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Department of Special Education

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Special Education Graduate Programs

The Department of Special Education offers graduate education for students interested in teaching, research, and professional service related to children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and their families. Since the 1970s, the department’s master’s and doctoral programs have received national and international recognition. The faculty is known for its field leadership and commitment to high-quality education for children and youth with disabilities, innovative field-based research, and preparation of highly effective program graduates. The annual U.S. News and World Report graduate program survey consistently ranks KU at the top when compared to more than 200 graduate programs in this field. As one of the most comprehensive special education preparation programs in the country, the department attracts students from many states and countries.

Graduate degrees associated with the department’s programs include the Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Students may pursue a master’s degree emphasizing teaching in one of 6 areas:

  1. Adaptive (i.e., high-incidence disabilities)
  2. Autism spectrum disorders
  3. Early childhood unified (birth through kindergarten)
  4. Functional (i.e., low-incidence disabilities)
  5. Transition services

Students seeking Kansas State Department of Education teaching licensure can complete requirements for special education endorsement in the following areas:

  1. Adaptive
  2. Functional
  3. Early childhood unified (birth through kindergarten)

With the exception of ECU, all endorsement areas require current Kansas licensure in elementary, secondary, or early childhood education.

The doctoral program prepares experienced professionals for leadership roles as university faculty, researchers, and policymakers/administrators. Course work and field experience facilitate the development of advanced knowledge and skills in leadership, teacher education, research and scholarly writing, and disability advocacy. The following areas of specialization are offered:

  • Policy analysis and research
  • Teacher education (e.g., high-incidence disabilities, early childhood unified education, secondary special education transition, and low-incidence disabilities)
  • Families and disability
  • Educational technology

Graduate classes are taught on the main campus in Lawrence and on the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park in suburban Kansas City about 40 miles from Lawrence. Master’s students can expect to complete some graduate work on each campus.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access,, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.