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SUNY Potsdam Launches 100% Online Master’s Degree & Graduate Certificate in Special Education

January 30, 2023

SUNY Potsdam Opens Up Virtual Pathways to Rewarding Careers in Inclusive & Special Education, with Online MSED and CAS Programs 

Ashley Penny ’12 & ’15 works as a special education teacher for BOCES, in addition to serving as the mentor program coordinator at the Sheard Literacy Center. SUNY Potsdam’s Master of Science in Education degree program in special education is now fully online, making it easier for working and aspiring educators to earn their degree in the field.

SUNY Potsdam is opening up new pathways in the rewarding field of special education, with the addition of two 100 percent online graduate programseach designed to meet current and future educators’ needs, wherever they are in their career. 

The College’s longstanding Master of Science in Education (MSED) degree program in special education has now been approved for fully online delivery, making it easier than ever to juggle graduate studies with work and family obligations. The nationally accredited graduate program can be completed in as few as three semesters, full time. No GRE scores are needed to apply, and applications are now being accepted. 

“When I think about this field, I think about the passion. I think about caring and supporting and improving the life quality and civic engagement for individuals with special needs. That’s the first thing I think about.”

Dr. Mei Shen assistant professor of inclusive and special education

Dr. Mei Shen (left) directs SUNY Potsdam’s graduate program in special education, which is now fully online. She is seen here walking on campus with Raegan Becker ’22, who recently earned her master’s degree in the field while completing student teaching at Colton-Pierrepont Central School and conducting research on the effectiveness of inclusion-based classrooms at the same time.

“Nowadays we really pay attention to supporting the diversity in our schools by supporting students of different ability levels. In particular, we work hard to get individuals with moderate disability levels increasingly learning alongside their normally developing peers, happily studying and interacting together in the same general education setting,” said Shen. 

Upon completion, candidates will meet the academic requirements for certification in their current certification area, and be recommended for their Initial or Professional Certification in one of the following special education teaching levels: Early Childhood (Birth-Grade 2), Childhood (Grade 1-6) or Adolescent (Grade 7-12, Generalist). The program is nationally accredited through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. 

The master’s program is a perfect fit both for those with an undergraduate degree or current position in special education—and for those who are interested in switching fields or adding an area of expertise while completing their graduate studies and their professional certification. 

“Many superintendents have asked us to help people get dual certifications, so that more teachers have these tools in their toolbox—whether they choose to be a special education teacher or not. They are better prepared to assist with those students in their current classrooms, and then they have more options for career advancement going forward,” said Laura Carbone, an instructor of inclusive and special education and coordinator of the advanced certificate program. 

Student teaching field work and the culminating student teaching internship requirements are coordinated by the SUNY Potsdam Center for School Partnerships and Teacher Certification, which works with candidates to find appropriate placements with schools wherever they are located. 

“I love the flexibility of the master’s degree program in special education. I could continue to work while taking classes. I returned a few years later to extend my certification, and the process was seamless, like I had never been gone."

Ashley Penny ’12 & ’15 alumna of the graduate program: now a special education teacher for BOCES

Beyond the MSED program, the College’s Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) program in inclusive and special education is a post-master’s credential that provides the knowledge and competencies to effectively address the needs of individuals with mild to moderate disabilities in primarily inclusive settings. This fully online program is open to anyone interested in obtaining skills that are applicable in a traditional classroom setting, as well as in a variety of non-classroom contexts. 

The graduate certificate is a great option for experienced educators looking to pursue professional development and expand their skillset. The 100 percent online program can be completed in just three months over the summer, full time. Part-time options are available during the academic year as well. 

The Certificate of Advanced Study doesn’t automatically lead to certification. However, students in the fully online program who wish to do so have the option of pursuing an additional teaching certificate in Students with Disabilities at the grade level consistent with their initial classroom teaching certificate. SUNY Potsdam and partners at BOCES assist students interested in pursuing these additional certifications through the New York State individual pathway program, Carbone said. 

“Did you know that in one summer, you can take the courses, take the test and apply to the state, and have one or two new certifications, plus an advanced degree? It’s a major distinction,” Carbone said. 

The School of Education and Professional Studies at SUNY Potsdam has been preparing educators for more than 200 years. Today, that legacy of educational excellence also stretches to undergraduate and graduate programs in business administration, public health and human performance, to help students prepare for professions in the global economy. For more information, visit 

About SUNY Potsdam:  

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit 

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