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Best Online Master's in Special Education
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Best Online Masters Special Education

Are you interested in being a leader in the field of special education? Maybe you are hoping to play a role in the administrative or policy end of the field, or build advanced classroom skills that offer a pay increase with a new advanced degree? Either way, the field of special education is only projected to grow in the next six years. Special education encompasses many populations, including students with autism, other learning differences, behavior disorders, and dyslexia. There are many concentrations within the field for which students of the discipline can specialize. There is always new research coming out about best practices in the classroom in the field of special education. Are you interested in being on the front lines? There are many online special education master’s degree programs that check all of these boxes. You already know about IEPs at this point in your education; what’s the next step? We have done some of the work for you by sourcing and ranking the best online master’s degree programs in special education. We have looked at the following criteria to create our ranking:

  • Cost
  • Reputation
  • Alumni Success

All of the programs we have found offer some degree of flexibility within their online format. These offerings will enable you to continue working in the classroom while completing your advanced degree program. In fact, your current work will support your academic work in many cases. Each program on our list offers something a little different. Many have a variety specializations that will make you a more marketable applicant and help you dive deeper into something you have a passion for. Take a look and see if there is something that speaks to you. Best of luck on your journey. 


Texas A&M University
San Antonio, TX

The Department of Education and Human Development and Education Psychology at Texas A&M University offers Masters of Education degrees and a Masters of Science Degree in Special Education. This program was designed for those who already have an extensive education background and also related fields like disability and behavior. Prospective students are not required to have a certification for teaching to be granted admission, however, preference is given to students who have clinical and classroom experience. They are also interested in students who have extensive experience working with diverse populations of students with disabilities. The minimum amount of credit hours to complete the program is 36. There are many opportunities for students to receive financial aid for this program, and students can apply from all over the country. The statement of purpose heavily weights the program application.

Degree Type: MEd or MS in Special Education


Purdue University-Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN

Purdue University offers a Master’s of Science of Education in Special Educationthat can be completed entirely online. This program is designed to give students a real foundation and a deepened awareness of working with students with exceptional needs. A unique aspect of this program is the variety of learning concentrations that the program offers. The concentrations include: non-licensure (masters only), initial mild only licensure, initial mild and intense licensure, additional mild and intense licensure, and additional and intense only licensure. The three tasks that drive the curricula are: planning, instruction, and assessment. The application process requires prospective students to video record themselves teaching. The program offers a focus on intensive interventions. This brings an examination of the characteristics of severe disabilities, methods of teaching students with extensive challenges, and physical and medical management of students with multiple disabilities. This program specifically caters to students interested in achieving a license in Indiana State.

Degree Type: MSE in Special Education


University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

The University of Florida offers a masters of education program in special education. This online special education master’s degree program consists of 36 credit hours and six unique track options. The track options include: general, autism focus, disabilities in society, dyslexia, early childhood education. Students who are achieving a specialist degree will have a project and oral testing aspect to the culmination of their program. Some of the core curriculum classes include collaborative practice and inclusive schools, designing instruction for inclusive classrooms, teaching learning strategies, and families and transition for students with disabilities. This program gives students an option to dive into coursework related to policy and the social implications of disabilities in education. The program is available to students outside the state of Florida and remains affordable to this population. Students may qualify for financial aid offerings.

Degree Type: MEd – Several Special Education tracks


North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Raleigh, NC

North Carolina State University offers students a masters of arts in teaching program in special education. This program is offered primarily online and has an emphasis of working in the diverse and technology rich classrooms of today. This program is designed specifically for students who do not have a teaching license in the state, but do hold a bachelor’s degree in a field related to special education. In order to complete the program, students must complete a minimum of 33 credit hours. The GRE is required for admission as is a statement of purpose among other application materials. Prospective students must have a record of a 3.0 or higher from their previous academic endeavors. Students have the option of achieving the program on a full or part time basis, depending on their preferences. This program is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Degree Type: MAT in Special Education


George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

George Mason University offers a Masters of Education program in Special Educationthat is delivered entirely online. This is offered through the College of Education and Human Development. This course of study was designed to provide a foundation of learning in relation to the complex learning styles and needs of students with disabilities. The entire course of study is made up of 30 credit hours. Students can choose between the two tracks applied behavioral analysis or autism spectrum disorder. It is not required that prospective students apply with a previous degree related to education, though it is helpful. The online coursework is delivered both in synchronous and asynchronous formats. The core courses include: special education research, introduction to special education, universal design for learning, and computer applications for special populations. The capstone that culminates the program will offer an opportunity to take on research and apply key learning strategies to a complex question.

Degree Type: MEd in Special Education


Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

Michigan State University offers multiple masters of arts in special education online programsthrough their College of Education. The programs include a master of arts in special education-learning disabilities and masters of arts with a focus on autism spectrum disorders. Some of the features of this innovative program include personalized instruction opportunities, and relevant subjects for which students can deeply engage. The program that relates to autism education for those already working in classroom environments for students K-12. Research based practice drives much of the course of study as it relates to classroom management and best practices in the discipline. The program can be completed in two years, though if students choose to undergo the offering on a part time basis, it will take longer. Upon program acceptance, students will be assigned an advisor.

Degree Type: MA in Special Education – Learning Disabilities or Autism Spectrum disorder


Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX

Texas Tech University offers an online special education masters degreethrough their College of Education. The entire course of study is made up of 36 credit hours. This program is specifically designed for students who are already working in the field as an educator. Those who graduate this program will be thoroughly prepared to work in a myriad of settings that cater to the needs of children and adults with special needs. This includes secondary and postsecondary education as well as private institutions. There are specialization areas in the program including: visual impairment, autism, orientation and mobility, applied behavior analysis (both online and hybrid), deaf blindness, general special education, education diagnostician, deaf/ hard of hearing, among others. Participating in the program enables students access to a support team that they can call on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Degree Type: MEd in Special Education 


University of Washington-Seattle Campus
Seattle, WA

The University of Washington offers a Masters of Education program in Special Educationwith an emphasis on Applied Behavioral Analysis. This online program offers synchronous classes that meet in the evenings, making it a perfect fit for students who work full time or even part time while completing their coursework. This course of study is designed to support students to apply cutting edge behavior methodology in the classroom. Students will have ample opportunities to work in collaboration with one another through their synchronous and comprehensive classes. Students will learn the underpinnings of ethical approaches to the field of behavioral analysis. The cohort model that this program employs enables complex group work as a foundation. Students will have the opportunity to participate in an unsupervised practicum. The program restarts each fall. They offer a limited number of scholarships each year that prospective students can apply for.

Degree Type: MEd in Special Education – Applied Behavioral Analysis


University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Lowell, MA

UMass Lowell Online offers an online masters of education in curriculum and instruction with an option to engage in for autism studies. This program consists of 30 credit hours, which is made up of 10 classes. There are no on campus requirements for this online special education master’s degree. There are several degree paths within this umbrella of programming including: a Masters of education in Vision Studies (based on Orientation and Mobility), Masters of Education in Vision Studies (Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments), Masters of Education in Vision Studies (Vision Rehabilitation Therapy). This program is fully accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). There are some financial aid options, and they vary according to the student’s circumstance and application process. The program also offers students many opportunities to engage in practicum experiences.

Degree Type: Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Autism Studies Option


University of Houston
Houston, TX

The University of Houston offers a Masters of Education program in Special Populations. The program is offered through the university’s distinct College of Education. This online program is an advanced offering for those who already have ample classroom experience, and primarily for those who already work with special education populations. Prospective students must have a 2.8 or above in their previous coursework to qualify, and the University of Houston will waive their GRE requirement. There are four track offerings including: special education certification emphasis, special education (fully online), gifted and talented online, special education leadership, and educational diagnostician. It should take students one to two years for students to complete the program if they are working on a full-time basis. All of the program tracks emphasize best practices and advanced skill building while working with students who have a variety of disabilities.

Degree Type: MEd in Special Populations


Saint Joseph's University
Philadelphia, PA

Saint Joseph’s University offers a Master’s of Science in Education in Special Educationprogram that is delivered entirely online. The founding principle of this program is to enable educators to have all of the skills to unlock the potential of each student for which they work. Those who participate in this program will be eligible to achieve a special education certification in the state of Pennsylvania. The program is designed to respond to instruction interventions from a research based prospective. The curriculum synthesizes advanced practice skills and theoretical underpinnings of working with youth and adults with special needs. All of the classes are facilitated by faculty members who are experts in their field. The entire course of study is 36 credit hours in length. The core courses offer a well-rounded foundation and include some of the following classes: foundations and current issues in special education, diagnostic and progress monitoring, theory and instructional practices: students with low incidence disabilities, among others.

Degree Type: MSE in Special Education


University of Missouri
Columbia, MO

The University of Missouri offers a masters of arts in special education programthat is delivered entirely online. The entire course of study is made up of 33 credit hours. The program is fully accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. Each year they open the program to 38 new students. This small number of new students enables them to keep their class sizes small, and offer a low teacher to student ratio. The degree supports students who are teachers, interventionists, special education specialists, paraeducators, school psychologists, paraeducators, and school administrators. Some of the themes addressed in the coursework include: strategies for students with disabilities and at-risk learners, assessment and evaluation, behavioral management, cross categorical disabilities, and language development for exceptional students. This is a particularly research heavy and also collaborative program. The cohort model makes it easy for students to engage in group work and discussions.

Degree Type: MA in Special Education


The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL

The University of Alabama offers a masters of arts degree in special educationthat is delivered entirely online. The entire course of study is made up of 36 credit hours. The program is designed to be collaborative k-6 or 6-12 certification. Each student will choose between the two. The program expressly caters to those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a field that is similar with a teaching certificate. Program graduates will be able to seamlessly pursue a Class A Certification in the state of Alabama. There is a practicum requirement for this program. The online learning environment for this course for this course of study was designed to offer as much collaboration as possible. There are financial aid opportunities for most students who matriculate into the program.  Some of the required classes include: diagnosis and assessment of exceptional children and youth, computer based instruction, and master’s seminar in special education.

Degree Type: MA in Special Education 


George Washington University
Washington, DC

George Washington University offers an online special education masters degree program. This course of study is delivered through the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. This program was designed to be a pathway to learn best practices while working with culturally and linguistically diverse learners. Prospective students should already hold a teaching certification and are putting it to use in the classroom environment. This degree path engages up-to-date research and technology innovation. The entire program is 33 credit hours in length, and can be completed within a one and a half year time period if students undergo their coursework on a full time basis. Some of the classes include second language instruction, teaching second language reading and writing, introduction to quantitative research, teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities. Graduates of the program have many opportunities for which they can embark including a career in: policy research, compliance coordination, and diversity coordination.

Degree Type: Master’s in Special Education


University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND

The University of North Dakota offers an online masters of education in special education. This course of study was designed to train the best educators to support students with behavioral needs and diverse learning abilities in the classroom and beyond. The entire course of study is made up of a minimum of 32 credit hours. Students can complete the program in as little as one and a half years. There are eight specializations to choose from including: autism spectrum disorder (which can also be completed as a certificate), early childhood special education, visual impairment, special education strategist, learning disabilities, emotional behavioral disorders, and intellectual disorders. Students in the online program have a more affordable tuition rate than those who study on campus. Some of the skills offered in this program include: strategic planning, curriculum development, lesson planning, autism therapy, event planning, among others.

Degree Type: MEd in Special Education


Florida International University
Miami, FL

Florida International University offers an online master of science special education programthat offers an autism endorsement. This course of study is offered through the College of Arts, Sciences and Education. The total credits required for this program is 36. The mission of the program is to train the best work force to work with the most vulnerable population of children. The autism endorsement for which the program results is to be applied to programming in the state of Florida. One of the real perks of this program is that it is an accelerated 12-month long program. The program has two start dates, one in the fall and one in the summer. The prerequisites for the program include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Prospective students must have achieved a 3.0 or higher in their previous coursework. They must also hold a certificate that is valid in exceptional student education.

Degree Type: MS in Special Education: Autism


University of Cincinnati-Main Campus
Cincinnati, OH

The University of Cincinnati offers a masters in special education degreeprogram that is delivered online. This program is accelerated and can be completed in one year. The primary focus of this program is k-12 education, learning the fundamentals of rehabilitation for occupational development, community based care and management, disability management, school and individualized consultation services. Students will also learn all about ecologically based service delivery. Some of the required classes include: autism and developmental disorders, autism spectrum disorders, applied behavioral analysis, promoting positive behaviors, and a myriad of practical experience opportunities. The minimum credit hours required is 30. Many graduates of this program choose to work as intervention specialists, and also in settings such as hospitals, schools, and institutions that support students with disabilities. All students must participate in a comprehensive research project to complete the program. Satisfactory grades are required to complete the program.

Degree Type: MED Special Education


University of South Florida-Main Campus
Tampa, FL

The University of South Florida offers a masters of arts in exceptional student education. It is offered through the USF College of Education. This is one of the comprehensive online special education master’s degree programs. It is a fully accredited program that offers a variety of specializations including: behavioral disorders, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and exceptional student education. This opportunity provides complex skills development, but not an immediate teaching certification. There are many scholarship opportunities associated with the program. Some of the core classes include: working with families: a pluralistic approach, transitional programming for the adolescent and young adult exceptional student, advanced psychoeducational assessment of exceptional students, consultation and collaboration in special education classrooms. Students can choose from three specialty classes including: advanced theories and practices in intellectual disabilities, advanced theories and practices in behavioral disorders, and advanced theories and practices in specific learning disabilities.

Degree Type: MA in Exceptional Student Education


Ball State University
Muncie, IN

Ball State University offers a masters of arts in special education that is delivered entirely online. Students who undergo this program will have a myriad of new skills to apply to many different career paths that aim to serve children and adults with disabilities and special needs. The sequence of courses is approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Students must undergo a minimum of 30 credit hours to complete the program. There are many graduate level certificates that are offered through the program including: certificate in multi-tier support of supports/ response to intervention, applied behavior analysis certificate, autism support, disabilities for post-secondary settings with an emphasis in autism certificate, and emotional and behavioral issues certificate. Ball State has many financial aid opportunities for their students. The online coursework offers the same rigorous learning environment as traditional on campus.

Degree Type: MA in Special Education


Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global
Marion, IN

Indiana Wesleyan University offers a masters of science program in special education that is offered entirely online. The entire course of study is 33 credit hours in length, and can be completed in 25 to 26 months’ time. The online format still enables students to work within the cohort model. This gives students ample chances for connection and mutual support. All of the faculty members in the program are experts in the field. One aspect of Indiana Wesleyan that is unique is their religious Christ-likefoundation. They employ biblical beliefs in all of their coursework. The program is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and they are a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. They are also connected to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. They also have a variety of off campus library services that can be accessed online.

Degree Type: MS in Special Education


Albany State University
Albany, GA

Albany State University offers a masters of arts in special education that can be completed entirely online. This particular program will lead students to a T-5 certification in special education general curriculum or special education adapted curriculum. Prospective students should have a T-3 certification in special education and be working within a teaching field. There are other admission criteria that students should meet, and a counselor is on hand to talk through the process. Some of the courses required include: nature of the learner and behavioral problems, programs and problems of schools, teaching field, research, and nine credit hours of electives. Students will also have the option of engaging in a gifted endorsement, reading endorsement, and ESOL endorsement. There are many financial aid opportunities for students interested in the program. The entire course of study is made up of 36 credit hours. The program website offers many examples of potential job options following graduation.

Degree Type: MA Special Education


Georgia College & State University
Milledgeville, GA

Georgia College and State University offers a special education masters of education degree program that is delivered entirely online. This course of study was designed expressly for students who are already certified to teach in the state of Georgia. Prospective students must provide immunization records, a GPA record of 2.75 or above, official transcripts from a regionally accredited school. And verification of a t4 certification. Every June a new cohort begins. Though the majority of the coursework is delivered online for this program, there are some in person requirements. This method of learning enables a great deal of collaboration and group work. The cohort model employs regular opportunities for mutual support. There are many financial aid opportunities that students can access within the program. There are many virtual resources for students including library services and other offerings like advising. 

Degree Type: MA Special Education


Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA

Old Dominion University offers a master’s of science in education program in special educationthat results in a licensure for the state of Virginia. Students that embark on this program can choose the concentration they are most interested in achieving an endorsement. The options include early childhood education, special education: general curriculum k-12 (mild disabilities), special education: adapted curriculum K-12 (severe disabilities). Students can also choose to achieve an adapted curriculum endorsement. Many students qualify for tuition assistance for what is called the Virginia Consortium for Teacher Preparation in Special Education Adapted Curriculum. Students are required to complete 30-45 credit hours. The online format enables students to study from anywhere in the world and in many cases, accomplish their coursework any time of day or night. There are many financial aid options for which students can apply.

Degree Type: MS in Education in Special Education 


Mississippi College
Clinton, MS

Mississippi College offers a masters of education in special education program online.This course of study can be completed with 30 credit hours. This accelerated program can be completed in as soon as 10 months. The entire course of study is geared towards educators who are already working in classroom settings, but want to achieve a mild to moderate special education licensure to the license they already have. The curriculum is faith based, as there is a true Christian foundation to all of the learning that comes out of Mississippi College. Upon program completion, students will be able to create goals for instruction geared towards students with diverse needs. They will also be able to demonstrate that they have achieved a level of competence in competence for exceptional children standards. The entire program is delivered in 7 week terms, in line with their accelerated pace.

Degree Type: MEd in Special Education


Webster University
Saint Louis, MO

Webster University offers a masters of arts in special educationthat can be completed entirely online. This particular course of study was designed for educators who are already practicing in the field. The program offers students the skills to utilize reliable and valid assessment strategies that minimize bias. Collaborate with stakeholders for program improvement, which includes individuals who have disabilities and their families. Students will also learn top notch leadership skills in a myriad of capacities, including to make complex decisions. Some of the courses students will undergo include: assessment of reading disabilities, including dyslexia, functional behavioral assessment and intervention, advocating for people with disabilities, legal issues in special education, identification and assessment of children and adults with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Students have the option of partaking in a practicum experience. The program emphasizes dyslexia and/ or mild to moderate disabilities.

Degree Type: MA in Special Education

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Special Education?

Achieving a master’s degree in special education will enable you to not only access a deeper and more refined teaching practice, but bring you into a leadership role in the field. There are many elevated jobs in the field of education that only can be done with an advanced degree. Some such examples include director roles. Those who hold a master’s degree in special education can work as directors of education in a myriad of education settings, including institutions that particularly cater to students with disabilities. Graduates can also play roles in curriculum development, and teach at the community college level. High paying jobs in special education include: speech and language pathologists, educational audiologists, early intervention specialists, and adaptive special education teachers. Special education master’s degree jobs vary greatly, which is why it is good to choose a program that specializes in a niche that interests you.

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s in Special Education?

A special education teacher salary with masters can really range in salary. The average that someone can make in this situation, however, is to the tune of $58,000 according to current payscale research. Keep in mind, this is just an average, and it goes much higher and subsequently lower as well. Master’s degree holders can hold advanced leadership roles. Director positions make an average of $73,000 per year, but they can make as much as $150,000, and in some cases higher. This, of course, depends on where you are located, as cost of living plays a big role in salary. There are additional perks beyond the salary when working for a school system and even most institutions. These include comprehensive 403(B) plans, medical insurance, a health savings plan (in many cases), dental insurance, among many other benefits that go beyond the masters in special education salary. As classroom educators, special education teachers, just like general teachers, are able to take summers off and split their salaries to extend throughout the 12 months. Obviously, many teachers see this as a true benefit, and they have the option of taking other summer work if they want to increase their annual earning potential.

What Else Can I Do with a Master’s in Special Education Besides Teaching?

As aforementioned, there are so many careers with masters in special education. Many graduates from master’s degree programs work as consultants, in administration, and even curriculum development. There are also many jobs for special education teachers in hospitals as well. Many times, people with master’s degrees in special education are called in to work with patients who have disabilities in assisted living situations or long-term care hospitals. These are important roles, as they are often the ones to facilitate groups, and help with learning in short and long term institutional and medical settings. In fact, they are often a critical bridge between medical providers and families of disabled people. They are often in roles to train family members on how to best support their loved ones, using research based practices.


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