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Is American University’s Master of Arts in Special Education a Good Fit for You?

March 6, 2024

Special education is changing, with more students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) spending more time in general classes; from 2010 to 2021, the percentage of these students who spent at least 80 percent of their time in general classes increased from 61 to 67 percent. Schools embrace inclusive education strategies because they work, delivering benefits to all students, not just those with special needs.

One thing about special education hasn’t changed: the shortage of qualified educators in the field. According to the US Department of Education, 43 percent of public schools report at least one special education teaching staff vacancy. Nearly half report finding it difficult or impossible to fill empty slots.

If you are passionate about special education, a Master of Arts (MA) in Special Education can equip you with the skills and knowledge to enter an in-demand field and pursue a rewarding career path. Programs like the MA in Special Education: Learning Disabilities (SELD) offered by American University (AU) can make earning this degree more convenient.

If you’re an active or aspiring teacher interested in pursuing a career in special education, you may wonder what makes someone the “right fit” for American University’s program. This article outlines the program requirements and provides tips for submitting a compelling application. 

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Who Is a Good Fit for the Master of Arts in Special Education Program?

AU’s MA in Special Education program attracts a diverse student cohort, admitting students with and without teaching experience. What they share is a passion for education and improving the learning experiences of students with disabilities. 

After graduation, AU SELD students work in many different settings related to the special education field, including public schools, private schools, independent schools, clinics, treatment centers, government, and research institutions. Some also become educational leaders in government and private organizations. 

Special Education Master’s Program Admission Requirements 

To qualify for admission to the SELD program, you must have a bachelor’s degree, preferably with a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an accredited institution (applicants with a GPA below 3.0 must submit a GPA supplemental statement). GRE/GMAT scores are not required to apply, nor is prior teaching experience. Full-time classroom teachers may be able to waive up to three credit hours of the capstone project or internship.  

What Do You Need to Apply to American University?

To apply to AU’s MA in SELD program, you must submit: 

  • A statement of purpose: Your statement of purpose should highlight your goals and interests and how they align with the SELD program. Your statement should be 500 to 1,000 words.
  • A resume or CV: Your resume should list your relevant work experience, internships, research, awards, publications, and your educational history.
  • Transcripts: You must submit transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions where you earned credit. You may submit unofficial transcripts during the application process but must provide official transcripts to finalize admission.
  • Two letters of recommendation: Choose two people who can evaluate and recommend you based on your academic performance, motivation to study special education, intellectual capacity, and research and writing ability.

AU offers support to prospective MA in Special Education students to help them complete the application. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with an enrollment advisor for an application walkthrough and personalized guidance. 

How to Submit a Stronger AU Application 

Consulting with an enrollment advisor is one way to ensure you are submitting your best possible application. Enrollment advisors are experts in the admissions process and will help you highlight your strengths (and address any potential weaknesses) in your application materials. AU offers various virtual events where you can learn more about the AU education programs, what you can expect to learn, and how to submit a compelling application. Also, take note of the critical admissions dates and deadlines and create an application timeline to stay on track and submit all your supporting materials on time. 

Is This Program the Right Fit for You? 

If you are interested in a career in special education, American University’s SELD program can prepare you to meet the needs of students at risk for, or currently living with, learning challenges. As an AU SELD student, you will learn practical, individualized training and diagnostic-prescriptive teaching methods. You will also complete a year-long internship in partnership with the Lab School of Washington. This internship will allow you to apply your learning in a real-world environment. 

The program offers part-time and full-time in-person tracks to fit in with your work and family commitments; an online option will be added for the 2024 fall semester. Upon graduation, you will qualify to seek DC, Maryland, and Virginia licensure (with reciprocity in over 40 states). 

Schedule a one-on-one appointment with an enrollment advisor to learn more about the SELD program. An enrollment advisor can answer all your questions and help you determine whether this is the right degree for your career and personal goals. Or, if you’re ready, start your application now.

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