Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate

The Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate offers a specialized program of study for professionals seeking to gain competence in providing meaningful support for children, youth and adults on the autism spectrum from all walks of life. Through participation in coursework and relevant field experiences, candidates will acquire applied knowledge of contemporary theory, research and emergent issues to guide them in their respective professions across settings. Emphasis is on advancing humanistic, inclusive and neurodiversity affirming practices that are grounded in the values, preferences and lived experiences of autistic people. The certificate is designed for graduate students or post-graduate professionals representing diverse disciplines, including educators, therapists, advocates, self-advocates, family members, and others from a variety of fields and backgrounds.

Plan of Study and Requirements

The Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate program offers a comprehensive plan of study comprising specialized courses that are linked to highly relevant field experiences and portfolio documentation for demonstrating professional competencies in autism spectrum related knowledge and skills.

Core Autism Spectrum Courses (12 units)

    SPED 791 Nature of Autism Spectrum (3 units) - Fall & Spring semesters
    SPED 825 Communication, Behavior and Instructional Supports: Autism (3 units) - Fall & Spring semesters
    SPED 794 Socialization and Imagination: Autism (3 units) - Spring semester
    Note: SPED 791 or 825 is a prerequisite for SPED 794
    Elective (graduate-level seminar with faculty approval) (3 units)

*See SF State Bulletin for course descriptions (Go to the SF State Bulletin)

Field Experiences (100 hours)

Field experiences explicitly support opportunities to apply theoretical constructs, conduct and interpret assessments, and design and implement curriculum, instruction and intervention practices with diverse learners on the autism spectrum in a variety of educational and therapeutic contexts.

Field experiences are closely aligned with each of the four Autism Spectrum certificate courses.. While participating in the program, candidates conduct a total of 100 hours of field experience (averaging 25 hours per course).

The majority of field experiences may be carried out in a respective school, clinic or program site where a candidate is working or has access to engaging with learners on the autism spectrum. Candidates who are not working with this population, or otherwise do not have access to learners on the autism spectrum, will be supported by faculty to identify appropriate settings among our partner school, clinical and community field sites.

While conducting field experiences, candidates will be offered guidance from highly knowledgeable and experienced faculty and field site mentors.

Portfolio Documentation

Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate candidates are required to develop a Portfolio over the course of their studies. The Portfolio is designed as a repository for documents and artifacts that demonstrate the evolution of professional competencies (knowledge and skill) acquired through course participation and field experiences. Candidates are encouraged to be creative in developing and personalizing Portfolios as a reflection of their unique professional experiences. Portfolios shared with prospective employers may ultimately give graduates an edge in finding meaningful work in the area of autism (View an excellent example of a fully developed Portfolio)

Candidates have the option of developing either a PDF version of the Portfolio or an ePortfolio using any accessible online platform - for example, Google Docs, Padlet or Portfolium (View Portfolium starter guide), Portfolio contents include course documentation, field experience documentation and evaluations (View Portfolio Contents).*

*Note: The Portfolio Contents requests assignments required in courses prior to the move to online instruction due to the pandemic (beginning Spring 2020). If an assignment listed was not required, students may substitute this with any relevant assignment completed in the respective autism course.

Applying for Admission

Prospective Students

New applicants are required to submit applications to both the University and the Department of Special Education. For more information, go to (link sends e-mail).

Currently Enrolled Graduate Students

Students currently enrolled in any graduate degree program in special education, SLHS or a related field at SFSU must submit the Certificate Admissions Application (open the Application form) to the Department of Special Education (link sends e-mail) (Note that continuing students in the Department of Special Education and SLHS are not required to submit a statement of purpose, transcript or resume). The Department will then forward the application for signatures and further processing. 

Exiting the Program

Portfolio Submission and Review

Completed Portfolios are due by the end of November (Fall semester) or end of April (Spring semester) in order to file for the Award of the Certificate (see below) in the same semester. To submit the Portfolio, email a link or PDF to (link sends e-mail)

Portfolios will be reviewed in the order that they are received by the due date of a given semester. Portfolios received after the due date will be reviewed at the start of the subsequent semester. Candidates will be notified and receive the Final Evaluation Report when Portfolio reviews are complete in advance of the filing deadline.

Filing for the Award of the Certificate

Upon successful completion of the Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate requirements (following Portfolio review) candidates obtain and complete a Certificate Approved Program (CAP) form (open the CAP form). Candidates may only submit the CAP the semester they graduate with their master’s degree (this does not apply to students who possess a master’s degree). The CAP must be turned in by the last week of classes (before finals week) in order to be processed in the same semester.

To obtain signatures, candidates will need to email (1) Completed CAP form; (2) Proof of Payment; and (3) Unofficial Transcript to Dr. Pamela Wolfberg (link sends e-mail). The signed form will then be forwarded for further processing and the certificate will subsequently be sent directly to the graduate by mail. Please note that the certificate may arrive separately from the graduate degree at a later date.

For PDF files, you'll need Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or above to view it. If you need Adobe Acrobat Reader it's available free from Adobe.