Master of Education in Special Education

Typical Length 2 years

Delivery Online

Nationally Accredited


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The Literacy Specialist program is designed for teachers, other educators, and graduate students who want to become knowledgeable in the area of literacy. The program prepares literacy leaders to ensure all students achieve their maximum potential in written and spoken language as well as 21st Century literacies (e.g., digital, media, visual, critical).

The need for teachers prepared to lead literacy efforts at K-12 schools has resulted in legislative action and a new field for teacher licensure, Literacy Specialist. As defined by the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board (HTSB), Literacy Specialists require integrated knowledge of both International Literacy Association (ILA) and International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Standards. Therefore, the departments of Special Education and Curriculum Studies collaborated to create and offer this interdepartmental program.

Note: As an alternative option, we also offer an 18-credit Literacy Specialist/Leader Graduate Certificate. Please visit for more information.

Who should consider this program?

The Literacy Specialist program is designed for:

  • Graduate candidates enrolled in the MEd in Special Education, MEd in Curriculum Studies, or other master’s programs related to literacy.
  • Teachers, general education or special education, who have a license from the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) and who already hold the MEd in Special Education or MEd in Curriculum Studies. Upon completion of the 18-credit certificate program, teachers will be eligible to apply to the HTSB to add the Literacy Specialist Field to their existing license (subject to additional requirements by HTSB).
  • Unclassified graduate candidates who desire expertise in language and literacy, such as school administrators, private school personnel, and parents.

In addition, candidates in other roles and positions may seek this specialization:

  • Early intervention educators
  • Literacy coaches
  • District resource teachers
  • Individuals working in nonprofit and for-profit agencies serving individuals with disabilities
Common Careers
  • Special education teacher
  • Special education resource teacher
  • Literacy specialist/coach
  • Employment in nonprofit and for-profit agencies serving individuals with disabilities
Admission Requirements

Eligibility Criteria

  • Bachelor’s degree: must be from a a UHM recognized, accredited, four-year institution of higher education
  • GPA: 3.0 or higher
  • Access to groups of students for embedded projects
  • A laptop is required upon admission

In addition, it is highly preferred that applicants have 3 years of teaching experience or equivalent.

All candidates must attend a New Candidate Orientation prior to the start of the program.

Application Requirements

  • Official transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended
  • Video Recorded Responses and Essay
  • Statement of Objectives
  • Resumé
  • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation

International students are unable to pursue our online or hybrid programs due to visa requirements, including for those who wish to pursue online courses from their home country. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Application Deadlines
Starting Semester Priority Deadline Final Deadline
Summer* February 1 February 15

*Not admitting for our 2023 Cohort. Complete our inquiry form to receive a notification when the next enrollment period opens.

How to Apply
Delivery & Format

ONLINE PROGRAM (online, synchronous)

All courses in the MEd SPED program are offered online and include synchronous online class sessions in the early evenings, typically 4:30pm-7:00pm HST. Literacy Specialist courses are cohorted and offered in a pre-designed sequence.

There are two mandatory *face-to-face sessions including New Candidate Orientation at the beginning of the program, and a Portfolio Preparation session just prior to the 2nd summer.  Some financial support is provided to assist with these travel costs for candidates living on islands outside of Oahu.

*Candidates residing outside of Hawaii will be offered an alternative format for participation in face-to-face sessions.

Tuition & Funding

MEd in Special Education (31 credits):

MERIT-BASED STIPENDS*: Possible departmental stipends, based on available funds. Receive up to $8,000 total, based on merit as evaluated by transcripts, GPA, letters of recommendation, and full-time enrollment. Application is provided upon acceptance into program.

*Due to the current pandemic and UH budget concerns, merit-based funds are not currently available. UH Mānoa CARES funding may be available (up to $2,000) for classified degree-seeking students who are in need of financial assistance due to impacts from the coronavirus. Refer to FAQs and eligibility requirements or submit a CARES funding application

FINANCIAL AID: All applicants are encouraged to complete the FAFSA for financial aid eligibility and should refer to UH Mānoa’s financial aid website. The MEd in Special Education program is a part-time program, with candidates enrolling in two courses per semester (6 credits). For financial aid purposes, this would be classified as a part-time graduate student. If you want to be a full-time student, you would need to enroll in 8 credits or more each Fall and Spring semester. Inform the advisor of your need to be enrolled as a full-time student as you collaboratively plan your course of study with them. Your advisor will determine which courses are appropriate to be added to your program to bring you to full-time status. Pursuing full-time status would extend your program to being more than 31 credits.

The following additional loan forgiveness options are available to candidates who qualify for and receive financial aid:

SCHOLARSHIPS: To view a listing of all UH Scholarships available, please visit

Specific scholarships to education and/or special education include:

  • Faith C. Ai Memorial Scholarship: Certified educators who are pursuing graduate degrees in any subject may receive up to $5,000, as long as they intend to teach after graduation.
  • College of Education Scholarships: Visit our College of Education funding website to see a listing of available funding opportunities specific to those pursuing degrees and programs in education.

The MEd in Special Education is a 31-credit graduate program comprised of four required courses (12 credits), six elective courses (18 credits), and a capstone Plan B project (1 credit).

The MEd SPED program does NOT lead to initial teacher licensure.

MEd SPED Core Coursework (13 credits)
  • SPED 602: Special Education Law and Compliance (3)
  • SPED 641b: Seminar on Issues in Special Education (3)
  • SPED 642: Seminar on Applied Research in Special Education (3)
  • SPED 688: Research Practicum in Special Education (3)
  • SPED 695*: Plan B Project (1)

*Candidates can choose to replace the Plan B Project (1) with a Plan A Thesis (6) as their capstone project, extending their total program credits to 36.

Literacy Specialist Specialization (18 credits):

The six elective courses (3 credits each) are pre-designed and cohorted to be completed starting in the summer and finishing the following summer.

  • SPED 637: Topics & Issues in Reading Disabilities (Summer I)
  • EDCS 647: Classroom/School Literacy Assessment (Fall I)
  • SPED 638: Fundamentals of Language & Literacy (Fall I)
  • EDCS 605: Literacy Coaching & Leadership (Spring I)
  • SPED 639: Advanced Fundamentals of Language & Literacy (Spring I)
  • EDCS 607: New Literacies Leadership (Summer II)

Candidates must have access to groups of students for applied projects in Fall/Spring coursework. All candidates will complete a Literacy Specialist Portfolio as their Capstone project.

Fieldwork & Applied Projects

The literacy specialist coursework has embedded applied projects in Fall/Spring coursework. Course instructors and program advisors will supervise the classroom and school-based projects by assessing and providing regular feedback on candidates’ (1) oral reports/presentations, (2) written projects with self-evaluations, and (3) videotapes of classroom field experiences.

Advising & Faculty

Our faculty and staff will provide you with guidance and resources to support your success from beginning to end. Upon acceptance you will receive a dedicated faculty advisor to partner with you on your journey.

Program Info & Inquiries

Please complete the “Request More Info” form and our recruitment specialist will be happy to answer additional questions, provide program or funding updates, and assist with the application process once admissions open.

Literacy Specialist Program Coordinator, Dr. Paul Meng (

Photo of Janet Kim

Janet Kim

Special Education Recruitment Specialist