Krishana Robinson pictured outside the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center School

Our master’s in special education program prepares educators to serve as change agents in their schools and communities by promoting the full participation of individuals with disabilities.

Program Type


Program Format

On Campus, Online

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Prepare for Meaningful Work

Students in the MS in Exceptional Education program develop strategies and new ways of thinking in a wide variety of contexts, with particular emphasis on working within a multicultural and urban context.

Certification and focus options complement required courses. By the time they graduate, students are prepared to have a positive impact on individuals with disabilities.

As I was making a difference parenting my own children, I wanted to make a difference in other children’s lives.

Jeff Stempniewski, MS ’19Middle School Special Education Teacher,
St. Augustine Preparatory Academy

Program Requirements

The Exceptional Education master’s degree is a 30-credit degree, with 12 core credits required in all focus areas. 18 credits must be taken in Exceptional Education. The remaining credits may be taken either in or outside of the School of Education.

Certification Options

If you are interested in earning certification as a special education teacher as part of a master’s degree, you must first apply directly to one of our post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs:

Visit our Post-Baccalaureate Special Education Teacher Certification Admissions webpage for the program application webform and additional application information.

If you are interested in earning a 22-credit hour graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis as a stand-alone certificate or as part of a master’s degree, you must apply directly to the graduate school. Visit our Applied Behavior Analysis graduate certificate webpage to learn more about the requirements.

Individual Focus Option

If you are not seeking a post-baccalaureate teaching certification through the Exceptional Education master’s degree, you must select one of the following focus areas:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder 
  • Transition from School to Life 

The courses required for your chosen focus area are determined in collaboration with your faculty advisor.

Doctoral Specializations

Exceptional Education Specialization

The doctoral specialization in Exceptional Education provides a program of advanced study of special education. The program emphasizes the study the socio-cultural context, educational policy, research-based practices and systems change and reform. Students in Exceptional Education take advanced coursework in special education and choose to focus on related areas such as administration, research, teacher education, curriculum design and development, and community-based supports and partnerships. In addition, students declare a minor area of interest.

Admission Process

The graduate school recommends that you begin the application process one year before the semester you plan to start. The Exceptional Education Department recommends that you submit a complete application at least four weeks prior to the semester in which you plan to start.

Master’s Degree

Complete the UWM Graduate School Online Application.

The Master’s Degree Application Checklist (PDF) may be a helpful resource. For more information on international admissions, please visit the Center for International Education.

Certification Focus

To apply for Certification Focus admission, review the Graduate School’s admissions requirements.

Once admitted to a post-baccalaureate program, you will work with a faculty advisor to determine the most appropriate time to apply to the Graduate School to make the most of your post-baccalaureate credits. You may apply 18 credits of coursework in the certification program toward the 30-credit master’s degree.

Individual Focus

In addition to the Graduate School’s admissions requirements, we require two letters of recommendation.

Once you apply to the graduate school and your eligibility is confirmed, you will be invited to a faculty interview for program entry. In your reason statement you will detail the special education area of interest you want to focus on (e.g.: literacy, autism spectrum disorders, transition, etc.).

If admitted, you will be paired with a faculty advisor and begin the process of completing your master’s degree.

Maggie Bartlett, Associate Professor in Teaching and Learning.
  • Associate Professor, Teaching and Learning
  • Program Director, Exceptional Education, MS
Elizabeth Drame, Professor in Teaching and Learning.
  • Professor, Teaching and Learning
Sara Jozwik, Associate Professor in Teaching and Learning.
  • Associate Professor, Teaching and Learning
  • Program Director, Exceptional Education: K4-12 Special Education
Laura Owens, Professor in Teaching and Learning.
  • Professor, Teaching and Learning
Nancy Rice, Professor in Teaching and Learning.
  • Professor, Teaching and Learning
  • Department Chair, Teaching and Learning