Become a Licensed Special Education Teacher



What is the difference between the mild/moderate and severe/autism tracks?

The mild/moderate disabilities program is for those who want to teach children/youth who receive special education services for primarily academic support (i.e. children with learning disabilities, ADHD). Coursework focuses on strategies for teaching different content areas. This program prepares candidates to teach children/youth with mild/moderate disabilities in inclusion or resource classroom settings.

The severe disabilities/autism program is for those who want to teach children/youth a wider range of skills beyond academics. These children/youth with disabilities may have additional needs that require more comprehensive support such as communication or functional academic/life skills. Coursework focuses on a wider range of strategies that include language and communication and positive behavior supports. This program prepares candidates to teach children/youth with severe disabilities and/or autism in fully self-contained settings or in inclusive settings that support children/youth with severe disabilities.

What is the difference between an early childhood and elementary license for this program?

In regards to our Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Special Education, candidates who are interested in working in elementary schools may choose either the early childhood (Preschool to Grade 3) licensure or elementary (Kindergarten to Grade 6) licensure level. The coursework for both of these options will be relatively the same, therefore the decision to choose one may be more related to your position as a special education teacher during the program and/or after you graduate. The early childhood licensure option is definitely geared primarily for those who specifically want to teach in preschool settings.

If you plan on working in a school setting while completing this program, you will need to make sure your position grade level matches the licensure level you choose. Therefore, if you are in a 4th grade classroom, it makes sense for you to pursue the elementary license. However, if you pursue the early childhood licensure level, you MUST do your student teaching semester in a preschool setting. Therefore, those who are employed in Kindergarten-Grade 3 settings may want to consider pursuing the elementary licensure level so that you aren't required to change positions for your student teaching.

However, keep in mind that once you are licensed through this program, it is possible to add other areas/levels to your license afterwards. Therefore, do not feel like your choice for the program is the only option you will have for your teaching career. Please refer to the "add-a-teaching-field" options provided through the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board to learn more about how you could add the other licensure level to your license after graduating from the program:

What is a cohort?

Our programs are cohorted, which means we admit people in groups and they complete the entire program together from beginning to end. Our cohorts typically have between 15-25 people, although some programs run more than one cohort at a time. Having the same people in your classes every semester helps to build community and we have found our cohorts come to support each other like family. Another benefit of this cohort model is the fixed course schedule. All the programs courses are pre-designed and taken in a specific semester. Our faculty intentionally build on the coursework so what you learn in the second semester will build on the first and so on. This provides the opportunity to have much richer and deeper learning experiences since everyone has the same prerequisite knowledge as you progress through the program. The courses are open to only those in your cohort, so you don’t have to worry about waking up early to be the first to register or courses filling up and not being able to register. The classes are also guaranteed to run so you don’t have to wonder whether what you need to graduate will be available.

One downside of the cohorted model, is that we lose some flexibility. If a program is part-time, you can’t finish in half the time by taking double the classes; if a program is full-time, you can’t just take half the classes. And if something comes up and you need to take a semester off, you might need to wait a year in order to jump back in with the next cohort. However, we feel the benefits of the cohorted model outweigh the limited flexibility it brings. As a result of the cohort model, our programs are much more successful, as we have higher retention and graduation rates.


What if I don’t have a laptop computer?

Students are required to have a laptop to successfully participate in this program. The laptop requirement provides students the option of using financial aid to purchase one. Students need a laptop that runs a full operating system (i.e., Windows 10 or Mac OSX 10.11 and above). For example, Chromebooks or mobile tablets like an iPad or Android mobile device are NOT sufficient to run the required software for our program. If you need help determining which computer to purchase, please refer to and contact:

What is SPED 501?

SPED 501 is a new post-bac student orientation all newly admitted students are required to attend prior to starting the program. It covers technology support and training of basic skills that new students need in order to participate in the online/hybrid program format. It also includes a face-to-face session prior to the start of the first semester that allows new students to meet each other, their professors, advisor, and other program faculty. Candidates residing on neighbor islands will receive a small travel stipend (about $170) after attending to help offset costs of flying to Oahu. Applicants must register for SPED 501 AFTER they have been accepted into the program. More information will be provided upon admittance to the program.

When can I take the pre-requisite course?

Candidates needing SPED 304 may register and take this course any Spring, Summer, or Fall semester. This course is offered through Outreach College ( and is offered every semester and in both summer sessions. 

Candidates needing SPED 412 (Post Bac SPED, severe/autism only) will take this course in the second summer session (July) through Outreach College. 

Both of these courses are offered completely online and no face-to-face sessions are required. In addition, these courses do not have to be completed prior to applying to the program, as they can be taken the summer following applications prior to the start of the regular program in Fall.

*NEW for Fall 2020 admissions (pending final approval)- For candidates pursuing either the Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Special Education of the Master of Education in Teaching- Dual Secondary/SPED program who have prior experience and knowledge in the field of special education, may opt to take a competency-based exam. Candidates who can pass the competency-based exam would be exempt from having to register and take either SPED 304/SPED 412. More information will be shared once finalized, be sure to complete the "Request More Info" form to receive updates.

What if my GPA is below a 2.75?

There is an option for those having lower than the required minimum GPA of 2.75. It is best to schedule a meeting to speak with an OSAS academic advisor who can calculate your current GPA and offer recommendations and information on amnesty. Those who obtained a degree with GPAs lower than a 2.5 would have to pursue amnesty, which allows students the opportunity to take four new courses to demonstrate they are capable of quality academic work at the college level. The GPA acquired from these four courses could then be used as the new entrance GPA for admission to our program.  For more information related to GPA requirements and concerns, please contact an OSAS advisor using the appointment link shared above or by emailing:

Candidates who have between a 2.5 GPA and a 2.75 GPA would have the option to pursue amnesty or apply to the program in hopes their application is strong enough to warrant admission. Candidates with strong recommendation responses, statement of objectives, experience in the field, and/or strong video recorded responses may still be admissible to the program. However, priority admissions will be given to those who have met the GPA criteria of 2.75 or above.

What if I work? Can I still do the program?

Our programs use online synchronous class-sessions are in the late afternoon, allowing you to possibly work during the day. If you work in a school setting, it may be possible to use that setting for one or more of your field courses. Please inquire with the program specialist and placement coordinator, as all placements are approved on a case-by-case basis. However, employment outside of school settings my conflict with the hours needed to complete supervision requirements unless work hours are flexible. Please inquire to learn more about your current position and whether it is possible to complete our programs while maintaining employment.

Can international students pursue this program?

Unfortunately, one of the requirements regarding international student visas is that they participate in traditional, face-to-face coursework on campus. Our online/hybrid programs would not meet this requirement; therefore we can not admit international students to these programs/coursework at this time. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.

However, our department does offer two different programs using a traditional, face-to-face format that can accommodate international applicants:


Will the DOE pay for this program?

Due to the need for special education teachers, there is a year-to-year contract agreement between the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) and UH that provides tuition stipends for 31-33 credits of our teacher licensure programs in special education. To be eligible for the stipend, students must agree to teach special education in a HIDOE school for a minimum of 3 years after completing the program. Stipends are contingent upon yearly renewal of the DOE-UH contract and will be automatically offered to all students who were admitted that enrollment year. 

The following programs are eligible for the DOE tuition stipends, with stipend amounts shown:

  1. BEd, Early Childhood & Early Childhood Special Education (33 credits, $15,543)
  2. BEd, Exceptional Students and Elementary Education (33 credits; $15,543)
  3. Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Special Education (33 credits; $15,543)
  4. Master of Education in Teaching, Dual Secondary & Special Education (31 credits (graduate tuition rate); $20,150)

Therefore, you do not need to apply for this funding opportunity. Students who have been admitted to one of these programs would automatically receive the stipend packet to complete and return prior to the start of the first semester.

Students are responsible for securing their own funding for applicable prerequisites, additional program credits, and/or any additional program costs related to travel, books, and testing/licensure fees.


What’s the difference between field experience and student teaching?

In field experience, which occurs during the first three semesters of the program, students practice planning, teaching and evaluating children/youth with disabilities in the appropriate classroom setting. Students spend a minimum of 10 hours per week, over 11 consecutive weeks in a semester in their field experience classroom. Student teaching is conducted in the final semester of the program. Students are required to demonstrate their ability to plan, teach, and evaluate children/youth with disabilities at an advanced level. Students are required to spend a minimum of 250 hours per week over a minimum of 11 consecutive weeks in their student teaching classroom during the final semester of the program.

What if I’m already working in a school?

Our hybrid program models do have some flexibility to allow candidates already working in school settings to possibly use their paid positions in meeting the field requirements. However, each position must go through a formal process and is approved on a case-by-case basis by the placement/program coordinator.

Typically, when reviewing positions for approval, we are looking for the following:

  • The position matches your chosen level of licensure (early childhood (Pk-3), elementary (K-6), or secondary (6-12). Although the elementary licensure states K-6, candidates can not be working in a 6th grade position at an elementary school if they are pursuing secondary (6-12) licensure and vice-versa.
  • The position matches your specialization (mild/moderate for all programs, or possibly severe/autism for some post-bac candidates). You must be working regularly with these students
  • For dual licensure options, the position must also give you opportunities to work with general education students as well. Inclusive settings where a general education and special education teacher are co-teaching together would be ideal for our dual certification options. For the MEdT Secondary/SPED, candidates need to be in a position that allows them to also teach in their chosen content area. 

If approved, students will be able to use the paid position to fulfill the program field requirements. The most common types of positions receiving approval are emergency hires or classroom educational assistants. Positions requiring candidates to work one-to-one with a student can not be approved (e.g., skills trainers). In addition, prior teaching experience can not count toward program field/student teaching hours.

Can I choose my own field placement?

The field placement or program coordinator has the responsibility to find and coordinate student field placements. Candidates are not allowed to make their own field arrangements. For candidates already working in school settings, the field placement coordinator will conduct a review for approval and determine whether a paid position meets the field/student teaching requirements. 

Can I take courses at my own pace?

Our licensure programs are designed in a cohorted format. Candidates are enrolled as a group and they matriculate through the entire program together. The benefit of participating in a cohorted program is that it provides a strong support system, as you would bond with your fellow cohort members throughout the two years in the program and beyond. This cohorted model also allows for us to systematically design the coursework to build off one another each semester, allowing for a more rich and comprehensive learning experience. We have higher retention and graduation rates using this model, however the one downside is that these programs then do not have the flexibility to allow candidates to pick and choose the courses they take each semester. Candidates will progress through the program as designed. However, in the rare occasion requiring students to either stop or retake courses, the program advisor would work with the candidate to develop an alternative plan.  

What are the online classes like? What is the time commitment?

In our hybrid programs, classes will be presented through the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Laulima course site. Each course has a website that includes various components, such as the syllabus, course schedule, assignments, quizzes/tests, and other resources. Some courses may include recorded video lectures. Student should expect to study/work approximately 9 hours per week for each 3-credit course.

All courses will include periodic synchronous online class sessions (some may meet weekly; some may meet less often than weekly). A synchronous online class session is a LIVE class in which students and their course instructor get together online at the same time using video-conferencing technology. At UH Mānoa, we use Zoom for our synchronous class sessions. These sessions are very much like a typical face-to-face class session held on campus: The instructor may provide some lecture, facilitate group discussions and activities, and respond to student questions. Each synchronous class session will be held for 1-3 hours, in the late afternoon on weekdays (typically not on Fridays). A schedule of the synchronous online class sessions will be provided by each instructor at the beginning of each semester. You can expect to designate one night a week for each class you are enrolled in.

In addition, as part of your class there will be about 2 face-to-face Saturdays each semester on Oahu. Then finally, for field work each student would expect to fulfill their field placement during the school day which is typically two to three days per week.


Will I need to complete an interview? What are video recorded responses?

A majority of our applicants are working during the day and therefore it became difficult to coordinate individual interviews as part of our admissions requirements. Therefore, we are now using a video recording platform that allows you to respond to designated interview-type questions, but you are able to record this from your computer or phone at a day/time that works best for you. The only requirement is that you complete this component prior to the application deadline. The link to the video recorded response questions will be provided within the Makalei application at the time you apply.

If you are unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable with this new format, we have found a similar online technology platform that you can access to practice and become familiar with this process. To access directions to the mock-practice, please visit:

*In addition to the video recorded response component, candidates applying to the Master of Special Education will also have a 30-minute written essay component after completing their responses. Candidates applying to the Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Special Education do not have a written essay component because they will be required to take and pass the Praxis Core: Writing exam as an entrance requirement instead. 

When will I hear if I’ve been accepted?

For applicants who meet the priority deadline (Feb. 1), decisions are typically mailed out in late March or early April. For regular deadline applicants (Mar. 1), decisions are typically mailed out in late April or early May.

One of the primary reasons for delays in admission decisions is due to transcripts. Candidates who do not send all official transcripts early or have missing transcripts will experience delays in admissions decisions. It's always best to follow up on the status of the UH application and transcripts to ensure everything is complete.