An online master's in special education offers graduates rewarding employment opportunities helping learners with autism, individuals with behavior disorders, and other students with unique needs. K-12 schools need professionals who cater to the needs of special education students by applying differentiated instructional techniques and adhering to special needs policies.

This page can help aspiring special education instructors understand program requirements, common coursework, concentrations, and admission requirements. This page also highlights the top 10 universities and the best accredited programs for special education, as well as potential career paths and frequently asked questions.

What Are the Best Special Education Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:

  1. University of Florida - Gainesville, FL
  2. University of Washington - Seattle, WA
  3. North Carolina State University at Raleigh - Raleigh, NC
  4. Florida International University - Miami, FL
  5. George Washington University - Washington, DC
  6. Texas Tech University - Lubbock, TX
  7. Michigan State University - East Lansing, MI
  8. George Mason University - Fairfax, VA
  9. Purdue University - West Lafayette, IN
  10. Saint Joseph's University - Philadelphia, PA

Some master's in special education programs prepare professionals without teaching experience to earn an initial teaching license, while others help practicing general educators learn how to teach students of all learning abilities. Furthermore, special educators who possess an advanced degree often receive higher salaries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 3% increase in employment of special education teachers between 2018 and 2028. While schools often hire educators with a bachelor's degree, states may require candidates to hold a graduate degree to earn advanced certification.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students. Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read more about our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that's best for you.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Special Education Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 90%

UF's master's in special education program features five concentration options in areas such as autism focus and disabilities in society. Students in the latter concentration complete coursework in social perspectives on disability and disability policy. Alumni praise the rigorous curriculum for its alignment with 21st-century learners' needs.

Online graduate students can access academic advisors, the graduate handbook, and an in-depth guide on how to write a master's thesis. Also, students who need additional writing help can make a virtual appointment at the UF Writing Studio.

Applicants must currently work as a teacher and submit GRE scores. In-state students save approximately 20% on tuition compared to out-of-state learners. Online degree-seekers may also qualify for one of over a dozen institutional scholarship opportunities.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: General; autism focus; disabilities in society; dyslexia; early childhood studies
Tuition: $528/credit in-state; $631/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (352) 392-0726
Email: contact-tw@coe.ufl.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

2

University of Washington

Seattle, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

The online master's in special education program at UW combines coursework in applied behavioral analysis and special education. Graduation requirements include both a capstone project and a comprehensive master's examination. Additionally, graduates qualify to sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Exam.

UW provides incoming graduate students with informational guides on the advising process and how to use an advisor effectively. The College of Education's professional development resources also include both career preparation and writing consultations.

Prospective degree-seekers should possess experience working with individuals with disabilities. Other application requirements include a resume, a statement of purpose, and unofficial transcripts. The College of Education awards merit-based scholarships to incoming graduate students.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis
School Status: Public
Tuition: $18,501/year in-state; $33,363/year out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (206) 543-1847
Email: abainfo@uw.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

3

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

Raleigh, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 81%

NC State's master's in special education program features courses in resource room teaching, special education literacy, and methods and materials in learning disabilities. Degree-seekers can also participate in faculty research projects to gain hands-on experience. The program uses a hybrid format that requires students to visit campus.

The College of Education's Office of Graduate Student Support Services features a new student survival guide, support handbook, and library resources to help learners with academics and research. Online degree-seekers can also take advantage of optional study abroad opportunities.

Applicants must possess a teaching license and undergraduate transcripts that demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students with financial need can apply for the Suzanne Montague Ridgill Memorial Scholarship.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Tuition: $11,672/year in-state; $28,998/year out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1.5 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (919) 515-5514
Email: jhunt5@ncsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

4

Florida International University

Miami, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 58%

FIU's online master's in special education program offers specialized coursework in autism to practicing special education teachers. Courses include assistive and instructional technology and positive behavioral support. Additionally, the program qualifies graduates for a Florida teaching endorsement in autism, which transfers seamlessly to 47 states.

Valuable student services for online students at FIU include academic advising, tutoring, and Canvas IT support. Degree-seekers can also join the online Academy of Leaders to hone leadership and management skills.

Application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and an active teaching license in special education. All students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. FIU posts new scholarship opportunities throughout the year.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Special Education: Autism Endorsement
School Status: Public
Tuition: $18,300/total
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 1 year

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (305) 348-2158
Email: Jdipp@fiu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

5

George Washington University

Washington, DC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

The master's in special education program at GW prepares graduates to work with children with disabilities, as well as children learning English as a second language. Some of the program's 10 courses include second language instruction and development of children with disabilities. The curriculum also prepares graduates to pass the ESOL Praxis and SPED Praxis exams.

Incoming students benefit from numerous informational guides on how to register online, create a degree map, and many other topics. The graduate student handbook also contains detailed information on graduation requirements and academic procedures.

GW does not maintain an undergraduate GPA cutoff or require standardized test scores. Online learners save approximately 50% on tuition compared to on-campus students. GW also boasts dozens of endowed and institutional scholarships for graduate degree-seekers.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
School Status: Private
Tuition: $875/credit
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 1.5 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact

Phone: (202) 994-9283
Email: dgresham@gwu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

6

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

TTU's online master's in special education program boasts eight concentration options, one of which features a hybrid learning option. Students can complete the 350-hour internship requirement at their job site and may select from a thesis or nonthesis track. Additionally, the broad curriculum prepares graduates for careers both in and out of the education field.

Graduate student resources at TTU include a graduate student advising checklist. This comprehensive guide provides links to university guidelines and details each milestone degree-seekers complete as they progress through the program.

Application requirements vary by concentration, and some concentrations do not accept out-of-state prospective students. However, all applicants must possess an active teaching license and some experience working with students with disabilities. Incoming degree-seekers should submit a scholarship application by the Jan. 15 deadline.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Autism; applied behavior analysis; deafblindness; deaf/hard of hearing; educational diagnostician; generic special education; orientation and mobility; visual impairment
Tuition: $8,606/year in-state; $15,693/year out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Delivery

Format: 100% online; hybrid option for applied behavior analysis concentration
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (806) 742-7227
Email: elearning@ttu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

7

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

The master's in special education at MSU prepares graduates for career advancement, as approximately 85% of graduates report receiving a pay increase after earning the degree. All students complete coursework in behavioral management and technology for students with disabilities. The program concludes with a comprehensive exam.

MSU provides graduate students in the College of Education with detailed primers on how to change their advisor and modify an academic program. Learners can also work with a university career consultant as they near graduation to craft a resume and practice interviewing skills.

Prospective students should submit application materials by the Feb. 1 deadline. All degree-seekers pay the same per-credit tuition rate. The College of Education does not award scholarships to special education master's students at this time.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: General track; autism spectrum disorders; learning disabilities; graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis
Tuition: $898/credit
Credit Requirements: 30-36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact

Phone: (517) 432-0418
Email: erinhami@msu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

8

George Mason University

Fairfax, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 70%

Mason's part-time online master's in special education features two concentration options: autism spectrum disorders and applied behavior analysis. The latter qualifies graduates to sit for the Behavior Analysis Certification Board Exam. Regardless of the concentration, all students complete coursework in universal design for learning and special education research.

Mason provides online learners with highly trained advisors and a writing center. The library hosts ample resources, including access to numerous research databases.

Unlike many special education programs on this ranking, Mason does not require applicants to possess work experience. Prospective students who do not meet the university's GPA cutoff can still receive conditional admission. Graduate degree-seekers who need financial aid should submit a scholarship application by the Jan. 15 deadline.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Autism spectrum disorders; applied behavior analysis
Tuition: $790/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (703) 348-5006
Email: online2@gmu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

9

Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 81%

The master's in special education program at Purdue boasts six concentration options that appeal to practicing educators from all backgrounds. The rigorous curriculum aligns with edTPA — the latest standards all special education teachers should know. With these in-demand skills, 93% of graduates obtain a special education teaching position.

Before applying, prospective students can review professional positions in education and learn more about the latest trends in the special education field. Resources for current degree seekers include the 24/7 CareerNetwork, which provides learners with resume reviews and a private job board.

Application requirements include a phone interview and three recommendation letters. In-state students save significantly on tuition. Purdue does not award institutional scholarships or grants to online students at this time.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Non-licensure; initial mild only licensure; initial mild and intense licensure; additional mild only licensure; additional mild and intense licensure; additional intense only licensure
Tuition: $379/credit in-state; $700/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 31-45 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Contact

Phone: (877) 497-5851
Email: admissions@purdue.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

10

Saint Joseph's University

Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

SJU's online master's in special education program features four concentration options, including one in the unique Wilson Reading System. All students complete coursework in research-based procedures and current issues in special education.

Students can take advantage of the Career Development Center's one-on-one counseling appointments, as well as mentoring through SJU Connects. These services help 93% of graduates find employment or enter a doctoral program.

Application requirements include a personal statement, two recommendation letters, and a resume. Applicants who do not meet SJU's GPA cutoff can still receive conditional admission if they submit a GPA explanation letter. Prospective and current online students should contact SJU to learn about the latest scholarship opportunities.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Education - Special Education
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Applied behavior analysis; autism spectrum disorders; Wilson Reading System certification; special education
Tuition: $480/credit
Credit Requirements: 36-39 credits
Program Length: 3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (215) 473-2695
Email: online@sju.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

11

Mississippi College

Clinton, MS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

The master's in special education program at MC allows accelerated learners to earn a degree in less than one year. The curriculum includes coursework in the psychology of exceptional children and curriculum development. Additionally, the program does not require a master's thesis, but rather a comprehensive exam.

MC's Office of Career Services hosts both Careerlink and Big Interview software, as well as one-on-one advising. These valuable resources help 85% of graduates either find employment or enter a doctoral program.

MC boasts start dates every two months, and prospective students should possess an active teaching license. Financial aid options include a pay-as-you-go system, which allows students to pay for one course at a time. Students remain in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education
School Status: Private
Tuition: $365/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 10 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

Contact

Phone: (844) 351-6654
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

12

Holy Family University

Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

Licensed Pennsylvania teachers may consider the online master's in special education program at HFU. The program features five concentration options, two of which relate to special education and qualify graduates to sit for the Praxis Special Education Exam. Students in either special education concentration take courses in instructional design and management.

The Career Development Center at HFU boasts both career-exploration software and an expansive alumni network. Also, online students can contact a career advisor to learn more about interview etiquette and resume writing.

Prospective students should possess an active Pennsylvania teaching license. Application materials include an essay and two recommendation letters. HFU scholarships award $8,000-$21,000 per year and do not require an additional application.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education - Certified Teacher Additional Certifications
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Special education (PK-8 or 7-12); principal certification; reading specialist; ESL program specialist; autism endorsement
Tuition: $505/credit
Credit Requirements: 31 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (267) 341-3327
Email: rapiddegree@holyfamily.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

13

University of Houston

Houston, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

UH's master's in special education program uses a cohort learning model, which promotes professional relationships among students. Before starting a concentration, degree-seekers complete coursework in learning sciences and introduction to psychological measurement. Additionally, all learners take the TExES Certification Exam.

The career services office at UH provides students and alumni with vocational assessments, career counseling, and on-campus recruiting events. These and other resources help approximately two-thirds of program graduates find employment as a special education teacher.

Only licensed educators residing in Texas may apply. Application materials include three recommendation letters and a statement of intent. Students interested in College of Education scholarships should apply by the February deadline.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Populations
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Special education; educational diagnostician; gifted and talented; special education leadership
Tuition: $386/credit in-state; $908/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online and hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (713) 743-2255
Email: khassett@uh.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

14

Georgia College and State University

Milledgeville, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

The online master's in special education program at GCSU uses a cohort learning model and synchronous courses. The program prepares Georgia residents to apply for an initial teaching license with an endorsement in special education. As a result, the program is ideal for recent college graduates and professionals looking to change their career.

The GCSU Career Center provides students with career planning guides, internship opportunities, and resume writing workshops. Students can also access InterviewStream software to practice interviewing skills.

Prospective students need not possess a teaching license or experience. Application requirements include two recommendation letters and undergraduate transcripts that reflect a minimum 2.75 GPA. GCSU does not award institutional aid to graduate students at this time.


Program Overview

Program Name: Special Education Master of Arts in Teaching
School Status: Public
Tuition: $288/credit
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: GACE Basic Assessment

Contact

Phone: (478) 445-7368
Email: admissions@gcsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

15

Indiana University - Bloomington

Bloomington, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 78%

IU's master's in special education program features a cohort learning model and four concentration options. In the program's second year, students choose between a capstone project or a thesis. Additionally, the curriculum qualifies graduates for an Indiana special education certification, which 46 states accept.

The School of Education's career connections team provides students with job search tools and on-campus workshops. These and other resources help over 90% of IU graduates obtain a positive career outcome.

IU accepts new cohorts in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Application requirements include two personal letters and a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. Special education master's students can apply for the Malvina McNeill Fellowship, which awards a $6,000 stipend.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Autism; behavior disorders; early childhood education; instructional strategies
Tuition: $10,080/year in-state; $30,652/year out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online and hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum

Contact

Phone: (812) 856-8153
Email: spedfist@indiana.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

16

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

Both experienced and aspiring educators can enroll in the online master's in special education program at Mizzou. Although the program does not offer concentrations, students can customize their educational experience by selecting electives. The program concludes with a cumulative exam.

The Mizzou Career Center helps 92% of alumni find a job or enter a doctoral program within six months of earning a degree. Valuable career services include career exploration software, resume reviews, and numerous online resources.

Prospective students can apply for the spring, summer, or fall semester, and application materials include GRE scores and two recommendation letters. All students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. The College of Education awards over $200,000 in scholarships each year to eligible graduate students.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Special Education with an Emphasis in Special Education
School Status: Public
Tuition: $14,950/total
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (573) 882-2491
Email: MizzouOnline@missouri.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

17

The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

UA's master's in special education qualifies licensed Alabama teachers for a certification in collaborative special education (6-12). The curriculum includes coursework in creative problem solving, mild disabilities, and exceptional children. The program also uses a blend of online and on-campus evening courses to allow students who work full time to earn their degree.

Degree-seekers can access the UA Career Center to explore careers, develop an action plan, and learn about the latest on-campus career fairs. These services help 90% of graduates obtain a positive career outcome.

The hybrid learning format requires students to visit campus multiple times during their degree. Application requirements include standardized test scores and three recommendation letters. College of Education scholarships for graduate students range from $500 to $4,000 per year.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Special Education (Collaborative 6-12 Certification)
School Status: Public
Tuition: $420/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (on campus/online)
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact

Phone: (800) 467-0227
Email: SPEMA@ua.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

18

Webster University

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Experienced educators should consider the online master's in special education at Webster. The curriculum boasts multiple concentration areas and allows students to customize general education requirements. Additionally, curriculum learning outcomes include the ability to create unbiased assessments and collaborate with community stakeholders.

Webster graduates report a 93% comprehensive success rate, an impressive figure made possible thanks to the university's Career Planning and Development Center. Career resources for students and alumni include Handshake software, practice interviews, and resume critiques.

Application requirements at Webster include teaching experience and a minimum 2.75 GPA. All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate. Webster does not award institutional scholarships or grants to online graduate degree-seekers at this time.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Special Education
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Applied behavior analysis; dyslexia; mild/moderate disabilities; positive behavioral interventions and supports; severe developmental disabilities; trauma-informed education and interventions
Tuition: $780/credit
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum

Contact

Phone: (314) 246-8007
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

19

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

UND's master's in special education program features nine concentration options, including the only online visual impairment concentration at any U.S. university. All students complete coursework in visual impairment and inclusive methods before starting a concentration. Although the program uses a synchronous curriculum, students can still work full time.

The career services office at UND provides students with job search tools, on-campus workshops, and one-on-one support. Additionally, online students can increase employability by completing one of the university's many professional development programs.

UND accepts new degree-seekers in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. Prospective students do not need to possess a teaching license or experience working with children with disabilities. All learners pay the same tuition rate, and students can research the latest scholarship opportunities on UND's scholarship website.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Applied behavior analysis; autism spectrum disorder; early childhood special education; general special education; emotional behavioral disorders; intellectual disabilities; learning disabilities; special education strategist; visual impairment
Tuition: $464/credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 1.5 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (701) 777-6206
Email: allyssa.baumbach@UND.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

20

Ball State University

Muncie, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

Ball State's unique master's in special education boasts two tracks — one for licensed teachers and one for aspiring educators who need a license. The former track qualifies graduates for an add-on certificate to an Indiana teaching license.

The BSU Career Center provides students with career coaching, job fairs, and professional skills courses. Other resources include sample resumes, cover letters, and professional portfolios.

Prospective students from all U.S. states may apply, and transfer credit should reflect a minimum B grade. In-state students save approximately 40% on tuition compared to out-of-state degree-seekers. The vast majority of learners receive financial aid, and nearly 100% of alumni pay back student loans on time.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master's Degree in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Licensed teachers can select from the following: applied behavior analysis; autism; disabilities for postsecondary settings with an emphasis in autism; emotional and behavioral disorders; multitier system of supports/response to intervention. Students earning an initial teaching license can select from the following: director of exceptional needs; early childhood special education; deaf and hard-of-hearing; intense interventions; mild interventions.
Tuition: $449/credit in-state; $661/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 27-30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum

Contact

Phone: (800) 872-0369
Email: online@bsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

21

Bethel University

Saint Paul, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 77%

The online master's in special education program at Bethel boasts four concentration options, all of which lead to an initial Minnesota teaching license. The hybrid curriculum features coursework in educational research and assessment. Additionally, all students write a master's thesis.

Bethel's Office of Career Development and Calling helps students improve a resume, search for internships, and practice interviewing skills. These and other valuable services help nearly 99% of graduates find a fulfilling career.

Application requirements include undergraduate prerequisites, an interview, and two recommendation letters. A private institution, Bethel charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all degree-seekers. The university awards multiple scholarships each year, many of which help veterans graduate without debt.


Program Overview

Program Name: Special Education Master of Arts
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Emotional and behavioral disorders; autism spectrum disorders; academic behavioral strategist; developmental disabilities
Tuition: $535/credit
Credit Requirements: 41 credits
Program Length: 15-18 months

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (on campus/online)
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (651) 638-6400
Email: gs@bethel.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

22

Touro College

New York, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 47%

Touro offers three master's in special education programs, all of which feature an entirely online option. All students complete a core curriculum in general pedagogy. Additionally, each program includes multiple noncredit seminars that meet New York state teacher licensing requirements.

The Graduate School of Education provides degree-seekers with a private job board. Other resources include guides that describe how to apply for a special education certification.

Out-of-state prospective students cannot apply at this time. Application requirements include a liberal arts bachelor's degree and standardized test scores. Incoming students interested in institutional scholarships should contact the university to learn more.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science Degree in Special Education
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Early childhood and special education (birth-2); childhood and special education (1-6); teaching students with disabilities (7-12)
Tuition: $590/credit
Credit Requirements: 36-42 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact

Phone: (212) 463-0400
Email: info.gse@touro.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

23

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Edinburg, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

UTRGV's online master's in special education program allows students to earn a degree in less than one year, making the school an excellent choice for accelerated learners. Degree-seekers complete coursework in the legal foundations of special education and assessment in education. Additionally, all courses last seven weeks.

The UTRGV Career Center offers Handshake software, career development workshops, and one-on-one advising sessions. Additionally, students can access career education services such as cover letter critiques and mock interviews.

Applicants should have a special education teaching license, undergraduate coursework in special education, or undergraduate coursework in general childhood education. Incoming students may qualify for the Dean's New Graduate Student Scholarship and other financial aid opportunities. The university's generous financial aid programs help UTRGV degree-seekers graduate with 46% less debt than the average U.S. college student.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Inclusion
Tuition: $458/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 10 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (956) 665-3465
Email: john.lowdermilk@utrgv.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

24

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 67%

The master's in special education program at SRU boasts four concentration options that help licensed educators earn a special education endorsement. All learners complete a core curriculum with coursework in learning disabilities and special education law. Graduation requirements vary by program; for instance, students who select the autism concentration can either write a thesis or complete a practicum.

SRU's Office of Career Education and Development helps nearly 85% of alumni find a full- or part-time job related to the degree they earned at SRU. Career resources include instructional videos and interview preparation software.

Out-of-state licensed teachers may apply, and applicants submit two professional recommendations. Institutional scholarships for graduate students award $500-$2,000.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Education in Special Education
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Birth-grade 8; grades 7-12; supervisor; autism
Tuition: $516/credit in-state; $526/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (724) 738-2085
Email: robert.isherwood@sru.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

25

Western Governors University

Salt Lake City, UT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 29%

WGU's online master's in special education program trains licensed educators to work with students with disabilities in primary and secondary school settings. Students take one course at a time and consult with a program mentor to stay on track for graduation. The program concludes with a practicum and a capstone course.

Approximately 85% of WGU graduates find full-time employment, higher than the national average. Alumni can achieve career success by contacting WGU Career and Professional Development, which provides resume, interview preparation, and self-assessment tools.

Prospective students must possess a teaching license, but WGU does not require standardized test scores. Students who take courses at an accelerated rate save money on tuition compared to full- and part-time learners. WGU caps tuition for active duty service members and veterans.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Special Education (K-12)
School Status: Private
Tuition: $3,240/six-month term
Credit Requirements: 31 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact

Phone: (866) 225-5948
Email: admissions@wgu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Online Master's in Special Education Program Overview

A master's in special education prepares graduates to work with students who need additional instruction beyond general education classrooms. Coursework covers topics such as special education policy, assessment and evaluation strategies for students with mild to advanced disabilities, intervention, and behavior analysis.

Depending on the program, students may need to complete practicum and student teaching experiences. By contrast, some schools develop programs for experienced teachers who already possess a teaching license. Special education programs may also offer endorsements, which provide additional knowledge about niche areas in the field. Endorsements can also provide graduates with a competitive advantage in the job market.

While requirements vary by state, earning an advanced degree in education typically qualifies graduates for a master teaching license and may lead to increased salaries. Professionals interested in academic or administrative roles may consider earning their Ph.D. However, schools usually do not require a doctorate.

Common Master's in Special Education Degree Courses

Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities

This course offers an overview of reading disabilities and dyslexia, and students explore common indicators of dyslexia. Students also learn appropriate teaching strategies, tools, and resources for struggling readers. Throughout the course, learners come to understand federal and state laws regarding reading disabilities, elements of multisensory structured language teaching, and ethical teaching standards.

Applied Behavior Analysis

This course outlines basic learning principles, research methods and techniques, and common behavioral procedures. Students also consider diverse populations and settings. Additionally, the course introduces positive behavior intervention; key concepts, techniques, and vocabulary; professional ethics related to special education; and schoolwide systems of support.

Research Methods in Special Education

Learners explore common methodological concerns, internal and external validity, and relevant variables that influence modern approaches. Students also evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of special education research, learn to design innovative research methodologies, and examine basic procedures for single subject or group-experimental research methodologies.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

This course introduces current research on neurodevelopmental problems associated with autism and discusses the diagnostic criteria used to identify children on the spectrum. Students learn methods of assessment, evaluation, and appropriate evidence-based screening strategies, as well as application of culturally competent and family-centered intervention.

Educational Statistics

Educational statistics focuses on quantitative methods for inquiry in behavioral and social sciences. Students explore fundamental concepts and procedures for inferential and descriptive statistics. This course also emphasizes the interpretation and use of SPSS. Course objectives include understanding the role of inferential and descriptive statistics, describing quantitative results, and designing research hypotheses for testing.

Related Master's in Special Education Degree Concentrations

Applied Behavior Analysis

A concentration in applied behavior analysis introduces learners to diverse behavioral health needs. Coursework focuses on data-driven methodologies used to effectively guide human behavior. Students learn to create, implement, and assess quality techniques that lead to positive behavioral change for special needs students.

Mild/Moderate Disabilities

This concentration focuses on K-12 students with mild to moderate disabilities who participate in general education classrooms. Topics emphasize specially designed intervention, social and emotional functioning, and non-cognitive skills. Other topics include contemporary issues and roles of scientific research in theory development.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Universities may offer positive behavioral interventions and supports as a concentration and a certificate program. Students learn causes and characteristics of emotional and behavioral disorders. Courses emphasize evidence-based practices in social, academic, and behavioral interventions. Topics include research design, intervention methods, behavioral analysis, and data methods.

Severe Developmental Disabilities

A concentration in severe developmental disabilities examines federal requirements and legal issues within the field. Students use data to make evidence-based decisions and assess development interventions. Students also learn to create ability-appropriate individualized lessons. This concentration teaches students to effectively collaborate with students' families, specialists, and general education teams.

Trauma-Informed Education and Intervention

A trauma-informed education and intervention concentration prepares graduates to manage crisis intervention and trauma. This concentration emphasizes informed care and community resources. Courses focus on indicators of trauma, risk of secondary trauma, and the impact of trauma. Other topics include social-emotional learning strategies and developing trauma-conscious classrooms.

Online Master's in Special EducationAdmission Requirements

  • Official Transcripts From Bachelor's Degree

    Students considering a master's in special education must submit official transcripts from an accredited bachelor's program. Students without sufficient prerequisite undergraduate credits may need to complete additional coursework before gaining admission.

  • Prerequisite Coursework

    Students with a bachelor's degree in a field other than special education, K-12 education, or psychology may need to complete additional coursework prior to applying to a master's in special education program. Learners who hold a degree in a relevant field may automatically satisfy prerequisite coursework.

  • Graduate Record Examination

    Admissions departments often require GRE scores to determine each student's potential for success. However, an increasing number of online programs do not require the GRE, while other universities allow students to choose if they want to submit their scores. Students with a low undergraduate GPA may want to consider submitting GRE scores.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Colleges and universities typically require up to three letters of recommendation. These provide detailed information about an applicant's work ethic, ability to perform, or adaptability in diverse situations. Students should consider asking former professors or academic counselors to write letters. However, students applying to graduate programs often possess professional experience and may also ask their employers to write recommendations.

  • Test of English as a Foriegn Language

    International students can usually expect to complete the TOFEL exam, which evaluates their mastery of the English language and their ability to study at a college level. The four-hour exam contains four sections: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.


Online Master's in Special Education Career Paths

Regardless of their career path, all special education professionals must hold a valid, unencumbered state license. Once licensed, educators with a master's in special education can pursue careers such as a behavior intervention specialist. This role requires professionals to collaborate with administrators, general education teachers, and students' families. Additionally, graduates may serve as the head of a special education department.

Other career paths include special education instructional coordinators, special education diagnosticians, and K-12 special education generalists. Professionals interested in academia or senior-level administrator roles may need a Ph.D. in the field. However, K-12 schools typically only require candidates to hold a master's degree.

Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do with a master's degree in special education?

Graduates with a master's in special education are prepared for rewarding careers helping students with diverse needs. Professionals can work alongside general education teachers to assist students in the classroom or become full-time special education classroom teachers. An advanced degree and experience also create opportunities for leadership positions.

How much can you make with a master's degree in special education?

BLS data indicates that special educators earn an average salary of $59,780. However, professionals who hold a master's degree generally receive higher wages than professionals who only hold a bachelor's degree. Professionals should also consider geographic location as they review average salaries. Private schools may also offer higher or lower pay.

How long does it take to get a master's in special education?

Students can earn a master's in special education in approximately two years. However, students who do not hold a bachelor's degree in a related field may need to complete prerequisite coursework, which can lengthen time to completion. Conversely, online programs may offer year-round coursework or accelerated options, which can shorten time to completion.

How do you abbreviate master's in special education?

Typically, professionals who hold a master's in special education write their title as M.Ed., special education.

Why would you need a master's degree in special education?

Professionals who already hold a bachelor's in another field — but who wish to become special educators — need to earn a master's degree that leads to an initial licensure. By contrast, professionals already working in the field may earn a master's in special education to gain additional skills, improve salary prospects, or obtain more advanced and specialized roles.

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