Frequently Asked Questions

Special Education Master's Program

What degrees are offered?
We offer M.Ed. and M.S. degrees in Special Education, and offer concentrations in School Leadership Licensure and BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst).

How do I apply?
Apply online through the School of Graduate Studies.

Application fee waivers are available to students who demonstrate financial need, are first-generation students, identify as a member of a racial, ethnic, LGBTQ+, or other community or group historically underrepresented in our field, or have served or are serving as members of the U.S. military. Our overall goal as a department is to ensure the application fee is not a barrier of entry to our programs, so please reach out if it is. Fee waivers are confidential and are not disclosed to admissions committees.

Please contact our graduate coordinator, Megan Murdock, 435-797-3245, if you would like to be considered for an application fee waiver or if you have any further questions.

What are the admission deadlines?
Applications for the M.Ed/M.S. in Special Education are due by March 15th for summer semester, June 15th for fall semester, and October 15th for spring semester.

Applications for the M.Ed. with School Leadership Licensure concentration are due by March 15th for summer semester, May 1st for fall semester, and October 15th for spring semester. Students interested in applying to this concentration must also submit an application directly to the Teacher Education and Leadership department. Application requirements and deadlines can be found here

Applications for the M.S. with BCBA coursework are due March 15th for Fall Semester. Individuals applying to work with a specific faculty member or laboratory or who want an early decision should submit their applications by January 15th for Fall Semester.

Files must be complete (all items received by the graduate school) before they will be reviewed.

Is the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) necessary?
No, the GRE is no longer necessary as a component of the application.

What are the minimum requirements for admission?
3.00 GPA over the last 60 semester hours, three letters of recommendation, all transcripts, and letter of intent.

Do you need a Special Education Endorsement for admission?
You should already have your SPED endorsement, or be admitted to an endorsement program at the time of admission. The BCBA master's program does not require a SPED endorsement.

Who should I get the three letters of recommendation from?
If you have been in school during the last five years, at least two of the letters must come from persons from whom you have taken academic coursework. The third letter can come from a special education director or principal. We strongly recommend that even if you have been out of school for five years that you obtain two letters from college professors.

What should my letter of intent include?
Your letter must detail your specific reasons for wanting to attend graduate school, and also list and describe experiences and qualifications that you believe prepared you for advanced study. Letters of intent are considered a vital element of the selection process and are carefully reviewed. Letters characterized by clear organization, attention to requested information, and mechanical accuracy allow selection committee readers to better evaluate your request for graduate training.

Application Process
Once your application has been received by the graduate school and is complete, a file review takes place. Files are scored on GPA, teaching experience, diversity, supervisory experience, letters of recommendation, and letter of intent. After faculty review files, applicants are divided into three groups: 1) applicants whose files are very strong are admitted for the next semester; 2) applicants whose files were viewed positively but for whom slots were not available (holding pool), and finally; 3) applicants with weaker files who will not be admitted. If your file is placed in the "holding pool," your application will be considered again at the next file review with more recently received applications and will be given an additional point in the scoring process. This additional point will give your application higher priority, but will not guarantee that you will be admitted.

How long will it take for me to find out if I am admitted to the program?
You will be notified by email of your admission status approximately 1 month after the admission deadline.

Is the program admission competitive?
The program is competitive. The average admittance rate is approximately 50%-70% over the past four admission dates.

What is the cost of 3 credits?
Tuition and fees for a 3 credit graduate course cost approximately $1,800.

Do you have any graduate student support or scholarships available?
Contact the Financial Aid office (435-797-0173) for information on student loans and other financial aid.

Are courses taught in the evening?
Courses are typically taught in the evening from 4:30-7:00 or 7:15-9:45 once a week.

Where do I take courses?
Live, interactive courses are available on the Internet. Students need only an Internet connection with a microphone and video.

Can I complete my entire program at a distance site? Do I have to travel to Logan?
All of your coursework can be completed at the distance site. However, unless approved otherwise by your committee, you will need to travel to Logan for your proposal meeting and your final defense meeting.

How long does it take to finish the program?
Typically, students take about 2-3 years to finish the program if they take 2 classes per semester and make consistent progress on their project/thesis.

Can I take classes before I am admitted into the program?
Only if you have been admitted to the Online Practical Teacher Training Program, in which case you can take up to 12 credits before being admitted to the master’s program. You should understand the risk involved because you still have to apply and be admitted to the master’s program for the credits to count.

How many credits can I transfer into the program?
Twelve credits from an accredited university. The credits cannot have been used for another degree, and must be relevant to the field of special education. Your committee must approve all credits transferred into the program.

I am enrolled in an endorsement/licensure program (OPTT). Can I apply some of these credits towards my master's degree?
You can apply up to 12 credits towards your master's degree.

How many total credits do I have to take to complete the program?
The M.Ed./M.S. degree is 36 credits. The M.Ed. with School Leadership Licensure is 42 credits. The M.S. with BCBA coursework is 30 credits.

How are courses broadcast?
Courses are broadcast over a teleconferencing system from Logan, Utah.

What is the difference between the M.Ed. and M.S. degrees?
The M.Ed requires that a student develop a creative project (Plan B: Professional Portfolio). The professional portfolio consists of samples of the student’s best work (research literature review and two reports: either a student assessment report, student intervention report, professional training report, or professional collaboration report [two of those four options]). Ask your Major Advisor for details. The M.S. requires a thesis based on a research study, such as a single-subject or group experimental study. The thesis must be carefully planned and carried out with strong support from the Major Advisor. A thesis is usually more rigorous and time-consuming than the creative project.

How/when do I register for courses?

Please see the link for the registration calendar for when to register for classes.
Please see the link for How to Register Through Banner for how to register.

Classes do not seem to be offered every semester. How can I find out when classes are offered?
Correct: classes are not offered every semester. See the “Program of Study” for a listing of when courses are offered. Or, check the USU catalog for a schedule of courses or contact the Graduate Program Advisor.

How are courses delivered and received? Where do I go?
Courses are delivered online synchronously. The course instructor will provide the link. If you have a strong Internet signal on an electronic device, you should be able to receive the course audio/video and interact with the instructor in real time.

What is the difference between a thesis (Plan A) and a Professional Portfolio (Creative Project Plan B)?

Theses and projects differ based on (a) nature of research, (b) expectations of masters program, and (c) whether the student plans future academic work. 

Nature of research

A thesis usually involves a single-subject, quasi-experimental, or true experimental design that can demonstrate a functional relationship between an independent and dependent variable. These designs are explained in your research courses. A student works closely with the Major Professor of the supervisory committee to identify research questions, design and implement research, then reports regularly to the Major Professor on status of data collected. Examples of proposed and finished theses can be found in our Thesis Library at

A thesis and a professional portfolio are distinguished on the basis of career plans of the student. A thesis leads to a Masters of Science (M.S.) and is more appropriate for students who may be thinking about future academic work, such as a Ph.D. In contrast, a professional portfolio leads to a Masters of Education (M.Ed) and is more appropriate for students who want to show their productivity as an advanced educator or showcase work at their school or district.

What is the length of a finished thesis or professional portfolio?
Finished theses and professional portfolios vary in length depending on scope and specificity. The median length of recently completed theses was 40 pages excluding appendices. The median length of professional portfolios was 24 pages excluding the student’s resume.

How many credits are involved for the thesis/project and when do I register?
Master of Education (MEd) and Master of Science (MS) students are required to take 6 thesis/creative project credits. Students register for these credits at the end of their program and with the approval of their Major Professor.

How/how much/when do I contact my Major Professor/Advisor?

It is a good idea to contact your Major Professor before the end of your first year of courses.  To identify your Major Professor/Advisor, contact GPC. There are at least two reasons to contact your Major Professor at this point:

  1. Because it is time to plan your thesis or creative project, your Major Professor may have recommendations for areas of research to review.
  2. Your Major Professor will recommend two additional faculty to serve on your supervisory committee.

Major Professors have different expectations for communication. Most prefer to use email, but beyond that there are different preferences for how frequently you should keep in touch. Ask your Major Professor to assist in determining communications.

Who selects the faculty members for my Supervisory Committee?
Usually the members of a students supervisory committee are selected by the department but students may request that certain faculty members serve on their committee.

What is important about the Program of Study?
The Program of Study informs the School of Graduate Studies regarding courses you are taking and when you will be taking them. It will also give them an estimation of when you will be graduating. The Administrative Assistant/GPC will contact you when it is time to submit your program of study.

Who should I contact for additional information?
Contact: The Graduate Program Coordinator, Megan Murdock, 435-797-3245.