Our dedication to Racial Equality and Social Justice (RESJ) spans decades. Learn more about our RESJ Initiative

time exposed photo of headlights in urban center

Autism Specialist

  • Credits:
  • Degree:
    Master of Education

Program Description

Teachers in general education and special education are working with more and more students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The Autism Specialist Master of Education program answers the growing need for more understanding and better preparation for those working with students with severe disabilities. The program offers opportunities to personalize your learning and flexible study options for working professionals who want to become specialists in autism.

Who Is the Autism Specialist Degree Designed For?

This program is designed for experienced teachers and para-professionals, to enhance their working knowledge of the field. It also provides opportunities to explore new professional opportunities working with individuals with autism. This is not a licensure program and does not lead to Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) certification.

Cambridge College Autism Specialist Program Highlights

Take the next step in your education and career. The autism specialist degree at Cambridge College is a flexible, hands-on program designed to fit your busy schedule.

  • Personalized learning opportunities. Specialize your course of study through an independent learning project that enhances your preparedness as a professional educator.
  • Flexible class schedules. Balance education with work and family time with the help of flexible, convenient class options available evenings, weekends, and online.
  • Experienced faculty. Work closely with top faculty who bring extensive research experience and expertise in autism spectrum disorders to the program.
  • Exceptional value. Save on tuition at one of the most affordable four-year private nonprofit colleges in the nation.
  • No GMAT required. Get started on your master’s degree—Cambridge College does not require standardized graduate school tests for admission into non-licensure programs.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

Autism Specialist Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the autism specialist master’s program will have a strong understanding of autism, behavioral issues, and severe special needs. Required courses cover a broad range of topics including:

  • Assistive technologies and federal laws pertaining to special education.
  • Current research in childhood development.
  • Behavior management, assessing and managing communication disorders, and social skills intervention.
  • Teaching and curriculum development for students with autism and other disabilities.

Autism Specialist Jobs

Autism behavior specialists work in a wide range of educational settings as teachers, school therapists, student aides, and other professional roles. In addition to working directly with special needs students, autism specialists may also conduct assessments, submit recommendations, and develop individualized care or education plans.

Autism Specialist Salary

Special education teachers and teachers who work with children with autism earn an average annual salary of about $60,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational therapists earn about $80,000 per year.

Example Autism Specialist Courses

This master’s degree program features courses such as:

  • Autism: History, Prevalence, Diagnosis, and Characteristics
  • Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Special Education
  • Teaching and Curriculum Development/Students With Severe Disabilities

Download the Autism Specialist program sheet.

Autism Specialist Scholarships and Financial Aid

You may qualify for grants, scholarships, loans, and other types of financial assistance to help pay for your autism specialist master’s degree. Learn more about applying for financial aid at Cambridge College.

Many companies also offer tuition assistance programs that can help to pay for education. Find information about getting your company to help.

Related Programs at Cambridge College

If you’re still exploring degree options, you might be interested in learning more about these Master of Education programs at Cambridge College:



Choose one 3-credit School of Education elective in addition to the required courses below:

The Reflective Practitioner
EED 5001 1 credit(s)

Reflective practice is a process of self-evaluation and analysis that allows teachers to reflect on their teaching practices, identify areas for improvement, and make adjustment to their practice to better support student learning. In this 1-credit course, graduate students will learn to identify their own strengths and challenges, set goals for themselves and their students, evaluate curriculum materials, generate potential solutions to problems of practice, and explore tools and technology to support their reflective practice.

Assistive Technology: Modifying the Curriculum for Diverse Learners
ESP 615 3 credit(s)
This course examines Assistive Technology in special education, ensuring compliance with Federal regulations under IDEA. Participants will explore best practices and strategies pertaining to the development and delivery of effective AT services. Topics include considering and assessing AT needs, integrating AT into IEPs, effective team collaboration, and implementing AT for low and high-incidence disabilities. The course also covers promising practices for AT selection, creating accessible educational materials, and the impact of UDL on AT.
Autism: History, Prevalence, Diagnosis and Characteristics
ESP 610 3 credit(s)
This course explores the evolving landscape of autism. It delves into the history of autism and debates its controversial causes. Students will trace the diagnostic shifts and understand core deficits' influence on daily life. Treatment modalities, the impact of technology, and the media's role in shaping societal perspectives, laws, and access to care are highlighted.
Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Special Education
ESP 695 3 credit(s)
This course will focus on special education laws regarding the pre-referral and referral of a student and the development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Emphasis will be on strategies for including students in general education classrooms in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
Theories of Typical and Atypical Human Development
ESP 689 3 credit(s)
This course examines current research and theoretical models that focus on the typical and atypical development of children. The emphasis is on understanding children’s psychological, intellectual, and physical development and investigating the impact of developmental theories on the education of children with disabilities.
Assessment and Appraisal Process -ASD
ESP 621 3 credit(s)
Effective instruction is difficult to implement in the absence of effective assessment and appraisal data. The goal of this course is to introduce candidates to several educational and functional assessments that are frequently used to establish skill strengths and deficits in children with autism spectrum disorders and diagnoses with similar characteristics. Such tools as the Psycho-educational Profile, 3rd edition (PEP-111), Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills Revised (ABLLS-R), and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, classroom edition, will be reviewed and interpreted. Along with an emphasis on these assessments, this course will stress considerations of student specific goals including variables such as, needs in the home setting, activities of daily living, vocational training, and an independent and self determined adult life.
Behavior Management- ASD
ESP 625 3 credit(s)
Individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and diagnoses with similar characteristics frequently manifest challenging behaviors that inhibit learning and access to many life long opportunities. This course will introduce students to the functional behavior assessment (FBA) process and intervention through the use of positive behavior intervention and support (PBIS). The dynamic intervention formats utilize the scientifically supported techniques of PBIS across a three tier level of need that includes school wide support, secondary support for at – risk students, and individual interventions. Individual interventions will be developed utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). The course will emphasize the use of least restrictive, non-aversive, researched supported techniques that take into account a whole child perspective, intervention for teaching functional equivalent skill deficits, increasing appropriate behavior, and decreasing challenging behaviors.
Communication Disorders - ASD
ESP 616 3 credit(s)
Communication-based disabilities are a diagnosing criteria of Autism spectrum disorders, diagnoses with similar characteristics, and are commonly seen in severe levels of developmental delay. Not only do communication difficulties greatly impact life-long educational, social, and vocational opportunities, they are closely associated with the presence of challenging behaviors such as aggression and self-injury. Following a review of typical and atypical language development, physiological, environmental, and psychological theories of language development will be presented. This course will examine criterion-based and peer-normed communication assessments, effective language-based teaching strategies for children with severe disabilities, and alternative communication forms such as picture exchange communication system, sign language, and other non-vocal communication systems. In addition, students will be introduced to the following: Provision of family-centered services; impact of culture on work with individuals with disabilities and their families; and recommended practices/framework for assessment and facilitation of communication for individuals with ASD.
Social and Psychological Perspectives in Autism Spectrum Disorders
ESP 630 3 credit(s)
Social deficits are one of the defining characteristics of autism, including Asperger’s syndrome, and most are almost always associated with other autism spectrum disorders and similar diagnoses. This course will introduce candidates to social skills intervention through a whole family approach focusing on both students with deficits associated with global delay as well as higher functioning students who demonstrate deficits primarily or exclusively in the area of social skills. This class will take into account the needs of not only the student, but also the siblings, parents, separated parents, extended family relationships, household economic needs, and culturally specific variables that make up the landscape of the dynamic American family.
Teaching and Curriculum Development/Students with Severe Disabilities
ESP 635 3 credit(s)
This course will emphasize diagnosis, assessment and best educational practices in teaching persons who are diagnosed with severe intellectual disabilities, multi handicaps and autism. A focus on legal provisions, regulations and program standards in unbiased assessment as well as work on specialized terminology used in assessment of this special population will be noted. A special focus on the Massachusetts Alternate Assessment preparation will be developed. Adaptive behavior scales will be discussed. Students will be apprised of the specialized policies regarding students with extensive disabilities concerning referral and placement procedures.

Core Faculty

Senior Instructor


  • Admission Test:

    No standardized graduate school tests required for admission into non-licensure programs

  • Admissions Office:
  • Application Form:
  • Application Fee:
    $50 ($100 for international students)

Health Requirements for Massachusetts Students 

The Massachusetts Health Department and Cambridge College require the following of students in Massachusetts:

Immunizations – All students in Massachusetts are required to get certain immunizations before you can register for your first term. See form

Health Insurance – In Massachusetts, undergraduate students taking nine or more credits/term and graduate students taking six or more credits/term must enroll in the College’s health insurance plan. Students who have insurance with comparable coverage may request a waiver. See information and enroll or waive.


School Requirements

International Students 

International students need to provide supplemental documentation:

  • Official demonstration of English language proficiency
  • Supplemental documentation for issuance of I-20
  • International transcripts, evaluated by an accepted evaluation service

Transfer Credit 

Please complete the transfer credit request form if you wish to have prior course work evaluated for transfer. Learn more about transferring credits.



  • Credits:
  • Cost per credit hour:
  • Application Fee:
    $50 ($100 for international students)
  • Health Insurance Fee:
    $3,940 - Required for Massachusetts students only. See waiver details on Tuition & Fees page.)
  • Internship/Practicum Fee:

Note: Rates are as of July, 2022, and are subject to change without notice. Rates apply to all students, unless otherwise noted.

Financial Aid

Cambridge College offers financial aid to students in our degree programs who are enrolled at least half time. Undergraduate students must be enrolled in at least 6 credits each term. Graduate and doctoral students must be enrolled in at least 4 credits each term. Learn more

Grants, Scholarships and Loans

Cambridge College welcomes the opportunity to support your efforts to pay for college.  Federal, state and local resources in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study, including Cambridge College Scholarships, are available to help defray the cost of tuition. Learn more

Getting Your Company to Help

Many companies have tuition assistance programs, designed to help their employees with their professional development. Learn more

Take the Next Step Toward Your Autism Specialist Degree