bachelor's degree of special education

Bachelor's of Science in Special Education Degree (Prek-12)

Develop Valuable, Specialized Skills to Make a Lifelong Impact on Students

Special education is a calling. Teaching and advocating for students with learning disabilities and developmental delays, and helping them overcome challenges, is an incredibly rewarding career. 

With expert teachers and resources like GMercyU Autism Institute, you’ll develop the ability and confidence to respond to the needs of all your future students. 

This degree offers a path to certification. It is also the perfect path for pursuing an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) certification program on the graduate level, which could further boost your salary and employment opportunities as a special education teacher.

Certification: This program was designed to meet the certification requirements of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you reside in a different state, you should carefully review your home state’s certification requirements prior to enrolling in this program.


"During this extraordinary year, teachers faced many obstacles in creating lessons for their students. However, their creativity, flexibility, and willingness to ‘think outside the box’ allowed teachers to engage with students in meaningful ways using the technologies at their disposal. Teachers became energized by this challenge and rose to meet the challenge each and every day." 
—Mary Jo Pierantozzi, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Education


Program Details

At GMercyU, we have been helping students become the teachers they’re meant to be for more than 60 years. You will have access to expert faculty and resources as you develop your teaching and classroom management skills. Learn more below.

Classroom Experience, Every Semester

You will be placed in a classroom as early as the first week of October of your freshman year!

Our Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP) helps you gain first-hand insight into how the real world of education works before taking your turn at the head of the class. In all, you will spend 8 semesters in actual classrooms. Your final two semesters will be dedicated to pre-student teaching and student teaching experiences where you can put your new skills to use.

While it is important to be knowledgeable about your curriculum, it is also important to develop your personal teaching style for the classroom. Through GMercyU's hands-on approach in the classroom, you will learn effective classroom management styles, an array of communication methods, and will be able to handle conflicts within the classroom.

Our real-world approach to teaching will prepare you to better understand your students in a dynamic setting.

Your Personal Academic Team

No matter your major, all GMercyU classes are taught by full-time or part-time faculty members – no teaching assistants. In fact, the professors in our Education programs have more than 130 years of combined experience as educators!

As a Special Education major, your support will include:

  • A personal advisor who will guide you through all four years.
  • Field Placement Coordinator, Dr. Cheryl Malfi, who will help ensure that you have a successful student teaching experience.
  • An Education and Certification Coordinator. Once on the teacher certification track, Mrs. Megan Lawler will ensure you meet all requirements to become a certified teacher in Pennsylvania.
Test Preparation

An essential part of becoming a certified teacher in Pennsylvania is passing the required Pennsylvania Department of Education tests. At GMercyU, we will help you prepare for these tests.

Not only will you work closely with your advisor but our Student Success Center provides many opportunities to help you prepare for these tests, including a series of basic skills workshops, a computer program to practice for the tests, private one-on-one tutoring, and a variety of materials for you to take and prepare on your own.

GMercyU's Autism Institute

Founded by Assistant Dean of the School of Business and Education Deb Schadler, PhD, the Autism Institute focuses on scientifically research-based best practices for supporting students on the Autism spectrum.

GMercyU's Autism Institute provides research-based best practices for students, as well as teachers and administrators, parents of children on the autism spectrum and any interested community members through resources and services such as the annual Autism Conference.

You will be able to take the best-practices learned and apply them directly to your own classroom.

Education Clubs & Organizations

Gain leadership skills, grow professionally, and make friends by getting involved!

Education Outreach Club
Its mission is to provide an opportunity for those with a passion for helping the community to come together to learn, collaborate, and share educational experiences. This club offers its members the option to connect with professionals, participate in educational and social events, and volunteer. Being a member of this club will promote understanding, education, and best practices for the GMercyU community.

Best Buddies
Our Best Buddies chapter matches GMercyU students with members of the community who have Intellectual and developmental disabilities, hosts monthly events, and participates in fundraisers.

Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society
It is the oldest and largest honor society in education. Invitations to join are based on academic achievement, a commitment to education as a career, and a professional attitude that assures the member’s steady growth in the field of education.


In addition to general education requirements, you will complete the following courses for a bachelor's degree in special education:

Core Courses:  30 Credits

EDU 100  Education in America
EDU 104 Health & Motor Development Pre K-4
EDU 216 Foundations of Teaching & Learning Pre K-4  
EDU 226 Reading Sequence I – Foundations of Early Literacy Research
EDU 227 Math Methods for Pre K-4
EDU 228 Art and Humanities
EDU 229  Reading Sequence II – Lang. Dev. & Early Literacy, Instruction & Assessment
EDU 309  Technology Integration in Education Pre K-8
EDU 316  Reading Literacy Instruction, Assessment & Intervention
EDU 351 Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners

Special Education Concentration - 33 credits

SPE 205 Exceptional Person
SPE 231  Mild/Moderate Disabilities in the Inclusionary Setting
SPE 232 Students with Complex Needs in the Inclusionary Setting
SPE 332 Assessment and Instruction of Students with Complex Needs
SPE 331 Implementing Inclusive Practices for the Mild/Moderate Population
EDU 415   Pre-Student Teaching
EDU 498 Student  Teaching Pre K-8 (12 Credits)
EDU/SPE 4000 Capstone Seminar

Credit Requirements

A minimum of 120 credits is required for a bachelor’s degree in special education.

This program requires a criminal background check, child abuse clearance, and certain immunizations and other health-related clearances in order to participate in all field experiences.

Undergraduate Minors

Increase the value of your bachelor of science in special education by adding an undergraduate minor. GMercyU offers a wide variety of minors so you can choose the one that best meets your personal and professional goals.

Featured Courses

Wondering what your courses will look like? Here are just a couple of the classes you’ll take as a Special Education major. 

SPE 205 Exceptional Person
The course will require students to demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental concepts of teaching students with cognitive, behavioral and/or physical health disabilities ages 0-21. This will include: philosophical, historical and legal foundations of education, current identification criteria, legal and educational definitions, etiology, incidence and prevalence figures, as well as cognitive, behavioral and physical characteristics for students with disabilities. The course will present models and theories of typical/atypic growth and behavior across age groups, as well as disabilities.

SPE 231 Mild/Moderate Disabilities
Educational and medical definitions, etiology, identification criteria and current incidence and prevalence rates for students with learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders and mild mental retardation are presented. This course will review major theoretical models associated with the study of these conditions. Field experience is required.

SPE 331 Implementing Inclusionary Practices for Mild/Moderate Population
Applications of fundamental concepts for teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities are presented. Students will examine norm-referenced, criterion-referenced and curriculum-based instruments and procedures for assessing and diagnosing students who are experiencing learning and behavior problems in school. Students will conduct curriculum-based assessments to identify students' academic strengths and weaknesses. Students will also learn to create an environment conducive to learning through an applied behavior analysis perspective.

For all Special Education course descriptions, please refer to the undergraduate catalog.

Meet the Faculty

Deb Schadler, PhD, CPCRT, PRSE

Position: Assistant Dean, School of Business and Education
Did You Know? Dr. Schadler is also the Director of GMercyU’s Autism Institute. She has developed and taught GMercyU’s undergraduate special education curriculum.

Learn More

Mary Jo Pierantozzi, MS

Position: Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Education
Did You Know? Professor Pierantozzi has presented nationally on many topics in education including math, social studies, hybrid online courses, and cooperative learning. She is also the advisor for Best Buddies and Kappa Delta Pi.

Learn More

Marianne Boyd, M. Ed.

Position: Professor of Practice, Education
Did You Know? Professor Boyd has extensive experience as a classroom teacher and an elementary principal and brings a wealth of experience to her courses. She is the co-advisor of the Education Outreach Club.

Learn More

Career Opportunities

Career Growth and Salary

There is a need for special education teachers nationwide. In 2019-2020, 14% (7.3 million) of all public school students received special education services, yet according to the U.S. Department of Education, 48 states reported shortages for the 2016-2017 school year.

In May 2020, the median annual wage for special education teachers was $61,420 with the highest 10% earning more than $100,160, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


    Where GMercyU Education Grads Work

    Recently, GMercyU students have completed student teaching and landed teaching positions after graduation in these districts and more: 

    • Abington School District
    • Bensalem School District
    • Central Bucks School District
    • Colonial School District
    • Council Rock School District
    • Hatboro-Horsham School District
    • Lower Moreland School District
    • MAST Charter School
    • Methacton School District
    • Neshaminy School District
    • North Penn School District
    • Perkiomen Valley School District
    • Philadelphia School District
    • Phoenixville School District
    • Springfield School District
    • St. Malachy School 
    • Upper Dublin School District
    • Upper Moreland School District
    • Wissahickon School District
    Student Success Story

    Briana Vandegrift ’19

    Current Position: Special Education Teacher in the North Penn School District

    Through GMercyU’s Teacher Apprenticeship Program (TAP), Brianna found her home within the North Penn School District. She participated in a cohort between GMercyU and Gwynedd Square Elementary School and completed two semesters of TAP and a semester of student-teaching there.

    “GMercyU is really great when it comes to providing its students with connections to community school districts," said Brianna. “I was able to get to know the Elementary principal, supervisor of Special Education, and the supportive faculty, all of which helped land me a contracted Special Education position."

    Read more about Brianna's GMercyU experience.

    Meet more Griffin Success Stories.

    Next Steps

    Transfer Opportunities

    If you’ve already earned college-level credits at other accredited institutions or early education colleges, you can transfer them to Gwynedd Mercy University in order to achieve your dual degree in early education and special education. All you need to do is submit your transcript and course description to the Registrar, who will determine whether the course counts towards the credits required for graduation. Read more on our Transfer Credits page.

    In addition, Gwynedd Mercy University has articulation agreements with Bucks County and Delaware County Community Colleges, Harcum College, and Manor College to speed your path to become a teacher with teacher certification.

    Bucks County Community College
    AA in PreK-4 Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification 
    AA PreK-4 Education to BS PreK-12 Special Education Certification 

    Delaware Community College
    AS Early Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification 

    Harcum College
    AS Early Childhood Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification  
    AS Early Childhood Education to BS PreK-12 Special Education Certification 

    Manor College 
    AS Early Education to BS Early Education PreK-4 Certification  
    AS Early Education to BS PreK-12 Special Education Certification 

    Admissions Requirement

    Have questions about our admission requirements? Contact us! Our Admissions staff is ready to walk you through the process of applying to GMercyU.

    Phone: 215-641-5510

    Financial Aid, Tuition & Fees

    At GMercyU, we strive to make a quality education accessible to all through financial aid, scholarships, and grants. As a military-friendly university, we welcome service members and participate in all VA educational benefits programs. 

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    Achieve your dream of becoming the kind of teacher who can help change the lives of your students. Earn your bachelor's degree in special education at GMercyU!