Program goal

The Master of Education in Special Education program prepares graduates for work in one of three areas: early childhood, severe disabilities or general education. Applicants who do not already hold a teaching license must meet both licensure and degree requirements prior to the awarding of the Master of Education degree unless exempted as a professional from another discipline. Teacher candidates should plan carefully with their adviser to ensure that the appropriate courses and experiences are completed. Successful completion of the degree program leads to endorsement in early childhood special education, severe disabilities or special education-general education.

The Master of Education in Special Education program with an early childhood concentration is a sequentially planned series of courses and clinical experiences designed to prepare individuals to work with young children, from birth through age 5, with developmental disabilities and their families. The courses are delivered using a blend of online and face-to-face formats. The program is learner-centered, innovative, interactive and collaborative. Through online discussions and face-to-face meetings with faculty members, community partners, student peers and program graduates, the ECSE teacher candidates have multiple opportunities to engage in interactive, proactive and dynamic dialogues.

Successful completion of the degree program qualifies candidates for teacher licensure with endorsement in early childhood special education by the Virginia Department of Education and initial early intervention certification. Candidates are prepared to intervene with infants and young children representing a wide range of abilities, including those at risk for developmental delays. As a result of training, candidates will be prepared to serve children and families in diverse and high-need communities in a variety of early intervention roles. The program can be completed in five semesters of full-time study or six semesters of part-time study.

In addition to course work, candidates create an electronic portfolio to showcase their knowledge, skills and dispositions in the special education early childhood curriculum.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Learner and learning: Understand human development and learning theory appropriate to the age group they will teach and acquire an awareness of the diversity of the school-age population in cultural backgrounds and styles of learning
  2. Content: Demonstrate knowledge of the subjects they will teach
  3. Instructional practice: Demonstrate an ability to plan and implement effective teaching and measure student learning in ways that lead to sustained development and learning
  4. Professional responsibility: Develop an understanding of purposes for education and a defensible philosophical approach toward teaching and demonstrate professional dispositions

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Apply online today.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements
Degree:Semester(s) of entry:Deadline dates:Test requirements:
M.Ed.FallMar 15GRE
SpringNov 1
SummerMar 15

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, the following requirements represent the minimum acceptable standards for admission:

  1. Bachelor’s degree 
  2. Three letters of recommendation addressing the student’s potential for graduate study in education
  3. Statement of intent
  4. Transcripts of all previous college work
  5. Interview
  6. Satisfactory scores on the GRE

Additionally, there are several tests that students must pass for admission to teacher preparation, admission to student teaching and licensure in Virginia. Students should consult the Teacher Preparation page on the School of Education website for current testing requirements. 

Applicants who do not have a provisional or professional collegiate teaching license in special education must take SEDP 630 as a prerequisite course.

Admission to clinical experiences in schools requires a background check and fingerprinting.

Please visit the School of Education website for further information.

Degree requirements

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students are required to complete course work in core and elective courses.

  1. Credit hour requirements: Students are required to complete a minimum of 37 credit hours.
  2. Grade requirements: Receipt of a grade of C or below in two courses constitutes automatic dismissal from the program. Courses with a grade below C cannot be used to satisfy degree requirements.

Curriculum requirements

Select one of the following:3
Child and Adolescent Development
Advanced Educational Psychology for Elementary Teachers
Democracy, Equity and Ethics in Education
EDUS 660Research Methods in Education3
Core courses
SEDP 501Characteristics of Individuals with Disabilities 3
SEDP 533Assessment of Individuals with Disabilities3
SEDP 601Instructional Methods and Programming for Individuals with Disabilities3
SEDP 603Theories, Assessment and Practices in Literacy Development for Individuals with Exceptionalities3
SEDP 631Behavior Support of Individuals with Disabilities 3
Concentration courses
ECSE 500Language/Communication Intervention for Young Children with Disabilities3
ECSE 542Family/Professional Partnerships2
ECSE 603Integrated Early Childhood Programs I2
ECSE 641Interdisciplinary Methods in Early Intervention3
ECSE 672Internship in Early Development and Intervention2
ECSE 700Externship4
Total Hours37

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 37.

Communications and Enrollment Management
(804) 827-2670

Additional contact
Yaoying Xu, Ph.D.
Professor and graduate program director
(804) 828-1332

Program website: