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College of Education and Human Development

Special (Adapted) Physical Education Concentration

Program Description

This hybrid online program for the master’s degree or state approval in special (adapted) physical education combines online courses and classroom courses. Tuition for non-resident and resident students is the same.

This program is designed to prepare physical education teachers in providing quality special (adapted) physical education for school children with disabilities in the least restrictive, most appropriate, and most inclusive environments. Program graduates will gain knowledge, skills, and experience in teaching students with disabilities fundamental motor skills and patterns, physical and motor fitness, as well as skills in aquatic, dance, individual and group games and sports, and leisure and recreational skills.

Admission Requirements

  1. Complete the WMU graduate or graduate readmission application and review the additional information.
  2. Request the registrar of each college previously attended (except WMU) to send one official transcript to:
    Office of Admissions
    Western Michigan University
    1903 West Michigan Ave.
    Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5211
  3. Send three letters of reference to:
    MA: Special (Adapted) Physical Education
    Department of Human Performance and Health Education
    Western Michigan University
    1903 W. Michigan Ave.
    Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5426
    Fax: (269) 387-2704

Admission requirements include:

  1. A bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.
  2. A valid Teaching Certificate will be required for students seeking to obtain additional state approvals (endorsements). Those students must also have a physical education or special education major or minor.


The shortage of professionals in Special (Adapted) Physical Education, including school teachers and college professors, has been chronic and significant for many years. This shortage has been documented not only based on the number of professional positions funded by schools and universities, but also based on the number of students with disabilities who need adapted physical education services. The further information concerning this shortage can be found in the following research articles completed by the Director and Advisor of this federally funded hybrid online master’s degree program.

Zhang, J. (2011). Quantitative Analyses about Market- and Prevalence-based Needs for Adapted Physical Education Teachers in the United Stated. The Physical Educator. [Full Article]

Zhang, J. (2010). Quantitative Analysis of the Adapted Physical Education Employment Market in High Education. ICHPER.SD (International Council for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport, and Dance) Journal of Research, V(2) 21-25. [Full Article]

Zhang, J. & Chen, S. (2004). Marketable features of adapted physical education and therapeutic recreation careers in the public schools. The Proceedings of 2004 International Conference for Physical Educators: Innovation and Application of Physical Education and Sport Science, 399-410. [Full Article]

Zhang, J., Kelly, L., Berkey, D., Joseph, D., & Chen, S. (2000). The prevalence-based need for adapted physical education teachers in the United States. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly 17(3), 297-309. [Full Article]

Zhang, J., Joseph, D., & Horvat, M. (1999). Marketable features of an adapted physical education career in higher education. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 16, 178-186. [Full Article]


Master of Arts in Physical Education with an emphasis in Special (Adapted) Physical Education

Core (6 credit hours)

Area of Specialization: (18 credit hours)
Physical Education Majors

Special Education Majors

Electives Options(3 or 6 credit hours)

Capstone  (6 or 9 credit hours)

* Denotes courses that may be taken at WMU main campus or at an institution near student with prior program advisor approval.

State Approval Curriculum

Area of Specialization: (18 credit hours)
Physical Education Majors

Special Education Majors

Capstone (4 credits)

* Denotes courses that may be taken at WMU main campus or at an institution near student with prior program advisor approval.

Degree Approval

A student who completes 36 credit hours in the program of study will earn a Master’s Degree in Adapted Physical Education. At the same time, he or she will earn an approval or endorsement.

This Approval or Endorsement is specifically designed for students in the state of Michigan. It is designed to qualify a person who will teach students  with disabilities adapted physical education classes with a valid teaching certificate. 

Students who are Michigan residents will usually have valid teaching certificates before getting into this master’s degree program. Their approvals are added to their teaching certificates after graduating from this program.

For students who are non-Michigan residents, approvals for teaching adapted physical education classes may be accepted by their states. They should ask their state Department of Education or check Certification Requirements in Other States before applying for this program.

For students who earned approvals from this program, they may also be able to teach adapted physical education classes in other states. They should ask other states or check Seeking Certification in Another State before applying for a job position.

In Michigan, a student earning approval to teach adapted physical education is required to complete 22 Credit Hours. A student is allowed to apply for this program for approval only if he or she does not need to earn a master’s degree.


Financial Support