Master of Arts in Special Education

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Graduate Advisors: All tenured/tenure-track faculty serve as graduate advisors. See web site for program emphasis and associated faculty:

General Information

Candidates may specialize in an area of emphasis that includes one of the following.

Early Childhood Special Education

Program emphasis is designed to provide special education personnel with the skills to successfully facilitate the development of young children with disabilities (birth to 5 years). Emphasis is placed on providing culturally competent family-centered services through an interdisciplinary approach.

Mild/Moderate Disabilities

Program includes in-depth study of specific learning disabilities, mild to moderate cognitive impairments, and emotional and behavioral disturbance. Program focuses on both in-school and outside-of-school contexts.

Moderate/Severe Disabilities

Credential candidates in this program must demonstrate their competence in providing quality educational services to students with moderate/severe disabilities using systematic, data-based approaches to instruction and models of curricular adaptation and social belonging. Competencies in interacting effectively with families and in developing educational goals using a transdisciplinary team approach are also essential components of the teacher preparation program. In addition, a three-semester sequence of supervised fieldwork ensures that teacher candidates are able to apply the knowledge and skills acquired through course content and assignments to the instruction of students with moderate/severe disabilities in urban school settings.

Orientation and Mobility

Courses and field experiences prepare professionals to teach skills of independent travel to people who have visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. Curriculum includes independent travel in indoor and outdoor environments; orientation; sensory and motor development; concept development; daily skills; use of low vision and electronic travel devices in travel. Program includes instruction of people aged birth through the senior years.

Visual Impairments

Program emphasis is on collaboration, working with families, and an approach to individual differences to address the disability-specific needs of the diverse population of students who are blind or who have low vision. Curriculum covers assessment, independent living skills, Braille, technology, and other rehabilitative tools.

Admission to Program

Admission to the graduate program in special education is a two-step process with the same application deadline and needs to be completed simultaneously:

  1. Apply to San Francisco State University: Complete the on-line CSU Mentor application. Follow all other requirements for admission to the University by accessing
  2. Apply to the Department of Special Education & Communicative Disorders, program in Special Education.

The program application requests background information, transcripts, a statement  of purpose, two letters of reference, evidence of successful completion of the Level I Writing English Proficiency requirement, and a résumé. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required for admission to a master’s degree in special education. The program application and application deadlines are posted at: or call: 415-338-1161.

Upon acceptance into the program, students are assigned an advisor. All students need to consult with their advisors before registration.

Upper division courses offered by the department may be considered upon approval of the graduate advisor. At least two courses for the degree must be selected outside of the emphasis area.

Special Education (M.A.) — minimum total 33 units

Core Program (9 units)

ISED 797Seminar in Educational Research3
SPED 788Law, Ethics, and Instructional Planning3
SPED 801Development, Diversity, and English Language Learners: Special Education3
or SPED 779 Family Systems and Services for Young Children with Disabilities
Note: SPED 779 is for students in the ECSE emphasis only.

Upper Division/Graduate Courses (12 units)

Courses in Special Education, as required by each graduate program

Related Studies (6 units)

Selected upon approval of graduate major advisor in specialization emphasis.

Culminating Experience (6 units)

One of the following options by advisement and with approval of major graduate advisor in specialization emphasis. Note: Option I is required for the following emphasis areas: Moderate/Severe Disabilities students are required to take SPED 898 and an oral defense of thesis, unless advised to select a different plan; Early Childhood Special Education students and Mild/Moderate Disabilities students who are advised to select Option I must complete SPED 881 as a prerequisite.

Option 1

SPED 881Advanced Research Seminar in Special Education (and Master’s Comprehensive Written Examination)3
Select one of the following:3
Field Study: Special Education
Master's Thesis

Option 2

In consultation with an advisor, select one graduate seminar outside the emphasis area 3
SPED 894Creative Work Project in Special Education3

Option 3

Two elective graduate seminars that reflect critical analysis of literature and application of research skills, by advisement and approval of graduate advisor6
SPED 896EXMCulminating Experience Examination0