Special Education

Special Education Online Master of Education (M.Ed.) - Autism Spectrum Disorders

About Autism Spectrum Disorders

Refine your special education expertise with this fully online master's degree.

For students who hold Pennsylvania teaching certification in special education, PennWest California's 100% online M.Ed. in special education with an endorsement in autism spectrum disorders will give you the specialized preparation you need to be an effective and highly qualified teacher for children with autism.

PennWest California's special education programs are rooted in applied behavior analysis and proven best practices. Our autism M.Ed. directly addresses the needs of today's educators who are seeing a rapidly growing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders - as well as the many school districts that are in need of special education teachers who are specifically focused on autism spectrum disorders.


Top Faculty: As an autism spectrum disorders graduate student, you'll take comprehensive courses from faculty who are at the top of their fields. Your professors will address the changing needs of special education and will prepare you not only for your career, but for leadership in the autism spectrum disorders field.

Top Accreditation: This  degree program is approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits PennWest California. CAEP promotes excellence in educator preparation through quality assurance and continuous improvement. See CAEP reporting measures of program impact and outcomes.


100% Online 
PennWest California's Global Online courses are asynchronous, so you can complete your classes anywhere and at any time.
160+ years 
PennWest California has a 160-year reputation of producing top-quality educators in Pennsylvania and beyond.
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Degree Benefits

As a PennWest California master's degree student studying autism spectrum disorders you will:

  • Have the flexibility to complete your online courses on the schedule that's best for you.
  • Learn how to understand and address the unique and complex challenges faced by individuals on the autism spectrum.
  • Get hands-on practice designing and delivering communication, behavior and instructional support for diverse learners with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Benefit from career support from program faculty and PennWest California's Career and Professional Development Center.
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Graduate Outcomes

The field of special education continues to grow, providing excellent professional career opportunities for today's graduates. As more school administrators recognize the importance of having an autism specialist on staff, there will continue to be vast employment opportunities. PennWest California program graduates have successful careers as Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialists (ASDS) in schools, organizations, counseling centers and medical facilities across Pennsylvania and the United States.


Curriculum, Admission Requirements and Related Programs

PennWest California's fully online M.Ed. consists of 18 credits of graduate-level special education courses and 12 credits in specialized autism spectrum disorders topics. Upon completion of this program, you will hold a master's degree in special education and will be eligible to add autism spectrum disorders to your current teaching certificate.



Course Credits
ESP 602  Life Skills Planning and Instruction 3
ESP 603  Assessment and Prescriptive Teaching 3
ESP 606  Transition Planning and Instruction  OR  ESP 607  Early Intervention: Special Education 3
ESP 639  Field Experience Seminar in Special Education 3
ESP 701*  Introduction to Behavior Analysis 3
ESP 740  Nature/Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders 3
ESP 741  Communication, Behavior and Instruction: Autism Spectrum Disorders 3
ESP 742  Life Transitions and Partnerships: Autism Spectrum Disorders 3
ESP 743  Navigating the Social World: Autism Spectrum Disorders 3
ESP 800  Seminar in Advanced Behavior Analysis and Research Design 3
Total 30

* ESP 701 is a pre-requisite course for all other courses in Special Education.

Students must complete 15 credits of Required Special Education Courses. These courses, listed in the sequence above, include ESP 602, ESP 603, ESP 606, ESP 607 and ESP 639. Students may substitute any of these required 15 credits with the following courses listed below:

  • ESP 612  Evidence Based Practices for PK-8 Inclusion (3 credits)
  • ESP 613  Evidence Based Practices for Secondary Inclusion (3 credits)
  • ESP 620  Special Ed. History, Theory and Exceptionality (3 credits)
  • ESP 622  Advanced Evidence Based Practices for PK-8 Inclusion (3 credits)
  • ESP 623  Advanced Evidence Based Practices for Secondary Inclusion (3 credits)


Admission Requirements

Regular Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.80 or a 3.00 in last 48 credits earned (Students with a GPA below 2.80 may apply for conditional admission)
  • Official transcripts from an accredited undergraduate institution
  • MEd or MEd plus Certification ONLY:  Copy of teaching certificate
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate ONLY:  Copy of teaching certificate is not required if certification is not desired.

Conditional Admission Requirements

  • Conditional Admission may be granted with the following modifications of the Regular Admissions Requirements:
    • Bachelor's degree with a GPA under 2.80 will be reviewed for a decision

Provisional Admission:
Applicants who have provided unofficial documentation of test scores, prerequisite courses, transcripts or lack of letter(s) of recommendation may be admitted provisionally.

This policy also applies to undergraduate students who apply for graduate admission pending bachelor degree completion. Upon receipt of all official documents, a student will be changed from Provisional Admission to either Regular Admission or Conditional Admission. Provisional Admission students may take classes for one term but will not be eligible for Federal Financial Aid.

Program Requirements

How to Apply:

                  School of Graduate Studies and Research
                  PennWest California
                  Box 91
                  250 University Ave. 
                  California, PA 15419

For additional information:
Email: GradAdmissions@pennwest.edu  
Phone: 724-938-4187 

Out of State Students:
All students who will be seeking certification outside of Pennsylvania are responsible for securing and following the certification requirements in the state in which they intend to apply for certification.

Related Programs
Alumni testimonial

Program Alumni Testimonial

"The autism spectrum disorders program at PennWest California is excellent; the instructors are very knowledgeable in their field, and they work very hard to make sure their students have a clear understanding of how to work with and teach children or adults with autism." -Julie Devirgilio '12, Behavior Specialist Consultant, WJS Psychological

Campus in the Fall.

Best Online

U.S. News & World Report has listed PennWest California's graduate education program as a Best Online Program three years in a row and counting.