Licensure Program

Special Educator License

Quick Facts

  • 64 credits for a license
  • 73 credits for a license and Special Education master's degree
  • One year full-time or two years part-time
  • On campus and in the field
  • Cohort-model

Twenty-first-century schools are diverse and inclusive communities. The same as any student, students with special needs receive support for their education and future career goals. So, special education teachers (SPED teachers) have some of the most diverse teaching jobs. Together, your students present a range of support needs. With this SPED license, you blend evidence-based research with creative classroom practices. You understand the importance of responsive and effective teaching; creating and sustaining meaningful community partnerships; and developing and disseminating research to advance educational theory, practices, and implementation. This allows you to stand up for all students, meet their challenges with real progress, and provide equity in education.


Shaheen Munir-McHill
Program Coordinator


Tracy Williams-Murphy
Admissions Advisor

Program Benefits

  • Gain valuable hands-on experience through collaborative clinical practica
  • Understand the importance of equity and inclusion for all students
  • Experience incredible value: Learn from experienced teachers who have scholarly expertise and advanced degrees—and do so in convenient locations and at an accessible price
  • Benefit from the Special Education License program’s partnerships with local school districts and community agencies; these collaborations support preservice teacher candidates and recent graduates

Program Specifics

  • Nationally accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation
  • Choose between a full-time or part-time schedule
  • Enjoy a combination of face-to-face coursework and clinical field experiences (practica)
  • Benefit from your peers’ knowledge and experience in our unique cohort model
    Culminate your studies with a student teaching experience in which you will assume the wide range of roles and responsibilities of the special education teacher
  • Add on a master’s degree at the completion of your license program by taking a nine-credit research core
  • Focus on six areas: scaffolding instruction, collaboration and teaming, individualization, data-based decision-making, inclusion and diversity, and leadership and advocacy

About the program

The Special Educator License program provides an opportunity for you to earn a Preliminary Teaching License with an endorsement in special education. It uniquely prepares you to teach students across a wide range, including students aged 3–21 as well as those who have significant disabilities requiring extensive supports.
Vision and Mission
The Special Education Department at Portland State University is dedicated to preparing and supporting professionals to improve the educational outcomes and quality of life for all learners. To achieve our vision, the Special Education programs strive to increase the use of evidence-based practices by preparing exemplary educators, collaborating with schools, building community partnerships, and conducting and disseminating research.

  • All children can learn
  • Educators have a fundamental responsibility for children's learning and a duty to advocate for students and their families
  • Diverse, inclusive, and equitable environments improve educational opportunities and quality of life for all learners
  • Families have valuable knowledge about their children and are essential partners in education
  • Collaboration among schools, families, and communities improves educational outcomes
  • Preparing high quality teachers requires blending effective instruction at PSU with successful school partnerships
  • Prevention and systemic early intervention are essential for maximizing student success and for preventing failure amount student groups as well as for individual students
  • Support systems and the provision of culturally responsive instructional practices should be used to address the unique needs of diverse learners and to enhance the recruitment of a diverse educational workforce
  • Research and evidence-based practices increase the effectiveness of educators' work
  • Collection and thoughtful data analysis should drive educational decision-making about instruction and support

Critical Concepts in Special Education

  1. Scaffolding Instruction: Scaffolding enables a learner to perform a skill or carry out a task that would be beyond his or her unassisted efforts. Scaffolding encompasses many strategies and should be based on assessment of the learner’s current performance. It is a flexible, temporary support designed to be gradually removed as performance improves.
  2. Collaboration and Teaming:  A dynamic process of effective communication and mutual effort across stakeholders (e.g. learners, families, school personnel, community members) involving shared resources, collaborative decision making, and joint accountability to achieve meaningful outcomes.
  3. Individualization:  A systematic and collaborative process to develop and adapt environments, supports, and instruction to individual needs. Individual considerations include the strengths, cultural, and family contexts, preferences, and priorities of the learner and family. 
  4. Data-Based Decision Making:  Continuous, purposeful process of collecting, interpreting, presenting, and using data to inform actions that support positive educational outcomes. Data-based decision making considers the learner’s progress within the contexts of instruction, curriculum, and environment.
  5. Inclusion and Diversity:  Inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure the right of every learner and family to full membership in classrooms, schools, and communities. Supports enable all learners to be engaged participants in social, academic, and extracurricular activities.
  6. Leadership and Advocacy:  Advocacy and leadership are guided by research and professional standards with a robust understanding of context, including perspectives across stakeholders. Leaders and advocates actively engage a range of strategies to facilitate effective practices, systems, and policies to support learners outcomes for an individual or across learners.

Our graduates

SPED graduates are well-prepared to work with a wide range of students in a variety of instructional settings. Potential roles include: self-contained special education classroom teacher, learning specialist/resource room classroom teacher, inclusive/co-teaching roles, and transition specialists.

Why PSU?

PSU’s Special Educator License program is part of the largest Department of Special Education in Oregon. The Special Educator License program is accredited through both the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the state’s Teacher and Standards Practices Commission. Our program welcomes collaboration and values community-based partnerships to support children, youth, families, school districts, and agencies throughout the state. Our committed faculty and their strong partnerships with community agencies help you explore a wide range of expertise in special education. This includes instructional methods, autism, positive behavior supports, inclusion, assessment, early intervention/early childhood, transition to adulthood, and visual impairments. PSU is also the public research university for the Portland metro area. The faculty in the Special Educator License program are intensely involved in improving special education services and instruction in Oregon and the nation through developing research-based curricula and teaching methods, setting up model classrooms and programs, and building collaborative relationships within schools and between schools and the community that improve education for students with and without disabilities.