Special Education Credential

Admissions Deadlines  Application Checklist  

Pre-Admission Disclosure  Basic Skills Bill AB 130

The Education Specialist Credential Program is housed under the Educational Leadership and Special Education department and offers Preliminary Education Specialist programs, Mild-Moderate Support Needs (MMSN), or Extensive Support Needs (ESN). At Sonoma State University, the Preliminary Education Specialist Program (ES) prepares special educators who provide effective education, respect, and individualization for individuals with disabilities (ages 5-22), and who are committed to ongoing professional growth and reflection in their careers. Specific attributes of our program include:

  • Proficiency in curriculum and instruction across life domains for individuals with disabilities
  • Faculty committed to providing a high-quality special education teacher preparation program
  • Instruction designed to challenge candidates to acquire the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary 
  • be effective educators and advocates for individuals with disabilities
  • Empirically based course content that reflects best practice in special education
  • Evening classes
  • Learning opportunities that emphasize professional reflection and growth

For more information, see the Preliminary Education Specialist Program Handbook or contact an Advisor for questions. 

Program Overview 

The Preliminary Education Specialist Credential Program offers credentials authorizing work with individuals with Mild-Moderate Support Needs (MMSN) or Extensive Support Needs (ESN). This construction allows us to consider the strengths and challenges that students bring to school rather than the disabilities with which they are labeled. As seen in the table below, each credential area overlaps in terms of disabilities it covers. The true distinction between MMSN and ESN is in the level and type of support children need to be successful. 

Credential Authorization Areas

Mild-Moderate Support Needs

Extensive Support Needs 

Federal Disability Categories 

Emotional Disturbance (ED)
Intellectual Disability (ID)
Multiple Disabilities (MD)
Other Health Impairment (OHI)
Orthopedic Impairment (OI)
Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Deafblind (DB)
Emotional Disturbance (ED)
Intellectual Disability (ID)
Multiple Disabilities (MD)
Other Health Impairment (OHI)
Orthopedic Impairment (OI)
Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)


All CTC requirements for earning an MMSN credential are also included in the ESN. As such, the design of our program is such that earning the preliminary MMSN credential is a prerequisite for earning the ESN. The preliminary ESN credential adds 2 courses to the program and candidates complete both preliminary credentials.

Program Pathways

Candidates may choose one of three pathways to earn the credential. Each pathway takes a different amount of time to complete.

  • Integrated Teacher Education Program (ITEP). ITEP is an undergraduate blended major in which candidates earn a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Studies and a preliminary education specialist credential in 4 years and 135 units. These are undergraduate candidates who take all coursework toward the BA and begin the credential program in their 3rd year of study. ITEP candidates must complete the MMSN credential as part of the degree program.
  • Traditional Student Teaching. The traditional credential program is organized into three phases. The first phase is designed for traditional credential candidates and provides coursework required for intern eligibility. The full traditional program spans 3 semesters.
    •  Candidates who hold a previous credential typically begin the program in Phase Two. 
      • Individuals with a multiple subject credential may complete the traditional program within 2 semesters. 
      • Teachers with a single-subject credential will have met some preliminary education specialist credential requirements, but will still have 3 semesters of work to do.
  • Intern Teaching. Interns take the same basic credential coursework, and are bound by the same policies and procedures as all Education Specialist candidates, except for selected fieldwork and student teaching requirements. Interns are provided with university supervision in their K-22 classrooms throughout their internships, which typically range between two and three semesters. 

Program Structure & Coursework 

Candidates who do not hold a credential should begin the program during the SPRING semester, which is designated as PHASE ONE. Such candidates choosing to begin the program in the fall semester will follow an extended program plan. ITEP students will typically begin courses during the fall of the junior year. Candidates with a previous credential will have met most requirements of phase one, and must begin the program during the FALL semester, which is designated as PHASE TWO.

Candidates wishing to work with students with extensive support needs will complete 2 additional courses. Carefully planned field experiences may make it possible to earn both the MMSN and ESN credentials at the same time. Please work with an advisor.

The following course sequence is for people following the traditional student teaching pathway. Candidates on the ITEP or the Intern pathway, will take the same courses but not necessarily in this order. All candidates will work closet with an advisor to develop their program plan. 

Pre/Co-Requisite Course (3 units) 

  • EDSP 418: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Special Educators  *May be substituted with EDMS 419, EDUC 417, or a combination of EDEC 110 and EDEC 220

Phase 1 Coursework: Spring Semester (17 units)

Focuses on developing an understanding of disability, special education, and developing pedagogical knowledge and skills. Classroom and behavior management, literacy, and addressing the needs of English Learners are all areas of emphasis. Candidates complete 60 of fieldwork in the Early Fieldwork Practicum, a placement facilitated by the Director of Field Placements.

  • EDSP 430: Foundations of Special Education (3)
  • EDSP 421: Foundations of Special Education Pedagogy (4)
  • EDSP 421B: Early Field Placement (2)
  • EDSP 424: Classroom Management & Positive Behavior Supports (4)
  • EDSP 425: Teaching Literacy in Special Education (4)

 Phase 2 Coursework: Fall Semester (15-19 units)

Focuses on developing skills specific to special educators including the development of collaboration and case management skills, and learning to assess students to plan instruction and develop IEPs. Cycle 1 of the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) is completed. There are 90 hours of fieldwork during Phase Two in the same classroom where they will participate as a Student Teacher. 

  • EDSP 422: Collaboration and Case Management in Special Education (4)
  • EDSP 423: Assessment of Students with Disabilities (4)
  • EDMS 474: Teaching Mathematics in the Elementary School (3)
  • EDSP 460: Fieldwork Support and Assessment One (2)
  • EDSP 460B: Pre-student Teaching in Special Education (2)
  • EDSP 428: Teaching Students with Extensive Support Needs (4) [ESN CRED ONLY]

Phase 3 Coursework: Spring Semester (14-17 units)

Student teaching occurs in the classroom of a resident teacher over the course of twelve weeks, at a minimum. Language development coursework is pursued. Cycle 2 of the TPA is completed.

  • EDSP 426: Language and Communication Development (4)
  • EDSP 465: Student Teaching in Special Education (8)
  • EDSP 461: Fieldwork Support and Assessment Two (2)
  • EDSP 429: Supporting Students with Physical, Health, and Sensory Needs (4) [ESN CRED ONLY]

Added Authorizations

The Education Specialist Credential Program also offers an Early Childhood Special  Education-Added Authorization (ECSE-AA) for teachers wanting to expand their existing special education credential to work with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. More information is on the ECSE-AA website. These courses are typically taken after completing the ECSE-AA. Depending on your program plan, you may be able to take ECSE-AA courses while still in the ES program but will need to work closely with an advisor to determine if this is possible. 

The Bilingual Added Authorization (Spanish) is open to students across the credential program, including Education Specialists. More information is available on the Bilingual Authorization website. Depending on your program plan, you may be able to take the required courses to add the bilingual authorization while still in the ES program, but you will need to work closely with an advisor to determine if this is possible.