Special Education

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The Master of Arts in Special Education teaches professional instructors to apply specialized support to students with challenges through educational, social, cognitive, rehabilitative, and behavioral management approaches.

The graduate candidates for master's degree and sixth year certificate of advanced study (SYC) programs may choose one of several sequences of study that provide the preparation required by the Connecticut State Department of Higher Education, the Connecticut State Department of Education, and the Council for Exceptional Children.

Paid Teaching Internships

Paid teaching internships available in the spring and fall semesters.

Special Education Program at Fairfield


The School of Education and Human Development is currently accredited by NCATE, currently known as CAEP, the largest accrediting body for educator preparation providers, through December, 2028. The School of Education and Human Development is currently undergoing a CAEP self-study to extend accreditation.

Course Offerings

Requirements for the MA and SYC

The MA and SYC programs in special education are individually planned according to each candidate's needs, interests, and background. The MA and the SYC each require completion of a minimum of 30 credits.

Once a sequence of study is identified, the following are the requirements for the MA and SYC.

Multicultural Issues in Counseling (or an equivalent course)
SE Electives (27 credits in 400-level courses in special education - determined in consultation with the candidate's advisor)
Comprehensive Examination (no credit)
Theories of Learning
SE Electives (27 credits in 500-level courses in special education - determined in consultation with the candidate's advisor)

Certification Requirements

The certification regulations in effect at the time of application for Connecticut certification must be met for the University to issue an institutional endorsement. The certification program in comprehensive special education at Fairfield University is sequentially organized across categories, providing participants with a frame of reference for evaluating the learning strengths and weaknesses of each child and, therefore, a basis from which to derive a prescriptive curriculum for the student with disabilities. The planned professional comprehensive program in special education is presented according to the format of Connecticut certification law and includes courses in the following areas.

  1. Psychoeducational theory and development of children with disabilities Developmental growth from infancy to adulthood is a baseline against which children with disabilities are viewed. Various theories pertaining to areas of disability are also presented and explored.
  2. Diagnosis of children and youth with disabilities Graduate candidates possessing developmental information and theoretical foundations can view each child with a disability against this background and thereby assess developmental strengths and weaknesses, and identify disabling conditions.
  3. Program planning and education of children and youth with disabilities Courses survey, analyze, and evaluate programs available for children with disabilities. Theory, development, diagnostic procedures, curricula, and methods are used as the baseline for comparison and for the development of individualized education plans designed to meet each student's needs.
  4. Curriculum and methods of teaching children and youth with disabilities The teaching process, although based upon sound diagnosis and expert knowledge of developmental sequences of education, must deal with each child's unique ways of functioning. The teacher cannot proceed without knowledge of the child's style of learning, tolerance for anxiety, attention, pace of cognitive processing, capacity for organization, and capability for developing appropriate relationships. Opportunity is provided within the special education program for future professional educators to be exposed to such variables. The future professional educator is expected to learn to observe children, to understand them, and to modify programs and plans to address the variables, as well as be able to shift gears, shift areas, and use several alternative approaches to achieve the same end goal.
  5. Practica or Student Teaching in Special Education The practica or student teaching experiences are designed to provide opportunities for the graduate candidate to engage in professional practice as a special education teacher under the supervision of University, school, and educational agency personnel. The experience offers the graduate candidate exposure in various settings to observe, evaluate, plan, instruct, and interact with pupils having special learning needs and challenging behaviors. Requirements are detailed in the Special Education Program Student Teaching Handbook. Placements are coordinated through the director of student teaching placements. An application for student teaching must be submitted to the director of student teaching placements in the semester prior to beginning the first practicum or beginning student teaching. Candidates work with a minimum of two different exceptionality categories and may have experiences at two different grade levels.
  6. Course plans and institutional endorsement Special education course planning is in concert with the candidate's advisor.

Initial Educator Certification Sequence of Courses

The following list of courses is designed to reflect the current plan of study required for Connecticut certification as an initial educator in comprehensive special education (48 credits). To be considered for an initial certificate and/or to receive an institutional endorsement from the Connecticut Department of Education, a candidate must successfully complete all coursework in the planned program, pass all PRAXIS assessments required by the state for the intended certification, and pass the program's Comprehensive Examination in Special Education. The program for those seeking an initial certificate in special education is designed so that candidates first earn a Master of Arts degree (30 credits in 400-level courses). During the final semester of the MA. degree program, candidates complete an abbreviated application to the SYC program. Faculty then determine whether candidates are academically and dispositionally eligible to pursue the initial certificate and the SYC The first 18 credits of the SYC program may be taken in such a way to fulfill requirements for initial certification. Candidates who complete the requirements for initial certification prior to completing all requirements for the SYC. may request an endorsement for certification prior to fulfilling the balance of the SYC degree requirements.

Augmentative Alternative Communications and Assistive Technologies
Psychoeducational Issues in Special Education
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Theories and Interventions
Introduction to Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
Theories of and Introduction to Learning Disabilities
Introduction to Children and Youth with Emotional Disturbances
Special Learners in the Bilingual/ESL Classroom
Management Techniques in Special Education
Developmental Literacy I
Developmental Literacy II
Comprehensive examination (no credits)

Program for SYC with Initial Certification (21 credits) to complete initial certification sequence.

Skill Development for Individualized Education Plans
Curriculum and Methods for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities
Collaboration and Consultation for the Special Educator
Diagnostic Procedures in Special Education of Youth with Disabilities
Student Teaching in Special Education (6 credits)
Student Teaching and Practica Seminar in Special Education

(Candidates are eligible to request an endorsement for initial certification after successfully completing the above courses.)

Theories of Learning

SE Electives (9 credits: may be from other departments - determined in consultation with candidate's advisor)

Cross-Endorsement Certification in Special Education

Cross endorsement in special education is 33 credits and is in alignment with the state of CT guidelines in that courses in each of the following content areas specified under the current Connecticut state cross-endorsement regulations must be taken. A review of candidates' transcripts and individual advisement will determine course selection in each of the content areas. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are likely requirements, unless the candidate has taken a similar course as part of their initial certification or degree. Candidates will have a minimum of one course in each area. The following are the areas of required content concentration and course options within each area. Each course is three credits.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Theories and Interventions
Introduction to Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
Theories of and Introduction to Learning Disabilities
Introduction to Children and Youth with Emotional Disturbances
Diagnostic Procedures in Special Education
Skill Development for Individual Education Plans
Developmental Literacy I
Curriculum & Methods for Students with Mild to Moderate Disabilities
Practica in Special Education (1)
Practica in Special Education (2)
Student Teaching/Practica Seminar
Augmentative Alternative Communications and Assistive Technologies
Psychoeducational Issues in Special Education
Developmental and Remedial Reading and Language Arts
Management Techniques in Special Education
Administration of Educational Tests
Parents and Families of Individuals with Disabilities
Collaboration and Consultation for the Special Educator

The MA degree with cross-endorsement requires the following courses in addition to those listed above:

Multicultural Issues in Counseling (or an equivalent course)
Theories of Learning
Seminar in Special Education
Comprehensive Examination


Applicants in the Special Education program must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university (or the international equivalent) and give promise of meeting the standards set by the School.

More About Special Education

Message from the Program Co-Directors

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Message from the Program Co-Directors

‌Dear Prospective Candidate:

Thank you for your interest in the exciting field of special education!

Fairfield University's Master of Arts in Special Education is dedicated to preparing special educators with the expertise to meet the unique, individualized learning needs of students with a variety of exceptionalities. We are committed to ensuring that our special education teacher candidates are provided with a rigorous program of excellence that is designed to develop your skills and abilities to work with a specialized population of students. The Program accomplishes this by offering a curriculum that provides extensive coverage of a broad range of areas pertaining to disabilities, diagnostic procedures, and related psychoeducational issues.

We are grounded in the tradition of Jesuit values and use Ignatian pedagogy to prepare and develop reflective practitioners who are adept at discerning specialized needs and successfully educating a traditionally underserved population of students with special, educational needs from grades K through 12.

The MA in Special Education provides a myriad of opportunities for you to become familiar with a variety of educational settings, and our student teaching and practica experiences prepare you to work in diverse professional settings and positions. Program completers are employed in private institutions or public school settings and may serve the school community as consultants to and/or collaborators with affiliated education professionals.

Fairfield's program maintains a systemic perspective of both exceptionality and service delivery. The complexities of exceptionalities and inter-related components are thoroughly discussed as well as the importance of being actively engaged with others in the education profession. Our special education teacher candidates develop the realization of the importance of maintaining holistic and comprehensive perspectives of education and are able to actualize their true potential for effecting successful experiences for students with exceptionalities.

Please feel free to connect with Dr. Martin or Dr. Shamash after perusing our website.

Co-Directors of the Special Education Program

Dr. Alyson Martin and Dr. Emily Shamash

Read the CTPost Article on the Special Education program

Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

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Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

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As a Jesuit, Catholic university, Fairfield is dedicated to diversity and inclusion; to radical hospitality in service of racial, social, and economic justice.

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Career & Professional Opportunities

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Career & Professional Opportunities

Special education continues to be recognized as a teaching shortage area by the Connecticut Department of Education. Graduates of our special education programs are in high-demand and often readily find employment. It is an exciting field of study which changes over time as new research results are gathered and disseminated!

Professional opportunities and career paths for special educators vary with the types of credentials they acquire. Our program in special education is a comprehensive one, and thus, program completers are trained to understand the most commonly recognized disability categories as identified in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It is because of their thorough understanding of cognitive processing and academic achievement components associated with these disabilities that special educators have the knowledge-base to identify appropriate strategies and best-practices to promote student success.

Since inclusion of students with disabilities into the general education curriculum has become the norm, special educators primarily serve as consultants to and collaborators with general education personnel in public school settings. However, they may also serve as the primary instructor of subject matter should they have the credentials to do so. Special educators may also work in regional-based or private educational facilities and provide direct and/or indirect support to students with exceptionalities. They often:

  • Perform academic achievement assessments
  • Share data and interpret results
  • Are integral to planning and placement teams
  • Create individualized educational programs designed to meet the unique learning needs of this population of students

Special educators may be a case manager and may also serve as liaison to/between parents, general educators, school psychologists, social workers, speech and language pathologists, and others.

Learn more about how the University's Career Center can support your post-graduate goals, and how Fairfield's tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.

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Our caring and committed faculty offer a rigorous course of study, with a broad range of courses that integrate critical reflection, extensive field experience, and the most current research in the field of Special Education.

Meet the Faculty

Frequently Asked Questions

When you are ready to apply, you can create an online application. Please plan to spend about 10 - 15 minutes completing the application. You can create the application and return to the platform in the future to submit it if you require additional time. You should be prepared to answer a series of questions pertaining to your biographical information, program of interest, and educational/ work background. Additionally, you will be required to enter the names and contact information for two references. As part of the application process, you will be required to submit all official college transcripts (sent directly from your institutions), two recommendations (submitted directly from your references who will receive a unique email link), a personal statement, resume, and test scores (required for programs leading to state certification). Please note, you may submit the online application prior to submitting the required supplemental materials. For any questions about the online application please contact Fairfield University Graduate Admission.

Our application deadlines are listed online.

Our Office of Graduate Admissions is available to explain the application requirements and to help you get your application together. You may contact them at gradadmis@fairfield.edu or by calling (203) 254-4184.

The GREs are not required, though they can be used to waive the PRAXIS Core Academic Skills for Educators tests (formerly PRAXIS I) admission test. The School of Education and Human Development requires passing scores for the Praxis Core Tests or a waiver of the requirement based on appropriate SAT, ACT, GRE or PAA scores. For a waiver, provide an electronic copy of your test scores from Educational Testing Service (ETS) uploaded to the application file. If students provide their social security number to ETS www.ets.org/praxis when registering for the Praxis Core exam, the reported score will automatically be uploaded to their Fairfield application file. Fairfield University's code is 3390.

Tuition and fees for Fairfield's graduate programs.

Our programs are designed to accommodate students who want to attend part time because most of our students are working at least part time. Some of our students attend full time, however.

Most of our courses are offered in the evening and a few are offered on the weekends. Weekday courses generally meet once a week for two hours. Weekend courses tend to be full day courses that meet for four or five weekends or weekend days over the semester.

We keep our classes small. The typical maximum class size is 20, but class sizes range from 12 to 20.

Students who already hold a teaching certificate in another state-approved area are eligible for the cross-endorsement in special education. Please contact Dr. Alyson Martin in for more information on this program.

Students who attend full-time take 9 credits each Fall and Spring semester and up to 6 credits in the summer sessions. For full-time students who start in the Fall semester, the program can be completed in about 2 years. For students who attend part time, the time will vary based on how many courses are taken at a time. Students are required, however, to complete their degree within 6 years after they begin their first course.

Our financial aid office can best answer that question for you. You may reach them by phoning (203) 254-4125 or by emailing them, and you can visit the financial aid webpage.

Our graduate assistantships provide tuition credit for work. Please see the Graduate Assistantships page for more information.

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