Best Online Master’s in Special Education Programs 2022
Updated August 9, 2022
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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 14% of all students were enrolled in special education programs in the 2018-19 academic year. Since 2011, the number of students in these programs has steadily increased.
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To prepare the next generation of special education teachers, many of the top online schools have introduced special education programs, including an online master's in special education. With this degree, you can pursue teaching, consulting, and supervisory roles within school and school boards.
Job projections for special education professionals look promising. Still, you should weigh the pros and cons of graduate school before committing. To help with that process, we examine the master's in special education and the different postgraduate paths available. We also rank the best programs in this discipline and highlight some additional factors to consider.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Special Education Program?
Master's in special education programs vary among schools. Typically, these programs entail 30-45 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. The training equips you with the skills and knowledge to work with special education students, practices, and programs.
Special education master's programs usually emphasize research and practical training. Students observe and model proper teaching methods and practices in active classrooms. They also develop their own teaching skills by leading classrooms under watchful supervision.
When preparing for graduate school, you should decide which type of degree you want. Options include the MA, MS, MS.Ed, and M.Ed.
The MS.Ed. and M.Ed. are primarily practitioner degrees, best suited for students aiming for instructional positions. Conversely, the research-based MA and MS degrees offer more interdisciplinary and academic opportunities for graduates.
Regardless of degree type, master's in special education students can usually specialize in a subject area of their choice. They might concentrate in a specific age group or student disability, such as high school or elementary school, or teaching children with vision impairments. Special education professionals may also need state-issued teaching licenses.
Best Accredited Online Master's in Special Education Programs
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Popular Online Online Master's in Special Education Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Special Education Program?
Assessment and Planning
This course teaches students to formally assess individuals with varying types and levels of disabilities. Course participants examine methods for curriculum and lesson planning based on the evaluations. Students in this course learn about differentiating, accommodating, and modifying instruction methods.
Students in this course learn how early intervention can help students with disabilities. They explore available resources, assessment strategies, and communication methods for the individual students and their families.
In this course, students learn to create curricula and lessons for students with disabilities. The class may cover content types, delivery formats, and teaching methodologies.
Students in this course learn to manage classrooms and individual learners. They may explore methods for developing behavior plans, techniques for deescalating disruptions, and supporting learners. Course participants learn about social and emotional support methods as well.
Teaching Language and Reading
In this course, students learn to approach language and reading lessons for students with diverse needs. The training examines methods of identifying individual student needs and modifying the curricula to better support these learners.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Special Education Program?
Admission requirements vary among graduate programs, but most require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Some online master's in special education programs may require applicants to have an education degree and an adequate GPA. A valid teaching license may also be required.
The sections below highlight the most common application components per our graduate admissions guide.
Every application looks a little different. Most include some combination of the items below. At the master's level, prospective students usually apply to schools and programs directly. College application systems like Common App can sometimes streamline the application process, though, so candidates should check to see whether these options are available.
Graduate applications have traditionally asked applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as the GRE or GMAT. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, many schools have waived these test requirements. Candidates who still need to submit test scores can follow our GRE prep guide for help.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation usually come from prospective students' current and former teachers and employers. These letters address candidates' academic and professional strengths and their most promising qualities and characteristics. Most applications require three references. Students should begin asking for letters of recommendation as early as they can.
Resume and Work Experience
Many schools require prospective students to submit a college application resume. This provides some insight into the applicant's professional activities during their studies. Some graduate programs require resumes to show a minimum amount of relevant work experience.
Prospective students may need to submit an essay along with their application. Essays may address the applicant's personal journey, their research and professional interests, or a specific question related to the discipline. Degree-seekers can find more details on this component in our guide for grad school essays.
Nearly every application includes official transcripts, which highlight the applicant's previous training and grades. These records can also help schools determine whether candidates have the appropriate prerequisites to enter the program. As per our college transfer guide, transcripts are also required to transfer credits among institutions.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Special Education Degree?
The growing number of students using special education programs and an increase in early interventions has created a demand for special education teachers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for these professionals to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030. This is on par with the national projected growth rate for all occupations.
With a master's in special education, you can pursue teaching credentials and positions in most schools below the college and university level. You can also take on leadership roles within schools and school boards, designing curricula and developing more inclusive policies and practices.
Uncover the professional possibilities of an online master's in special education. Learn more about special education careers.
There will most likely be an interlink here.
Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers lead classrooms of students with various disabilities. They provide student assessments and develop personalized lesson plans based on their findings. These teachers work with diverse groups of students who require specialized and attentive support.
Median Annual Salary: $61,500
Instructional coordinators develop curricula, lesson plans, and materials for student groups, schools, and school boards. These professionals also evaluate current programs and practices looking for improvements. Instructional coordinators may provide implementation training and assistance as well.
Median Annual Salary: $66,970
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
Principals manage the staff and operations in elementary, middle, and high schools. They help develop and implement curricula, oversee school budgets and progress, and run professional development programs. Principals also ensure their schools adhere to standards and policies set by their regions and school boards.
Median Annual Salary: $98,490
Postsecondary Education Administrators
Postsecondary education administrators handle various tasks in colleges and universities, Responsibilities include working with student services, the registrar's office, and admissions. These professionals may manage records, communications, and applications. As provosts or deans, these administrators develop policies and manage faculty research.
Median Annual Salary: $97,500
Childcare Center Directors
Childcare center directors manage their centers' staff and administrative duties. They take charge of implementing policies, handling budgets, and creating communications. Center directors must comply with local and industry regulations while integrating the proper support channels for staff and students.
Median Annual Salary: $49,160
Special Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Master's in special education graduates who want to continue their training can choose from several doctoral degree paths. Many pursue a doctorate in special education, a doctorate in education, or a doctorate in higher education. These programs lead to postsecondary teaching and research and development careers.
Graduates can also choose a more specialized degree, such as a doctorate in reading and literacy or a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. These designations can lead to teaching careers and education specialist positions.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Special Education Program?
The average graduate student paid $19,792 in tuition and fees for the 2019-20 school year, according to the NCES. To get the most accurate price estimate, prospective students should find the true program cost. This considers all program fees and lost income during the training. Learners might also compare online and on-campus program costs, public and private school prices, and in-state and out-of-state rates.
Online students may see two delivery format options: synchronous and asynchronous delivery. Distance learners can also choose between full-time and part-time course loads, depending on how flexible their schedules are.
After choosing between online and on-campus studies, students should consider their ideal location. On-campus students should live on or near their school's campus. Many online schools have on-campus requirements as well, so distance learners should take this into account.
As our college accreditation guide notes, prospective students should pay close attention to each school's accreditation status. Institutional accreditation can determine whether learners qualify for federal financial aid and certain employment opportunities. Applicants should also look for programmatic accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Student services, including online student services, can influence a learner's experience. Access to career services, academic support, and college mentors can foster student success. As our internships guide describes, work experience programs also play a big role in students' postgraduate opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Special Education ProgramsIs a master's in special education worth it? Yes. A master's in special education offers many benefits to graduates, including promising and flexible work and continuing education opportunities. Graduates can access both general and specialized teaching careers, along with doctoral programs. Many learners find great value in online degrees. Distance learning offers flexible schedules and a wider selection of schools and programs. Prospective students can find programs offering the training they want during the hours they are free.
What can I do with a master's in special education?With a master's in special education, graduates qualify for special education teaching roles in kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary schools. They can also take on school leadership roles like principal. Graduates may also work as curriculum and instructional coordinators. Master's graduates have the option to continue their training in a doctoral program. With a doctorate, graduates qualify for postsecondary teaching positions to train the next generation of special education teachers. They can also pursue research and development roles.
Are special education graduates in demand?Yes. The BLS projects an 8% growth in special education teacher occupations 2020-2030. Much of this demand results from earlier identification of disabilities and an increase in the number of special education programs. According to the NCES, the number of students in special education programs increased each year from 2011-2019. The BLS projects a 10% growth for instructional coordinators between 2020 and 2030. These professionals help design specialized curricula in special education programs.
How much money can I make with a master's in special education?A master's in special education can lead to various careers, each with its own earning potential. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for special education teachers is $61,500, nearly $20,000 more than the median annual salary for all occupations. The top 10% of earners in the field earn more than $100,570. Median annual wages vary by school type. As of May 2020, public elementary and secondary schools paid $62,010, whereas private elementary and secondary schools paid $56,680. Instructional coordinators earned a median annual salary of $66,970. The top 10% of earners among these professionals made more than $105,650.
What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in special education?The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a master's in special education depend on employer, location, and experience level. According to the BLS, principals tend to earn the highest wages, earning a median annual salary of $98,490 as of May 2020. The top 10% of earners among principals made over $152,500. In public schools, the median annual wage was $99,690. In private schools, it was $89,350.
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