description of the applicant’s background, training, and experience; and
      • statement indicating the career goals of the applicant and his or her reasons for seeking admission to the program and,
      • statement indicating the career goals of the applicant and his or her reasons for seeking admission to the program and,
      • personal information the applicant wishes to share.
    4. Names of two people (including title, organization, email, phone number) who could serve as professional references, if needed, during the application review process. The best references are those who know you in a professional capacity, such as current or former supervisors.
    5. A current résumé listing educational background and work experience.
    6. Applicants with international transcripts may require an English language proficiency exam (TOEFL, IELTS, PTE or MELAB accepted.)

    Please Note: Application materials should be sent to the attention of the Office of Admission on the Twin Cities Campus.

    Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

    Office of Admission
    2500 Park Ave S
    Minneapolis, MN 55404

    Or electronically: tcadmission@smumn.edu

    Please reach out with any questions about the application process.

    Phone: (612) 728-5100
    Toll-free: (866) 437-2788

    E-mail: tcadmission@smumn.edu

    • Fall: Aug. 2, 2024

    • Sept. 3, 2024

  • You can expect to be notified about your acceptance approximately two weeks following your application completion date.

Tuition & Fees

We help you find ways to finance your education. Talk to your Enrollment Counselor about scholarships, loans, and other ways to make your education affordable.

Course Catalog

You’ll take courses such as:

  • Foundations of Special Education
  • Literacy Development and Interventions
  • Transition and Collaboration
  • Social Emotional Learning and Well-Being

The course catalog provides complete information about course requirements.

Careers & Salary

Over the last four decades, the number of students in special education in the U.S. has doubled. In the 2021-22 school year, nearly 7.3 million students required special education services. Join us in addressing this challenge and embarking on a journey toward a high-demand teaching career.

Special education teacher (Minnesota)

$65,625 per year*

Related Programs

Advance your career with flexible programs designed for busy professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • At Saint Mary’s, we want you to succeed, and we help you do so, inside and outside of the classroom:

    Student Central: Your one stop for student services.

    Library: Resources and services are available 24/7 to all students.

    Writing Center: Offers virtual and face-to-face services to support students.

    Career Services: Can help you develop your career-readiness skills at any point in your education.

  • The only thing virtual about your online experience is the classroom. Our flexible online programs offer the rigor and reputation you expect from Saint Mary’s.

    Explore more here.

  • If you are in a degree-granting program and enrolled at least half time, you may be eligible for financial aid.

    Learn more here.

  • Life gets busy. Whether you’re raising a family, pursuing your career, or playing an active role in your community, we know you want to keep up with what you love while you take the next step in your career. That’s why Saint Mary’s online programs are flexible and designed to fit your demanding life.

    Learn more here.

  • Students can complete coursework to prepare to seek a Minnesota license in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD)s. A program pathway will be individually designed for you depending on your licensure preference. Please note that this program is designed to meet educational requirements for special education licensure in Minnesota and is not designed or intended to meet educational requirements for special education licensure in other jurisdictions.

    EBD: Kindergarten-12th Grade Emotional or Behavioral Disorders

    The K-12 EBD licensure concentration is designed for educators who work with students facing emotional or behavioral challenges. This concentration equips teachers with strategies to address behavioral issues, create a positive learning environment, and promote the social-emotional well-being of students.

    ASD: Birth- Age 21 Autism Spectrum Disorders 

    B-21 ASD licensure concentration is designed for educators specializing in working with students on the autism spectrum. This concentration prepares teachers to address the diverse needs of students with autism.

    SLD: K-12 Specific Learning Disabilities 

    This licensure concentration is tailored training for teachers working with students with specific learning disabilities. Please note: The SLD licensure track has limited offerings. Contact your enrollment counselor for more information.

  • Yes! We offer initial Minnesota licensure preparation for your first teaching license. The program begins with 18 credits of education foundation coursework, delivered online via Zoom or other remote meeting platforms at scheduled times, prior to diving into the special education courses.

    To obtain licensure, you’ll complete observations and clinical field experiences in the required settings, Licensure recommendation is contingent upon successfully completing all Minnesota state licensure requirements.

  • If you stay on the recommended course schedule of two classes per consecutive semester, you’ll complete your coursework in three years. If you are seeking initial Minnesota licensure, the timeline for the program will be based on prerequisite coursework, field experience/student teaching, testing, and the number of licensure preparation areas you’re pursuing.

  • You may transfer a maximum of six-semester credits earned before admittance upon recommendation of the program director and with the approval of the dean. Transfer credits are subject to both graduate school and programmatic criteria.

  • The Master of Arts in Special Education is a fully online program. However, education foundation courses required for students seeking initial special education licensure will be delivered online with the required scheduled meeting times; students are expected to attend during these class hours.  These courses precede the special education online coursework, which does not require scheduled meeting times.

  • Yes, you must have access to classrooms to complete course activities. If you are seeking Minnesota licensure, you must also complete field experience/student teaching in a variety of school settings.

  • If you plan to complete the licensure preparation portion of this program, you’ll need to meet Minnesota licensing requirements which is 12-15 weeks of student teaching (for those seeking their first teaching license). Saint Mary’s has a field placement office that will identify and secure student teaching opportunities that fit your needs.

News and Information from the School of Education


Sources and Disclaimer

  1. Sahan Journal, Do Minnesota’s special education teachers meet federal standards? The answer could cost the state $219 million at https://sahanjournal.com/education/special-education-minnesota-federal-funding-teacher-licensing/#:~:text=According%20to%20a%202022%20state,of%20compliance%2C%E2%80%9D%20she%20said. (visited Jan. 17, 2023).
  2. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, K–12 online learning and students with disabilities: perspectives from state special education directors at  https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1018283.pdf (visited Jan. 17, 2023).
  3. Indeed, special education teacher salary in Minnesota at https://www.indeed.com/career/special-education-teacher/salaries/MN (visited Jan. 17, 2023).