Graduate Certificate Programs

A heart for serving people with disabilities, and a keen interest in improving their quality of life - this is how students who graduate from our program describe their connection to the field. Through our Graduate Certificate in Special Education, students gain the skills, knowledge and credentials to improve outcomes for people with disabilities. If teaching individuals with disabilities is your passion, our program may be the right choice for you.

The Graduate Certificate leads to initial certification in special education (General Curriculum or Adapted Curriculum) for students who have undergraduate degrees, but no teaching license. (Note: Our programs are for N.C. teachers, and students are expected to be in N.C. schools to complete field experiences and internships. Click here to see the licensure requirements in other states.) The program is comprised of two phases.

Completion of the Graduate Certificate leads to the North Carolina Standard Professional 1 (SP1) Educator’s License in Special Education. In Phase I, a student progresses toward becoming a fully-licensed teacher through coursework related to people with special needs, classroom management, assessment, and required special education paperwork. Through your methods courses, you will develop skills in planning, conducting, and reflecting upon instruction while you gain valuable experience in schools. Phase 1 culminates in a full-time student teaching experience. Our goal is to help you become an effective, professional, and confident teacher.

Students who continue to Phase II complete the remaining requirements for the Master of Arts and qualify for the North Carolina Standard Professional 2 (SP2) Educator’s License in Special Education. During Phase II, you will continue to develop teaching skills and insights as you apply what you learn to classroom situations. You will also develop skills in research and leadership through courses in research, advanced classroom management, and consultation and collaboration. Students complete individual master’s projects as part of the requirements. 

Why choose the UNC Charlotte Graduate Certificate in Teaching: Special Education?
  • The Graduate Certificate coursework is fully online so it provides flexibility and convenience for you to study and participate from your home or office. Furthermore, our courses are immersive and highly interactive. This combination ensures the rigor, quality and flexibility of our online learning environment, while focusing on the hands-on teaching methods that effectively prepare our students to excel in their future careers.
  • A special emphasis is placed on clinical experiences during which candidates spend time in classrooms with specific purposes. Clinical experiences may include but are not limited to the following: observe teachers, shadow experienced teachers, work with students one-on-one, and work with students in large or small groups. Clinical experiences provide opportunities for students to analyze student learning, apply evidence-based practices, and practice interventions that have a positive impact on all learners. All teacher candidates complete clinical experiences in at least three diverse settings, so by the time you graduate, you’ll have a variety of experiences to share in job interviews!   
  • The Special Education faculty regularly achieves regional, state, and national recognition in scholarship, teaching, and research. Best of all, they’re accessible to you to provide the instruction, guidance and mentoring you need.
  • You will be part of a supportive learning community with faculty members who are invested in your learning and peers who share your drive to become an excellent teacher.
  • UNC Charlotte’s extensive network of schools gives you access to a wide range of opportunities to practice the things you learn in your coursework.
  • All teacher education programs at UNC Charlotte are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The M.A.T. in Teaching: Special Education has been approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education.
Career Options

Demand for special education services and teachers should continue to rise as children with disabilities are identified earlier and enrolled into special education programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of special education teachers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is comparable to other professions. Job opportunities may be better in certain specialties, such as teaching  students with autism. Graduates may also pursue doctoral degrees to prepare for school and district leadership positions or positions in higher education.

The program gives our graduates a credential that affords multiple career opportunities.  Examples of areas graduates may pursue (sometimes with additional preparation) include the following:

  • Special Education Teacher (Public and Charter School) at elementary, middle and secondary schools
  • Program administrator
  • Instructional specialist
  • Special education coordinator
  • Exceptional Children’s program administrator
  • School counselor
  • Transition coordinator
  • Principal or assistant principal
  • Rehabilitation counselor   
  • Child advocate and disability services consultant
  • Community College or University Learning Specialist
  • Early intervention specialist

Student Opportunities

The Office of Teacher Education Advising and Licensure (TEAL) is an information and support hub for current and potential teacher candidates. The office provides consultation and resources for program admission, and links students to campus resources. In addition, staff provide guidance regarding the teacher licensure application process and verify program completion for teacher licensure.

The Center for Graduate Life provides the support and community students need to meet the challenges they will face throughout their graduate experience. The Center offers professional development, career advice, skill development, and more. Virtual workshops are available on subjects such as graduate academic writing and research writing at the graduate level. 

The University Career Center provides services, programs, and support for students and alumni. Events include an Education Career Fair held each spring semester. Services include individual appointments with career advisors and the Hire-A-Niner online job and internship database.

Learn from Exceptional Faculty

Our faculty members are equipped with strong academic backgrounds and practical experience in their fields, which enables them to provide the knowledge and mentoring you need to gain the most from your coursework. In addition, our faculty have successfully sought grants to support our graduate students in completing their degrees.

Faculty members have also received numerous awards for research, teaching and service: Award for Excellence in Research - from the UNC Charlotte College of Education; North Carolina Outstanding Career Award in Teacher Preparation - from the North Carolina Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children; Research Early Career Publication Award - from the Council for Exceptional Children; Fred Keller Excellence in Behavioral Analysis Award - from the North Carolina Association for Behavior Analysis.

Do you want to learn how to make education accessible to all students?   If so, click here to learn more about the requirements for the Graduate Certificate in Special Educationgraduate student financial aid and the graduate application process.  

Graduate Certificate  in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

The Graduate Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders is a 12 credit hour web-based program. It serves two groups of professionals: (1) those who work in school districts and are responsible for teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and for developing appropriate individualized education plans that include academic instruction, and effective intervention practices in the areas of communication, daily living, and social skills; and (2) those who work in human service agencies that also provide intervention practices in the areas of communication, daily living, and social skills as well as prepare students with Autism Spectrum Disorders to live, work, and learn as adults.

For further information, please contact Dr. Wendy Wood  at 704-687-8854 or

For application materials, please visit

Program Objectives
As specialists in public schools and human service agencies in the area of autism spectrum disorders, completers of the program are prepared to:

  • Work as public school teachers in a broad range of educational settings including the general education classroom and special education programs
  • Work as human service agency personnel implementing research-validated intervention strategies for children, youth, and adults in community agencies
  • Implement research-validated instruction/intervention strategies for children, youth, and young adults with autism spectrum disorders
  • Assess the effectiveness of individualized instruction/intervention programs for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Admission Requirements for Graduate Certificate in ASD

  1. A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college/university in education or a related field of study
  2. An Application for Admission to the Graduate School
  3. Original transcripts that indicate a minimum overall GPA of at least 3.0

Notes:  Applicants to the Graduate Certificate in ASD are not required to take the GRE or MAT.  However, individuals who are interested in completing the ASD Graduate Certificate as part of the M.Ed. in Special Education degree must take the GRE or MAT to meet the admissions requirement for the M.Ed. in Special Education.  If accepted into the master’s degree program, a maximum of twelve (12) Graduate Certificate hours may be applied toward the M.Ed. degree program in Special Education with the permission of the Graduate Program Director.  Admission to the Graduate Certificate program does not ensure admission into a master’s degree program.

Certificate Requirements
The Graduate Certificate Program in Autism Spectrum Disorders requires a 12 credit hour sequence of courses.  No transfer credit is accepted.  Students must earn grades of “B” or above in each of the courses in the 12 credit hour program of study. 

SPED 6115  Nature and Needs of Autism Spectrum Disorders (3)
SPED 6225  Communication, Daily Living and Social Skills for Autism Spectrum Disorders (3)
SPED 6272  Program Design and Development for Autism Spectrum Disorders (3)
SPED 6277  Program Assessment for Autism Spectrum Disorders (3)