Special Education Graduate Degrees

M.Ed. or C.A.S. in Special Education

National Louis University’s graduate degree in special education is designed specifically for individuals who already have a teaching certificate. NLU’s special education graduate program prepares candidates for a variety of roles working with children and adolescents with exceptional learning needs. This program will lead you to your Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL) endorsed for LBS1 (pre-K to age 21) by entitlement.

Consider getting your master's degree in special education at NLU if you:

  • Already hold a valid teaching license
  • Are looking for LBS1 endorsement
  • Would like to build a career in special education
  • Want to study at a well-established teaching institution

Special Education Degree Options

Master of Education (M.Ed.): The Master's in Special Education degree is designed for licensed professional teachers seeking advanced preparation for higher levels of professional competence in the classroom.

Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.): The C.A.S. in Special Education is designed for those seeking to add a new career dimension to their current professional competencies. Applicants for the C.A.S. must have a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and, if required by the program, a valid teaching license. Click here to view program disclosure information.

NLU also offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Special Education, designed for students who have already earned their bachelor’s degree in another discipline and would like to build a career in special education.

Find out more about NLU's Master of Education degree programs >>

Why Earn a Special Education Degree at NLU?

NLU has a long-standing reputation for its education and teacher training programs, and is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Since 1886, we’ve trained thousands of Chicago-area teachers, and continue to graduate the majority of Illinois’ Golden Apple Award winners — one of the most prestigious teacher honors in the state. NLU’s special education graduate program has an updated curriculum that aims to prepare teachers for the changing and increasingly complex professional roles of special education professionals in today’s schools. The combination of coursework and intensive clinical experience enables students to practice what they are learning in the field.

What You Will Learn

Based on the ISBE Special Education Certification Structure and Content Area Standards, our curriculum will prepare you to work in a variety of education settings and in different roles in a/an:

  • Inclusive classroom as a co-teacher
  • General Education classroom as a collaborative consultant
  • Resource room or self-contained classroom as diagnostic teacher
  • Alternative setting, such as a special public or private school

Career Outlook

The number of students requiring special education services has grown steadily in recent years due to improvements that have allowed learning disabilities to be diagnosed at earlier ages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook, career opportunities for special education teachers are expected to increase by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018 as many districts report problems finding adequate numbers of licensed special education teachers.

Special education teachers at the elementary and pre-school level have the best outlook, with projected growth of 20 percent. Middle school special education teachers are not far behind, at 18 percent. Expected growth for secondary school special education teachers is projected at 13 percent. Many openings will likely derive from turnover and retirements, as well as growth of the school-age population.

Prepare for the TAP at NLU

Want to enroll in an educator-preparation program at NLU? If so, NLU offers various options to help you get ready for the ILTS Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP). This includes three-week courses that feature a personalized learning plan and are designed to develop competencies necessary to pass the TAP. Register today!

Special Education Graduate Program Admission Requirements

All applicants must meet NLU's general admission requirements as well as additional requirements specific to this program. Refer to the appropriate application checklist available online at nl.edu/applyonline.

Get more information today about enrolling at NLU. Connect with an Enrollment Specialist.

Please note: The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) may change the state licensure and endorsement requirements at any time and without prior notice. Teacher candidates will be bound by the requirements in place when applying for licensure, not by the licensure requirements in place when beginning their program. That is, the state may specify that a new regulation is immediately applicable to all candidates with no provisions made for candidates who began their work on licensure under different regulations.


    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632
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    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

    620 Tollgate Road
    Elgin, IL 60123
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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

    5202 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (888) 658.8632
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    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532
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    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
    Wheeling, IL 60090
    (888) 658.8632
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    Established in 1988 and located in one of the city's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to six classrooms, this location features a conference room, a computer lab with high-speed Internet access, an extensive research library and comfortable student lounges.

    5110 Eisenhower Boulevard Suite 102
    Tampa, FL 33634
    (800) 366.6581
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    NLU's Milwaukee campus has a proud history of serving graduate students in education in southeastern Wisconsin. Nearly one in five certified Wisconsin teachers looks to NLU for graduate education programs – more than any other university in the state. In addition to classrooms with high-tech media equipment, the campus offers a state-of-the-art computer lab with wireless Internet access and an extensive IDS research library.

    12000 West Park Place, Suite 100
    Milwaukee, WI 53224-3007
    (414) 577.2658
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