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.
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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.
Co-Directors of the Special Education Program
Dr. Alyson Martin and Dr. Emily Shamash
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:
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 Planning 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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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:
Program for Master of Arts for those holding an Initial Certificate (30 credits)
Program for Sixth Year Certificate of Advanced Study (SYC) for those holding a Master of Arts in Special Education (30 credits)
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:
The certification regulations in effect at the time of application for Connecticut certification must be met for the University to issue an institutional endorsement.
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.
Program for Master of Arts (30 credits)
Program for SYC with Initial Certification (21 credits) to complete initial certification sequence.
(Candidates are eligible to request an endorsement for initial certification after successfully completing the above courses.)
PY 534 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.
Psychoeducational Theory and Development of Handicapped Children
Diagnosis of Handicapped Children
Program Planning and Evaluation of Handicapped Children
Curriculum and Methods of Teaching Handicapped Children
Two or More Practica in Special Education
SE 400 Augmentative Alternative Communications and Assistive Technologies
The MA degree with cross-endorsement requires the following courses in addition to those listed above: CN 433 (or its equivalent), PY 534, SE 599, and SE 99.
Fingerprinting and background checks are required for certification programs. Please contact your course instructor and/or program director for updated information.
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.
Formal Admission Process
Students seeking admission must submit:
Students from Non-English Speaking Countries
Students from non-English speaking countries are required to submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score report. A TOEFL composite score of 550 for the paper test, 213 for the computer-based, or 84 on the Internet-based test (iBT) with a minimum score of 21 in reading and 23 in writing is strongly recommended for admission. Fairfield's ETS code is 3390.
All application materials for formal admission should be sent to:
Office of Graduate Admission
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824-5195
Phone: (203) 254-4184
Fax: (203) 254-4073
How to Apply
For detailed admission requirements, please refer to the links below:
To be considered for financial aid, Fairfield University requires students to complete a FAFSA form. For further information, visit the Office of Financial Aid.
When are applications due?
Our application deadlines are listed online.
What are the application requirements?
Our Office of Graduate Admissions is available to explain the application requirements and to help you get your application together. You may contact them by submitting a request for information or by phoning (203) 254-4184 or toll-free (888) 488-6840.
Do I need to take the GREs?
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 Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions 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.
How much does it cost?
Do I have to be a full-time student?
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.
When are courses offered?
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.
What is the average class size?
We keep our classes small. The typical maximum class size is 20, but class sizes range from 12 to 20.
If I am already certified as a teacher, what do I have to do to complete the whole special education program?
Students who already hold a teaching certificate in another state-approved area are eligible for the cross-endorsement in special education. Please contact Dr. Deborah Edelman for more information on this program.
How long does it take to complete the degree?
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.
What financial aid is available?
Our graduate assistantships provide tuition credit for work. Please see the Graduate Assistantship page for more information.
For more information about Fairfield University's graduate programs, please contact:
Office of Graduate Admission
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
Call (203) 254-4184 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.