The MEd in Special Education prepares graduates to work with people with disabilities, diverse in strengths, ages (5-21), and teaching and learning in educational and community settings, and schools. The need for special education teachers is urgent, especially in urban areas like Chicago. Research indicates that a shortage of special education teachers disproportionately affects minority students, particularly in urban school districts that have large majorities of African American and Latina/o/x students. Special educators work in a range of instructional settings in school and in communities.
All students earn a master's and can add on initial Illinois licensure and credentials. The program welcomes students entirely new to teaching, current teachers new to special education, current special education teachers and students seeking new knowledge about special education.
About UIC's MEd Special Education program:
- Several tuition funding sources & scholarship opportunities
- No GRE and no IL TAP test required
- Evening courses can be taken full- or part-time, with face-to-face, blended and online formats
Degree Requirements Heading link
Scholarships and Financial Support Heading link
Financial assistance is available through national, state, and UIC funds:
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
The TEACH Grant provides federal student aid to teacher candidates who seek to become teachers in low-income schools.
As a condition for receiving a TEACH Grant, you must sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve in which you agree to (among other requirements) teach: (1) in a high-need field; (2) at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency that serves students from low-income families; and (3) for at least four complete academic years within eight years after completing (or ceasing enrollment in) the course of study for which you received the grant.
Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program
Students in the MEd Special Education program pursuing licensure to teach special education (including current teachers with an Illinois Professional Education License who are not currently qualified to teach special education) may be eligible for the Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver (SETTW) Program. This program exempts students from paying tuition and mandatory fees for up to four calendar years. By receiving the tuition waiver, you must teach in Illinois in the field of special education. If this teaching commitment is not fulfilled, the amount of benefits received converts to a loan, and you must repay the entire amount plus interest.
UIC Graduate College Tuition Waiver
Students in any graduate program at the College of Education are eligible for a UIC Graduate College tuition waiver. Available on a semester-by-semester basis, a limited number are available, but all students are encouraged to apply.
Information Session Dates Heading link
Interested in pursuing a special education license, endorsement, or in becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst? Attend an upcoming information session to learn more about our programs. (Note: there are no info sessions during the summer.) All information sessions start at 5:00pm on the following dates. Please complete the interest form to receive the login information prior to the session.
Add Credentials to your Illinois teaching license (PEL) Heading link
Special Ed master’s students have the option to pursue several different credentials from the State of Illinois in addition to licensure:
- Early Childhood Special Education Approval
- Bilingual and/or English as a Second Language (ESL) Endorsements
- Learning Behavior Specialist I (LBS1) for ages 5-21
- Learning Behavior Specialist II (LBS2) for advanced specialization:
- Assistive technology
- Behavior intervention
- Curriculum adaptation (inclusion)
- Multiple disabilities
Endorsement only: Licensed teachers have the option to earn these endorsements without completing a master’s degree program through UIC Extended Campus (LBS1 starting Fall 2020).
Faculty Heading link
Frequently Asked Questions Heading link
Commonly asked questions about the MEd Special Education program.
What is the difference between groups 1, 2, 3 or 4? Which one should I apply for?
Requirements for each group depend on your current teaching credentials and career goals. See the description for each:
Group 1 is for students without an education background, entirely new to the teaching profession, who seek both teacher licensure (PEL) and the Illinois Learning Behavior Specialist 1 (LBS1) endorsement.
Group 2 is for students who are currently licensed teachers (have a PEL) but are new to special education and seek the Illinois Learning Behavior Specialist 1 (LBS1) endorsement.
Group 3 is for students who are currently licensed special education teachers who hold a Learning Behavior Specialist 1 (LBS1) endorsement and seek Illinois Learning Behavior Specialist 2 (LBS2) endorsement(s).
Group 4 is for students seeking new knowledge about special education, but who are not interested in teacher licensure or Illinois endorsements
What will I earn that will enable me to teach in Illinois?
Students can earn the Professional Educators License (PEL) and endorsements. If you have the PEL (if you are already a licensed teacher in Illinois), you will earn additional endorsement(s).
The endorsement for teaching special education is the Learning Behavior Specialist 1 (LBS1). You will be endorsed to teach students ages 5 – 21 in all academic content areas. When gaining employment, you can choose grade level(s), ability/disability populations, and the kinds of collaborative teaching and inclusionary work you want.
We encourage you to earn additional endorsements also, especially for teaching students for whom English is a second language (ESL) and/or the Early Childhood/Special Education approval.
How many credits/courses do I have to take? Is student teaching part of the program?
The MEd requires 33 credits (11 courses). If you do not have a PEL and you want to earn one (Group 1), you will complete 13 additional credits (pre-student teaching internship and student teaching) required to earn your initial PEL.
When do classes meet? Are there online class options?
During fall and spring semesters, courses meet once a week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. In summer, courses meet generally twice a week since the semester is abbreviated/shorter time. Over half the UIC Special Ed courses are “blended” or hybrid; that is, they meet over 1/3 of the time in non face-face sessions (e.g., online work).
Are there scholarships and financial aid available?
Yes. Special education teachers are in high demand and so there are a wide variety of public and private scholarships available. Check out our Financial Aid & Scholarships page for specific info for UIC special ed master’s students.
Additional information for sources of funding is available via the UIC Graduate College website.
What is the employment outlook for special education?
Overall employment of special education teachers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 37,600 openings for special education teachers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. (Source: US Department of Labor Statistics.)
What are some career options for a Special Ed master's degree besides classroom teaching?
In addition to classroom teaching, MEd Special Education graduates go on to pursue school leadership positions, work in government agencies, and more.
What exams are required?
As of July 2019, Illinois no longer has a requirement to show basic skills knowledge; it is assumed in passage into college and graduation. In special education, two state exams are required that you will take in the later part of your program. We prepare you for those two (LBS1 and Special Education General Curriculum).
For admission into the MEd program, the GRE is not required.
What background knowledge or experience do I need?
You do not need a previous degree in education or even a related field; we recognize that people can decide at any time to enter education and we welcome you. We do require that you have a bachelor’s degree. We do encourage applicants to gain experiences with youth and/or adults with disabilities in part to observe and wonder, and in part to help ensure interest and fulfillment.
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