How to Become a Special Education Teacher in Michigan

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Special Education in Michigan

Large urban and suburban areas result in the state of Michigan employing 13,151 special education teachers to work with students in 4,192 public schools and 294 charter schools in 551 districts. However, the state’s services to students with special needs were rated “Needs Assistance” by the U.S. Department of Education, according to Education Week. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 13.7 percent of Michigan students have an Individualized Education Program, slightly above the U.S. average of 13 percent. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) oversees programs and policies related to education in the state. Its Office of Special Education (OSE) provides services to students with special needs and guidelines for special educators.

Licensure Requirements

For Undergraduates

The MDE’s “Facts on Educator Certification” e-book states that the traditional route to licensure in Michigan requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution, preferably with a major in the subject you want to teach. In addition, candidates must compete a teacher preparation program to qualify for a Provisional Certificate, the license traditionally granted to new teachers. Accelerated study and intern options are available to students who major in education or special education or who want to serve as interns in high-need public school classrooms.

For Graduates

If you opt to pursue education or special education at a graduate level, you can enroll in a master’s or doctorate degree program that concurrently provides the coursework necessary to qualify you for Michigan licensure. If you already have a general education license, you can pursue coursework to add an endorsement to your teaching credential in an area of special education, such as autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities or visual impairment.

License Types

The MDE grants many types of teaching licenses. Among them are the Provisional Certificate (for new teachers), the Two-Year Extended Provisional Certificate, the Professional Education Certificate (for teachers with three years of teaching experience who have met professional development requirements), the Temporary Teacher Employment Authorization (for new educators who still need to pass the certification exam) and the Interim Teaching Certificate (for those taking an alternative route to teaching).


The MDE’s Frequently Asked Question webpage states that it grants reciprocity for out-of-state applicants who hold degrees and teaching certificates comparable to those required in Michigan. Applicants must create a Michigan Education Information System (MEIS) account to submit their credentials for evaluation.

Special Education Degrees in Michigan

Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Special Education offers undergraduate and graduate options at its Ypsilanti campus, as well as at satellite campuses and through distance learning options. Undergraduates can pursue an elementary or secondary endorsement in cognitive impairment, emotional impairment, hearing impairment, physical and other health impairment, speech/language pathology or visual impairment. Master’s degree offerings that include the coursework necessary for teacher certification include programs in the same categories as these undergraduate programs, with the exception of speech/language pathology. The school does offer a master’s degree-only course of study in speech/language pathology, as well as master’s-only programs in autism, learning disabilities and special education. Located in Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University offers an intern teaching program through its College of Education/Public School Partnership Program for Education Excellence. Students work full time with experienced teachers in their classrooms while pursing the coursework necessary to qualify for Michigan licensure. The large city of Detroit is the home of Wayne State University and its Special Education programs. Its undergraduate, teaching certificate and special education endorsement programs allow for a range of specializations, including cognitive impairment, emotional impairment, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Looking for an undergraduate degree program? Consider Saginaw Valley State University’s Bachelor of Arts in Special Education, which incorporates supervised teaching experiences in order to help students develop their classroom skills. Students will become eligible for certification upon graduation.

For profiles of all the schools in Michigan that offer master’s in special education programs, click here.

Alternatives to Certification

The MDE’s guide to Michigan’s Alternate Route to Interim Teacher Certification details the criteria for pursuing this nontraditional pathway to teaching. Minimum semester hours in relevant coursework, mentorship and a complete application are among the preliminary requirements. The Detroit branch of Teach for America provides intensive training to individuals committed to working in Detroit’s lowest-performing public schools.

Special Education Jobs in Michigan

Professional Development

The MDE’s Professional Preparation and Development Unit oversees all matters concerning acceptable means for earning required professional development units. Organizations that offer professional development opportunities include:

Michigan Professional Organizations for Special Educators

Michigan Special Education Blogs

  • SpeEdChange: Ira David Socol, a researcher and lecturer who works with Educology, an education reform group, maintains this blog about rethinking education.
  • The Resourceful Room: A resource room teacher at an elementary school describes her daily challenges and insights.
  • Friendship Circle Blog: This blog by Friendship Circle of Michigan features posts by community advocates, special educators and family members of children with disabilities.
  • Special Education Listserv: The MDE’s OSE listserv allows stakeholders in the special education community to subscribe to e-updates about state policy and special education news.