M.A. in Special Education with Behavior Analysis and Autism Concentration

This master's degree embeds an approved course sequence for the BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst). The M.A. degree also embeds most of the Clear coursework for the Extensive Support Needs and Early Childhood credentials in California.

For more information on our BCBA program, check out the BCBA brochure.

Course Sequence

The course sequence varies slightly based on the age focus (young children or secondary/transition age youth) of the M.A. candidate in the Autism program.


Positive behavioral supports for students with disabilities in general and special education settings. Current theories and programs in functional assessment and behavioral change. Applications in educational and community environments with diverse students.
Historical and philosophical perspectives of cultural pluralism in special education and programs related to diverse students with disabilities. Research on curricular approaches and instructional needs. Sociocultural aspects related to disability, race, ethnicity, gender, and language.

Year 1 - Fall Semester

Procedures for gathering, analyzing, and synthesizing information; reviewing the literature; designing studies. Section selection to be made with department graduate adviser.
Professional issues in school psychology, special education, applied behavioral analysis, and mental health. Professional ethics, dilemmas, legislation, and case law relevant to delivery of ethically and legally sound services.

Year 1 - Spring Semester

Definition, etiology, assessment, and instructional practices used to address autism. Historical and current issues.
Ethical application of research-based strategies based on behavior analysis. Emphasis on arranging learning opportunities to increase student skills and data collection.
Educational legislation, theories, philosophies, research findings, issues and trends in the area of exceptionality. Application of research to solution of educational problems.
Integration and application of behavior analysis principles. Participation and coaching in selected programs for students with disabilities.

Year 2 - Fall Semester

Single-case research designs focused on interventions with individuals with disabilities.
An intensive study in selected areas of education culminating in a written project. Limited to students following Plan B for the Master of Arts degree in education.

Year 2 - Spring Semester

Advanced approaches to dealing with behavioral crises and health issues in classroom, to include working with mental health specialists and school nurses.
An intensive study in selected areas of education culminating in a written project. Limited to students following Plan B for the Master of Arts degree in education.

Financial Aid

Grant Support

The SDSU Department of Special Education has received grants from the U.S. Office of Personnel Preparation that is specifically designed to prepare candidates from diverse backgrounds to obtain the knowledge and skills to work effectively with youth with autism. The goals of these programs are to:

  • Recruit and prepare M.A. Degree students who are fully credentialed
  • Provide advanced knowledge & skills in autism using a research-to-practice model
  • Prepare special education mentors with advanced knowledge in Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Implement a field-based, culturally relevant program
  • Contribute to the field through candidates’ research projects

Currently, grant support is available for M.A. candidates serving secondary aged students (14 to 22) with autism. To be eligible for grant support, students must enroll in the SDSU Dept. of Special Education M.A. program and remain in good academic standing. For more information regarding grant support, email Dr. Bonnie Kraemer and explore SPED Research and Projects.

Priorities for scholarship support for this degree include:

  • Candidates with a preliminary Mild/Moderate or Extensive Support Needs credential
  • Candidates from traditionally under-represented backgrounds

Types and Amounts of Financial Support

Financial support from the grant includes the following:

Academic Year (per semester)

  • CA resident fee support: up to $3922*
  • Living stipend: $500
  • Book Allowance: $350
  • Total amount/ semester: up to $4772

Professional development expenses (e.g. conferences, subscriptions):  $1200 total
*Fee amounts are current as of February 2012 and are subject to change

Qualifying students who accept financial assistance are responsible for meeting all program coursework requirements; attending additional lectures, workshops and seminars; and meeting special grant related federal requirements, including a U.S. Dept. of Education requirement to teach children with, or “at risk” for, disabilities for 2 years for every year of assistance received.

Contact Us

Program Coordinators

Contact our administrative office.


Have a question about the M.A. Degree Program/ Autism Specialization or Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis? If you can't find the answer below or elsewhere on this site, email [email protected] or [email protected].

Yes. You can try to enroll through Open University and pay per unit to SDSU Global Campus. Bring a copy of the completed Open University Registration Form to the class on the first day the course is offered, and if there is room and the instructor approves, you can be added to the class. Check the SDSU Class Schedule for time and place of course offerings.
We are moving  SPED 553 and SPED 685 for going back face-to-face starting next fall.
No. You need a B.A. in a related field for both programs. However, you will not be able to work in public schools as a special educator without a teaching credential so applicants need to be confident that they want alternative career paths. You also must have experience working with individuals with ASD and their families prior to entering the M.A. Degree program with a specialization in Autism as there are more applicants than spaces and we accept only applicants with experience.
No. All M.A. students must take SPED 527. In addition, completing SPED 553 is required for the BCBA, which is an integral part of the degree. (See course descriptions.)
Yes, but faculty will consider substituting a course taken at another university if a Substitution/Waiver form (PDF) is submitted to the Special Education Office along with a syllabus from the course completed and a transcript showing the grade received. BUT, if you are planning to apply to take the exam to become Board Certified as a Behavior Analyst, you will have to submit the transcript for this course with your application as SDSU has an approved sequence, with approved faculty who teach the sequence of courses. It is up to the student to demonstrate they have the required hours if they deviate from the SDSU sequence approved by the BACB®.
Yes. You may take prerequisite courses concurrently with the regular course load, although this makes for a very full schedule.
Yes. You can take up to 9 credits through Open University or SDSU Global Campus prior to being accepted and matriculated in a program. You must be matriculated to graduate with the Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis. To take a course through Open University, obtain a form online and show up to the first day of classes and ask the instructor to sign your forms. The instructor will let you add the class if there is space. 
Yes. Some of the courses needed to clear your credential are embedded in the M.A. Degree program. However, you will need to complete a department application for the Clear Credential program and meet with an advisor to work out the required sequence of courses. Visit the Clear Induction Program for more information.
No. The M.A. Degree Program with a Specialization in Autism is a 2-year program that must be completed with the others in your cohort. Completing this program requires a large time commitment.
Yes. You can complete the course sequence when courses are offered and as quickly as one year or more if you prefer. Please note that once matriculated it costs the same amount of tuition for between 1 and 6 credits.
No. We do not offer fieldwork placements for those completing the Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis. Many people get their supervision on the job. We can recommend some possible supervisors with BCBA but you may need to pay for supervision of the required 1,500 hours.