Special Education (Master's)

The M.S. Ed. in special education is designed to serve the needs of both experienced and beginning special education teachers who have baccalaureate degrees or are seeking career changes at the master's level. In addition to an on-campus program, the department offers off-campus Masters' degree courses, information on which can be obtained from the department.

For students who already hold a special education certificate, the faculty of special education offers individualized programs of study. Interested students should contact the department for further information.

Students seeking certification must successfully complete the Illinois State Certification Testing System Test of Basic Skills prior to admission to the Teacher Education Program in special education. Students must provide a photocopy of the test results to the following address:

Graduate Secretary
Department of Special and Early Education
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Students must also complete the test required by their certification field prior to student teaching. Completion of all program requirements satisfies the requirements for Illinois teacher certification as Learning Behavior Specialist I.


From among the applicants satisfying the requirements for admission to the Graduate School, the faculty select the most qualified, utilizing the General Test of the GRE and ordinarily requiring a GPA of higher than 3.00 for the last two years of undergraduate work.



Each student must complete a specialization consisting of a minimum of 36 semester hours of study which include a research course approved by the adviser (3). Elective courses are selected with the approval of the student's adviser. A student wishing to write a thesis may, with the approval of the adviser, include 3-6 semester hours of credit in  in the TLSE 699 elective portion of the program. 

For a student whose undergraduate major was in special education course work in other appropriate fields may be substituted for a portion of the special education course work, with the approval of the student's adviser. However, in all cases, at least 50 percent of the semester hours required for the degree must be in special education. For students whose undergraduate major was not special education or who have limited background in their chosen specialization, deficiency requirements may be established by the department. Deficiency course hours will not be counted toward the minimum 36 semester hours of the master's degree program. 

Graduate students applying for an M.S.Ed in special education should be proficient with fundamental operations and concepts of computer technologies to facilitate learning in today's P-12 classrooms. This proficiency should include both concept and applications of the following topics: basic computing skills (including file management), word processing, presentation software, spreadsheet applications, and internet skills. Students lacking these skills may obtain them at their local community college or take any number of instructional technology courses offered at NIU.

Course Prerequisites for Graduate Level Special Education Programs

Prerequisites can be waived for students who have completed the appropriate prerequisites at another institution. If you believe you have completed the appropriate course elsewhere you should discuss this with your adviser. Students will not be admitted to courses without the appropriate prerequisite or equivalent.

Graduate Student Responsibility

It is the responsibility of students to know and observe all regulations and procedures relating to the program they are pursuing, as well as those of the university and Graduate School. In no case will a regulation be waived or an exception granted because students plead ignorance of, or contend that they were not informed of, the regulations or procedures. Questions on regulations and their interpretation pertaining to studies at the graduate level should be addressed to the office of the dean of the Graduate School.

Students planning to graduate should familiarize themselves with the dates relating to application for graduation and other pertinent deadlines (see the Graduate School Calendar). It is necessary to apply for graduation by the specified deadline in order to graduate in a particular term, whether or not the student plans to attend the commencement ceremonies.

Students must satisfy the degree requirements of the catalog in force during the term for which they have been admitted to and begin course work in a degree program; or they may, with the consent of their advisers, meet graduation requirements by complying with the provisions of a later catalog. Students readmitted to a degree program must meet degree requirements of the catalog in force at the time of the later admission (or of a subsequent catalog, as provided above). Aside from degree requirements, all students are subject to the regulations and policies stated in the catalog currently in force. Exceptions to regulations contained in the Graduate Catalog require the written approval of the office of the dean of the Graduate School, unless otherwise stated in the catalog.

Graduate students and students-at-large should notify the Graduate School immediately of any change in address so that receipt of mail will not be delayed.

Additional Information

All official NIU email will be sent to your Z-ID account email. Please check that email on a regular basis.

If you are ready to start classes prior to being admitted to the Graduate School you can start taking classes as a Student-at-Large (SAL). To start classes as an SAL you can submit an SAL application electronically on the Graduate School web site and after four working days you will be able to enroll in courses.

As a student-at-large you can take both undergraduate and graduate courses. These courses are offered at the DeKalb, Naperville, and Hoffman Estates campuses in the evenings. See the online schedule of classes for course offerings or the Graduate School for information about tuition and fees.

For planned special education course rotation please see the projected rotation of courses. For information on course work to take as a student-at-large please contact Leslie Hecht.


Register for classes, check on program progress, and access/update your student information using My NIU.

Starting Fall 2008 those admitted to a degree program will be able to access your Degree Progress Report on My NIU. This advising tool can be accessed from the Self Service area of your Student Center. The report will have your requirements, classes you have completed and how they fit into your degree program.

Immunization Requirements

Students taking more than one class at the DeKalb campus may have a health hold put on their records if their immunizations are not up-to-date. This may delay registration for classes. Please check with University Health Services to determine if your immunization record is up to date. For additional information please visit the Immunization website presented by UHS.

Clinical Experiences - Student Teaching

Please contact the Clinical Office 1 year prior to the semester you expect to student teach.

Eligibility for Paid Student Teaching

Illinois State Law permits some teacher education candidates to remain in teaching positions and continue to be paid by their school districts during student teaching. The Illinois Administrative Code 25.620 states that an individual may receive credit for student teaching or pre-student teaching clinical experiences that are completed during the time for which the individual is paid as a teacher.

To determine if you are eligible to be paid while student teaching, please read over the Policy for Eligibility to be paid while Student Teaching contact your faculty mentor who must approve your eligibility.

Second Student Teaching Placement

Candidates who have completed one paid student teaching placement may complete a second paid student teaching placement in their school district or a summer school teaching placement if they meet the prerequisites listed below.

Eligibility a second student teaching placement:

a) A second paid student teaching palcement or summer school student teaching will only an option for candidates who have completed a paid student teaching placement.

b) A second paid student teaching placment or summer school student teaching is only available for the second area of student teaching not covered by their paid student teaching placement. 

Permission to complete the second paid student teaching or summer school student teaching must be obtained from the candidate's faculty mentor. If you feel that you qualify for summer school student teaching, talk to your faculty mentor who will describe additional requirements related to placement, assignments, grading, and supervision of summer school student teaching or the second paid student teaching assignment.

Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA)

The TPA is being developed as an assessment of readiness to teach for candidates seeking an initial teaching license. The TPA is a performance-based assessment in which candidates demonstrate their knowledge and skills in teaching and in evaluating the effects of teaching on student learning. The TPA will be completed during student teaching. Each candidate will develop a written plan for instruction and assessment, implement instruction including the development of video-based documentation of instruction, assess student learning, and analyze the teaching segment. Candidates also will provide written reflections at each stage of the TPA. Teacher candidates will complete four tasks for the assessment:

  • Planning for instruction and assessment
  • Instructing and engaging students in learning
  • Assessing student's learning
  • Analyzing the teaching and learning segment

Handbooks and other supports will guide candidates through the TPA process and identify specifically what products must be developed at each stage and artifacts to be included in the TPA portfolio.

Reviewers outside of NIU who are experts in the field of study will evaluate and score the TPA portfolio. Pilot studies will start in the fall 2013 and full use and implementation of the TPA will begin in the fall 2015.

Safety Tutorial

Individuals seeking initial certification from NIU must also complete the NIU School Safety for Preservice Teachers. This is a no cost online exam required of all students seeking initial teacher certification at NIU. Students will not be recommended for certification until the tutorial is complete. Once a student completes the module a note will be made in My NIU and the department will be able to access the results for the student's certification file.

Dispositions Professional Dispositions are professional attitudes, values, and beliefs demonstrated through both verbal and non-verbal behaviors as educational professional interact with students, families, colleagues, and communities. These  positive behaviors support effective classroom teaching, professional interactions, and learning and development. The ultimate goal of the process of evaluating professional dispostions is to promote candidates' sucess in becoming examplary educators.

All teacher candidates participating n pre-professional and progrrssioal coures work in the Department of Special and Early education are regularly assessed under the Dispositions guidelines. Dispostions are formally assessed and reported twice per semester in SEED courses and informally throughout all course work and field experiences.

Live Text

As part of your course work you maybe expected to purchase LiveText. LiveText is an electronic portfolio system that has been adopted by over 400 universities across the country and a majority of public universities in Illinois. LiveText will provide you with access to a very a valuable technology tool and provide you with a powerful way to assess and document your own efforts. You can purchase a copy that will give you access for four years from the NIU Bookstore or search online and buy from LiveText directly. The College of Education uses this program to track student date for NCATE purposes.

Social Media

Please be aware that NIU has a social media policy the applys to all employees and units of the University. Student posting that may be a potential violation of the Student Code of Conduct will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct for appropriate review and discipline. Please read over the content of this policy.

Off-Campus & Non-Traditional Student Services

Their staff is dedicated to assisting students in finding the resources they need to be more successful at NIU. The office if located in the lower level of the Holmes Student Center, rooms 023J and 023K. This website has a great deal of information for everyone.

Postgraduate Study

Students with a baccalaureate degree who wish to take teacher certification at the undergraduate level should apply as a postgraduate. These students should complete the undergraduate application form and indicate they are applying as postgraduate. For more information about the undergraduate teacher certification program in special education, please contact Christy Cunningham; (815-753-8359)


NIU now offers housing for graduate students and those with families at the Northern View Community.

Financial Aid and Scholarships 

There are numerous awards and scholarships that are available for students, some specifically for teacher education. Other aid may be based on financial need, talent, or to members of particular groups. Some web sites that are available at NIU are the College of Education's Scholarship Page, the Scholarship Office, and the Financial Aid Office.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has a program for individuals who are seeking their initial teacher certification in special education. This is a tuition waiver program for undergraduate or graduate students who are willing to teach in Illinois for two years after their initial certification.

The Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program has a program for students of African American/Black, Hispanic American, Asian American or Native American origin who plan to become teachers. This award program for undergraduate or graduate students who are willing to teach in Illinois for two years after their initial certification.

The TEACH Grant Program can provide grants of up to $4,000 per year to student who intent to eacn in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. Please look over the Fact Sheet on the program, it lists the High-Need fields.

The core standards for special educators, the standards for the Learning Behavior Special I, and additional special education information is available from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Other Links

If you have any additional questions, please e-mail Leslie Hecht or call her at (815) 753-8457.