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
Best Online Master’s in Special Education 2018-2019
Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors
Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
Each college must have at least one online program 1
Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.
1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.
A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.