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Special Education

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 Watch Dr. Cristin Ketley as she describes Special Ed majors and Careers

Programs of study

Bachelor Degree


Our high quality program has two tracks to explore.  Our certification track meets all the standards to teach in the PK-12 classroom. Our non-certification track leads you to opportunities as a qualified professional in various roles working with children with special needs.  In either case, experts in the field show you how to reach students where they are, regardless of talents and abilities, helping those students go farther than they ever thought they could or would. Preparation is based on scientifically-based practices providing for the needs of ALL students. Clarion is a leader in the state when it comes to Special Education and we encourage you to explore the possibilities.


The School of Education offers a program of study which will provide students interested in working with students with disabilities dual certification in special education and early childhood education. Students completing this program are qualified to teach in special education programs (K-8) and early childhood programs from pre-K to Grade 4. Graduates may also find employment in special education infant stimulation and pre-school programs.

Requirements | Maps | Outcomes


The Department of Special Education has created a unique program designed to meet the needs of a variety of learners with a variety of disabilities, at risk for disabilities, and those with specific reading disabilities such as Dyslexia -- the Intervention Specialist Program. The Intervention Specialist Program combines special education preparation at the undergraduate level and special reading education at the graduate level. It also includes mathematics content knowledge and methods. All of this preparation is to ensure that individuals with specific learning needs and diverse abilities entitled to a free and appropriate quality education utilizing specialized teaching receive it at all age levels.

Upon completion of the program students will:

  • Earn a Bachelor of Science in special education.

  • Earn a Master's of Science in special education.

  • Be prepared to sit for the examinations required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Special Education as well as Reading Specialist Certification.

Requirements | Maps | Outcomes | Intervention Special Info

Master Degree

badgeMasters in Special Education Applied Behavioral Analysis concentration

This powerful master's degree in special education provides training in the area of applied behavior analysis as well as other critical areas. Those entering the program come from a variety of undergraduate preparations. Completers of this degree will be eligible to sit for the certification test for Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), will have completed training for Competent Learner Model (CLM) Implementer, and if teacher certified upon entry, both the Autism and Gifted endorsements. BCBA's practice independently providing behavioral services in as variety of settings from healthcare settings to public and private schools. Please click here for more information on the advantages of CLM, how to become a BCBA, and how to apply to the program.

Requirements | Maps | Outcomes


A program preparing teachers to successfully teach those who struggle to read.

Students who have problems reading, spelling, and writing often puzzle teachers and end up frustrated. These students have the ability to learn as much as others, however, they experience unique obstacles in these areas of language. These students may be dealing with dyslexia (reading problems), dysgraphia (writing problems), or other neurological disorders that get in the way of everyday learning experiences.

Clarion University's Department of Special Education & Disability Services provides focused training resulting in a uniquely qualified reading specialist who is ready to solve the puzzle. Graduates of this program will be prepared so that their students will be successful in school and beyond.

As one of 10 schools in PA with International Dyslexia accreditation, Clarion is proud to offer a Reading Specialist program that not only meets all PA guidelines for certification but delves deeper into those scientifically validated instructional strategies that target these disorders.

Requirements | Maps | Outcomes


The Master's of Education with a concentration of special education program is primarily designed for individuals who possess a teaching certificate in some other area and wish to add a special education teaching certificate while also receiving a master's degree.

  • Students who presently hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited program may pursue the master's degree while completing additional course work leading to Pennsylvania certification in the area of special education.

  • The student's advisor will individually determine the specific course work for certification after a review of the student's past course work and experience.

Requirements | Maps | Outcomes


As indicated, the intervention specialist program, as it's known on campus, is designed to prepare a new professional for the commonwealth's schools. The program combines special education, special reading education, as well as mathematics content knowledge, to ensure that individuals with special learning needs and diverse abilities entitled to a free, appropriate quality education utilizing specialized teaching, receive it at all age levels.

Upon completion of the program students will;

  • Earn a Bachelor of Science in special education

  • Earn a Master of Science in special education

  • Be prepared to sit for the certification examination for special education as well as reading specialist certification.

Requirements | Maps | Outcomes



A minor allows students to add an area of interest by taking an additional 18-21 credits. The special education department has a number of these programs.

  • Minor in Diagnosis & Intervention Strategies for Students with Mathematical Disabilities - This minor is designed to provide educators in-depth knowledge of students with specific learning disabilities, as well as a variety of alternative methods to meet the instructional needs of students with disabilities or at risk for academic failure in mathematics. Requirements
  • Minor in Special Education - The minor in Special Education is designed for those individuals who want more information about service delivery for students with disabilities, but do not want certification. Requirements
  • Minor in Disability Studies - Disability is an increasingly important aspect of many careers. All environments must take into account the diversity of the populations they serve and be prepared to consider issues of accommodations, inclusion and accessibility. Students with an interdisciplinary background in disability studies will have a crucial skill set desired by employers and are prepared to work with a wide variety of people and build skills in creating inclusive, accessible settings.

The Department of Special Education at Clarion University has been a leader in the field for more than 50 years. Through scholarship, teaching and service, the department has disseminated innovative practices for both pre-service and in-service professionals. We have a variety of majors, minors and certificates in our department to prepare students for fulfilling careers in the field.

badgeNew Competent Learner Model and Applied Behavior Analysis training embedded into our curriculum in the undergraduate and graduate level degrees making you more marketable to fill the education workforce needs. You will leave this program as a fully competent behavioral educator.

The curriculum focuses on Applied Behavior Analysis which guides students to develop programming or instruction that uses effective teaching procedures while managing maladaptive behaviors.

  • Conducting behavioral assessments
  • Analyzing data
  • Writing and revising behavior-analytic treatment plans
  • Training others to implement components of treatment plans
  • Overseeing the implementation of treatment plans

Clarion University is the only university within a two-hour radius offering courses in Applied Behavior Analysis that allows its students to sit for certification because Clarion received Verified Course Sequence status from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. Additionally, Clarion is the only university in the region allowed to offer CLM courses for college credit. Competent Learner Model courses prepare students to address complex, interrelated needs in most learning environments.  There are increasing numbers of students with autism and other significantly complex learning and behavioral challenges.  In addition, schools and other learning environments are in need of multi-disciplinary teams to work together to design and deliver evidence-based interventions with reliability.  Having these courses embedded in the undergraduate education degree prepares our graduates to address these workforce needs.

HIGH NEED:  There are currently a total of 1,197 BCBAs and BCaBAs in Pennsylvania.  Internationally there are 23,674 BCBAs and on 2,7389 BCaBAs.  The current infrastructure of those trained in ABA in Pennsylvania will not be able to sustain the current caseloads within the County systems.  There is expected to be an influx of those needing to become trained and potentially certified in ABA.

Career Outlook

The job market for special educators will continue to be favorable through 2026 (Best Choice Schools). Special Educators work with students with a variety of disabling conditions (dyslexia, learning disabilities, autism, behavior disorders, physical disabilities etc.) in various settings such as schools, hospitals, private schools and even prisons. Students who graduate from our Special Education PreK-8/7-12 with the Reading Specialists program are in high demand and many are hired before they graduate.

The Statistics:

  • 49 states report a shortage of special education teachers including Pennsylvania
  • 82 percent of special education teachers report that there are not enough professionals to meet the needs of students with disabilities
  • 51 percent of all school districts and 90 percent of high poverty school districts report difficulty attracting highly qualified special education teachers

    Special Education Personnel Shortages Factsheet


As a student in any of Clarion's Special Education Programs, you are in field experiences from your very first semester.  If you pursue the M.S. Special Education (Intervention Specialist program) you will be able to obtain three certifications and will have three field placements. 

"Teachers coming from the Intervention Specialist program are seasoned beyond their years of experience. Using data, the Intervention Specialist teacher solves problems pulling from a multitude of interventions in order to continue student growth. Other faculty recognize their skills and seek them out for help. They quickly demonstrate themselves as leaders that establish growth and adapt to the challenges of learning for each student." - Joy Zuck, Oil City Area School District

Teacher shortage areas

Pennsylvania Statewide Academic Disciplines/Subject Matter


Dr. Cristin Leahy
Department Chair
135 SPED Annex

(814) 393-2516 Office

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Erin Neely

Erin Neely is one of two Clarion students to receive the prestigious 2017 George O'Neil Scholarship. Her dedication to the field of special education hasn't gone unnoticed, serving in student organizations and volunteering to help the disabled.

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Aubrey Monte

Aubrey Monte is one of two Clarion students to receive the prestigious 2017 George O'Neil Scholarship. Her commitment to academics and pertinent extracurriculars hasn't stopped her from volunteering to help the disabled in a variety of capacities.



Last Updated 7/21/22