USD Student, Emily Kern, works with students in a teaching residency opportunity

Special Education

Earn your master's in special education to gain effective teaching strategies to work with students with special needs and become an active, responsive advocate for your students.

Master Your Special Education and Leadership Skills

Intended for individuals with who want to work with special needs students, the special education master's degree can be completed in four semesters or extended over a longer period of time. Grow upon your past knowledge and skills and prepare for your future in special education. You will learn about effective teaching strategies and ways to create meaningful learning experiences for children. Typically, students seek the Master of Arts in Special Education while pursuing certification in one or more areas. This degree also provides flexibility for those not needing or wanting certification.  

As a special education student at USD, you will use hands-on learning, take program-specific classes and work closely with your peers to understand the best ways to educate students needing special education. Our expert professors will offer mentorship as you design an individualized plan of study that emphasizes the learning strategies that are most important to you.

Degrees & Offerings

Special Education (M.A.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

The master's in special education requires a specialization.

Special Education: Advanced Specialist in Disabilities

Master's with Specialization
  Vermillion Main Campus

Designed for special educators who would like to pursue more focused and specialized studies within the field of special education. This program promotes a more intensive study regarding the most current issues in special education such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, behavior management, advanced teaching and assessment practices in high need disability areas and vocational-transitional planning.

Special Education: Early Childhood Special Education

Master's with Specialization

This specialization concentrates on special education services for children with disabilities from birth to age eight. As preventive practices in special education are key, it focuses on identifying children with special needs and inclusive, developmentally appropriate practices for professionals in the field.

Special Education: Multicategorical Special Education K-12 (M.A.)

Master's with Specialization
  Vermillion Main Campus

Ideal for individuals who want to teach in the field of special education in kindergarten through 12th grade, the coursework in this program focus on a range of mild to profound disability areas and related services. Students who wish to pursue initial teacher licensure and/or special education certification should choose this specialization.

Accelerated Special Education: Advanced Specialist in Disabilities (M.A.)

Major + Master's
  Vermillion Main Campus

You can choose an accelerated option when specializing in advanced specialist in disabilities. If you are a current USD undergraduate student who would like to begin a master's degree while completing your bachelor's degree, you may apply and begin the program after the completion of 90 undergraduate credit hours.

Program Details





Graduate Admissions

Start Your Application Today

Each program has unique application requirements and deadlines. Be sure and consult the graduate catalog for detailed program information. It will ensure your application and materials are complete and submitted on time. To learn more about the application process, visit how to apply.

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.


As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

An Affordable Education

Gain valuable real-world, professional experience while enjoying paid employment and discounted tuition rates as a graduate student at USD. The affordability you gain through graduate assistantships and fellowships will equip you with valuable, professional-level skills that will set you apart after graduation. 

Teaching and research assistantships are awarded by individual departments. If you do not receive an assistantship within your department, you are eligible for an assistantship outside of your academic program or within support offices (non-academic units) at USD. Further inquiries should be directed to the graduate director of the department.

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At USD, our graduate students are actively pursuing unique research and presenting at local and national conferences exploring innovative areas of interest to them. Additional research and grant opportunities include: 

Graduate Research

USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the School of Education. You may be interested in joining a student organization to make friends, develop new skills and explore your interests.

Council for Exceptional Children

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is a special education organization that works with children who have special needs. Members do various service projects for the community that serves individuals with special needs and their families.

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National Association for the Education of Young Children

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is a professional membership organization that promotes high-quality education and learning for young children by addressing policy, research and early childhood practice.

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National Education Association & South Dakota Education Association

The USD chapter of the South Dakota Education Association aims to acquaint students in teacher education programs with the history, ethics and programs of the education profession while also supporting and increasing their involvement in the community.

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School of Education Student Ambassadors

Communicate with prospective students, assist with recruitment events, give tours of the building and offer input during prospective students’ individual campus visits. This group exemplifies the spirit of the school and provides excellent opportunities for professional growth.

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SERVE - Adopt a School, Big Pal/Little Pal, H.E.R.O.E.S.

USD SERVE is focused on enriching the community of Vermillion. The group upholds the goal of supporting the educational mission of USD by providing service-based learning opportunities to students, as well as creating an environment that advocates for the importance of community service and helping others.

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USD Reading Council

The USD Reading Council is dedicated to enhancing reading instruction and promoting the love of literature. A professional organization, we are genuinely concerned with the improvement of reading programs and teaching procedures, both developmental and remedial, for children and adults.

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Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)

Join your fellow graduate and professional students at USD. We aim to build a sense of community between graduate and professional students. Build your resume, network with others and gain experience and the unique opportunity to represent the interests of graduate students to the greater campus and community.

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departments & facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in curriculum and instruction.
USD students participate in an in-class activity.

Curriculum & Instruction

Preparing professional educators to be tomorrow’s leaders in teaching through developmental, integrative and reflective practices.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know your professors in the Division of Curriculum & Instruction. Our faculty are nationally recognized for their research and have a national network of connections to help students progress in their careers.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Gary Cheeseman

Gary Cheeseman

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Susan Gapp

Susan Gapp

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lisa Hazlett

Lisa Hazlett

Bio Image for Faculty Member Monica Iverson

Monica Iverson

Senior Lecturer
Faculty Default

Marilyn Jensen

Adjunct Instructor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Kevin Reins

Kevin Reins

Associate Professor
A teacher speaking to a student.

Tailor the Program to Your Interests and Career Goals

Graduate with a degree that reflects your passions, prepares you to lead and sets you apart.

USD's graduate degrees in educational leadership are unique in that you can craft the program to fit your interests and career goals. You'll learn from supportive faculty and take classes from other departments across campus to expand your skillset and knowledge. This unique structure provides a versatile and supportive climate that prepares you for success in today's information-rich society.

USD students gather outside the Dezell Education Building on campus in Vermillion

Impact the Lives of Your Students

Master your leadership skills and study in greater depth all curriculum and instructional areas related to teaching in diverse special education environments. Strengthen your teaching skills and expand your knowledge to include a variety of current materials and programs used in kindergarten through 12th grade.
A woman teaching a class of children.

Discounted Tuition for South Dakota Teachers and Vocational Instructors

If you live in South Dakota, be sure and take advantage of the 50% reduced tuition program for currently contracted elementary/secondary teachers and vocational instructors.

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Surprisingly Affordable

Whether you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or you want to kick your career up a notch, graduate school is the next logical step. The good news is there is funding for both online and on-campus students to get you through your program. 
GA (Resident*)
Tuition (1 cr.)
GAF Fee (1 cr.)

More About Tuition & Fees

Tuition rates are subject to change and may vary depending on the program or department. Visit the Graduate Tuition & Costs page for more information.

* Graduate Assistant (GA) rates are available for resident, non-resident and online students.

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