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Best Online Master’s Degrees in Special Education

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Special Education

Explore our list of top online institutions for pursuing a master’s degree in Special Education. Navigate through comprehensive program insights on classes, costs, and opportunities and arm yourself with the essentials to apply, secure admission, and graduate.

Embarking on a journey in special education? You’re in the right place. This online master’s in Special Education guide is designed to help you navigate through the vast sea of choices. It connects you with the best online programs tailored for those eager to make a tangible difference. The ideal institution prioritizes your unique goals, letting you tailor your higher education experience. With the added convenience of online learning, balancing your professional and educational pursuits has never been easier. If you’re ready to amplify your career and impact in special education, let’s dive into the top online programs waiting for you.

Program Spotlights: Special Education Master’s Degrees Online

With online learning’s surging popularity, 40% of graduate students opted for full online degrees in 2021 and 56% enrolled in at least one online course, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This learning mode offers unparalleled flexibility, especially appealing to working professionals and parents. An online master’s in Special Education can elevate career prospects, deepen understanding of learning disabilities, enable tailored lesson creation, and make a lasting impact on students’ lives.

While each program boasts unique offerings, regional accreditation remains a consistent marker of quality and rigor. This certification ensures a program’s adherence to educational standards. As prospective students navigate their choices, understanding institutional goals and outcomes helps them make informed decisions. The adaptability of online education, whether to fast-track or dive deeper, addresses the diverse needs of today’s learners. 

Below are some of the best options for those seeking an online master’s degree in Special Education.

SUNY Potsdam

SUNY Potsdam’s Special Education, MSEd program provides a deep understanding of learning disabilities, emphasizing strategies for success, assessment, and intervention. It prioritizes creating inclusive classrooms with differentiated instruction by integrating advanced tech-based teaching methods. Students also gain collaborative skills for team dynamics and expertise in behavior management and stay updated on current special education policies and research.

Program highlights:

  • Degree: Special Education, MSEd
  • Admissions Requirements: Bachelor’s degree and minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Cost: $471/credit (NY residents); $565/credit (out-of-state)
  • Credits: 36 credits
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Drexel University

Drexel University’s online Master of Science in Special Education program delivers a holistic understanding of special education, focusing on autism spectrum disorders, the ever-evolving landscape of special education law, and the competencies needed for initial education certification.

Program highlights:

  • Degree: Master of Science in Special Education
  • Admissions Requirements: Bachelor’s degree and minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Cost: $1,079/credit
  • Credits: 48 credits
  • Mode: Online with practicum experience
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Capella University

Dedicated to aiding children with special needs to realize their utmost potential, Capella University’s MS in Education, Special Education Teaching program offers a curriculum centered on specialized teaching techniques, curriculum building, and professional collaboration to drive optimal outcomes for students of varying abilities. Key features include individualized evaluation planning, a curriculum in alignment with national special education teaching standards, and an emphasis on data-based decision-making to foster student success.

Program highlights:

  • Degree: MS in Education, Special Education Teaching
  • Admissions Requirements: Bachelor’s degree and minimum GPA of 2.3
  • Cost: $470/credit with a range of $15,980 to $21,620 based on various factors
  • Credits: 46 program credits
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation Status: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

How Much Does an Online Master’s Degree in Special Education Cost?

Pursuing an online master’s degree in Special Education reflects a passion and a profound commitment to shaping a brighter future. However, the question of affordability can be daunting. Don’t worry, though, because you’re not in this alone. A range of financial aid options are available to support you, from federal aid and student loans to specialized scholarships and fellowships. Your workplace might even chip in with tuition assistance. Need more details on navigating this financial terrain? Dive into our Financial Aid Guide, Understanding FAFSA, and Scholarships Information. Some programs are outlined below to give you a clearer picture of what to expect in terms of costs.

How Much Your Online Master’s in Special Education Could Cost

SchoolNo. of CreditsCost per CreditTotal Tuition
SUNY Potsdam36$471$16,956
Drexel University48$1,079$51,792
Capella University46$470$21,620
Touro College36-42$650$27,300
Liberty University36$415$14,940

What to Expect in Your Online Master’s Degree Program in Special Education

Choosing an online Masters in Special Education means you’re gearing up for a deeply enriching academic experience. At the core of this degree, the curriculum introduces you to the complexities of diverse learning needs and equips you with strategies to cater to students with special requirements. Most programs culminate in a significant project, like a capstone or thesis showcasing your acquired expertise, and a specific number of hours of pre-residency classroom field observations. 

The beauty of online master’s programs lies in their blend of flexibility and structure. Leveraging cutting-edge digital platforms, students interact seamlessly with peers and professors, submit assignments, and partake in vibrant discussion threads. While some classes follow a real-time schedule with synchronous participation, others offer the luxury of on-demand lectures. This ensures that whether you’re a night owl, an early riser, or juggling multiple commitments, your educational journey remains accessible, allowing you to learn at a pace that complements your lifestyle. Keep in mind, though, that your pre-residency classroom hours cannot be completed online.

Common Online Masters of Special Education Courses

Special Education Law and Process

Dive deep into the intricate legal landscape of special education. This comprehensive course unpacks the pivotal laws, regulations, and legal cases shaping the special education field. From understanding the foundational rights of students with disabilities to decoding the intricate responsibilities that schools and educators shoulder, students are equipped with the legal knowledge essential to advocate for their future students and navigate the complexities of the education system. Drexel University delivers this course through experienced faculty, including former special education officers, attorneys, mediators, teachers, administrators, and advocates. Their combined expertise spans special education law, policy, and procedure.

Integrating Technology for Learning & Achievement

Embrace the transformative power of technology in special education. This course introduces you to the latest in assistive technology tools and platforms and dives into the practical methodologies for integrating these technologies into diverse learning environments. Learn how digital tools can make learning more accessible, enrich the educational experience, and open doors for students with varied needs. This course, titled Using Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning, at Western Governors University focuses on integrating technology into classrooms to enhance instruction based on ISTE standards. It covers digital tools for curriculum enhancement, student communication, engagement, and ethics and addresses assistive technologies for diverse learners, culminating in practical technology applications in teaching.

Foundations of Special Education

Embark on thoroughly exploring special education’s roots, principles, and practices. This foundational course provides a panoramic view of the field, tracing its evolution and diving deep into the various disability categories. Beyond understanding the challenges, students are introduced to proven strategies and methodologies tailored for each disability type. The aim is to inform and equip future educators with a solid grounding for addressing diverse learning needs with confidence and compassion. At SUNY Plattsburgh, this course offers an overview of special education, covering disability classifications, legislative aspects, and contemporary issues. Teacher candidates also explore differentiated teaching methods to effectively engage all students.

Special Education Methods of Instruction and Intervention

Special education demands a unique set of teaching techniques, and this course is your comprehensive guide. Explore hands-on methods of crafting curriculum, designing lesson plans, and implementing targeted interventions that cater to the diverse needs of special education students. From understanding individualized education plans to mastering classroom management in varied learning scenarios, this course ensures you walk away with a robust set of skills, ready to make a meaningful impact in the classrooms. At Western Governors University, you learn evidence-based instructional strategies tailored for students with exceptionalities. Emphasis is on individualized interventions, data-informed decisions, collaboration with educators, and teaching mastery and cognitive strategies. The course underscores the link between curriculum, instruction, and assessment, highlighting the use of student data in tailoring instruction.

Educational Psychology and Human Development of Children and Adolescents

This course bridges educational practices with key psychological theories, offering insights into children’s and adolescents’ emotional, cognitive, and social development stages. Students are better positioned to tailor their teaching approaches, address challenges, and nurture potential by studying how these young learners think, feel, and interact. Educational Psychology and Human Development of Children and Adolescents at WGU dives into research-backed developmental and psychological theories, emphasizing their classroom applications from early childhood to adolescence. It also helps candidates formulate a personal educational philosophy, incorporating insights from observed virtual classroom settings and integrating key themes of technology and diversity.

Job Outlook: What Can You Do with a Master’s Degree in Special Education

Stepping into the Special Education field with a master’s degree can dramatically broaden your horizons. This advanced degree positions you as a leader in the field and unveils many opportunities in diverse educational settings. Graduates find themselves highly sought-after by both public and private educational institutions, therapy centers, and specialized support organizations. With a master’s in hand, you’re equipped to command higher salaries, occupy senior roles, and make impactful changes compared to peers with bachelor’s degrees.

Career #1: Behavior Intervention Specialist

In this pivotal role, you’re entrusted with developing and overseeing programs tailored for students with behavioral challenges. Your master’s in Special Education instills a deep understanding of psychological and behavioral strategies, ensuring interventions are both effective and compassionate.

10th PercentileMedian Annual Pay90th Percentile

Source: Salary.com, 2022

Career #2: Special Education Teacher

Taking the helm of a classroom as a Special Education Teacher, you’ll employ a wide range of teaching methods tailored to students with varied learning needs. A master’s degree in Special Education hones your skills, equipping you with advanced teaching techniques and a profound understanding of different learning styles and challenges.

10th PercentileMedian Annual Pay90th Percentile

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

Career #3: Education Administrator

In this leadership role, you’ll shape the direction of special education programs and ensure compliance with educational standards. With the advanced training from your master’s program, you are uniquely positioned to drive improvements, ensure the quality of programs, and advocate for the needs of special education students.

10th PercentileMedian Annual Pay90th Percentile

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

FAQs About Online Master’s Programs in Special Education

Diving into an online master’s in Special Education journey is exciting but often accompanied by questions. To guide you through the decision-making process, we’ve answered six of the most common questions from potential students, aiming to provide clarity and help you make informed choices about your educational future.

  • Are online master’s degree programs in Special Education fully online?

    Most online master’s programs in Special Education offer a fully online experience, allowing students to balance personal and professional commitments. However, some programs adopt a hybrid approach, integrating occasional on-campus meetups or workshops. For example, a program might require its students to attend an annual seminar on campus or partake in face-to-face practicums within local schools. Before enrolling, clarifying these details with the institution is essential to ensure alignment with your schedule and preferences. It’s also important to remember that pre-resident classroom hours must occur in a physical classroom setting.

  • What does the admissions process look like for this degree?

    The admissions process for a master’s in Special Education typically involves submitting academic transcripts for proof of a bachelor’s degree, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. While many institutions waive standardized tests like the GRE due to the evolving educational landscape, some still consider scores, especially when determining eligibility for scholarships or grants. There are typically GPA requirements for programs as well. Unique to some Special Education programs, applicants might be asked to provide evidence of teaching experience or a valid teaching license, especially if the program gears toward currently practicing educators.

  • How long does it take to complete a master’s degree in Special Education online?

    A standard online master’s degree in Special Education typically spans two years when pursued full-time. However, several factors can adjust this timeline. Accelerated tracks might allow completion within 18 months, while part-time students could take up to three years. Some universities, such as Walden University, offer a “Tempo Learning” model that lets students progress at their own pace. Hence, the more time you dedicate, the faster you can finish.

  • What academic and career support services are available to online students earning their master’s in Special Education?

    Many institutions prioritize support for their online students, recognizing the unique challenges they might face. Academic support often includes online tutoring, writing centers, and 24/7 library access. Students can tap into virtual career counseling, resume reviews, and webinars on job market trends for career advancement. Many schools offer their students for participation in local school functions to expose themselves to the special education departments within their area. It’s also common for universities to offer tech support for navigating online platforms, ensuring a seamless learning experience.

  • Can I work while pursuing an online Master of Special Education degree?

    Absolutely! One of the significant advantages of online degrees is their inherent flexibility. Many programs are structured asynchronously, meaning students can access lectures, resources, and assignments anytime and fit their studies around work and personal commitments. For example, a teacher specializing in Special Education could watch lectures in the evenings or on weekends, allowing them to continue their day job. Some programs offer multiple start dates throughout the year, catering to working professionals’ busy schedules.

Other Master’s Degree Options in Education

If you are interested in a master’s degree in education but unsure what specialization to pursue, check out these other degree pages to learn about your options:

Master’s Degrees in Education – Curriculum and Instruction

Master’s Degrees in Education – Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Master’s Degrees in Education – Educational Leadership

Master’s Degrees in Education – Higher Education

Master’s Degrees in Education – Library Sciences

Master’s Degrees in Education – Music Education

Master’s Degrees in Education – Teaching