New York Special Education Certification Changes

There has been a persistent shortage statewide of special education instructors. The New York State Education Department’s certification requirements and segmentation for special needs instructors are changing to combat this shortage. The New York State Department of Education is creating a Students with Disabilities (SWD) (All Grades) certificate.

The Changes


SWD certifications available for the following age groupings: 
• Birth–Grade 2
• Grades 7–12

New Certification

By 2026, SWD certifications will be offered for the following age groups: 
• Birth–Grade 2
• All Grades (PK–Grade 12)

The new certificates will allow special education teachers to go where the greatest staffing needs are and work with students across B–2 or PK–12 grade levels within the district. This is designed to improve the staffing shortages in New York State where the need for certified special education instructors is high.

Pedagogical and Instructional Requirements for Special Education Certification

There are unique pedagogical and content requirements for the Students with Disabilities (SWD) certification in New York.

Candidates seeking the SWD (All Grades) certification must complete 30 semester hours in one or more of the liberal arts and sciences and a minimum of 6 semester hours in each of the following*:

  • English Language Arts

  • Math

  • Science

  • Social Studies

Programs designed to prepare instructors for the SWD (All Grades) certification will include similar topics as current SWD programs, but with a more comprehensive developmental overview for a broader age range. Programs will also address the educational needs of students with disabilities who are culturally and linguistically diverse and provide clinical field-based experiences, including supervised teaching opportunities.

*Those who are not initially certified or are looking to change their career to pursue a career in special education will need to complete additional credit hours for a dual certification.

Special Education Instructor Training for Career Changers

Special education instruction is an excellent career choice for individuals seeking a career change. Special education is an in-demand field, with a growing need for qualified professionals to work with students who have learning disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, and other disabilities. The demand for special education teachers is likely to continue to grow in the coming years as more children are diagnosed with various disabilities and require specialized instruction.

A career in special education offers a unique and rewarding experience. Special education teachers have the opportunity to work with a diverse group of students with different learning needs, abilities, and backgrounds. This provides an opportunity for teachers to develop a broad range of skills and knowledge, as they must be able to create individualized learning plans and adapt instruction to meet each student’s unique needs.

Pursuing a career in special education instruction provides job security and stability. Schools must provide specialized instruction and support for students with disabilities, which requires staffing certified special education instructors.

Finding the Right Special Education Program

Choosing a special education master’s program can be a daunting task, but there are a few critical points you should consider. The program’s curriculum and breadth is very important. Look for a program that covers a wide range of special education topics, including evidence-based strategies for working with students with different disabilities, effective assessment and evaluation methods, and approaches to inclusive education. You should also consider the program’s flexibility, as some programs may allow you to take courses online or on a part-time basis, which can be ideal if you work full time or have other commitments.

Why St. John’s University?

The St. John’s University special education master’s program has high academic standards and meets Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) standards. Our program curriculum highlights evidenced-based teaching methods and prepares you to be career ready. Degree certifications and preparation are built directly into our program. Additionally, our esteemed faculty guides and provides real-world experience and insight that will enrich your preparation to become the best possible special education instructor for children of multiple age groups and abilities.

Education That Elevates

Teaching is more than just a profession—it is a calling.