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Special Education

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental emotional, and physical disabilities.

Building better education systems for all

When you teach children with disabilities, you not only facilitate educational and social growth, but you enjoy a career where you can use your creativity and problem-solving skills on a daily basis.

You collaborate with other educators to adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such a reading, writing and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. You also provide more intensive learning support outside of the general education classroom when needed.

There are many specialized opportunities for special educators such as early childhood special educators, inclusive education teachers, transition specialists, and teachers of students with multiple disabilities.

Special education may be the career for you if you're:

  • Well-organized
  • Creative
  • Adaptable
  • Patient
  • Accepting of differences
  • A problem solver


What does your preparation in Special Education look like at Southern Miss? You progress through your program with a cohort of other students, building your knowledge and skills through a series of well-coordinated university courses and experiences in schools. These experiences allow you to grow into the special educator you've always wanted to be. Your progress includes:

Pre-professional Courses

During your freshman and sophomore years, you will expand your general skills through your university general curriculum as well as begin to explore your chosen profession. You are encouraged to join our student organizations (Student Council for Exceptional Children and the Education Majors Student Association) to begin building relationships with your fellow students and faculty. You will also have the opportunity to take courses such as SPE 121: Introduction to Disability.

Professional Courses

Once you are accepted into your professional preparation courses in special education, you will begin the first of three sequenced semesters that will transform you into an effective, much sought-after special educator. Your three semesters of coursework each include a carefully planned practicum aligned to your coursework so you can put your new knowledge into action. Some of our more popular topics include:

  • Teaching Students with Diverse Needs
  • Language and Literacy for Students with Disabilities
  • Mathematics for Students with Disabilities
  • Classroom and School Management
  • Systematic Interventions for Challenging Behaviors
  • Transition and Life Skills

Degree Options

There is one Bachelor of Science (BS) degree available with this major.

The Special Education B.S. Mild/Moderate Disabilities License (MS #221) Program is offered at the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses. 

More about this Major


Special Education can be found in virtually every educational setting, and some beyond the classroom. Most graduates of our BS in Special Education work with students with mild/moderate disabilities in either inclusive or resource settings.

Some of our graduates also work with school-based intervention teams as educational interventionists providing intensive remediation to students who are at risk.

• Special Educators are in huge demand not only in Mississippi but across the country.
• In Mississippi, the base salary for a beginning Special Educator with a BS degree (an A level license) is $34,390. The actual salary may be higher, however, dependent on the local district's supplement.
Special education majors at Southern Miss have over 120 hours of experience in classrooms before student teaching. We have 100% pass rate for our BS in Special Education majors on Praxis II exam in Special Education.

Courses You Might Take

SPE 121: Introduction to Disability

A student teacher reads to a class.

At the very beginning of your program, you will take a course designed to show you the larger field of disability services, including educational services. This will enable you to see the broader context of disability across the lifespan.

SPE 300, 380, & 382: Special Education Practicum (I, II, & III)

A student teacher walks with students outside a classroom.

During the three semesters leading to your teacher candidacy experience (student teaching), you will have extensive opportunities to observe and teach in a wide variety of education settings. You will be mentored by faculty teaching your professional courses to implement the techniques and strategies learned, ensuring you will be well prepared for your first teaching position.

SPE 401: Systematic Interventions for Challenging Behaviors and SPE 451: Classroom and School Management Systems

Students raise their hands in response to a teacher's question.

Many teachers, including new teachers, express frustration when it comes to the behaviors they see in their classrooms. These two courses are designed to build your knowledge and skills to have a positive learning environment for all students. Evidence-based strategies for general classroom management, as well as for students who need more extensive support, are taught.

SPE 402: Teaching Diverse Learners

A student gets one-on-one attention from a student teacher.

There is great diversity in today’s classrooms, and we want you to be prepared to teach all students in high-quality, inclusive settings. This course focuses on the breadth of student strengths and needs, and teaches evidence-based practices for meeting the needs of all learners.

Meet Some of Your Professors

Audra I. Classen, PhD

Assistant Professor

Favorite Course: SPE 410: Literacy for Students with Disabilities

Expertise: Supporting young children's emotional literacy development, developing social-emotional curriculum and interventions, and teaching practitioners to utilize assessment techniques

Hollie Gabler Filce, PhD


Favorite Course: SPE 401: Systematic Interventions for Challenging Behaviors

Expertise: Individuals with significant disabilities, family systems and supports, children with special healthcare needs, and positive behavioral interventions and supports.

Alisa Lowrey, PhD

Associate Professor

Favorite Course: SPE 121: Introduction to Disability

Expertise: Teacher education, training and evaluation; inclusive educational practices including postsecondary practices for students with developmental disabilities including autism; and designing quality, individualized curricula to include the application of Universal Design for Learning

Gregory W. Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor

Favorite Course: SPE 400: Psychology and Education of Exceptional Children

Expertise: High-incidence disabilities, cognition, memory, and lived experiences

Take the Next Steps

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Apply to Southern Miss

Be aware of our deadlines, $40 application fee and other items on our checklist. Admission requirements vary for freshmen, transfers, prospective Honors College students and others.

Southern Miss undergraduate degrees are available online, at the Hattiesburg campus, at the Gulf Park campus, and/or through a hybrid delivery that includes both online and on-campus courses.