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Online Master’s Programs in Special Education

Special education teachers are in high demand, as student enrollment in programs that provide special education teaching has increased during the past few years. Part of the reason for this is that disabilities in children are being identified and addressed more quickly than ever before. A convenient way for you to increase your skill level and make yourself more competitive in this field is to earn an online master’s degree in special education. Find out what you’ll learn in this degree program and search the best online master’s degree in special education programs to find the one that works for you.

Best Online Master’s in Special Education 2018-2019

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Check out our rankings list below to see which one of the top-rated special education master’s degree programs would be the greatest fit for you. For these rankings, we obtained our data from the United States Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the universities’ own published materials. All of the schools in our list are accredited.

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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Mount Vernon, Ohio$9,024100%78%59% 4 Yes Yes Yes School website
2 Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia$23,80078%22%49% 4 Yes Yes Yes School website
3 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, Minnesota$21,75088%55%46% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
4 Fontbonne University Saint Louis, Missouri$25,98079%99%51% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
5 Nyack College Nyack, New York$25,350100%100%44% 4 Yes Yes Yes School website
6 New England College Henniker, New Hampshire$36,75494%98%35% 1 No Yes Yes School website
7 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, Florida$7,28471%73%45% 6 Yes Yes Yes School website
8 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus Norman, Oklahoma$11,76346%78%78% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
9 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, Kentucky$23,000100%66%36% 3 No No Yes School website
10 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, Alabama$10,78042%54%66% 13 Yes Yes Yes School website
11 Midwestern State University Wichita Falls, Texas$6,76075%76%45% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
12 Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, Hawaii$25,37499%82%48% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
13 Clemson University Clemson, South Carolina$15,11645%51%82% 1 No Yes Yes School website
14 Minot State University Minot, North Dakota$8,87443%57%42% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
15 Bemidji State University Bemidji, Minnesota$8,99773%94%46% 4 Yes Yes Yes School website
16 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, Texas$5,04843%67%79% 6 No Yes Yes School website
17 Northern Michigan University Marquette, Michigan$9,41797%7%48% 9 Yes Yes Yes School website
18 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, Indiana$10,53459%79%77% 12 Yes Yes Yes School website
19 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, Arizona$27,07383%78%36% 7 No Yes Yes School website
20 Northwest Missouri State University Maryville, Missouri$7,21957%75%50% 4 No Yes Yes School website
21 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida$7,84060%45%68% 4 No Yes Yes School website
22 Ball State University Muncie, Indiana$7,89068%61%61% 9 Yes Yes Yes School website
23 Missouri State University Springfield, Missouri$6,03454%86%54% 1 No Yes Yes School website
24 Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato, Minnesota$7,83653%67%50% 5 No Yes Yes School website
25 Campbellsville University Campbellsville, Kentucky$11,90489%70%40% 1 No Yes Yes School website
26 The University of Texas at Tyler Tyler, Texas$4,89658%69%46% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
27 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Odessa, Texas$4,31278%81%37% 1 No Yes Yes School website
28 University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, Nebraska$5,41870%85%60% 1 No Yes Yes School website
29 University of Idaho Moscow, Idaho$6,46089%76%60% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
30 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, Arkansas$4,62670%70%41% 2 No Yes Yes School website
31 Stephen F Austin State University Nacogdoches, Texas$4,89664%62%46% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
32 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, Nebraska$7,13465%75%69% 1 No Yes Yes School website
33 Washington State University Pullman, Washington$11,22472%72%70% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
34 Wayland Baptist University Plainview, Texas$10,62087%100%32% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
35 Fort Hays State University Hays, Kansas$3,39873%91%44% 1 No Yes Yes School website
36 University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri$8,46264%75%71% 1 No Yes Yes School website
37 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, Mississippi$7,54968%60%51% 1 No Yes Yes School website
38 Texas A & M University-Commerce Commerce, Texas$3,63039%46%49% 1 Yes No Yes School website
39 Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas$5,40043%63%62% 1 No Yes Yes School website
40 Delta State University Cleveland, Mississippi$6,29858%89%38% 1 No Yes Yes School website
41 Auburn University Auburn, Alabama$9,07260%81%74% 1 No Yes Yes School website
42 Kentucky State University Frankfort, Kentucky$7,52474%49%21% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
43 Jackson State University Jackson, Mississippi$7,14139%63%48% 1 No Yes Yes School website
44 Indiana State University Terre Haute, Indiana$7,12868%86%41% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
45 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, Pennsylvania$11,59212%64%69% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
46 Pittsburg State University Pittsburg, Kansas$6,21859%87%51% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
47 University of Central Arkansas Conway, Arkansas$4,59454%90%44% 1 No Yes Yes School website
48 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, Kentucky$9,45051%86%45% 3 No Yes Yes School website
49 Albany State University Albany, Georgia$3,40214%50%44% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
50 University of North Texas Denton, Texas$5,45047%72%56% 1 No Yes Yes School website

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Special Education Program?

A special education online master’s degree program teaches students how to work with children who have physical handicaps, emotional issues or learning disabilities. Students learn how to assess children for special education services, create an individual education plan for each child who needs one and work with the children and their parents on helping the children to achieve their unique goals.

Specific skills that students will learn during their time as a master’s student include:

  • Strategies for understanding children with special needs
  • Tools and resources that teachers and schools can use to support students with special needs
  • The legal issues and laws at the state and federal level governing the education of children with special needs
  • Effective teaching methods for a variety of learning differences

What common courses are offered in a master’s in Special Education program?

Check out these five sample courses that you might encounter in an online master’s degree program in special education.

Advanced Strategies for Individuals with Disabilities

This course provides students with a glimpse at advanced strategies for teaching youth with disabilities. Students also go over how to appropriately plan curricula for this population of students.

Addressing Emotional and Social Needs

This course offers students an opportunity to look at children’s social, psychological, emotional and behavioral needs and the ways in which these needs impact the children’s ability to do traditional coursework. Students learn how to encourage appropriate behaviors and reduce inappropriate actions in children.

Educational Research for Master’s Students

In this course, students examine the role that educational research plays in informing educators’ practices, as well as educational research’s limitations. Students are given the opportunity to select topics of interest and to conduct related literature reviews to produce final papers that demonstrate their understanding of the research studies they have discovered.

Foundations, Trends & Issues in Special Education Leadership

The aim of this course is to teach students how leadership in special education has changed over time. Students also have the opportunity to explore special education federal law as well as ethical practices among special education leaders.

Transition Strategies for Individuals with Disabilities

In this course, students learn the contemporary and historical legislation, service delivery, policies and methods for transitional and educational programming for children with disabilities. The goal of the course is to help students to plan effective transitional life experiences for young people with disabilities.

What exams or projects should I expect?

In an online master’s degree in special education, students are typically required to complete a master’s thesis or a capstone project. Some programs also require students to pass several cumulative examinations or a single comprehensive examination at the end of the program. Certain programs also require students to gain hands-on field experience through practicum experiences, which can take the form of student teaching hours or internships. All of this allows students to demonstrate the skills they have attained over the course of the master’s degree program.

What specializations are available in a master’s in special education program?

Online master’s degree programs in special education oftentimes offer students the opportunity to choose specializations in this broad career field. For instance, they may choose to specialize in applied behavior analysis, autism spectrum disorder and special education technology. Still other specializations include severe disabilities, mild to moderate disabilities, early childhood education, secondary education and elementary education.

Take a look at these common online special education master’s degree specializations below.

Applied Behavior Analysis

This specialization offers students an in-depth peek at behavior analysis principles and concepts. This information will help students to better understand the behavior and academic problems of students with special needs and thus more effectively develop and implement behavioral assessments as well as intervention procedures.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

With this specialization, students examine the behavioral characteristics and psychological models of autism spectrum disorders. This specialization offers the perfect opportunity for students to learn how autism influences an autistic student’s daily functioning in the home, community and school settings.

Special Education Technology

Students who choose this specialization explore the delivery of content and the process of incorporating assistive and adaptable technologies into their learning plans. A graduate with this specialization is prepared to implement the latest technologies and tools into the special needs classroom.

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

An online master’s degree in special education program will give you the necessary skills for excelling in a wide range of positions in this dynamic field. Take a look at a few of them below.

Special Education Teacher

These professionals help children who have physical, mental, learning, emotional or cognitive disabilities to reach their potential academically. These individuals strive to help these children to succeed in traditional academic subjects as well as master basic skills. Special education teachers may also be given the responsibility of overseeing other instructors or serving as the chairs of their departments.

Instructional Coordinator

These individuals aim to make sure that curricula and the methods used to deliver instruction reflect the needs of students with disabilities. These professionals also work in tandem with other administrators and teachers to make sure that their well-thought-out action plans are executed daily, and they monitor for necessary changes.

Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant

Some school districts have learning disabilities teacher consultants, known as LDT-Cs. Individuals in this career complete educational testing for students with disabilities or learning differences and create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students. This job also requires direct work with teachers as an advocate for students with special needs to ensure their educational requirements are met.

Special Education Advocate

Similar to a learning disabilities teacher consultant, a special education advocate works closely with parents of children with special needs to ensure their legal, physical and educational needs are met at a school campus. An advocate helps parents navigate challenging legal rules and red tape surrounding the school system.

Educational Consultant

An educational consultant no longer teaches directly in a classroom, but rather advises school districts and school staff on the best implementation methods and training programs for students with special needs. An educational consultant will work with school staff to teach them about the latest research and teaching methods that work for students with varying special needs.

In addition to completing an online master’s degree program in special education, students may benefit from joining professional organizations for the purpose of networking with other professionals in the field. Here are a few that they may wish to consider.

National Association of Special Education Teachers

This membership association is the only one focused just on special education teachers. Through this association, special education teachers can take advantage of professional development and continuing education opportunities as well as career support, national conferences, events, publications and handouts.

Learning Disabilities Association of America

This organization offers convenient resources to its members, such as a section dedicated specifically to educators. Special education teachers can use this association to find research, information and publications on various learning disabilities.

Council for Exceptional Children

Through this council, special education teachers can gain access to professional development–related opportunities. The council also features local chapters that have regular events, along with research access, publications and national conferences for its members.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Special Education?

Depending on the academic level and experience, those working in special education may fall within the range of salaries listed in the chart below. Students pursuing a career in special education should keep in mind that they may need additional licensure, certification and experience in addition to a master’s degree in special education to be eligible for certain careers.

Career Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Special Education Teacher, Preschool Less than $33,160 $53,640 More than $92,250 +8%
*for all special education teachers
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School Less than $39,680 $60,180 More than $97,670 +8%
*for all special education teachers
Special Education Teachers, K & Elementary School Less than $37,150 $57,040 More than $90,260 +8%
*for all special education teachers
Special Education Teacher, Middle School Less than $39,190 $58,560 More than $93,260 +8%
*for all special education teachers
Special Education Teachers, All Other Less than $34,970 $54,800 More than $96,100 +8%
*for all special education teachers

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the special education field—and the education field in general—will be in high demand over the next 10 years. When it comes to special education in particular, federal law mandates that all students who have disabilities receive free education. In addition, all states are required to maintain the same financial support level for their special education services each year. Funding increases may drive employment growth even more than what’s listed in the chart above during the next decade.

Note that there is a difference in salary depending on your degree. The median annual salary for a graduate degree in special education is $61,000, whereas the median salary for a bachelor’s degree in this area is $45,000. Therefore, those who decide to earn an online master’s degree in special education may earn nearly $16,000 more per year.

Online Master’s in Special Education Program Accreditation

Students who want to increase their job opportunities in the special education teaching field should choose an online master’s degree in special education that is regionally accredited—not just nationally accredited. This will help to ensure that you have no problems with securing financial aid, transferring to another institution if needed, claiming a job and receiving licensure.

In addition, look for a program that is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. This is the gold standard for the accreditation of online master’s degrees in special education, as CAEP has garnered high levels of respect from licensing boards, schools and employers. Students can also look for a program that is accredited by the National Commission for the Accreditation of Special Education Services.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Special Education Degree

In many situations, those studying special education at the graduate level may need a little help to cover the cost of their schooling. Financial aid may be available in the form of loans from the federal government for students who fill out the FAFSA. However, additional scholarship and funding opportunities may be available to those pursuing master’s degrees in special education online.

  • Employer Funding

    Some schools may help cover the cost of obtaining a master’s degree in education. Ask your school administration if they help cover the cost of earning a master’s degree in special education.

  • Special Education Scholarships

    Many schools and foundations offer special scholarships for graduate students studying for a special education degree. The Arkansas Association of Special Education Administrators Memorial Scholarships offers scholarships are for $2,000 each. Any student completing a master’s degree in special education online can qualify for one of the five scholarships as long as he or she attends an accredited institution in Arkansas full-time.

  • The Florence Harvey Memorial Scholarship offers $1,000 scholarship is available each year through the American Foundation for the Blind. Graduate students who are completing their studies in the field of special education are eligible to apply as long as they attended accredited colleges in the United States and have a minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA).

  • Kansas Teacher Service Scholarships are Kansas Board of Regents annual scholarships, valued at $5,500 or less every year, available to graduate students who are pursuing degrees in difficult-to-fill disciplines, such as special education. To qualify for one of these scholarships, a student must live in Kansas, attend an accredited institution in the state and have a 3.9 minimum GPA.