Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Elementary Education: Learning Disabilities and Emotional Impairments K-12

Bachelor of science

students in a classroom

Program Description

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.


Pre-special education students will need to meet with an advisor in the College of Education and Human Development Office of Admissions and Advising. Admission to the special education program involves a selective application process which takes place during spring semester of candidates’ sophomore year. Application due date is Feb. 15.

Students selected for admission comprise a cohort that begins taking special education coursework in the following fall semester. The four semesters of special education coursework must be taken in the prescribed sequence. For special course requirements, see the program of study below or the undergraduate catalog.


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.


With the special education option you will be certified to teach:

  • Special education, Kindergarten through 12th grade
  • Elementary education, Kindergarten through 5th grade: all subjects
  • Elementary education, Kindergarten through 8th grade: all subjects self-contained classroom

Field Placements

student giving thumbs up in class in a mask

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.


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

  • First semester: Students are exposed to effective teaching through videos and live streaming, as well as placement in a special education setting to support the teacher with a variety of instructional tasks.
  • Second semester: Students are placed in settings serving students with emotional impairments.
  • Third semester: Students are placed in settings serving K-5 students with learning disabilities and emotional impairments.
  • Fourth semester: Students are placed in settings serving 6-12 students with learning disabilities and emotional impairments.


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 Western Michigan University. Throughout each intern teaching experience, students participate on a weekly basis in an intern teaching seminar class.

Career Possibilities

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.

For more information, visit


With the special education option you will be certified to teach:

  • K-12 in special education
  • K-5 in all subjects
  • K-8 in all subjects when teaching in a self-contained classroom—one in which the majority of instruction is provided by a single teacher.

Employment Outlook

Employment projections data for special education teachers, 2012-22

Occupational titleEmployment 2012Projected employment 2022Change 2012-22
Special education teachers 442,800 469,400 6% 26,600
Special education teachers
22,300 25,900 16% 3,600
Special education teachers,
kindergarten and elementary school
194,600 206,600 6% 12,000
Special education teachers,
middle school
94,600 99,500 5% 4,900
Special education teachers,
secondary school
131,300 137,400 5% 6,100

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


For class listings, program guides and other resources, visit the advising page for the special education major.


Internship opportunity

During their special education internship, students in the WMU Special Education Program have the unique opportunity to intern teach in Europe through a long-standing agreement with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools. Internships last for 15 weeks, enabling interns to experience European culture while earning 14 academic credits each semester. Interns teach on a military base where the student population consists primarily of American military children. Housing is arranged for the students as well as access to many other benefits. Please see Broncos Abroad for additional information Special Education Internship: Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education.

Contact: Dr. Elizabeth Whitten

Suggested Special Education and Elementary Education Program with Endorsements in LD & EI: Five-Year Plan

Fall year one (14 credits)Spring year one (15 credits)Summer year one (3-6 credits)
  • ENGL 1050 (4)*
  • HIST 2100 (3)*
  • Art 1480 (4)*
  • GEOG 1900 (3)*
  • MATH 1500 (4)
  • PSCI 2000 (3)*
  • PHYS 1800 (3)*
  • HPHE 1110 (2)*
  • ED 2500 (3)
TO DO Spring or Summer Year One:
Take SAT if you have not met all Basic Skills Examination (BSE) requirements
Fall year two (13 credits)Spring Year Two (14 credits)Summer Year Two (5 - 7 credits)
  • MATH 1510 (4)
  • BIOS 1700 (3)*
  • GEOG 1020 (3)*
  • HIST 3020 (3)
  • MATH 2650 (4)
  • CHEM 2800 (3)*
  • ECON 1000 (3)
  • ENGL 3820 (4) 
To do January: Apply to special education,
background check
  • EDT 3470 (3)
  • HPHE 3400 (2)


  • ENGL 3690 (if offered)(4)
Fall year three (15 credits)Spring year three (15 credits)Summer year three (5 - 7 credits)
  • SPED 3300 (3)
  • SPED 3310 (3)
  • SPED 3380 (3)
  • MATH 3520 (3)
  • LS 3770 (3)
  • SPED 3700 (3)
  • SPED 3710 (3)
  • SPED 3750 (3)
  • LS 3780 (3)
  • ED 4070 (3)
  • ED 4010 (3)


  • EDT 3470, HPHE 3400, or ENGL 3690
    if not taken in previous summer
Fall year four (14 credits)Spring year four (15 credits)Summer year four (3 credits)
  • SPED 4330 (3)
  • SPED 4340 (3)
  • SPED 4040 (3)
  • SPED 3390 (3)
  • HPHE 3520 (2)
To do September through October: 
Apply for internships and graduation.
  • SPED 4350 (3)
  • SPED 4810 (3)
  • ED 3710 (3)
  • ED 4500 (3)
  • ED 4300 (3)
To do January: Register for July MTTC
  • SPED 4270 (3)
To do July: Take Elementary Education MTTC tests (#103)
Fall year five (12 credits)Spring year five (12 credits)

Special Ed Internship
(SPED 4100, 4760, 4750)

ED 4100/ED 4710 (12)
Regular Education Internship
All classes must be completed.

*Classes can be taken in any offered term

This plan is not a binding contract, but rather is a rough guide and may change according to factors including, but not limited to, course availability. Your advisor and major/program department(s) will work with you throughout your time at Western to ensure the best possible path to graduation. Please see your advisor each semester to continually update your plan.