Access to Integrated Employment for Students with Severe Disabilities

Master's Degree Program at the University of Illinois

Project ACCESS is a 2-year, full-time, on-campus program designed for graduate students wishing to obtain a master’s degree in special education or rehabilitation counseling. The special education program leads to initial teacher licensure as a Learning and Behavioral Specialist I. The rehabilitation counseling program leads to Professional Counselor Licensure and Rehabilitation Counseling Certification.

Graduate students who participate in ACCESS complete the core master’s degree program within their chosen discipline (special education or rehabilitation counseling). In addition, graduate students from both programs engage in a series of activities that emphasize a specialized, interdisciplinary focus to preparing students with severe disabilities to transition from school to competitive integrated employment. Graduate students complete the following activities together:

  • Coursework and Seminars – Scholars will obtain specialized knowledge about secondary curriculum, transition, competitive integrated employment, and interagency collaboration through required and elective courses, and ACCESS seminars.
  • Traineeships – Professional service activities involving research, teaching, and fieldwork will provide hands-on learning experiences that lead to greater understanding about students with severe disabilities, school and community agencies, and preparing youth for competitive integrated employment. Scholars from special education and rehabilitation counseling will be paired when possible to allow for cross-discipline collaboration.
  • Chicago Externship – Scholars will participate in a 2-day externship in Chicago to learn about preparing culturally diverse students with severe disabilities for employment in urban settings.
  • Summer Institute – Each summer we will host a 2-day summer institute that will focus on evidence-based practices, current research, educational policy, and core issues central to preparing students with severe disabilities for competitive integrated employment.
  • Internship/Student Teaching – During the last semester of the program one scholar from rehabilitation counseling and one scholar from special education will be paired at the same school to complete their internship (rehabilitation counseling) or student teaching (special education). 
  • Induction Program – An induction program will be instituted for program graduates that provides opportunities for ongoing networking, training, and mentoring.


This program is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Project ACCESS provides program participants with:

  • Tuition waiver for all semesters except the first summer semester
  • Fee waiver of most university fees
  • Paid 9-month traineeship in year one and 11-month traineeship in year two
  • Stipend for participation in the two-day Chicago Externship

Participants must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify for funding and sign a service agreement indicating that they will work in their field for two years for every year of funding received.

Application Process 

Applicants should submit an online application to the program of their choice (i.e., special education, rehabilitation counseling) via the Graduate College website:

All applicants will be considered for funding.

For More Information Please Contact:
Stacy K. Dymond, Professor, Department of Special Education, at 
John Kosciulek, Professor, Department of Kinesiology & Community Health, at

Women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.


Apply Here