Special Education Teaching Degree Programs in Washington State

There are at least 10 universities within Washington state that have special education degrees. Read an overview of the 9 largest schools' programs, requirements, and tuition information and find out which school is the right one for you.

Essential Information

In Washington state, students interested in studying special education may pursue a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in the field. Depending on the school, they may be able to specialize in elementary or secondary education. Applicants to a bachelor's degree program may need to have completed certain prerequisite courses, and some master's degree programs are designed for existing teachers with an education bachelor's degree.

Additionally, while some special education programs are designed to lead to certification, others are designed more for career advancement opportunities where certification is not needed. To enroll in a teacher certification program in Washington State, prospective teachers must pass the Washington Educator Skills Test - Basic (WEST - B), which evaluates a candidate's proficiency in the basic skills necessary to teaching in a public education setting.

Several schools also offer alternative certification routes or add-on endorsement programs for existing educators or individuals with practical experience in the field of special education. These students can earn an endorsement or teaching certificate through 1 of 4 different pathways, all of which include passing the WEST - B.

Central Washington University

Central Washington University is located in Ellensburg, and it enrolls more than 11,000 students in its selection of degree and certificate programs. Students seeking training to prepare for teaching in the field of P-12 special education have 2 options at CWU, which are offered through the College of Education and Professional Studies. The Bachelor of Arts in Education in Special Education can be obtained by pursuing either a 70-unit broad area major, or a 54-unit major, plus an additional minor. Both programs require a successful score on the WEST - B, and additional general education coursework, and these programs aim to prepare students to obtain teaching certification with a special education endorsement. There are also some short-term courses of study for currently-working educators seeking to add an endorsement to their certification, or for individuals seeking an alternative path to special education teaching certification. Furthermore, for those looking for advanced study in this field, the Master of Education in Special Education program is a 45-unit online course of study for teachers who already possess a valid teaching certificate, and who want to expand their practice into this field.

City University of Seattle

The City University of Seattle takes its name from the city in which the main campus is located - Seattle. This 4-year university offers a Master of Education program at the main campus in Seattle as well as its Bellevue, Everett, and Tacoma satellite locations. For undergraduate study, this school's Bachelor of Arts program can be completed at additional sites in Aberdeen, Vancouver, Tacoma, Longview, Port Angeles and Centralia, though it is not available at the main campus in Seattle. This B.A. in education program can be supplemented with an endorsement in special education, and dual endorsement programs are also available for those who want to gain certification in more than one field. Both the M.Ed. and B.A. programs are offered as mixed format classes, so some courses may be completed online, but on-campus coursework and fieldwork will also be required.

Eastern Washington University

Eastern Washington University, in Cheny, is not far from Spokane. Students pursuing the Bachelor of Arts in Education with an emphasis in special education will be offered training intended to fulfill state requirements for a special education endorsement; to apply for this program, students must submit WEST - B test scores, requested documentation, and proof that certain course prerequisites have been fulfilled. There are 3 paths one may take in this B.A. program: to obtain certification to teach only special education in grades K-12, to qualify for dual certification in special education and elementary education, or to pursue training in special education and early childhood education. There is also a minor in special education available for anyone who wants to supplement another teaching program with training in this field. All education majors enrolled in programs offered through the College of Arts, Letters, and Education at EWU are required to complete fieldwork assignments, which are often conducted in the greater Spokane area. Full-time teaching internships are also required for students seeking teaching certification.

Gonzaga University

Spokane is home to Gonzaga University, where more than 7,700 students are working towards undergraduate and advanced degrees. Those seeking special education training may choose to enroll in 1 of 4 possible programs offered by the special education department at Gonzaga. Degrees offered in this field include the B.Ed, M.Ed. and M.I.T in special education, and at each degree level there are at least 2 options of emphasis. Both the bachelor's and master's in special education programs provide the option to focus strictly in special education, or to supplement this subject matter with early childhood education training. Furthermore, the graduate department also offers a 3rd option - functional analysis - for those pursuing the Master of Education in Special Education. Graduate students can also matriculate in the Master of Initial Teaching in Special Education program. These programs all aim to fulfill the demonstrated need for special education teachers in this state by providing classroom training and relevant fieldwork experiences, so that degree seekers in this field can enter the workforce as qualified practitioners.

Seattle Pacific University

This private 4-year school is located in Seattle, and it enrolls more than 4,000 students. Seattle Pacific University offers 3 options for emphasis within the special education major. Special education majors can pursue a non-teaching track when seeking training for future employment in state, local, or nonprofit organizations. Another option is the educational ministry emphasis, which is offered in partnership with the School of Theology. A third option, for Individuals who seek teaching certification and a special education endorsement, is the program leading to residency teacher certification, in which students can choose to emphasize in either elementary or secondary education. These teacher certification programs aim to prepare students by offering a progressive series of foundation courses as well as methods and skills classes to prepare for the WEST- B and WEST - E exams. Upon successful completion of these exams, students will also complete an internship experience, which consists of 2 consecutive quarters of supervised fieldwork experience. In the graduate department at Seattle Pacific University, there is 1 option for those seeking special education training; the Doctor of Education in Special Education aims to provide preparation for individuals seeking career advancement for leadership roles in this field.

University of Washington - Seattle

There are 2 branches of the University of Washington system that offer special education degrees; this campus, in Seattle, serves more than 42,400 students, and it is the largest 4-year university in this state. There are 6 options for students who require training for career advancement in the field of special education, or for those aiming to meet state certification criteria for new teachers. This range of programs provides options for those seeking certification and licensing to teach children from preschool through high school with low or high incidence disabilities, and some programs also fulfill state requirements for teacher certification. There are varying prerequisites for each special education degree program offered at this school. Furthermore, all special education programs are offered at the graduate level through the School of Education, which aims to provide students with access to world-class research centers, innovative programs taught by internationally-recognized faculty, and community partnerships with local schools. The degrees offered in this department in which students can add a special education emphasis or endorsement include The Master in Teaching, Master of Education, Doctor of Education, and Doctor of Philosophy. There is also a 21-unit endorsement-only program, for students who want to add this field of expertise to current teaching credentials.

Washington State University

Washington State University's main campus is located in Pullman, Washington, and it has 3 other campuses in other parts of the state. This school enrolls over 27,000 students and offers undergraduate and advanced degree programs. The College of Education at WSU provides a certificate program for students seeking the skills and experience necessary to sit for the WEST - E exam, which results in a special education endorsement. This certificate program can be added to any of the other courses of study that lead to teaching certification. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in Education program is an available option for students seeking teaching certification, and students in this program can choose from 1 of 4 endorsements - including special education. Furthermore, graduate programs with a special education emphasis are also available and can lead to the M.A., Ed.M or Ph.D. degrees. The Master of Arts in Special Education is geared towards students hoping to continue on to work towards a doctorate, and requirements for this program include a master's thesis. The Master of Education program may also provide the necessary requirements for teacher candidates in this state, and these programs require potential graduates to complete a special project, instead of a thesis. Students seeking an endorsement-only program also have an option at WSU; there is an online special education endorsement program offered for certified teachers, or for those in the Ed.M. program, which is available in a distance education format with coursework completed online and in video conferences.

Western Washington University

Western Washington University is home to nearly 15,000 students, and it is located in Bellingham, which is not far from the coast. This 4-year school offers opportunities for undergraduate and advanced study in a variety of different areas - including special education. The Woodring College of Education at WWU offers several programs geared toward training educators to work with children with disabilities including the Bachelor of Arts in Education in Special Education program, which offers 3 choices of majors. The three paths to this 4-year degree may lead to either a dual endorsement in P-12 and special education, P-12 outreach, or P-12 education

Whitworth University

Located in Spokane, Whitworth University is a small, private school with about 2,500 students enrolled. There are several programs that can lead to teaching certification with an added endorsement in special education. The undergraduate Department of Teacher Education provides a major in its B.A. program that can lead to early childhood certification with a special education endorsement. The Master of Arts in Teaching and the Master of Education in Teaching degree programs are also available at this school, and students in these programs can focus in either special education or gifted and talented education.

Career Requirements

To teach special education, one must have teaching certification and an endorsement in special education. Certification is achieved through a combination of testing, coursework, and field experience. After this, future educators must pass the WEST - E for the special education subject area - or endorsement - which is then added to their credentials.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Special Education Degrees Offered Estimated Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)
Central Washington University 4-year, public; distant town Bachelor of Arts in Education in Special Education,
Master of Education in Special Education (online)
Undergraduate: $8,688 in-state,
$21,501 out-of-state ,
Graduate: $10,377 in-state
$21,903 out-of-state*
City University of Seattle 4-year, private not for profit; large city Bachelor of Arts in Education in Special Education (not available at Seattle campus),
Master of Education in Special Education
Undergraduate: $16,500,
Graduate: $13,708*
Eastern Washington University 4-year, public; fringe town Bachelor of Arts in Education in Special Education $7,866 in-state,
$22,272 out-of-state*
Gonzaga University 4-year, private not for profit; midsize city Bachelor of Education in Special Education,
Master of Education in Special Education,
Master in Teaching in Special Education
Undergraduate: $37,990 ,
Graduate: $15,090*
Seattle Pacific University 4-year, private not for profit; large city Bachelor of Arts in Special Education,
Doctor of Education in Special Education
Undergraduate: $37,086,
Graduate: $23,712*
University of Washington - Seattle 4-year, public; large city Master of Education in Early Childhood Special Education,
Doctor of Education Special Education,
Doctor of Philosophy Special Education
Graduate: $16,278 in-state, $28,326 out-of-state*
Washington State University 4-year, public; distant town Master of Arts in Special Education,
Master of Education in Special Education,
Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education
Undergraduate: $11,947 in-state,
$25,567 out-of-state ,
Graduate: $12,745 in-state,
$26,176 out-of-state*
Western Washington University 4-year, public; small city Bachelor of Arts in Education in Special Education $8,611 in-state,
$20,963 out-of-state
Whitworth University 4-year, private not for profit; large suburb Bachelor of Arts in Education with Special Education Endorsement,
Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education,
Master of Education in Teaching with Special Education Endorsement
Undergraduate: $39,096,
Graduate: $16,100*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.'


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