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Information for Prospective Students: 5-Year Special Education / Elementary Education

The Special Education Program at TCNJ for undergraduates is a five-year program that prepares students to be teachers of students with disabilities. It culminates in a master’s degree and New Jersey certification in both Special Education and Elementary Education. Preparation includes theory and practice in teaching students with diverse learning abilities including students with learning disabilities, autism, physical disabilities, severe and multiple disabilities. New Jersey certification does not distinguish between these diagnostic labels; the certificate establishes qualification to teach individuals with any one or combination of the above disabling conditions.

Additional Program Information

Graduates of the program meet the state’s current requirements for being “highly qualified” teachers and therefore are eligible for employment in New Jersey school districts. Students in the five-year program must also complete a liberal arts major in one of 11 state-approved disciplines. At the end of their fourth year, students earn a bachelor’s degree. The Special Education course of study continues the following academic year and culminates in a full-time student teaching experience and a master’s degree in Special Education.

» Advisement and Resources for Current TCNJ Students

Frequently Asked Questions for Future Students

When I graduate, what will I be qualified to teach?

Special education P-5 and middle school, elementary education K-5, high school in-class support, and grades 6-12 after certification testing in a specific content area.

I am currently enrolled in another program at TCNJ; how can I transfer?

Complete a transfer application

Please note. An interview with the undergraduate coordinator is also required.

What happens if I change my mind and no longer wish to be a teacher?

You will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts major, so you will be qualified to pursue avenues other than teaching.

Why should I choose a five-year program rather than graduating in four?

You will graduate with an bachelor’s degree in an academic major and a master’s degree in special education. You will also hold two NJ teaching certifications.  Separately, such achievement would take almost 7 years.  Furthermore, spreading coursework over 5 years allows more flexibility  in scheduling and permits enrollment in elective courses.

What is the job market like for special education teachers?

Highly qualified Teachers of Individuals with Disabilities are in high demand. The department boasts a 100% placement rate for those seeking employment in special education.

What is your average class size?

22 students.

How do I arrange a visit?

Visit the College’s website for prospective students.

Who should apply?

The five-year program in Special Education is designed for students who have completed high school and are first-time students and for transfer students from community colleges or other four-year programs who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree.

Does this program enable me to teach students who are deaf/hard-of-hearing?

No, if you are interested in teaching students who are deaf/HOH, the department offers another five-year integrated bachelor’s and master’s of arts program which culminates in two certifications:  one in Education of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing and one in Elementary Education.  Visit the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education site.

Can I study abroad?

Yes, the department supports the College’s International Student Teaching program. There is room in the five-year program to study abroad. Visit for details.

I am excited about student teaching. When will I have experience in the classroom?

You will have part-time field experience in your junior and senior years. You will teach full-time during your fifth year.

School of Education Conceptual Framework

The program is consistent with the five themes of the School of Education’s Conceptual Framework, Creating Agents of Change:

  • Demonstrating Subject Matter Expertise
  • Demonstrating Excellence in Planning and Practice
  • Demonstrating a Commitment to All Learners
  • Demonstrating a Strong, Positive Effect on Student Growth
  • Demonstrating Professionalism, Advocacy, and Leadership

Special Education Program Standards

The program meets the standards and requirements of:

  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • State of New Jersey Teacher Education Standards
  • Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)