Special Education – B.S.

This program is offered in-person.

This program offers an Accelerated Graduate Degree Program.

The undergraduate special education program at Western Michigan University is an innovative and demanding preparation program preparing special education teachers to meet the unique needs of a diverse range of K-12 students with learning disabilities and emotional impairments. Candidates are prepared to implement evidence-based instructional practices promoting access to and success in the general education curriculum through assessment, intentional instruction, and evaluation.

For catalog years 2021 and forward, the special education curriculum is designed to prepare students to assume teaching responsibilities in two certified Michigan Department of Education grade bands: lower elementary PK-3 and special education ­learning disabilities K-12. Candidates are also eligible to apply for the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program in special education master teacher to take 12 credits toward an endorsement in emotional impairments as part of their undergraduate degree.

For catalog years 2020 and prior, students with Western Michigan University's special education major can be certified to teach grades K-5 in all subjects, grades K-8 in all subjects when teaching in a self-contained classroom, and grades K-12 in special education with learning disabilities or emotional impairments.

Additional information

  • Career opportunities
    • Special education teachers who work with students in high-incidence disability areas (learning disabilities and emotional impairments) may work in multiple settings including inclusive classrooms, resource programs, or self-contained settings.
    • In an inclusive environment they co-teach with a general education teacher, allowing students with disabilities to stay in the general education classroom throughout the school day. There are a variety of co-teaching models available so that teamed teachers can find and use the model that works best for them and meets the needs of the students with disabilities in the classroom.
    • Resource environments allow the special education teacher to pull students out of the general classroom and teach them in a quieter, more structured location. In some cases, special education teachers may participate in both types of environments within the same school day—co-teaching in one classroom in an inclusion model and pulling students out of another classroom later in the day in a resource model.
  • Advising

    Special education faculty serve as advisors for the upper level of the special education undergraduate program. Specific appointment hours are posted in 4571 Sangren Hall. Students interested in the field of special education are encouraged to call (269) 387-5935.

  • Practica

    Students have many opportunities to observe and participate in special education programs through practicum experiences.

  • Internships

    As a student in WMU's special education program, you will be required to complete two full semesters of internship under the mentorship of selected teachers in partnership schools and teacher educators from WMU. The internship is designed to prepare you not only for your role as a classroom teacher, but as a professional studying your own teaching practice, participating in site-based decision making and coordinating your work with teachers and other members of the school community. Both school and University faculty will work closely together to support and assist you as you progress through the semester. This includes one semester in an elementary education setting and one semester in a special education setting. Special education intern teaching placements are made within prescribed areas of Southwest Michigan, in rural, suburban, and urban districts within approximately 50 miles of WMU. Throughout each intern teaching experience, students participate on a weekly basis in an intern teaching seminar class. 

  • Field placements

    Our candidates will complete a practicum experience every semester in addition to 9-10 weeks teaching students in learning disabilities, and 5-6 weeks teaching students with emotional impairments in field-based internships. Our practica experiences involve a school-based component. All candidates will complete field experiences in urban, suburban, and rural areas, as well as at the elementary and secondary levels. Candidates come to our program with diverse interests and personal backgrounds, and our graduates will assume positions in school districts that are diverse in terms of geography, income of families, ethnicities of students, and size. To best equip candidates to meet the needs of all students, as well as to select the settings in which they are maximally effective as teachers, they must experience a range of settings while in our preparation program and receive support and guidance from university and school-based mentors and supervisors.

  • Employment outlook

    Employment projections data for special education teachers, 2012-22

    Occupational titleEmployment 2012Projected employment 2022Change 2012-22
    Special education teachers442,800469,4006%26,600
    Special education teachers
    Special education teachers,
    kindergarten and elementary school
    Special education teachers,
    middle school
    Special education teachers,
    secondary school

    *Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

  • Current students
  • Cost and funding
  • Helpful links

Hear it from us

"If you want to be the most prepared teacher you can be coming out of your undergrad, WMU is the place to be."

- Jack, current special education student (Meet Jack)

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