Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education Programs
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Special education focuses on students with special needs, such as developmental disabilities, behavioral or emotional disorders, reading disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and physical disabilities. A master's in special education prepares graduates for work beyond what a bachelor's degree typically requires. These advanced opportunities include administration, curriculum development, government, and leadership roles in special needs residential facilities.
A master's degree typically takes two years to complete. Individuals who lack specific core courses might need extra classes to satisfy their programs' curricular requirements. Some online schools offer accelerated schedules that allow students to graduate in less time.
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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for special education teachers will grow 8% between 2020-2030. The demand for master's graduates exists in states that require an advanced degree to get a teaching license in special education.According to the BLS, special education teachers made a median of $61,500 in 2020, with educators in the 90th percentile earning $98,480.
How Much Does an Online Master's in Special Education Cost?
Students wanting an affordable online master's in special education might enroll in an accelerated online program, which can cost as low as $12,000. In contrast, tuition at private schools can cost over $700 per credit hour. Taking classes off-campus can help students save money that would normally go toward parking and on-campus housing.
Although some online degrees offer affordability, students should not overlook all the expenses for any graduate diploma. These costs include books and supplies and fees for student services. Also, an online program might charge extra technology fees that on-campus students typically do not have to pay.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Special Education Program?
Individuals interested in an online master's in special education should possess strong communication skills for interacting with diverse students. They also need resourcefulness and patience to adapt traditional teaching methods to accommodate learners with different abilities.
Most master's in special education degrees take about two years to complete, and they require 30-40 credit hours. Students with a bachelor's degree in another field might need to enroll in additional classes to meet core requirements. Students wanting to take less than two years can enroll in accelerated online programs.
Students can choose concentrations in elementary or secondary education, gifted, or special education technology. Depending on the program, they might specialize in curriculum development, applied behavior analysis, severe developmental disabilities, or trauma-informed education and intervention.
Some programs offering an online master's in special education require a practicum or internship that gives students real-world experience. Graduates who plan to teach need to obtain a teaching license and accumulate a number of student teaching hours.
Students' career objectives might influence which track they pursue in graduate school. For example, individuals seeking a master of science (MS) typically want to work in educational settings, possibly occupying administrative roles. Master of arts (MA) students possess more interest in scholarship and theory, typically preparing for academic work after graduation.
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Popular 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?
Applied Behavior Analysis
This class exposes students to basic principles, behavioral techniques, and research methods about teaching special education among diverse settings and learners. Students also learn about professional ethics, positive intervention methods, and ways to access support systems.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Courses on autism spectrum disorders typically cover evaluation and assessment methods. They also address intervention approaches that reflect cultural sensitivity and family-centeredness. Students learn the criteria that professionals use to diagnose conditions on the spectrum.
Students learn quantitative methods that behavioral and social scientists typically use. In particular, this course covers descriptive and inferential statistics, sampling procedures, data collection, and interpretation of data analyses.
Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities
Students learn how to identify dyslexia and various reading disabilities. This class also exposes learners to teaching strategies and methods that help children and adults who find reading challenging.
Research Methods in Special Education
Students learn about quantitative and qualitative methods that scholars implement in special education research. More specifically, learners get exposure to the scholarly contributions of this field and the limitations of its methods of inquiry.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Special Education Program?
Most programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in education or related fields. Individuals with psychology or education degrees other than special education might need to take additional courses to meet curricular requirements.
Many graduate programs request GPAs and scores from entrance exams like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Even if a program does not require it, students with low GPAs might consider submitting their high GRE scores.
The application form and fee represent standard components of the graduate school admissions process. Most schools use an online application platform, such as the Common Application (CommonApp), which streamlines the process for students and admissions officials. Individuals can use the online form to send their applications to many schools.
Entrance exams like the GRE partially capture a prospective student's preparedness for and ability to succeed in graduate school. A high GRE score might make up for a relatively low GPA on a graduate school application. Students should allow enough time between taking their exams and submitting their scores before application deadlines.
Letters of Recommendation
Programs offering a master's in special education typically request up to three letters of recommendation. These documents should speak to an applicant's accomplishments, work ethic, and ability to succeed in an academic environment. Letters can come from former professors, employers, and mentors who can write extensively about a student's strengths.
Resume and Work Experience
Some programs offering an online master's in special education require prior work experience. An effective resume includes clear bullet points and action verbs describing accomplishments and outcomes. Regardless of whether schools ask for it, students should consider submitting a resume or curriculum vitae on a graduate school application.
Graduate school applicants should expect to submit an application essay that outlines their academic achievements and career objectives. This essay, sometimes called a personal statement, should include a strong introduction, body, and conclusion. It should also clearly respond to the prompt or question it addresses.
Most graduate schools request official transcripts from accredited bachelor's programs. Applicants who lack some prerequisite courses might need to enroll in extra classes to fulfill their core requirements. Professionals transitioning into special education should determine if some of the credit hours on their transcripts can transfer to another school.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Special Education Degree?
The 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act entitles individuals with special needs to a quality education, which drives the demand for educators. School enrollments and requirements for special education services also impact the job outlook. The BLS projects that jobs for special education teachers will grow 8% between 2020-2030, on par with the growth rate for all occupations.
Annual salaries vary by location, employer, education, and previous work experience. According to the BLS, special education teachers earned a median wage of $61,500 in 2020, exceeding the median of $41,950 for all occupations in the same year.
Teaching reflects a common career path for graduates with a master's in special education. Educators typically work with administrators, parents, counselors, and other teachers. Graduates can also pursue jobs in education administration, curriculum development, and early intervention. Other careers exist in state and federal government, nonprofit agencies, and residential facilities.
An online master's in special education prepares graduates to help students achieve their potential.
Intervention specialists work in classroom settings with students with learning disabilities, emotional challenges, autism, cognitive disabilities, sensory impairments, and many other conditions. These professionals manage learners' academic, social, and emotional development. Licensing for these specialists typically falls into one of three categories: early childhood, mild to moderate for K-12, and moderate to intensive for K-12.
Median Annual Salary: $41,610
Director of Special Education
These directors typically oversee several special education programs in a district. Their primary responsibility rests in students' academic success and personal development. These professionals also manage staff hiring and training, allocate budgets, recommend changes to curricula, and establish and assess learning objectives.
Median Annual Salary: $73,080
Educational specialists provide input on curriculum development and recommend changes to improve learning outcomes. These professionals work to maximize the positive impacts of programs on student learning. They also collaborate with educators and program directors to ensure that activities and classes fit children according to age and ability.
Median Annual Salary: $50,980
Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers work with students from preschool through high school. These educators hold state-mandated licenses to work with children with physical, learning, developmental, or emotional disabilities. They adapt general education curricula to teach various subjects to children with special needs. These educators also teach essential life skills to learners with more severe disabilities.
Median Annual Salary: $61,500
Instructional coordinators develop educational material and oversee teaching standards and school curricula. They work with administrators and educators to ensure that lesson plans help students meet learning objectives. Other duties include observing teaching, discussing curricula with school staff, and analyzing student data. These professionals might also go by the title Curriculum Specialists.
Median Annual Salary: $66,970
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People who teach special education need a state-mandated license to work in the classroom. Each renewal of the license includes a specific number of continuing education credits. In addition to licensing, professionals can get an Autism Certificate (AC) or Board Certification in Special Education.
The master's in special education can provide a springboard to a more advanced degree like a doctorate in special education. Doing so can position graduates for high-level administrative jobs or postsecondary education jobs.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Special Education Program?
An affordable online master's in special education can serve as an alternative to an on-campus degree. Taking online courses typically means not paying for housing or parking. Some online programs also charge lower tuition or in-state rates for out-of-state students. However, online learners might pay extra for technology services like tech support.
Business professionals pursuing an online master's in special education can maintain full- or part-time course schedules, depending on their work or personal demands. Some online classes offer an asynchronous format, allowing learners to work through assignments and readings at their own pace. Individuals who prefer an interactive classroom experience might find synchronous courses more suitable.
Online programs expand educational opportunities for students who do not live close to a college or university. However, online learners might benefit from enrolling in a school close by if their master's in special education program requires them to attend on-campus meetings and seminars. Also, people who want the college campus experience might opt for a traditional school.
Students attending an accredited program can count on receiving an education that meets rigorous academic standards. Individuals seeking an online master's in special education at an unaccredited school typically cannot transfer their credit hours to another institution. They also will not likely get access to financial aid.
An affordable online master's in special education should come from programs that offer student services to supplement the college experience. These support offices help students find internship opportunities, job placement, writing assistance, and academic advising. Learners can also turn to student services for help building mentoring relationships.
How Do I Pay for an Online Master's in Special Education?
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Students who need help to pay for college should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form provides access to various sources of support, such as grants,
which borrowers do not have to pay back. The FAFSA also helps students gain access to loans and work-study opportunities.
Many students find it challenging to finance a master's in special education without student loans. Unlike grants, borrowers of loans must pay them back with interest. Some individuals find it best to seek loans when they cannot access other forms of financial assistance.
Unlike loans that students have to pay back with interest, grants provide free money. Applicants who might not have the grades to qualify for scholarships can use federal sources like the Pell Grant to obtain an affordable online master's in special education.
Federal work-study allows students who demonstrate financial need to receive funding that they do not have to pay back. Instead, they work jobs on or off campus, and their pay goes directly to their tuition balances or bank accounts.
Access to scholarships can influence where students choose to earn their postsecondary education. Applicants with the right academic qualifications can earn scholarships to fund their degrees or attend the school of their dreams.
Most Affordable Accredited Online Master's in Special Education Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Special Education Programs
Is a master's in special education worth it?
An online master's in special education can prepare graduates for a meaningful and rewarding career helping students with special needs. Educators who enjoy working with students from diverse backgrounds might also find this career path suitable. The ability to harness their creativity and knowledge of child development enables these professionals to make significant impacts on the lives of children with special needs. Also, earning a master's degree online can create a worthwhile experience given the flexible course schedules that many working students appreciate.
What can I do with a master's in special education?
A master's in special education enables professionals to help diverse students with special needs reach their potential and achieve their academic goals. Many graduates work in school settings and collaborate with administrators, counselors, and other teachers to deliver the best possible educational experience. A graduate degree can qualify individuals for leadership positions that often command higher salaries and career advancement. A master's can also allow a professional to pursue a doctorate in special education, enabling them to work in higher-level administration, academic research, or postsecondary education.
Are special education graduates in demand?
Regardless of ability or intellectual capacity, all students deserve a quality education. Schools throughout the United States demand special educators to meet these students' academic needs. The BLS projects about 37,600 new jobs for special education teachers between 2020-2030, an 8% growth. This increase in positions likely originates from growing school enrollments and better methods of identifying children who need special services. The demand for professionals in special education typically varies by location and district funding.
How much money can I make with a master's in special education?
Compared to a four-year degree, an online master's in special education can increase a person's earning potential and career opportunities. The BLS reports that special education teachers made a median salary of $61,500 in 2020, with educators in private schools earning slightly more teachers in private schools. Location and schools' public or private status can also affect annual salary.
What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in special education?
According to the BLS, special education teachers working in public schools earned a median of $62,010 in 2020, with the highest 10% making a median of $100,570 in the same year. Educators in public schools typically command higher pay than teachers in private institutions. Top earners in special education, who tend to acquire more work experience, can make more than $100,000 each year.
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