Best Online Master’s in Special Education Programs

Special education (SpEd) is a field dedicated to teaching and providing supportive services for students with physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disabilities. At most public elementary and secondary schools, these teachers instruct special-needs students in dedicated classrooms.

BLS data indicates that 51% of special education employees hold a master’s degree, while only 33% have only a bachelor’s.

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Many students require full-time special education support, while others will spend most of their time in a standard classroom and then receive supplemental SpEd instruction for one or two periods per day. In addition to class instruction, SpEd teachers must prepare independent education profiles for each student they teach and regularly work with them to overcome various educational obstacles related to their disability. SpEd teachers also meet regularly with the parents of their students to discuss academic progress, behavioral problems, and other important issues. In some cases, special education teachers may also work with exceptionally gifted students.

In the United States, special education teachers at public schools are required to earn a state-issued teaching license; many private schools also require licensure, as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor’s degree is generally considered the minimum requirement for jobs in special education. However, most prospective SpEd teachers go on to earn a master’s degree in special education. Some pursue a master’s that is specifically dedicated to special education studies, while others follow a degree track in elementary or secondary education with a specialization in special education.

Many of today’s students choose to earn their master’s degree in special education online, rather than on-campus. The flexible format inherent in online learning is especially convenient for students who must balance their schoolwork with other commitments, such as childcare or a full-time job. Below, you can learn more about online master’s degrees in special education and the career opportunities available to graduates in the field.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

Students trained in special education are prepared to teach, provide therapy, and develop programs for students with special needs. Intensive graduate-level courses introduce students to curriculum design, assessment and communication techniques, and classroom management strategies for students with learning and behavioral disabilities. Many programs emphasize teaching strategies for students with specific disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, ADD/ADHD, and mental retardation. Special education master’s programs also include onsite practicum components, allowing students to receive supervised training from established SpEd teachers in real-world classrooms.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN SPECIAL EDUCATION WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online master’s programs in special education are designed to work around the student’s schedule. Most curricula follow an asynchronous timetable, allowing students to complete course requirements on their own time from the comfort of their home. Current technology also allows them to study away from their desk using a laptop, tablet, smartphone or other device with Wi-Fi accessibility. For added convenience, online students are usually able to coordinate practicum courses at local schools near their current residence.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER’S IN SPECIAL EDUCATION?

A master’s degree in special education will qualify graduates for most entry-level SpEd teaching positions, although candidates for public school jobs will also need to obtain a teaching license in the state where they plan to work. In addition to teacher training, the best online special education master’s degree programs also prepare students for their state’s licensure exam and other certification requirements.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S IN SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS?

Finding the right program is difficult, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master’s in special education programs in the United States. If you are considering obtaining master’s in special education, and are interested in studying online, be sure to take a look at these top programs.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 University of Florida 87.62 3/5 53% Gainesville, FL

Located in Gainesville, FL, the University of Florida offers two online special education master’s degrees, Teach Well and Live Well. The Teach Well Online Education master’s degree is a 36-credit advanced program designed for individuals with or without a background in education. In this inclusion-focused program, students can choose from a general track or a specialization in autism, disabilities in society, early childhood studies, or education and healthcare transition. Live Well is a 30-credit degree that focuses on the policies and legislation surrounding disabilities and is designed for professionals who wish to connect their gained knowledge to a career outside of teaching. Live Well graduates and those who specialize in disabilities in society are eligible to receive a graduate certificate in Disabilities in Society in addition to a master’s degree.

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2 George Washington University 73.72 4/5 15% Washington, DC

George Washington University’s Master’s in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners provides advanced training for current teachers who want to dive even deeper into improving the education of individuals with special needs. Graduates are eligible to receive a K–12 teaching certification as well as an 18-credit graduate certificate. The 33-credit online master's program in special education incorporates a theory-to-practice approach and a teaching internship, while focusing on the diverse cultural, linguistic, social, and learning needs of elementary and secondary students. With the goal of staying current with the latest instructional techniques and cutting-edge research methods, this program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and can be finished in just 18 months.

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3 Texas A & M University-College Station 66.16 3/5 5% College Station, TX

Texas A & M University at College Station offers a flexible online master’s in special education that can be completed in two years. Designed for current general and special educators, counselors, clinicians, and therapists, this 36-credit online program includes a final research project. However, the university also offers a Master of Science in Special Education for those interested in a thesis option. Texas A & M University partnered with the Quality Matters Program, a peer-review based leader in online quality assurance to create a program with high-tech virtual classroom learning environments. Professors have expertise in autism, behavior disorders, and severe disabilities. Students interested in autism and other challenging behaviors can pursue an 18-credit graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis as well.

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4 George Mason University 61.01 3/5 20% Fairfax, VA

The 30-credit online master’s in special education at George Mason University, located in Fairfax, VA, can be completed in 18 months. Admission into this program requires prospective students to enroll in the 18-credit applied behavior analysis graduate certificate program. Students can also pursue a 42-credit option that includes a 12-credit internship and enables graduates to sit for the behavior analyst certification examination. Students who secure an appropriate classroom setting to work in can do supervised independent fieldwork in place of the internship. Based on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board guidelines, this program’s coursework focuses on the design and implementation of behavioral treatment and training programs with the goal of improving and supporting the overall quality of life of individuals with special needs and disabilities.

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5 University of South Florida-Main Campus 60.13 3/5 44% Tampa, FL

The University of South Florida offers a 36-credit special education master's program online designed for those who have a background in education, special education, or a related field. Students can specialize in behavior disorders, learning disabilities, or intellectual disabilities. Within each specialization, they can work toward receiving endorsements in autism, severe and profound disabilities, gifted education, or reading, as well as take elective classes in applied behavior analysis, mental health, or counseling. Students enrolled in this exceptional program utilize a master's portfolio system to demonstrate their learned expertise, which serves as a final comprehensive exam.

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6 Michigan State University 58.56 3/5 18% East Lansing, MI

Michigan State University offers an online master’s degree in special education with optional endorsements in learning disabilities (LD) or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Both endorsements prepare graduates to work with individuals in K–12 school settings (pre-K for ASD). The 18–36-credit LD endorsement can be completed in 1–2 years, while the 31–36-credit ASD endorsement typically takes 1.5–3 years, depending on prospective students’ backgrounds, education, and previously earned endorsements. An optional graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis is available as well, but requires three additional courses. The program is heavily research, practice, and evidence based. Students learn how to assess behavior, provide social skills training, and work with assistive technology with the goal of creating inclusive settings for those with special needs.

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7 Nova Southeastern University 58.50 4/5 54% Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nova Southeastern University’s 36-credit online master’s programs in special education are designed for either certified teachers or individuals who work in a related field and want to become teachers or disability service providers. Students can customize their curriculum with coursework on autism, developmental and intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, emotional and behavior disorders, pre-K, or gifted studies. An additional certificate is available of those who wish to pursue Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or reading endorsements. In order to graduate, degree candidates must complete an applied professional experience project, in which students provide details about the process and evaluation of their research. Upon graduation, students are eligible to receive exceptional student education teacher certifications or licensure in Florida.

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8 Saint Joseph's University 55.94 4/5 27% Philadelphia, PA

Saint Joseph’s University offers a research-based 36-credit online Master of Science in Special Education. Designed for general educators who already possess a Level 1 certification in early childhood development, elementary education, or secondary education, students can focus on primary or secondary special education. Graduates of this online master's degree in special education are eligible to receive a Pennsylvania special education certification and become creative and intuitive educators who focus on student achievement. An optional response to intervention-based program can be taken in conjunction with an endorsement in autism spectrum disorders, which focuses on diagnosis, skills development, and behavioral modifications. Students can also pursue a Wilson reading certification; this is one of the only online training programs that offer this option.

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9 University of Nebraska-Lincoln 55.11 3/5 28% Lincoln, NE

The University of Nebraska online master's in special education is a 36-credit degree with a specialization in early childhood special education (birth through 5 years old). Optional endorsements include early childhood special education, preschool disabilities, and early intervention specialist. Those who wish to pursue the early interventionist endorsement must complete a minimum of 160 supervised hours with young children as part of a 7-week practicum. This program’s coursework covers a wide breadth of topics, including autism, behavior and emotional disorders, learning disabilities, transitions, and mild, moderate, and severe disabilities. Designed for teachers, specialists, and early interventionists who have previously earned 18 credits of early childhood special education credits, graduates are eligible to pursue a Nebraska Department of Education teaching endorsement in special education. Other programs, such as deaf and hard of hearing education and visual impairments (Pre-K–12), are also available online.

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10 Florida State University 55.11 3/5 27% Tallahassee, FL

Florida State University offers a 33-credit online master's degree in curriculum and instruction with a major in special education studies. Designed for both certified and noncertified teachers, students use their current classroom settings to conduct research, collect data, and develop and assess intervention programs. Based on guidelines provided by the Council for Exceptional Children, this advanced online special education master's program focuses on state standards and policies and can be completed in two years. In order to graduate, students must defend a portfolio. Upon completion of program, graduates are eligible to receive an endorsement in autism spectrum disorders or pre-K disabilities from the Florida Department of Education.

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11 University of Arkansas 52.87 3/5 29% Fayetteville, AR

Awarded a $32 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish a program that provides paid work experiences for teenagers with disabilities (PROMISE), the University of Arkansas offers an online special education master's program that prepares individuals to work with K–12 students with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, autism, and physical disabilities, as well as the gifted and talented. Students can opt to pursue graduate certificates in autism spectrum disorders or applied behavior analysis (approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board), all of which include field experience in public schools and supervised clinical opportunities. This 36-credit master's program typically takes two years to complete and has been recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

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12 Ball State University 51.96 3/5 39% Muncie, IN

Nationally recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children, Ball State University boasts a wide variety of options for a master of special education online degree, in which students can essentially design their own program of study. Students can focus on one of five specializations, including certificates in applied behavior analysis (approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board), autism, or response to interventions. Additionally, they can focus on earning a license to be a director of special education and exceptional needs or licensure in severe interventions--all of which are offered entirely online. Blended programs include licenses in deaf education and hearing impairment, early childhood special education, and mild interventions. Ball State also offers an accelerated track option, which enables students to complete their programs in fewer than 18 months.

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13 Texas Tech University 51.80 3/5 36% Lubbock, TX

Texas Tech University offers a master's in special education online in which students can choose from eight interesting specializations: applied behavior analysis, educational diagnostician, deaf and hard of hearing, autism, dual sensory impairment, generic special education, orientation and mobility, and visual impairment. Admission into the deaf education, educational diagnostician, and visual impairment programs require initial teaching licenses. Students can opt for a 30-credit program that includes a master's thesis or a 36-credit program with a comprehensive evaluation exam rather than a thesis. Developed with standards and guidelines from the Council for Exceptional Children, Texas Tech’s program utilizes Blackboard Learn 9.1 and Worldwide eLearning to support students.

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14 University of Missouri-Columbia 51.59 3/5 29% Columbia, MO

A member of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the Commission on Higher Learning of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the University of Missouri offers two special education master's programs online, both of which focus on early childhood education, with one specializing in autism. Both programs are designed for early childhood special education teachers, practitioners, early interventionists, and anyone interested in learning more about children with challenging behaviors. The 30-credit programs prepare graduates to work with and support young children from birth through 8 years old (birth through 5 years old for the autism specialization). Students who opt to focus on autism learn how to identify and understand characteristics from the entire spectrum, including high-functioning children and those with Asperger syndrome. In order to successfully complete this program, students must take a comprehensive exam (M-1).

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15 University of North Carolina at Charlotte 51.44 3/5 19% Charlotte, NC

Designed for experienced K–12 teachers who currently have a teaching license (minimum of a Standard Professional 1 or initial teaching license), the University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers an online master's in special education that emphasizes academically or intellectually gifted students. Graduates are eligible for a Standard Professional 2 teaching license upon completion of this 33-credit, academically rigorous master’s program. Featuring writing-intensive courses and no electives, students are required to complete field experience in public or private school classrooms as well as a graduate capstone research project. As part of its distance education endeavor, the university participates in the Southern Regional Education Board's electronic campus.

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16 University of Nebraska at Kearney 51.24 3/5 46% Kearney, NE

Intended for certified teachers, the University of Nebraska at Kearney offers three special education master's programs online, including general special education, an advanced practitioner program, and a gifted education degree. The 36-credit general education program is designed to help graduates pursue a K–6 or 7–12 certification in special education in Nebraska. Within the advanced practitioner program, students can specialize in behavior intervention, inclusive collaboration, assistive technology, or functional academic skills and independent living. Prospective students must hold a previously earned teacher certification in special education. Accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education, required coursework focuses on assistive technology, legal issues, teaching social skills, and a hands-on practicum.

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17 Indiana University-Bloomington 50.82 3/5 9% Bloomington, IN

A member of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Indiana University at Bloomington offers a 36-credit online master’s degree in special education which focuses on students with mild to moderate disabilities. The school also offers electives in the management of severely emotionally disturbed individuals and early support for at-risk children. Students can choose a complementary specialization in autism, behavior disorders, early childhood education, or instructional strategies. Coursework covers assistive technologies, transition across the lifespan, and classroom management. In order to graduate, students must complete a capstone research project or a master’s thesis and attend a culminating intensive study workshop in special education.

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18 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 50.49 3/5 19% Slippery Rock, PA

Slippery Rock University boasts multiple online special education master's programs, a few of which can be completed in just 12 months. Concentrations in grades 7–12 (intended to be the fifth year of study after the completion of an undergraduate degree) and birth through grade 8 are available, as well as an option for those interested in studying autism. Busy professionals with over five years of teaching experience can pursue the supervision program, which prepares graduates to receive a certificate and become leaders in school administration. Those who opt for the program in autism must either have an undergraduate degree in special education or previous experience with individuals with autism. All programs are aligned with the Council for Exceptional Children and the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation.

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19 University of North Dakota 49.82 3/5 34% Grand Forks, ND

The University of North Dakota offers a 32-credit online master’s degree in special education designed for both certified teachers and noncertified individuals. Focusing on mild to moderate disabilities, this Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation-accredited program offers several specializations, including autistic spectrum disorders, early childhood special education, emotional disturbance, general special education, gifted and talented, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and visual impairment, as well as a board certified behavior analyst option. Those who opt for the autism specialization will dive deep into a wide breadth of autism-related information about children, adolescents, and adults, while most of the other programs focus on children and adolescents. The school offers an additional option to pursue a special education strategist concentration, which covers intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, and learning disabilities.

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20 Liberty University 49.77 4/5 90% Lynchburg, VA

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Liberty University offers a 36-credit master of special education online program. With an emphasis on Christian principles and worldviews, this program prepares graduates to work in K–12 Christian, public, or private schools. In this program, a teaching practicum is not mandatory except for students pursuing the autism certification. Rather than a practicum, students can take an optional seminar in which they deeply examine case studies and discuss the current trends and issues in the field of education. Liberty University is the largest private, nonprofit online university in the United States and is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation.

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21 Emporia State University 49.41 3/5 42% Emporia, KS

Emporia State University’s Teacher’s College offers a 36-credit online master's program in special education designed for individuals who currently hold or are eligible to receive a teaching license. Within this master’s degree, students can choose between a high-incidence concentration and a gifted, talented, and creative concentration. The high-incidence program requires prospective students to apply, be accepted, and complete a master’s capstone project to graduate. Both options prepare students to receive endorsements in grades K–6 and grades 6–12 after passing the Kansas state licensure exams. As part of the master’s degree, students can also pursue a 12-credit graduate certificate in autistic spectrum disorders.

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22 West Chester University of Pennsylvania 48.90 4/5 8% West Chester, PA

West Chester University's 33-credit online master's in special education offers a unique concentration in assistive technologies. In addition to a master’s degree, students can pursue a certificate in universal design for learning and assistive technology, which prepares professionals, parents, and other community members to work with children who rely on adaptive technologies for learning. A certificate in autism is also offered. Designed for anyone with a bachelor’s degree, this research-heavy master’s of education program boasts a cohort model to encourage student collaboration, includes coursework on the integration of various assistive technologies, legal issues and communicative disorders, and is recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children.

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23 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 48.03 3/5 49% Jonesboro, AR

Arkansas State University offers a 36-credit online special education master's program with a K–12 instructional specialist concentration and a 30-credit program with an emphasis in gifted, talented, and creative education. The instructional specialist program prepares students to receive K–12 special education teacher licensure in Arkansas and can be completed in just 16 months. The gifted, talented, and creative program includes a 7-week capstone research project and can be finished in just a year and half. Accredited by the Council for Exceptional Children and the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation, these master’s programs require prospective students to secure a mentor for the duration of their studies. Admission requires written commitment from an administrator who will serve as a mentor.

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24 Morningside College 47.67 4/5 53% Sioux City, IA

One of the most affordable programs available, Morningside College’s online master's degree in special education is designed for K–12 special education teachers. The 37-credit master of arts in teaching degree requires a valid U.S. teaching license and is research-based. Students have the option to pursue an Instructional Strategist I endorsement, which focuses on elementary and secondary education, or an Instructional Strategist II endorsement, which concentrates on behavior disorders and learning and intellectual disabilities. In order to graduate, students must complete a teaching internship, which serves as their final capstone project. Prospective students must live in a NC-SARA state. Be sure to carefully check state admission requirements before applying.

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25 West Virginia University 47.20 3/5 16% Morgantown, WV

West Virginia offers an online master’s in special education. All courses are available online, and students are expected to participate in scheduled, live interactive lectures. Distance learners can pursue one of six concentrations as part of the program. Those include autism spectrum disorders, early childhood special education, gifted education, low vision/blindness, severe/multiple disabilities, multicatigorical special education. Applicants are welcome to apply at any time, and can begin classes in the fall, spring, or summer terms. Distance learners learn how to work with special education students from a variety of backgrounds, and they leave school with a thorough understanding of how to empathetically teach their students. The program meets the state of West Virginia’s standards for special education certification; students from other states should check with their state’s accreditation board to ensure that WVU’s offering is compatible with state requirements.

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Timeline
2 to 3 years
Program costs (when available)
$20,000 to $30,000 for full tuition
Concentrations
Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Early Childhood Education, Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Mild to Moderate Disabilities, Severe Disabilities, Gifted Students, Special Education Technology, Special Education Curriculum Technology, Special Education Curriculum and Instruction
Accreditation
National Commission for the Accreditation of Special Education Services (NCASES)
Additional Considerations
Many master’s degree programs include primary studies in elementary education, secondary education or another related field with a special education concentration or specialization.

Master vs Bachelor of Special Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), master’s degrees in special education are conferred to students in the U.S. at nearly double the rate that bachelor’s degrees are awarded in the same subject. However, a relatively low number of master’s recipients go on to earn a Ph.D. or doctoral degree in special education. Consequently, master’s degree-holders are much more common in special education positions than employees with other college degrees. The latest BLS data indicates that 51% of special education employees hold a master’s degree, while only 33% have a bachelor’s.

Special education teachers with a master’s degree also enjoy favorable employment rates. Georgetown University’s ‘From Hard Times to Better Times’ report notes that special education teachers with a bachelor’s degree and some professional experience have a 4.9% unemployment rate; that figure drops to 1.8% for experienced special education teachers with a master’s degree. In the table below, you can see how unemployment rates for master’s-holding SpEd teachers measure up against other education professionals.

Profession Unemployment Rate for
Experienced College Graduates
Unemployment Rate for
Experienced Graduate Degree-Holders
Special Needs Education 4.9% 1.8%
General Education 4.2% 2.9%
Elementary Education 3.7% 1.6%
Physical and Health Education Teaching 3.9% 2.7%
Miscellaneous Education 3.6% 2.3%

Source: From Hard Times to Better Times’ by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

As the table shows, experienced special needs educators with a graduate degree enjoy the second-lowest unemployment rate, behind elementary educators.

Earning a Living

In addition to job security and lower unemployment rates, SpEd professionals who obtain a master’s degree will likely earn higher salaries than their bachelor’s-holding counterparts. The BLS found that special education teachers with a master’s earn a median annual salary of $52,000 — roughly 24% more than special education teachers with a bachelor’s degree. The following table uses data from the latest PayScale College Salary Report to show the expected annual earnings for special education master’s- and bachelor’s-holders at two key career stages.

Degree Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
Bachelor’s in Special Education $35,000 $51,500
Health and Physical Education Teaching $44,500 $60,000
Master’s in Early Childhood Special Education $44,600 $55,100

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

As the table indicates, graduates with a master’s degree in special education or early childhood education outearned their colleagues with a bachelor’s by roughly 27% at the entry-level mark and 7% to 17% at mid-career. Keep in mind that salaries for individual SpEd teachers will vary by the type of institution where they are employed, their location, and experience. The next table examines salary expectations for special education teachers at different grade levels.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Special Education Teacher (Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary) $39,973 $43,926 $49,929 $54,788
Special Education Teacher (Middle School) $41,000 $46,000 $50,000 $62,000
Special Education Teacher (Secondary School) $41,173 $46,640 $51,098 $63,699

Source: PayScale

As the table indicates, starting salaries are comparable for special education teachers at all grade levels. However, the earnings for middle and secondary school SpEd teachers grow more than for elementary educators. Preschool, kindergarten, and elementary SpEd teachers can expect their salaries to rise by roughly 37% over the course of their careers, while the average middle or secondary school SpEd teacher will see their salary climb more than 50%.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with an online master’s in special education and earn a state-issued license will qualify for dozens of jobs at public and private institutions. Your eligibility for specific jobs will depend on several factors, including your state of residence and degree specialization. Below, we’ve reviewed four common career pathways for graduates for graduates in the field.

Special Education Teachers: Special education teachers specialize in instructing and assisting students with physical or cognitive disabilities, as well as those with behavioral disorders and mental health issues. Most special education teachers maintain a private classroom at their school for special needs students. A teaching license is required in all 50 states for special education teachers who work at public schools.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: Teachers in kindergarten and elementary school classrooms help students build core skills in areas like reading, writing, and mathematics. Special education teachers at the elementary level often evaluate their students based on these core skills, and help them progress in areas where improvement is needed.

Middle School Teachers: Most middle school teachers instruct students in the sixth, seventh, eighth grades; some middle schools include ninth grade as well. Lesson plans for middle schoolers are designed to build on core elementary knowledge and skills, while also preparing them for the more advanced curriculum of high school education. Middle school SpEd teachers often evaluate students to measure their placement and needs level when they reach high school.

High School Teachers: In addition to leading lessons in core education in subjects like English, history, mathematics and science, high school teachers help students prepare for adult life after graduation. High school SpEd teachers provide additional support for students who struggle with certain subjects, as well as those with severe disabilities who may need to consider non-college alternatives in order to reach post-graduation success.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Special Education Teachers $56,800 6% (28,100 jobs)
Kindergarten and Elementary Teachers $54,550 6% (87,800 jobs)
Middle School Teachers $55,860 6% (36,800 jobs)
High School Teachers $57,200 6% (55,900 jobs)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different educational approaches is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for special education professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • National Association of Special Education Teachers: According to NASET’s mission statement, the organization strives to “render all possible support and assistance to professionals who teach children with special needs.” The long list of member benefits includes discounts on continuing education courses, complimentary online journal subscriptions, free webinars, and a comprehensive list of local and national conferences targeted toward SpEd professionals.
  • Council for Exceptional Children: Founded in 1922, CEC is an international organization that provides “advocacy, standards and professional development” for professionals working with gifted young people. Students receive a 20% discount on membership fees, while professionals currently living in developing countries may become members for only $50.
  • Autism Society of America:Special education teachers make up some of the more than 120,000 members belonging to this Maryland-based nonprofit organization. The ASA’s website features a wealth of academic and scientific resources related to autism spectrum disorders, as well as information about current advocacy projects and upcoming events.
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about your financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Best Online Master's in Special Education Degrees of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
3 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
4 Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN
5 Ball State University Muncie, IN
6 University of Louisville Louisville, KY
7 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
8 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
9 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
10 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
11 Emporia State University Emporia, KS
12 University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, NE
13 University of Michigan - Dearborn Dearborn, MI
14 University of Missouri - Columbia Columbia, MO
15 Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA
16 The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
17 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV
18 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
19 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA
20 Washington State University Pullman, WA
21 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Slippery Rock, PA
22 Arizona State University - West Glendale, AZ
23 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
24 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE
25 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR