Online Master’s in Special Education Programs

You can make a difference in a special education classroom. Earn your online master's in special education and help your students achieve success.
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Special education professionals help students with disabilities learn, grow, and achieve success. These professionals can specialize in specific areas such as visual impairment, autism, multiple disabilities, or gifted and talented education. Special education teachers work in K-12 settings, hospitals, residential facilities, or students' homes.

A master's degree can help current teachers move into special education or provide a pathway for non-teachers to achieve initial licensure.

This guide compares five popular special education master's degrees and answers common questions about what these programs can do for you and your career.

Benefits of Earning a Master's in Special Education

  • Badge Check
    Increase your earning potential in the special education field.
  • Badge Check
    Gain insight into different learning disabilities.
  • Badge Check
    Learn how to customize lesson plans to maximize kids' success.
  • Badge Check
    Make a difference in the lives of special education students.

Featured Master's Degrees in Special Education Online

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Popular Master's in Special Education Online Programs

We chose to highlight the following schools based on several factors, including top position in organic or paid search results (as of September 2023), relevancy of program offerings, and categorization as a nonprofit. These programs are listed alphabetically by school and not weighed against each other in our methodology.

Popular Master's in Special Education Online Programs
School Degree Offered Cost per Credit Required Credits Months to Complete GRE Required Leads to Initial Teacher License Leads to Endorsement or Other License
Ohio University M.Ed. $508 (in-state)
$527 (out-of-state)
30-71 12-24 No Yes Yes
Southern New Hampshire University M.Ed. $637 36 15 No No No
Texas A&M University M.Ed., MS $1,070 (in-state)
$1,600 (out-of-state)
36 24 No No No
University of Cincinnati M.Ed. $662 (in-state)
$677 (out-of-state)
30 12 Optional No Yes
Western Governors University MA $3,975 /term N/A 21 No Yes Yes

Ohio University

  • Public university in Ohio
  • M.Ed. in Special Education
  • 30-71 credits | $508-527 /credit

Ohio University's M.Ed. includes three tracks and can lead to licensure as an intervention specialist. Tracks include early childhood intervention specialist, intervention specialist for K-12, moderate-to-intensive educational needs specialist, and intervention specialist for K-12 with mild-to-moderate educational needs. Applicants do not need to hold teacher licensure.

Visit Ohio's Program Page . External link

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

  • Private, nonprofit university in New Hampshire
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: Special Education
  • 36 credits | $637 /credit

SNHU's special education degree prepares teachers to meet students' instructional and transitional needs in K-12 settings. Courses include assessment of student performance, expressive language-skill and writing, and executive function and study skills. All courses are asynchronous and available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Visit SNHU's Program Page . External link

Texas A&M University (TAMU)

  • Public university in Texas
  • M.Ed. or MS in Special Education
  • 36 credits | $1,070-1,600 /credit

Texas A&M's degree in special education prepares graduates to work with diverse populations in clinical and educational settings. In addition to the standard curriculum, students can add a certificate in behavior analysis. Applicants should hold considerable work experience both with persons with disabilities and linguistically and culturally diverse groups.

Visit TAMU's Program Page . External link

University of Cincinnati (UC)

  • Public university in Ohio
  • M.Ed. in Special Education
  • 30 credits | $662-677 /credit

UC's special education degree offers three tracks: licensure with option of reading endorsement, supporting students with complex needs, and transition to work endorsement and special education leadership. Students take 12 credits of special education courses and 18 credits in their concentration track.

Visit UC's Program Page . External link

Western Governors University (WGU)

  • Private, nonprofit university in Utah
  • MA in Teaching: Special Education
  • Competency-based | $3,975 /term

WGU's online master's degree prepares graduates to become licensed special education teachers in their state. This 26-course program emphasizes content mastery in special education and effective teaching practices. The program includes a pre-clinical experience course, supervised teaching experiences, and a professional portfolio. Courses are available anytime and from any location with internet access.

Visit WGU's Program Page . External link

What Is a Master's in Special Education?

A master's in special education is a graduate degree that equips graduates to provide instruction and assessment in common educational settings. Students learn tools and techniques to assess special needs students, instructional methods for students with disabilities, and technologies for assistive learning.

Special education degrees vary according to what they emphasize, whom they serve, and how their programs are structured. Common degree types associated with special education programs include:

Common Courses in Online Master's in Special Education Programs

  • Designing Elementary Instruction for Learners with Mild to Moderate Exceptionalities
  • Executive Function and Study Skills
  • Multicultural and Bilingual Special Education
  • Assessment in School Settings
  • Universal Design for Learning
  • Promoting Positive Behavior
  • Special Education Practices: Professional, Ethical and Legal Guidelines
  • Math Instruction for Students with Mild/Moderate Exceptionalities

How long does an online master's in special education take?

A master's in special education typically requires 30-36 credits and takes 1-2 years to complete. Students in accelerated programs and full-time learners may complete their programs more quickly.

Schools that require classroom-based teaching assessments may call for a longer time in the program to complete this requirement.

How much does an online master's in special education cost?

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the average graduate program charges $19,749 in annual tuition. This equation included all majors, schools, and program lengths.

Online master's in education programs cost an average of $8,155 per year in tuition and fees. In-state public institutions typically charge the lowest followed by out-of-state public schools and private institutions.

Do Online Master's Degrees in Special Education Lead to Licensure?

Teachers often start their careers with initial teaching licensure, allowing them to teach in the public school system.

With their initial licensure, teachers can add on endorsements or certifications in other areas. For example, a teacher may gain initial licensure as an elementary instructor and then add an endorsement in special education.

Some master's programs prepare graduates for initial licensure while others equip current teachers with the qualifications to add on a special education endorsement.

Licensure Tracks of Popular Master's in Special Education Online Programs

  • Initial Licensure
  • Early Childhood Intervention Specialist
  • Intervention Specialist for K-12, Mild-to-Moderate (MM) Educational Needs
  • Intervention Specialist for K-12, Moderate-to-Intensive (MI) Educational Needs
  • Mild/Moderate Intervention Specialist License and Optional Reading Endorsement
  • Initial Licensure
  • Special Education

Does Accreditation Matter for Online Special Education Master's Programs?

In the U.S., accreditation is a private process schools go through to provide evidence that they meet quality standards. Accreditation can be institutional or programmatic. Institutional accreditation means the accreditor has reviewed the entire institution and seen it meets quality standards. This kind of accreditation is essential for federal financial aid eligibility.

Programmatic accreditation means the accreditor has reviewed only specific programs. For education programs and departments, this kind of accreditation is not essential, but it can provide an additional marker of quality.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) are the main accreditors for special education master's programs.

Accreditation of Popular Online Master's in Special Education Programs
School Institutional Accreditation Programmatic Accreditation
Ohio Higher Learning Commission CAEP
SNHU New England Commission of Higher Education CAEP
TAMU Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges none
UC Higher Learning Commission CAEP
WGU Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities CAEP, AAQEP

What Are the Admission Requirements for a Master's Program in Special Education?

When applying to any college program, you have to meet the minimum requirements to be considered for admission.

For a master's in special education program, most schools require that you hold a bachelor's degree with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 or 3.0. Official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose are common application materials.

Additionally, some schools may require or prefer that you hold a valid teaching license, have experience working with people with disabilities, or submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores.

"When I was young, my mother started and ran a school for students with learning disabilities in South Florida, where I grew up. I spent many years working with special education students at her school and learning about best practices for helping students with special education needs. I emphasized this experience in my application, along with my true passion for working with and helping special education students."

Dr. Emily Levy, founder and director of EBL Coaching

What Can I Do With a Master's in Special Education?

A master's degree in special education can open the door to more opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is not projected to change over the next decade for special education teachers, who earned a median salary of $67,190 in 2023.

In addition to working as a teacher, a special education master's degree can lead to working as a tutor, education consultant, curriculum adaptation specialist, or finding a job in a clinical setting.

"Receiving my master's degree in special education — and later my doctorate degree in education — has absolutely advanced my career. I started out personally tutoring special education students myself, including students with dyslexia, other learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and executive functioning challenges, and eventually expanded to bring on other special education teachers to help more students."

Dr. Emily Levy, founder and director of EBL Coaching

Average Annual Wage by Degree Type

MA in Special Education


Source: Payscale

M.Ed. in Special Education


Source: Payscale

MS in Special Education


Source: Payscale

Why Should I Get a Master's in Special Education Online?

Online learning offers a chance to schedule school into your life instead of scheduling your life around school. The option appeals to busy professionals and active parents. It also allows people to get their degree sooner or take a bit longer to complete their courses.

Losing in-person contact with professors and classmates can have its drawbacks. But despite the sacrifices, students have found that meshing an online degree with life and career goals is worthwhile.

"Because of the time commitment involved in growing my business, it would have been very hard for me to commit to an in-person program. For me, an online master's program was absolutely the right choice. It allowed me to both grow my [special needs education] business and add to my credentials at the same time."

Dr. Emily Levy, founder and director of EBL Coaching

Is a Master's in Special Education Worth It?

A master's degree in special education requires a sacrifice of time, effort, and finances. While it can lead to increased job prospects and earning potential, that's not always guaranteed. Here are three students who pursued this degree online and felt it was a solid investment.

"I believe it is [worth it]. There are so many areas of special education you can operate in. We have a lot of students who need services that only special education can offer. A master's will afford you the opportunity to be employed as a valuable employee, and most people with a master's are in desperate need in the school system."

Antonia Gray, middle school paraprofessional

"I was divorced and I had two teenagers, so I wanted to have something where I could be available for them. There's such a high demand. With my degree, I could get a job anywhere in special education."

Terry Grady

"It is absolutely worth it! It not only brings you more respect, but it opens additional job opportunities, including those with higher salaries, and sets you on a path to success within the field of special education."

Dr. Emily Levy, founder and director of EBL Coaching

Page last reviewed October 17, 2023. The programs highlighted on this page were preselected by the BestColleges Team. The review of this content by Samantha Fecich, Ph.D., does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the aforementioned programs. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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