Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Special Education

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Earning an online master’s degree in special education can lead to a rewarding teaching career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for special education teachers to grow by 8% by 2024. Learning and behavioral disabilities in children are being identified at an increasingly early age, increasing the demand for special education programs. Finding an affordable master’s degree in special education online can provide the credentials needed to qualify as a special education teacher in your state. This degree may also lead to other career opportunities involving curriculum and instruction, clinical assessment, and/or educational administration for students with special needs. If you’re looking for a gratifying career that channels your compassion and teaching skills toward a meaningful cause, you may want to consider pursuing an online special education degree.

Online Special Education Master’s Degrees at a Glance

Fast Facts

Time to Complete Full-time students typically complete the program in one to two years.
Credit Hours Approximately 18 credit hours per year for a full-time student.
Concentrations
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Gifted, Talented, and Creative
  • High-Incidence Disabilities
Accreditation Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation(CAEP)
Additional Info Teachers must be licensed to practice in any state; most states also require a special education certification.

50 Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Special Education
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1

Morningside College

Value Score 9.28
Average Tuition $4,800
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $200

Morningside College’s master of arts in teaching - special education prepares graduates to become elementary and secondary special education teachers. Morningside values accessibility and affordability above all else. In fact, this entirely online degree is one of the country’s most affordable master’s in special education online. Students may choose an emphasis in special education, reading, or professional education. For admission into the program, students must have a valid U.S. teaching license and hold a bachelor’s degree. They should also have satisfied foundational prerequisites including a survey of exceptionalities and developmental reading courses. The curriculum includes professional foundation courses such as issues in education, educational research, data collection and analysis, and interpreting and reporting educational research. Students are required to complete one of four instructional strategist courses in elementary, secondary, behavior disorders/learning disabilities, or intellectual disabilities to earn endorsement as a professional educator. The school’s MySide page integrates virtual learning resources for students, teachers, and faculty all in one place. The featured online resources include tutoring options, library databases, a live social media feed, and more.


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2

Fort Hays State University

Value Score 9.19
Average Tuition $3,094
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 87%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $206

Fort Hays State University offers an affordable master’s in special education online through its Department of Advanced Education Programs and Virtual College in Hays, Kansas. The master of science in special education is offered entirely online and includes an emphasis in either gifted or high-incidence special education. This MA is intended for students who have already completed an advanced degree and are currently licensed professional educators. The program can either be completed for gifted or high-incidence special education. Students are paired with a dedicated academic advisor for the duration of their degree. The curriculum explores real-world teaching practices, as well as collaboration and consulting methods that are used in elementary and secondary classrooms. The school’s online course management system facilitates communication between students and instructors through Blackboard, Google Apps, dedicated blogs, and social media sites.


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3

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Value Score 8.92
Average Tuition $5,196
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 90%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $217

The University of Nebraska at Kearney offers a masters of arts in education - special education through its eCampus system, a conglomerate of four state-governed higher learning institutions. This advanced degree in special education is intended for licensed teachers in any discipline who are looking to earn additional special education certification. The program includes specializations in either K-6 or 7-12 and offers a path to certification for each emphasis. All online students must complete a practicum in their chosen area of emphasis. The school‘s cheap masters in special education online may not qualify students pursuing special education certification outside of Nebraska; students should check with their State Department of Education for certification requirements. The university has carefully developed its online student support resources over time to include video tutorials, 24/7 tech support and library services, and discounted hardware and software packages for distance learners. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree, satisfy prerequisite coursework requirements, and hold an active teaching license to be considered.


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4

The University of Texas at Tyler

Value Score 8.80
Average Tuition $4,662
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 83%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $50

UT Tyler offers an affordable online special education masters degree that is designed especially for special education teachers in Texas. The program offers a diagnostician certification and face-to-face learning opportunities for state residents. Applicants are also required to hold a valid teaching certification in Texas to be considered. The curriculum includes four seminar courses in education assessment, evaluation and strategies, and learning and neurological disabilities, as well as a required practicum. UT Tyler offers numerous graduate fellowships and scholarship opportunities for online students, including the Teachers in Excellence Scholarship for students working full-time in K-12 classrooms. Graduates are among the most prepared teachers in Texas, with a 100% pass rate on the TExES exam. The university’s online scheduling system allows students to make appointments for everything from virtual admissions advising to graduate counseling services.


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5

University of Massachusetts-Boston

Value Score 8.80
Average Tuition $2,590
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 31%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $108

UMass Boston’s master of education in vision studies places a special emphasis on the needs of students with visual impairments. This online master’s in special education is offered through the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development The curriculum is designed specifically for teachers and therapists working with students with visual disabilities.This program is also among the most affordable online masters in special education, and offers financial aid in the form of graduate study grants. Students may choose from the following career-specific tracks: teacher of students with visual impairments, orientation and mobility specialist, and visual rehabilitation specialist. Coursework includes a pre-practicum field experience and a practicum consisting of at least 300 hours in an approved facility. UMass Boston’s online student portal offers 24/7 tech support, virtual advising, and social networking opportunities. These resources are also available via the university’s own Mobile Web app.


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6

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Value Score 8.77
Average Tuition $3,022
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 68%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $227

UTPB’s online master of arts in special education emphasizes admission policies, convenient course delivery, and cheap tuition. The affordable online masters in special education does not require applicants to have teaching certification to apply, which allows students to complete the degree in as few as 12 months and includes one of the country’s lowest per-credit rates. The online special education program at UTPB mimics the rigor of the on-campus degree, and is taught by the same instructors and faculty. Applicants with at least a 3.0 GPA may waive the GRE requirement. There are six start dates throughout the academic year. To this end, the program’s eight-week courses explore cultural diversity, theories of behavior, and current trends in special education. Students must also complete a culminating research project course on a special education topic as your choice. The school’s MyUTPB page provides numerous comprehensive student resources including interactive schedules, library access, bill-pay options, and more.


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7

Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus

Value Score 8.53
Average Tuition $3,519
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $221

ENMU offers an affordable masters in special education online with an emphasis on pedagogy. Students may choose an emphasis in general education or early childhood special education. This program does not lead to licensure, though it is intended as a great source of professional development for licensed professionals. There is a thesis option available with advisor approval. The coursework encompasses research, assessment, and theory-to-practice aspects of special education curricula. Students learn the basics of special education law and behavioral management techniques as part of the program’s core requirements. An internship in special education is required, as is a culminating final course on curriculum history and theory. The school hosts Help Desks dedicated to both Blackboard and the ENMU student portal site, an online writing center, and online counseling opportunities exclusively for distance students. The school offers in-state tuition rates to online students enrolled in six or fewer credits per semester. Non-residents taking more than six hours must pay out-of-state rates.


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8

Valdosta State University

Value Score 8.41
Average Tuition $4,248
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 68%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $236

Valdosta State University offers a master of arts in teaching in special education with both an adapted curriculum and a special education general curriculum. The online special education masters degree is intended to provide initial licensure for teachers in P-12 classrooms who teach students with special needs. The program’s general and adapted curriculum emphases are intended to address a wide spectrum of special needs students. Students working with children who have mild to moderate disabilities may choose the general curriculum track, while those teaching in classrooms of moderately to severely disabled students are suited to the adapted curriculum option. The curriculum includes an internship, a final research project in special education, and a capstone course. The university extends the same affordable flat-rate tuition to all online students, regardless of their state of residence. VSU’s Center for eLearning features a dedicated student support team to help distance learners access tech support, locate their academic advisors, and utilize library resources and other research tools online. Applicants must be employed as a teacher of students with disabilities and have either a standard professional teaching certificate or an Induction Pathway 4 certificate in special education to be considered.


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9

Emporia State University

Value Score 8.36
10

University of the Cumberlands

Value Score 8.34
Average Tuition $5,238
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 99%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $291

University of the Cumberlands offers an online master of arts in teaching in special education with an emphasis in learning and behavior disorders. The program emphasizes integrated field experience, collaborative learning, and specialized pedagogy development and leads to licensure in the state of Kentucky. The MAT at University of the Cumberlands has a low, set rate of tuition that includes a minor technology fee for each eight-week term. Even with the technology fee, this program is an affordable choice for special education teachers seeking professional development. The program offers six eight-week terms per year, with course options divided equally across spring, summer, and fall semesters. The curriculum includes a two-part clinical course as part of the core requirements, as well as an exit course that consists of professional clinical experience. The MAT allows students to specialize their students in special education, business and marketing, and any grade level K-12.


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11

Armstrong State University

Value Score 8.32
Average Tuition $3,708
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 32%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $206

Armstrong State University’s online special education masters degree is Georgia’s only state-approved special education transition specialist endorsement program and includes a specialization in autism spectrum disorders. The curriculum teaches advanced research-based skills and emphasizes inclusion and transition techniques for students with moderate to severe disabilities. Required areas of study include a professional core, specialized content, and a capstone project. There are also four transition courses required to receive the Special Education Transition Specialist Endorsement. Graduates will receive T-5-level certification at the program's end, an upgrade from a standard teaching certificate. This is a popular form of career advancement in the field and often leads to an increased salary. Distance learners are also paired with an academic advisor and mentor for the duration of their degree. The university offers a variety of orientations, tutorials, as well as Netiquette courses designed to ensure a student's readiness for online learning.


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12

Fitchburg State University

Value Score 8.26
Average Tuition $3,006
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 41%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $293

Fitchburg State University offers a flexible masters in special education online with several different concentrations to choose from in guided studies, moderate disabilities, reading specialist, and severe disabilities. Most of these specializations also lead to licensure. The master of education in special education is delivered through a combination of online coursework and limited sessions held on Saturdays at the Fitchburg, MA campus. Total course credits vary depending on a student's concentration and whether they are seeking licensure. All online degrees at Fitchburg state offer flexible, convenient scheduling that is perfect for adult learners. Fitchburg makes no distinction between in- and out-of-state residency status, but online programs do incur an additional fee per credit. The program offers 24/7 tech support and live chat option, as well as online self-paced orientation courses and technology training.


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13

Arkansas State University-Main Campus

Value Score 8.26
Average Tuition $4,392
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 70%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $244

Arkansas State University’s master of science in education for special education - instructional specialist K-12 features integrated practice-based curriculum in specialized pedagogy for a range of disabilities. The affordable online masters in special education offers low tuition rates, regardless of residency. The program can be completed in as few as 16 months. The degree leads to licensure for K-12 special education teachers in Arkansas. Coursework introduces students to the traits of mild, moderate, and severe disabilities, as well as important aspects of autism spectrum disorders. Other distinctive courses include special education law and positive behavior interventions and supports. Students must complete a special education lab experience, or internship course, upon passage of the Praxis II exam and with advisor approval. Distance students can access academic and financial aid support through the university’s self-service portal, as well as search through library databases, register for courses, and research potential transfer credits online.


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14

University of Central Arkansas

Value Score 8.23
Average Tuition $4,375
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 60%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $243

University of Central Arkansas’ master of science in education in special education encompasses a broad, diverse curriculum in both theory and practice for K-12 classrooms. Coursework explores research methods, best practices, and solution-based learning for K-12 students with mild to severe disabilities. The program also includes courses in legal aspects of special education as well as dyslexia and language concerns. Students may choose to add an optional gifted and talented certificate, consisting of 15 additional course credit hours. The program also includes an endorsement program of study. Students with an Arkansas teaching license can receive an Arkansas Special Education K-12 license upon successful completion of the endorsement program and Praxis II exams. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, using streaming video and video-conferencing as the primary means of communication. Requirements vary from course to course, and some assignments within the online program may require minimal face-to-face meetings on campus. The university’s MyUCA student portal offers interactive course schedules, self-service student account services, and online registration and grade-viewing apps.


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15

Montana State University-Billings

Value Score 8.23
Average Tuition $5,276
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 76%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $220

The master of science in special education at Montana State University is an affordable program designed for teachers with no undergraduate training in special education. Online tuition rates at MSU-B are more affordable than on-campus rates and on par with national competitors. The program also includes courses that are required for the special education endorsement, which is an inherent component of the degree. The degree can also be added as an endorsement to a teaching license in elementary or secondary education. Candidates must complete a student-teaching experience during the third and final phase of the special education program. The masters in special education online includes a three-part course in best practices of teaching, which focuses on types of disabilities, including emotional disturbances, learning disabilities, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The university offers a variety of self-help resources for distance students online, including a downloadable graduate student handbook, independent study contract, financial aid assistance, and more.


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16

Henderson State University

Value Score 8.18
Average Tuition $4,428
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 76%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $246

Henderson State University’s masters in special education online is offered through its Teachers College. The Teachers College has been the recipient of numerous distinctions for elementary and secondary teacher preparation programs and is recognized by the National Council for Teacher Quality. Courses explore advanced methods of teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities, as well as those with severe or profound challenges in the classroom. The curriculum also covers autism spectrum disorders, and a two-part practicum is required, addressing grades K-4 and 4-12 in separate courses. Students will complete a culminating research course, compile a portfolio, and undergo an exit interview to close the degree. Upon passage of the Praxis exam, graduates are eligible for special education licensure. The university’s myHenderson portal offers tech support, online financial aid account information, and a Microsoft student advantage program that provides discounts on the Microsoft Office suite.


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17

University of Houston-Victoria

Value Score 8.01
Average Tuition $5,148
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 91%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $359

UHV offers a master's of education in special education through its School of Education, Health Professions, and Human Development. The program emphasizes special education assessment tools with broad applications inside and outside of the classroom, as well as intervention, pedagogy, and transition techniques. The MEd in special education leads to special education certification for teachers who have general educator’s licensure. Optional concentrations within the special education program include applied behavior analysis and autism spectrum disorders. Students may also enroll in additional credit hours to earn an optional certification as an educational diagnostician. Though the majority of coursework is completed online, students enrolled in the online masters in special education at UHV must visit either the University of Houston’s Victoria or Katy campuses during the semester before graduation to take final exams. Distance students can access the myUHV portal for tech support, customized course schedules, online bill-pay options, and more.


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18

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Value Score 8.00
Average Tuition $4,187
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 37%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $233

UTRGV’s master of education in special education emphasizes contemporary issues and modern teaching methods for an expanding student population with special needs. The affordable masters in special education online is eligible for the TEACH Grant and also offers a significant partner scholarship opportunity for qualifying students. The MEd in special education is an accelerated online program that offers three start dates across spring and summer terms. Applicants are not required to have initial teaching certification for acceptance into the program; those that do may earn additional special education certification upon completion of the MEd degree. The curriculum emphasizes research, analysis, and programming for low-incidence special education students, as well as a broad survey of autism spectrum disorders. The program may be completed in as few as 10 months. Distance students may access all technology resources, including electronic library databases, financial aid awards, and grades in the same secure website via the myUTRGV student portal.


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19

Missouri State University-Springfield

Value Score 7.93
Average Tuition $4,500
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $250

Missouri State Online offers a masters in special education online with a concentration in blindness and low vision disabilities. This master of science in special education is accredited by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind, the National Counsel of Accredited Teacher Education, and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The program spans six semesters and is completed in two to three years. The curriculum includes anatomy of the eye, braille reading and writing, and teaching methods for students with multiple vision impairments. Students are required to complete a practicum, research seminar, and thesis to conclude the program. The university’s tuition rates are the same for resident and non-resident students, which helps the online program remain a cheap option for all distance learners. Dedicated program advisors are available to discuss the finer points of the curriculum's many specialties. Comprehensive student support is available through Missouri State Online and includes a help desk, career counseling, and online tutoring options.


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20

Texas Tech University

Value Score 7.83
Average Tuition $4,733
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 34%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $263

Texas Tech University’s master of education in special education offers eight optional emphasis areas: autism, applied behavior analysis, deaf education, educational diagnostician, orientation and mobility, transition, visual impairment, and general special education. The visual impairment and orientation and mobility specializations require limited on-campus attendance for select courses, while the rest can be completed entirely online. Coursework within each of the specializations prepares students for individual licensure in that speciality. TTU also offers standalone certificate programs in autism and dual sensory impairments. Passage of a comprehensive exit exam, or completion of a research paper or master’s thesis, is required during the last semester of study. Online special education masters students may choose a thesis or non-thesis option; a thesis can be substituted for an additional six credits. Applicants must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and some specializations require initial teaching licensure to be considered. TTU’s Worldwide eLearning portal offers student support via a live chat option, 24/7 tech help, and a database of self-help articles.


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21

Trinity Baptist College

Value Score 7.79
Average Tuition $5,310
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 96%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $295

Trinity Baptist College offers a masters in special education online that combines biblical leadership and Christian principles with a traditional special education curriculum. The Christian school is the only one in the state of Florida to offer a special education concentration within its elementary and secondary education programs. Trinity’s online master’s in education offers three concentrations, including special education, educational leadership, and curriculum and instruction. The college also offers a unique Philosophy of Christian Education Seminar that can count toward graduate credits and lead to a philosophy credential. Though the majority of courses can be completed online, students must complete a course in diagnosis and evaluation in special education in residence at the Jacksonville, Florida campus. Trinity offers electronic library and bookstore access, veterans benefits, and additional resources online for distance learners.


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22

Western Governors University

Value Score 7.65
Average Tuition $6,500
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $361

Western Governors University’s master of science in special education is designed to provide instructional design skills for teachers of K-12 students with mild to moderate disabilities across multiple categories. Key subjects of the master’s in special education online include special education, instructional design, and research fundamentals. The program concludes with successful completion of a teacher work sample, or real-world research project. The degree is typically completed in roughly two years. Distance learners are paired with a dedicated faculty mentor who will assist in establishing the pace at which a student moves through the program. The mentor also helps determine which learning resources a student will need to meet their goals. WGU’s competency-based learning system affords online students exceptionally cheap tuition rates. In fact, WGU boasts that the program costs roughly half of the comparable programs of national competitors.


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23

Columbus State University

Value Score 7.61
Average Tuition $5,264
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 55%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $292

Columbus State University’s masters in special education online is offered through the school's Department of Teacher Education at the College of Education and Health Professions. This master of education in special education is intended for students who hold a T-4 teaching certificate or are eligible for licensure based on exam scores at the time of application. The curriculum covers advanced concepts in educational psychology and research methods, as well as information literacy and technology. The majority of the program explores mild to moderate disabilities, special education trends, and assistive technology. Students will complete a practicum and exit exam to conclude the degree. Online courses in the MEd program are priced at the same flat rate for both resident and non-resident students, earning the program the distinction of being one of the most affordable online special education masters programs in Georgia. CSU offers online proctoring and tutoring services, electronic library access, and virtual advising through the Academic Center for Excellence.


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24

University of West Alabama

Value Score 7.61
Average Tuition $6,012
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 89%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $334

The University of West Alabama offers an online masters in special education with a collaborative teacher K-6 certification. The master of education in special education is offered entirely online and is identical to the university’s on-campus program. The curriculum covers advanced methods of collaborative special education to support lifelong learning for those with profound disabilities. The program requires a practicum, though students who have satisfied prerequisite practicum experience may be eligible to opt out. Half of the MEd in special education is dedicated to certification requirements, including a two-part seminar course in general teaching competencies in special education. UWA Online offers its own remote proctoring system, advising, and career counseling services for distance learners. UWA offers financial aid specifically for online students, installment payment plans, and affordable online tuition fees. Applicants interested in the certification must meet the requirements of the Alabama Educator Certification Testing Program to qualify.


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25

University of North Dakota

Value Score 7.52
Average Tuition $6,872
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 51%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $286

UND’s online master's in special education prepares students to teach those with mild to moderate disabilities and includes nine optional specializations, including autism spectrum disorders, emotional disturbance, visual impairment, special education strategist, and more. The master of science in special education can be completed in conjunction with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst credential and/or a graduate certificate in autism spectrum disorders. Coursework in all specializations includes foundational core requirements: a practicum, numerous internships exploring key areas of special education, an independent project, and a scholarly project. Applicants can expect to complete the degree online in around 1.5 years. UND offers the same affordable in-state tuition prices for all students, regardless of their residency. The university offers electronic library access, full tech support, and a live chat option for enrollment and academic advising for distance students.


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26

Delta State University

Value Score 7.48
Average Tuition $6,012
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 89%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $334

Delta State University’s master of education in special education emphasizes leadership, collaboration, and research skills as it prepares graduates to work with other special education teachers in K-12 classrooms of students with mild disabilities. The online masters in special education is available through Delta State’s Division of Education and Human Sciences and leads to certification for K-12 special educators. In addition to core courses in adolescent and early childhood programming, inclusion and learning psychology, students must complete a two-part internship and action research course to conclude the degree. While the MEd in special education merely touches on programming for individuals with severe and/or multiple disabilities, there is additional coursework that can lead to an endorsement in severe and profound disabilities. DSU offers a variety of distance education resources for online students, including interlibrary loan services, comprehensive tech support, academic advising, and more through the Student Success Center.


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27

Stephen F Austin State University

Value Score 7.47
Average Tuition $4,518
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 46%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $312

Stephen F. Austin offers an affordable master of education in special education with multiple options for customization. In addition to pursuing a degree, students can choose to supplement their studies with a teaching certification as well as an optional educational diagnostician certification. The school also offers TEACH Grants to qualifying students who are seeking initial teaching licensure. Stephen F. Austin offers affordable tuition to all distance students, but non-Texas residents must pay an additional technology fee for distance courses. Coursework covers assessment techniques, disability awareness, law, and teaching strategies in PK-12 special education classrooms. The online courses incorporate an assessment-based method of study, emphasizing a broad mastery of foundational special education skills. The program may include a practicum, internship, and research project or culminating course to conclude the degree and qualifies graduates for licensure through the Praxis or TExES exams. SFA Online offers comprehensive electronic library access, academic advising and tutoring services, and career counseling for all distance learners.


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28

Minnesota State University Moorhead

Value Score 7.39
Average Tuition $6,066
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 66%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $337

MSUM’s online special education masters degree offers five concentrations: developmental disabilities, early childhood special education, emotional/behavioral disorders, physical/health disabilities, and specific learning disabilities. This program emphasizes mastering advanced special education concepts and research that can be directly applied in the classroom. Students may apply to the master’s of science in special education during fall, spring, or summer terms. All students must take 20 credits of foundational courses before pursuing their concentration credits; they must also enroll in a two-part research course during their final semester. Students can apply online through the school's online application system, allowing applicants to monitor the progress of their application materials. Distance students are charged the same cheap base tuition as on-campus students for graduate study, according to in- or out-of-state residency. Students might also be subject to an additional differential tuition fee for some courses. MSUM offers eServices including online course registration, financial aid assistance, and online bill-payment.


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29

Pittsburg State University

Value Score 7.38
Average Tuition $5,690
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 52%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $293

Pittsburg State University’s cheap master of science in special education is an all-purpose degree that can be customized to fit each student's career goals. PSU offers an optional emphasis in high incidence or low incidence special education for K-6 and 6-12 classrooms. The program has both a thesis and non-thesis options, and includes an endorsement that matches the student's chosen concentration. Applicants to the masters in special education online at Pitt State must have a valid teaching license or certificate to be considered. Students are required to complete a practicum in either high incidence or low incidence special needs, as well as a research project or thesis to conclude the degree. Non-Kansas residents can take advantage of PSU's Gorilla Edge and Gorilla Advantage programs to receive reduced tuition rates. The university offers electronic library access, assistive technology, and an online writing center for distance learners.


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30

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Value Score 7.35
Average Tuition $4,008
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 21%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $370

UNC Charlotte’s online masters in special education is intended for teachers with professional licensure working with academically or intellectually gifted special education students. The master of education degree leads to SP2 special education licensure in North Carolina. Coursework in the MEd in special education includes mandatory clinical field experience and a capstone research project. The major in special education includes 12 electives in a specialty study track of a student’s choice. Students may choose an adapted curriculum or general curriculum, or another track as approved by their academic advisor. Entry into the program is offered during fall, spring, and twice throughout the summer term. The school’s NinerNet site offers academic advising, career counseling, and links to social media pages dedicated to the university’s graduate student community. Online students are also paired with an academic advisor upon acceptance into the program.


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31

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Value Score 7.33
Average Tuition $5,738
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 95%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $366

NSU offers an online special education masters degree in four concentrations: gifted education, early intervention, elementary mild/moderate, and middle school and secondary mild/moderate special education. The MEd in special education is facilitated by the eNSU Global Campus and can lead to special education certification for teachers in Louisiana. The MEd in special education is offered by NSU’s Department of Teaching, Leadership, and Counseling. The curriculum in all concentrations covers the same core of foundational topics before setting students free to specialize in their chosen speciality. Distance coursework includes built-in financial benefits for students who study exclusively online. The university offers the same cheap, flat-rate tuition to online students, regardless of their state of residence. Online graduate students pay a standard rate per-credit up to nine hours, and then receive a discounted rate for additional credits taken during the same semester. The NSU Student Help Desk assists distance learners with virtual advising and tutoring options, access to the Watson library, and more.


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32

Texas A & M University-College Station

Value Score 7.30
Average Tuition $5,741
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 14%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $277

Texas A&M offers an online masters in special education through its Department of Educational Psychology at its main campus in College Station. The program is available as a master of science in special education or as a master of education in special education. The online master’s degree in special education curriculum is designed to transition students smoothly from one concept to another each semester, including summer terms. The recommended course sequence begins in the summer and teaches students evidence-based consultation skills through hands-on learning experiences. The program comprises six semesters over two years, culminating in a capstone experience. Students may supplement the MS or MEd program by pursuing an optional ABA and/or BCBA certification. Texas A&M offers TEACH Grants, as well as numerous EPSY-specific graduate scholarships, for qualifying students.


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33

Minot State University

Value Score 7.26
Average Tuition $6,535
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 65%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $325

Minot State University’s online master's in special education is a thesis program available in five emphasis areas: deaf or hard of hearing, specific learning disabilities, early childhood special education, special education strategist (for high-incidence cases), and developmental disabilities/autism spectrum disorder. All emphases except the developmental disabilities/autism spectrum disorder also have matching standalone certificate programs.

Coursework in all concentrations requires completion of a practicum, thesis writing seminar, and a culminating thesis project. Required foundational courses are designed to develop students' skills in four key areas: theory, research, writing, and measurement. Students must complete both a 1-4-hour core practicum in general special education as well as a 1-10-hour practicum in their respective area of emphasis. The Praxis II exam must be passed in a student's respective emphasis area to fulfill the program's graduation requirements. Minot State offers video tutorials, online library access and career counseling, as well as online-specific financial aid, for distance learners.


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University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Value Score 7.23
Average Tuition $6,840
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 23%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $285

University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers an online masters in special education leading to special education teaching certification in Nebraska. The program also satisfies endorsement requirements for early childhood special education and early intervention specialist. A master of arts in special education and master of education in special education are available through UNL’s Office of Online and Distance Education. The graduate programs include an emphasis in early childhood (birth to age five) special education. The MA and MEd degrees are open to both licensure-seeking and non-licensure-seeking applicants. However, students who do not have initial teaching licensure are required to complete 21 additional prerequisite courses through the College of Education and Human Sciences, and may not be eligible for optional endorsements. A practicum in special education is required for all students to complete the degree. The university offers tech support, student advising, veterans and transfer student assistance, career counseling, assistive technology, and more through UNL Online Worldwide.


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35

Bemidji State University

Value Score 7.15
Average Tuition $6,781
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 76%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $377

Bemidji State University’s online master's in special education is focused on professional teaching skills, collaborative research, and practical application of these skills in the classroom. The master of special education is intended for teachers with initial licensure who are pursuing special education certification in Minnesota. The diverse coursework within the program prepares students to teach special needs learners with many types of disabilities from all demographics and in all academic subjects. The curriculum includes courses on special populations, reading and math, and moderate to severe disabilities. Students gain hands-on experience in the required two-part clinical experience. Candidates who hold standard teaching certification can complete three additional courses to earn the ASD, EBD, and/or SLD special education teaching licensures. The university offers affordable in-state/reciprocity tuition to all online graduate students, regardless of their physical location.


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Georgetown College

Value Score 6.99
Average Tuition $5,520
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $460

Georgetown College’s master's in special education online leads to P-12 certification in moderate and severe disabilities for teachers who hold prior learning and a behavior disorders (LBD) certification. The college also offers a combined LBD/MSD master’s degree and certification option for those without prior certification. The program emphasizes research-based practices of addressing the lifelong learning needs of individuals with special needs. Coursework prepares candidates for collaboration with families and community advocates in inclusive environments. Graduates are prepared to teach children and young adults with moderate to severe disabilities, and help them transition into adult life. Each online course is seven weeks long, and the entire program may be completed in as few as 18 months. This affordable online masters in special education offers TEACH Grants, deferred payment plan options, and employer tuition reimbursement for graduate students.


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37

University of North Texas

Value Score 6.64
Average Tuition $5,450
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 35%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $398

University of North Texas offers a masters in special education online with a concentration in autism intervention. The master of education in special education - autism intervention leads to a special education teaching certification. UNT’s separate IMPACT licensure program is available to students seeking standard teaching credentials. Online courses are offered throughout the fall, spring, and summer semesters. The program includes accelerated course options, with up to four courses available during the summer term, allowing students to graduate in as few as 15 months. Required coursework encompasses a combination of departmental core, general special education, and concentration-specific coursework. UNT offers a one-time award of $1,000 toward tuition for qualifying students, making the affordable tuition even cheaper. The university’s myUNT portal is accessible as a mobile app and offers tech help, interactive course scheduling, and financial aid support.


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38

University of South Alabama

Value Score 6.55
Average Tuition $6,966
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 66%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $387

University of South Alabama’s master of education in special education curriculum is focused on collaborative teaching methods. Students with prior teaching certification may choose the traditional collaborative teaching MEd, while those with a bachelor’s degree who do not have prior teaching certification are eligible for the alternative collaborative teaching MEd Candidates in both programs may choose either an elementary or secondary specialization. Coursework in the masters in special education online is primarily field-based. The program requires an advanced practicum experience, a collaborative practicum course, and a multi-categorical practicum and seminar; these hands-on, immersive experiences represent the bulk of the degree. In addition to the required core practicum courses, students in the alternative collaborative teaching MEd must complete an internship course and pass the Praxis II exam for teaching licensure. Distance students can access electronic library and bookstore services, 24/7 tech support, virtual tutoring, and more through the USAonline student portal.


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39

Greenville College

Value Score 6.48
Average Tuition $7,524
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 75%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $418

Greenville College’s master's in special education online is available to candidates both with and without prior teaching certification in Illinois. The online master of arts in education - special education was adapted from the school’s traditional on-campus program but offers flexible distance learning options through year-round courses. Coursework is designed to provide a broad survey of disability characteristics, methods, and materials in special education within the inclusive classroom setting. The program does not limit the curriculum to one age group or level of disability. All students are required to complete an immersive capstone research course as well as a culminating capstone or thesis project. The college offers affordable tuition with additional tuition credits available to master’s candidates who received their bachelor’s degree from Greenville. Distance students are expected to participate in a combination of synchronous and asynchronous coursework online. The Tree of Life student portal offers IT support, library services, financial aid, and online bill-pay options and more.


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40

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Value Score 6.48
Average Tuition $5,550
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 44%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $410

University of Louisiana at Monroe offers an online master of arts in teaching through its eULM online division. The masters in special education online includes an emphasis in secondary education: inclusive grades 6-12 special education (mild/moderate disabilities.) The MAT allows candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than education to pursue licensure in Louisiana. Applicant must have knowledge of Louisiana teacher certification eligibility concepts, as demonstrated by a passing score on the PRAXIS exam. The online program includes an internship and may also require a culminating capstone, research project or thesis. The curriculum emphasizes advanced adolescent psychology, intervention strategies, and methods and transitional services for disabled individuals. Distance students typically complete the degree in fewer than two years, though they have up to three years if they take courses part time. eULM offers admissions counseling, academic advising, customized learning apps and more, for distance learners.


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Indiana State University

Value Score 6.47
Average Tuition $6,840
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 53%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $380

Indiana State University’s online master's in special education is customizable, based on each student’s level of experience and prior teaching certification. The master of science in special education leads to licensure in mild interventions in special education. The same core coursework is required of all master’s candidates with or without prior licensure, though students who are seeking initial licensure must complete additional courses and fieldwork, plus pass the state licensure exam. The program includes an assessment course with a practicum component, as well as a culminating experience in special education action research. Online students have up to seven years to complete the degree, though most prefer an accelerated pace that allows them to graduate in as few as 14 months. Unique course offerings explore assistive technology and development through the lifespan. Distance students can access virtual orientation courses and tutorials online, as well as ISU mobile learning apps, tech support, and more.


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42

University of Southern Maine

Value Score 6.39
Average Tuition $6,840
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 27%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $380

University of Southern Maine offers an online special education masters degree in two concentrations, designed to accommodate both aspiring and certified educators. The pre-service concentration leads to initial certification in either mild or severe disabilities, while the in-service concentration allows teachers with current professional special education certification to customize the program in special, gifted, and talented education to match their individual needs. Coursework for candidates seeking licensure includes an internship and requires a passing score on core academic skill areas of the Praxis exam. The in-service program includes several research-based core requirements, as well as the student’s choice of 24 flexible elective courses. Students may choose to earn additional certifications in conjunction with the online MS degree, like the applied behavior analysis certificate. Online graduate students are charged a cheap set rate per credit hour for “E-tuition,” which is comparable to the university’s in-state rates. The university offers distance students library access, tech assistance, advising and tutoring options, and its own mobile app at MyUSM online.


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43

Concordia University-Saint Paul

Value Score 6.35
Average Tuition $8,550
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 87%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $400

Concordia University-Saint Paul offers a master's in special education online through its Teacher Education division. The master of arts in special education does not require applicants to hold prior teaching licensure in order to be accepted into the program, though additional eligibility requirements include a conferred bachelor’s degree and personal statement of intent, as outlined by Graduate Admissions.

Coursework encompasses a broad foundation that transcends individual disability types and instructional settings. Required courses explore linguistic differences, collaboration in inclusive environments, and teaching strategies for mild to moderate disabilities. Students must complete supervised practicums in both learning disabilities and emotional behavioral disabilities. Finally, a capstone project concludes the program. Online courses are each seven to eight weeks long and are completed in student cohort groups. One hour-long synchronous online chat is required per week, though the majority of coursework is delivered asynchronously and can be completed at the student’s own pace.


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Indiana University-Bloomington

Value Score 6.30
Average Tuition $8,196
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 21%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $342

Indiana University-Bloomington’s master of science in education in special education is focused on training teachers to lead classrooms of high-incidence (mild intervention) special needs students. Students may also choose or combine the following specialty tracks: autism, behavior specialist, early childhood, instructional strategies, and/or intense interventions.

The curriculum is designed to integrate theoretical research into a heavily practice-based curriculum. The program requires four courses, one of which must be from an academic area outside of special education, to fulfill specialty track requirements. All online master’s in special education students must complete a practicum experience, as well as a research course, research seminar and capstone or thesis to conclude the degree. Distance students are matched with an experienced mentor to guide them through practicum placement and assist with other academic pursuits for the duration of the program. IU Online’s Graduate Student Portal provides access to relevant forms and information, with links to the School of Education website and the single-sign-on intranet system for distance learners.


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University of Missouri-Columbia

Value Score 6.28
Average Tuition $8,335
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 28%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $347

University of Missouri-Columbia offers a masters in special education online through its comprehensive Mizzou Online system. The master of education in special education with an emphasis in gifted education is open to students with prior certification as well as those actively seeking certification. The university’s 15-credit Missouri certification preparation program can be taken in conjunction with the master’s degree. Coursework combines core requirements and foundational topics relevant to gifted education. Unique course topics include differentiating instruction, technology to enhance learning, and curriculum leadership. Distance students must complete a practicum, as well as a culminating research project, to conclude the degree. Online students are assigned a dedicated advisor for the duration of the program. Mizzou Online offers numerous virtual resources for distance learners through its comprehensive Learning Center and Online Writery, counseling center, and NetTutor system.


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University of Idaho

Value Score 6.22
Average Tuition $5,882
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 37%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $438

University of Idaho’s master of education in special education is designed for students who possess elementary or secondary teaching licensure in Idaho and are seeking a special education certification. The master’s in special education online can be customized to a student’s particular interests within special education, though the given study track leads to Idaho exceptional child generalist teaching certification. Students deepen their study of special education in a concentration of their choice, such as autism, low-incidence, or consulting, with the approval of their academic advisor and the department. Additional master’s programs in special education are available in a dual bachelor's of science/master's of education degree, a master’s only (no certification) option, and a master’s plus special program area. The MEd in special education requires completion of a semester-long internship in addition to online coursework. Students are assigned a dedicated academic advisor upon enrollment at UI, or they can choose a program-specific advisor of their choice to help guide the online learning process.


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Graceland University-Lamoni

Value Score 6.17
Average Tuition $6,965
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $467

Graceland University’s online master's in special education includes a focus in autism spectrum disorder through an instructional, methodologies-based curriculum. The master of education in special education is designed to broaden the skills of Iowa special education professionals, though the program does not lead to licensure in special education. Coursework explores assistive technology, as well as best practices for behavioral management strategies and developing transitional programs. The program requires completion of a classroom inquiry, an action research project, and a practicum experience. Students may enter the online program at multiple start dates throughout fall, spring, and summer terms. Graceland and the Gleazer School of Education offer the same affordable, locked-in tuition rates to all online students in the MEd program, regardless of their residency status. The program is normally completed in two years.


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University of Arkansas

Value Score 6.14
Average Tuition $6,989
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 32%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $388

University of Arkansas offers an online master's in special education with the option of earning special education certification in addition to standard professional teaching licensure in Arkansas. The university also offers a certificate-only non-degree program, as well as additional certificates in autism spectrum disorders and applied behavior analysis that can be taken in conjunction with the master’s degree.

Coursework in the MEd in special education is flexible in nature, allowing students to tailor the program to their individual needs. In addition to optional specialty certificates that can be incorporated into the MEd plan of study, students can choose to pursue a dyslexia therapy endorsement while earning their master’s degree. Requirements include a two-semester teaching experience, a supervised practicum, and a capstone project to conclude the degree. U of A Online courses are modeled after their on-campus counterparts, and distance learners can access the same comprehensive library, tutoring, and academic advising services as traditional students. The university offers affordable in-state tuition prices to all students who take courses exclusively online.


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Jacksonville State University

Value Score 6.14
Average Tuition $8,376
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 65%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $349

Jacksonville State University offers a masters in special education online in both collaborative K-6 and 6-12 special education and early childhood special education. Online programs at JSU are developed alongside on-campus offerings, are taught by the same renowned faculty, and are aimed at providing the same high-quality education to remote students. Coursework focuses on developing key practical skills needed in the special education classroom. The curriculum explores a wide range of special education topics, emphasizing mild to severe disabilities, collaborative strategies, and assistive technologies. For the master of science in education in collaborative K-6 and 6-12 special education, requirements include a two-part practicum in mild and severe disabilities among both K-6 and 6-12 student groups. The program requires a two-part practicum in early childhood education and severe disabilities among K-6 and 6-12 groups. This leads students to eligibility for dual (K-6 and 6-12) collaborative/special education and P-3 early childhood special education certifications, respectively.


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Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Value Score 6.09
Average Tuition $8,172
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $454

Slippery Rock University offers an online master's in special education in four tracks: autism, grades 7-12, birth to grade 8, and supervision. These programs are intended for candidates who have prior teaching licensure in Pennsylvania and are looking to earn special education certification or a specialist endorsement. Coursework combines foundational concepts in special education with intensive research and practice in the field. Each of the programs require a practicum component, and some allow additional optional electives in addition to basic core competencies. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, provide two letters of recommendation, and show proof of a valid teaching license to be considered. Though tuition prices for online learning are set according to the student’s state of residency, the university makes the process convenient by offering installment plans, online bill-pay options, and more through its Student Accounts site. The school also offers online advising, technology services, and a virtual tutoring and writing center for distance students.


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What Will I Learn in My Online Master’s in Special Education Program?

Sample Courses

The coursework students complete while pursuing a special education degree online teaches them about assessment tools, applied behavior analysis, and instructional tools tailored to special needs students. Online special education students pursuing an instructor role or seeking practitioner experience in a classroom setting should also take internship courses while completing their online master’s degree in special education. Although individual courses vary depending on a student’s chosen specialization (e.g., autism, applied behavior analysis, or high-incidence disabilities), many programs have common classes. Some of these are listed below.

  • Psychoeducational Evaluation of Exceptional Learners This course teaches special education teachers methods to appraise and communicate the educational status and progress of students using simulation experiences.
  • Behavior Modification and Contingency Management of Disabled Learners This class explains common methods of behavior modification and contingency management. It also explores using a particular sequence of tasks to affect increased learning abilities in special needs students.
  • Modification of Curriculum and Instructions for Atypical Learners In this course, students learn how to modify and alter various types of materials and programs for special needs students. Common topics include adaptive technologies and research-based instructional strategies. Students explore these methods using practical simulations designed for the K-12 classroom.
  • Instructional Process With Exceptional Children Students taking this course learn how to develop educational strategies to help special needs students remedy or compensate for underperformance or maladjustments in a traditional learning environment.

Special Education Concentrations

Students pursuing a master’s degree in special education online can usually choose from a variety of concentrations. Whether you want to teach, write curriculum for special needs programs, or become an educational administrator, the concentration you focus on will be related to the type/severity of the disability and the age of your students. For example, you may want to work with autistic students in an elementary classroom. Alternatively, you may be planning to pursue a career helping older students with disabilities transition from a school setting into adult life. Below are a few common concentrations offered by special education programs.

  1. Autism and Developmental Disabilities Coursework in this concentration teaches students to use scientist-practitioner methods and abide by ethical guidelines to treat and educate special needs students with autism or other developmental disabilities. Specialists in this area are trained to work as special education teachers, behavioral therapists and consultants, and education administrators.
  2. Applied Behavior Analysis This concentration teaches distance learners various analysis methods to evaluate potential developmental disabilities in children at schools and other educational and clinical settings. Students learn the best practices of applied behavior analysis to create positive change in special needs classrooms.
  3. Gifted, Talented, and Creative The gifted, talented, and creative concentration trains teachers to support special needs students in academic and social development endeavors. Coursework explores different instruction methods to achieve these goals. The culture of gifted education and methods to promote positive reform are also discussed.
  4. High-Incidence Disabilities Although this concentration sometimes includes autism spectrum disorders, it is designed to be broader in scope, providing distance learners with skills and strategies to support a variety of high-incidence disabled students in K-12 classrooms. Coursework explores instructional design and delivery, cultural and linguistic diversity, and positive behavioral support systems.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Special Education Graduates

Master’s in Special Education Careers

Earning an online special education degree is an important step toward getting a career in this field. Special education teachers must be licensed to practice at public schools in any U.S. state. Because a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to obtain general teaching licensure through the Praxis test or another qualifying exam, many jobs in education require only an undergraduate degree for entry-level positions. However, students aspiring to teach special education require additional training, which can be acquired through certification preparation or a master’s degree program, to gain credentials specific to this specialization. The following list includes some careers commonly pursued by special education graduates.

Special Education Teachers

$57,910 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor’s degree Degree Required

Special education teachers work with students who have a variety of learning, emotional, mental, and/or physical disabilities. They adapt lessons and learning tools for those with mild to moderate disabilities and teach fundamental learning and life skills to severely disabled students. Special education teachers need a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued license or certification to enter the field.

Projected Growth Rate 8%

Instructional Coordinators

$62,460 Avg Annual Salary
Master’s degree Degree Required

Instructional coordinators develop curriculum and instructional learning materials and uphold standards of existing materials for teachers and principals. They may also help train teachers about effective instructional methods and strategies. Many instructional coordinators specializing in special education programs work in elementary and secondary schools. A master’s degree is typically required for instructional coordinator positions.

Projected Growth Rate 10%

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

$92,510 Avg Annual Salary
Master’s degree Degree Required

These professionals manage all day-to-day operations of a school or learning facility. Principals with a focus in special education may oversee operations of a specialty school that caters exclusively to students with disabilities. Alternatively, they may help their staff incorporate special education programs within a traditional school setting. Principals should have a master’s degree to enter the field; most states also require principals of public schools to be licensed as school administrators.

Projected Growth Rate 8%

Postsecondary Teachers

$75,430 Avg Annual Salary
Master’s degree Degree Required

Postsecondary teachers educate students who have graduated from high school about a variety of academic and technical subjects. Most postsecondary teachers require advanced education in the subject they are teaching; thus, graduates with a special education degree may be eligible to pursue work as a college professor in this subject. Although most postsecondary teachers need a PhD in their chosen area of expertise, a master’s degree is acceptable for some community college jobs, especially when combined with extensive field experience.

Projected Growth Rate 15%

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

$45,790 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor’s degree Degree Required

Preschool and childcare center directors manage all day-to-day aspects of learning or care facilities, including staffing, programming, and budgeting needs. Professionals in this field with specialized training in special education may oversee early childhood education programs or classrooms tailored to special needs students within a preschool or childcare center. As these facilities are not regulated by federal and state guidelines in the same way as public schools, entry-level positions typically require only a bachelor’s degree and experience in an early childhood education setting.

Projected Growth Rate 11%

Special Education Licensure and Certification

Special education teachers must be licensed to practice in their state. Aspiring educators in this field can earn certification in one of two ways. They can either obtain general teaching certification with an additional special education credential or complete a master’s degree specifically in special education. Students need a bachelor’s degree in order to sit for the basic competency and assessment tests that lead to general licensure. As part of the general licensure process, they can take a test in a specific grade level, subject, or other specialization (e.g., special education). Teachers must also pass a criminal background check.

The state-issued education specialist instruction credential is the most common qualification for professionals in this area of expertise. It qualifies instructors to teach students who have mild to moderate disabilities, moderate to severe disabilities, deafness, other physical and/or health impairments, or individuals enrolled in early childhood special education programs. This credential is applicable to public and private schools, hospitals, and correctional facilities.

Job Placement

While students without an advanced degree have access to many special education jobs, earning a master’s in special education provides many benefits. A recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) found that 56% of all special needs education majors obtained a graduate degree; these advanced degree holders earned 32% more than individuals with only a bachelor’s degree. Professionals trained in special needs education also enjoy an employment rate of 96%, with 81% working full-time. The same study reports an overwhelming majority of professionals educated in special needs are employed in the field of education, followed by health services and public administration roles. Although job opportunities vary according to location and demand, your ability to assume an advanced position in special education is more favorable if you’ve earned a master’s degree in special education online.

Master’s in Special Education Salary

Salaries for graduates of online master’s in special education programs vary and depend primarily on your precise role as an educator or administrator, as well as the age of the students in your care. For example, special education teachers with a master’s degree tend to earn less overall than administrative jobs in education. Additionally, middle school special educators typically out-earn elementary special educators (by a fairly small margin). As shown in the table below, jobs that typically require an advanced degree in special education, including educational specialists, directors, and principals, earn significantly more; this is especially true later in their careers.

Median Salary by Occupation
Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Employees Mid-Career Employees Late-Career Employees
Special Education Teacher at a Preschool, Kindergarten, or Elementary School $45,405 $40,000 $43,000 $55,000
Special Education Teacher at a Middle School $48,981 $43,000 $46,000 $58,000
Educational Specialist $49,823 $43,000 $50,000 $65,000
Director of Special Education $74,105 $63,000 $67,000 $84,000
Elementary School Principal $79,046 $72,316 $77,515 $89,000

Do I Need to Take the GRE to Enroll in an Online Master’s in Special Education Program?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) is used to assess whether or not a student is ready for graduate study. The general GRE is comprised of four sections: analytical writing, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. Although students can take subject tests in individual specialized areas, most graduate programs in special education that ask for your GRE results only require general test scores. Additionally, although admission requirements vary from school to school, most online special education master’s degree programs do not require GRE scores if students have a strong academic background and meet other requirements. Be sure to check directly with any programs you are interested in about their GRE policy.

Preparation for the GRE varies widely depending on a distance learner’s background, but most individuals engage in eight to 12 weeks of individual or tutor-led study. GRE preparation organizations typically offer workbooks, webinars, sample tests, and tutoring services to help students prepare for the test. Additionally, experts recommend taking more than one practice test to build up your confidence and become familiar with the format of the test.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Special Education Degrees

When looking at master’s in special education online programs, it is important to make sure that all schools you’re considering are accredited. Every legitimate college or university in the U.S. is accredited by a national or regional agency, such as the Higher Learning Commission or the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. Both national and regional accreditation are acceptable as long as accreditation is provided through a recognized accrediting agency; however, regional accreditation is more common among well-known institutions of higher learning. For transfer students, nationally-accredited institutions offer a wider range of options because they typically accept transfer credits from any school, whereas many regionally-accredited schools only honor credits from other regionally-accredited institutions. Outside of a school’s institutional accreditation, an online master’s degree in special education program may be accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation(CAEP). You can check for a school’s institutional accreditation on the websites of the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Financing Your Online Master’s in Special Education Program

The process of applying for financial aid to fund your online master’s in special education starts with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. You should fill out the FAFSA each year that you’re in school. The FAFSA determines which sources and how much federal aid you qualify for. Types of federal aid include scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study job opportunities. Grants and scholarships are preferred types of aid because these funding sources do not need to be repaid after graduation. Additionally, work-study programs may allow students to gain important professional experience while pursuing their degrees. Because special education is an in-demand field, many schools and private entities also offer scholarships to graduate students enrolled in these types of programs. The tables below detail a few of the financial awards available specifically for special education students.

Special Education Scholarships

Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Varies

This scholarship is offered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and is open to Illinois residents who are minority students enrolled in a teacher preparation program leading to certification in the state.

Scholarship Deadline: March 1

Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be enrolled at least half-time with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

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Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program Varies

This Illinois Student Assistance Commission scholarship allows special education teaching students to claim exemption from tuition and fees for up to four years at an eligible institution of higher learning in the state.

Scholarship Deadline: March 1

Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be an Illinois resident and a current/accepted undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a program leading to certification in special education.

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Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship Varies

The Kansas Board of Regents awards this merit scholarship to students pursuing college programs in hard-to-fill education specialties and/or students who intend to teach in underserved areas of the state after graduation.

Scholarship Deadline: May 1

Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be a Kansas resident enrolled in a program leading to licensure or holding current teaching licensure; recipients must sign a service obligation agreement.

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William L. Neer Scholarship Varies

The special education department of San Francisco State University (SFSU) offers this scholarship to students enrolled in a graduate degree/teacher credential program in visual impairment/orientation and mobility.

Scholarship Deadline: March 28

Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be enrolled in at least three academic units with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.

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Dorothy B. Lucas Special Education Scholarship $2,500

This SFSU scholarship offers financial assistance to students enrolled in graduate-level special education programs at the university.

Scholarship Deadline: November 12

Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be enrolled at least half-time in a credential-seeking education specialist program or graduate program in special education. Applicant is not required to demonstrate financial need to qualify for the award.

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