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New Student Orientation

Welcome to the masters program in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling at Utah State University! We value your pursuit of a masters degree and participation in scholarly activities. The purpose of this orientation is to increase your knowledge of masters programs and facilitate decision making. 

Program Concentration Areas

  • Administrative and Supervisory Credential
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst
  • Special Education


Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC): The GPC can assist with specific questions about courses to take, schedule, registration, and all required Graduate School forms.

Major Professor/Advisor: A Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling faculty member will be assigned as your Major Professor/Advisor at the end of your first or your second semester. This faculty member will assist with identification of a research area for your thesis/creative project, answer research questions, offer academic advice, and "chair" the proposal and defense meetings.

Supervisory Committee: The Major Professor and two Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling faculty (or a faculty from outside the department) comprise your supervisory committee. They will offer research advice, read your thesis/project, attend your proposal and defense meetings, and determine whether your thesis/project is approved. Membership can be changed to increase expertise in certain research areas.

Program of Study: A specific list of courses, internships, independent study activities, or other scholarly work for your masters degree. The GPC will contact you to develop the Program of Study.

Proposal: The report you prepare describing background research, literature review, research questions or purpose, method, and anticipated results. After approval from your Major Professor, the proposal is distributed to the supervisory committee two weeks prior to the proposal meeting.

Proposal Meeting: The meeting at which you make a brief presentation (usually with PowerPoint slides) for purposes of proposing your research. The committee usually recommends modifications to the research methods and/or narrative, then indicate whether they approve or disapprove your research proposal.

Institutional Review Board (IRB): Upon approval of your research proposal, the student and Major Professor submit an application protocol to the IRB. The purpose of the IRB is to protect citizens against potential risks of research participation while promoting high-quality studies. For more information, go to

Defense Meeting: After the student has collected and analyzed data, submitted a draft of the thesis/project to the Major Professor, and received feedback, the student contacts the GPC and Major Professor to schedule the defense meeting. At the meeting, the student presents findings. This interactive meeting includes discussion of methods, findings, conclusions, and implications of the thesis/project. Once approved by the Major Professor and supervisory committee, the GPC notifies the School of Graduate Studies that the student has passed the examination for the masters degree.

Frequently Asked Questions for New Students

NOTE: These FAQs are specific to the needs of new students in our Masters Programs.

Question: When/how do I register for courses?

Answer: In order to register for courses you must first inform the School of Graduate Studies and the GPC of your intent to accept the offer to begin the masters program. After they have been notified of your intent, you will be cleared to register. If you have taken courses at USU in the past, you will be able to log in to your student account and continue to register for courses as you have in the past. If you are a new USU student, you will need to first set up your login information by doing the following:

  1. Visit
  2. Enter your University A-Number and the validation text, then click continue. Your A-Number is given to you on your official acceptance letter.
  3. Verify you have access to your "Preferred Email" account by placing a check in the I have access box, then click Send Email
  4. Check your "Preferred Email" account for a new email titled Create Your USU Password
  5. Click on the link within the email or copy/paste the link into the web browser. This will open a webpage within your default web browser. The link is valid for 2 hours and may be used 1 time. If needed, you may revisit to create a new email and a new link.
  6. Enter your desired password following the password rules, then click Change Password
  7. Next, create your Challenge Questions, then press continue
  8. Your password is now ready to use! Please allow 5 minutes before logging into USU systems to allow your password to replicate to the USU central authentication server. Each student is assigned an email address. You should be able to login to yours through If you have any problems or questions about your aggiemail account please contact the university IT Service Desk at 435-797-4357 .
  9. Now that you have created your login information, you will register for courses by going to and logging in to Access (Banner).

Question: Classes do not seem to be offered every semester. How can I find out when classes are offered?

Answer: Each concentration area has a specific planning guide. The planning guide outlines what courses are required for your program and when they are offered. Our courses are offered on a two-year cycle. It is important to take classes as they are offered because they will not be offered again for two years.

Question: How are courses delivered and received?  Where do I go?

Answer: Most courses are delivered via Zoom to individual students allowing live audio/video. Students and instructors interact in "real time". Courses are scheduled on weekday evenings. 

Question: What is the difference between a thesis and a creative project?

Answer: Theses and projects differ based on (a) nature of research, (b) expectations of masters program, and (c) whether the student plans future academic work. 

          (a) Nature of research

A thesis usually involves a single-subject, quasi-experimental, or true experimental design that can demonstrate a functional relationship between an independent and dependent variable. These designs are explained in your research courses. A student works closely with the Major Professor of the supervisory committee to identify research questions, design and implement research, then reports regularly to the Major Professor on status of data collected. Examples of proposed and finished theses can be found in our Thesis Library at

In contrast, a creative project involves a survey, one-group pretest and posttest, review of previously collected data, or qualitative study.  These types of research are explained in your research courses.  A student works with the Major Professor on an agreed-upon research question and reports to the Major Professor periodically on the status of data collected.  Examples of proposed and finished creative projects can be found in our Creative Project Library at

          (b) Expectations for each program.

Each masters concentration area has requirements of students regarding theses/projects:


Concentration Requirement Examples of Titles
Administrative and Supervisory Credential Creative Project Perceptions of elementary school principals of inclusive education involvement for students with disabilities
Board Certified Behavior Analysis Thesis Peer-implemented script fading to teach play-based verbal initiations in children with autism
Special Education Thesis or Creative Project Discuss with Major Professor Using computer-assisted instruction to teach narrative writing skills to students with disabilities
Transition Thesis or Creative Project Discuss with Major Professor  Examining barriers and facilitators of community based vocational instruction for students with moderate to significant disabilities     

(c) Future academic work.

Theses and creative projects are distinguished on the basis of career plans of students. A thesis leads to a Master of Science (M.S.) degree while a creative project leads to a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree. Those considering future academic work, especially a Ph.D., are advised to conduct a thesis to gain research experience. Those planning on a career as an educator with no likelihood of future academic work are advised to conduct a creative project.

Question: What is the length of a finished thesis or project?

Answer: Finished theses and projects vary in length depending on scope and specificity. The median length of recently completed theses was 40 pages, excluding appendices. The median length of recently completed creative projects was 35 pages, excluding appendices. Both theses and creative projects require implementation of research, collection of data, and data analysis. 

Question: How many credits are involved for the thesis/project and when do I register?

Answer: Master of Education (MEd) and Master of Science (MS) students are required to take 6 thesis/creative project credits. Students register for these credits at the end of their program and with the approval of their Major Professor. 


Question: How/how much/when do I contact my Major Professor/Advisor?

Answer: It is a good idea to contact your Major Professor before the end of your first year of courses.  To identify your Major Professor/Advisor, contact GPC. There are at least two reasons to contact your Major Professor at this point:

  1. Because it is time to plan your thesis or creative project, your Major Professor may have recommendations for areas of research to review.
  2. Your Major Professor will recommend two additional faculty to serve on your supervisory committee.

Major Professors have different expectations for communication. Most prefer to use email, but beyond that there are different preferences for how frequently you should keep in touch. Ask your Major Professor to assist in determining communications.

Question: Who selects the faculty members for my Supervisory Committee?

Answer: Usually the members of a students supervisory committee are selected by the department but students may request that certain faculty members serve on their committee.

Question: What is important about the Program of Study?

Answer: The Program of Study informs the School of Graduate Studies regarding courses you are taking and when you will be taking them. It will also give them an estimation of when you will be graduating. The Administrative Assistant/GPC will contact you when it is time to submit your program of study.