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Special Education, Master of Science, Professional Internship

Pathway to Teaching Special Education

The Undergraduate + 5th Year Master’s Degree program incorporates a Professional Internship Program in Special Education designed to prepare highly skilled special education teachers to support students with a wide range of abilities and needs.  The Special Education Professional Internship Program provides coursework and classroom experiences for initial teacher certification/licensure. Through the 5-year program, students will earn a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master of Science in Teacher Education. Special Education teachers will be licensed with 3 endorsements (Interventionist K-8, TN endorsement code 144; Interventionist 6-12, TN endorsement code 145; and Special Education Comprehensive K-12, TN endorsement code 461).

At a Glance: The Undergraduate and 5th Year/Graduate Professional Internship

  • Sophomore Year: Take introductory courses in special education and initial classroom experiences
  • Junior Year: Take courses and engage in practicum experiences that prepare teacher candidates with essential knowledge and skills for teaching students with learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical and health disabilities, intellectual disability, autism, and other diverse needs that impact learning.
  • Senior Year: Candidates complete practical teaching experiences and seminar coursework to develop skills in planning, teaching, assessing student learning, and developing individualized education programs (IEPs) and behavior intervention plans.
  • 5th Year/Master’s Degree Program: Candidates progress to the Professional Internship, which is a year-long capstone experience with an intensive immersion in teaching.  Students gain real experience through daily involvement in a classroom setting and take graduate-level professional education courses. The graduate internship provides candidates with an intensive immersion into teaching.  Successful completion of the internship year may be counted toward a candidates’ first year of teaching experience under Tennessee licensure standards.

How to Apply

  • Applicants to the graduate program should apply through the University of Tennessee Graduate Admissions Application.
  • Review TPTE Admissions information.
    • Candidates must be admitted to the Teacher Education Program in order to progress to Professional Education coursework.
    • Candidates must have (a) minimum 2.75 grade point average; (b) satisfactory background clearance; and (c) satisfactory admissions board interview (Conducted May, July, November, and April).

Please contact Ms. Nina Fox ( or 865-974-4118) regarding applying for an admission board interview.

  • Prospective students are encouraged to apply early and are eligible to apply after completing 30 hours of coursework.
  • Prospective students must meet with a licensure specialist to ensure they meet admission requirements and discuss a plan of study before enrolling in courses: Lisa Emery (, Laura Stetler Brown (, or Melanie Barts ( They also can be reached at 865-974-8194.

Special Education is a high need area (most school systems across the nation report a shortage of highly qualified special educators) and admission to the program is competitive. Students who wish to go through the admission board process should consider the following “tips” when applying to the program:

  • GPA is important, but students are considered holistically.
  • The writing sample submitted as part of the application packet is very important. Special Education courses require a lot of writing and this sample is used to assess a student’s potential for conveying thoughts through writing and completing work with correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. We recommend that students put a lot of thought and effort into the writing sample which will leave the “first impression” on admission board members.
  • Experiences are not necessary but are valued highly. Work or volunteer experiences – especially with children who have disabilities gives the student a lot to share with the admission board members. Enrollment in Education 100 is one way to gain experience working with children in a school setting. Enrolling in Recreation and Sport Management 326, volunteering for Special Olympics, and being a summer camp counselor also are great ways to gain experience working with children who have disabilities.
  • Most of all, the admission board members will want to hear about the student’s passion and dedication to becoming a special education teacher who makes a difference in the lives of students with diverse learning needs.

To view the course of study
Please follow this link to the UT Catalog.


Special Education

  • In addition to the Professional Internship (initial licensure), we offer additional pathways to obtain a Master’s Degree in Special Education. The Educational Studies Concentration is designed for students who hold a valid Tennessee teaching license, for those wishing to enhance their professional knowledge and expertise, or for those preparing for careers that do not require teacher licensure.
  • The Job-Embedded Practitioner Program (JEP) allows a partnering school system to employ an individual as “instructor of record” in Special Education before of coursework in Teacher Education provided the candidate is admitted to a JEP program.
  • Already in a teaching program or have a teaching license? You may be able to earn an additional endorsement in Special Education by taking graduate coursework.

Applied Behavior Analysis 

  • The Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program prepares teachers and professionals to use the science of ABA and encompasses the BCBA Coursework required to apply to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®).
  • Our BCBA Coursework includes a Verified Course Sequence* (VCS) approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International® and is available for students enrolled in graduate, degree-seeking programs in Applied Behavior Analysis, Special Education, and School Psychology.


Tara C. Moore, PhD, BCBA-D
Associate Professor, Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education