The 25 Best Master’s in Special Education Online for 2019

By BCR Staff
August 2018

A Masters in Special Education degree is intended for individuals with previous degrees who wish to work with students with special needs. The degree provides instruction on the description and nature of disabilities in children of various ages and the psychological factors that affect these students. Students learn about effective teaching strategies and ways to create meaningful learning experiences for these children. They also learn how to develop lesson plans that are modified toward a child's specific disability.

Examples of special education courses include human growth and development, educational psychology, assessment in special education, learning disabilities, special education teaching strategies, emotional and behavioral disorders, disability law, and applied behavior management.

Featured Online Master's In Special Education Programs:

In this ranking, our editors examine our picks of the top 25 Online Master's for Special Education programs. For more generalized information regarding distance learning visit our ranking of the top online colleges.

 

Rating and Ranking Methodology
Tuition Points:

  • Under $35,000—1 points
  • Under $30,000—2 points
  • Under $25,000—3 points
  • Under $20,000—4 points
  • Under $15,000—5 points
  • Under $10,000—6 points
  • Under $5,000—7 points

US News and World Report Recognition as a Top Online School for Master's in Engineering Programs

  • Top 5— 5 points
  • Top 10— 4 points
  • Top 25 —3 points
  • Top 50 —2 points
  • Top 75 —1 point

Customization Options

  • Format Customizations (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, Accelerated, Degree Completion, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
  • Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option (5-point cap)

Wow Factor

  • 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that "wowed" us

 

Our editor started with a list of 35 colleges and then used our customized ranking methodology to shortlist the TOP 25. We were able to narrow these initial findings by applying a few factors such as affordability (average net price is capped at $35,000), program customization, return-on-investment, and career prospects. Finally, we used information from U.S. News & World Report as well as from each school's website to apply the rating and ranking methodology above. In the event of a tie in points, the school with the lower tuition receives the higher ranking.

Check them out below!

 

#25 – Florida International University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 6

Website

Florida International University

The online master's program at Florida International University (FIU) lasts just one year. Students complete four courses during each 16-week semester, with each course lasting eight weeks and two courses running at a time. By graduation, students have completed 36 credit hours of coursework on special education issues.

The core special education curriculum at FIU covers both research and practice in special education. The program covers working with families and other school personnel to address the needs of learners with disabilities, current issues in the field, and outreach for culturally and linguistically diverse learners. It also looks at the principles of education research as a whole, as well as research topics specific to special education.

This program also covers autism spectrum disorders in great detail. Two courses provide information on appropriate instruction practices and ways to set learning goals for these learners. Others teach future teachers how to best support them, including both behavior management techniques and appropriate use of technology.

Tuition Fee: $508 per credit hour

 

#24 – Emporia State University

Master's in Special Education Online

POINTS – 6

Website

Emporia State University offers multiple special education programs at the graduate level, including a high incidence concentration and a gifted, talented, and creative special education concentration. These programs target the needs of special educators in the state of Kansas, and while students do not need to be current Kansas teachers, those who are will benefit more from the program. Students not interested in a full master's degree can instead take an abbreviated endorsement program.

The master's degree programs at Emporia State University require 36 credit hours for completion. These courses teach students about research, student assessment, and ways to approach specific student populations.

Students must also complete a thesis or master's project as part of the program. To start work on these requirements, they must first be accepted as degree candidates. This requires the completion of at least six hours of study, and must be completed before finishing more than 12 hours of study. Thesis option students must also submit to an oral examination to graduate.

Tuition Fee: $480 per credit hour

 

#23 – Bemidji State University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 6

Website

The Bemidji State University master's degree in special education gives professional educators a background in behavioral, social, emotional, and learning disorders and disabilities. This program meets Council of Exceptional Children and Minnesota Special Education Licensure Standards. Courses in the program that do not focus on these requirements instead give students a background in research and project planning.

This program does not provide a direct pathway to education licensure of any kind. Applicants must already have a valid teaching credential, which they submit as part of the program application. Students can take three additional courses to receive autism spectrum disorder, emotional and behavioral disorders, and specific learning disabilities licenses.

Bemidji State University extends its in-state and reciprocity tuition rates to all graduate students. This can significantly reduce the financial burden of attending, though students attending from outside Minnesota should make sure the program meets their long-term professional goals.

Tuition Fee: $419.80 per credit hour

 

#22 – Indiana University – Bloomington

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 7

Website

Indiana University South Bend

Indiana University Bloomington's 36-credit master's degree in special education can be completed primarily online. To graduate, students must attend an intensive topical workshop near the end of the program, but most coursework can be completed without setting foot on campus.

Mentorship serves as the cornerstone of the Indiana University program. All students must find a local mentor and practicum site during the first semester of the program. Those who already teach special education on an emergency license or provisional basis can use their current position as the practicum site, and can identify a teacher or administrator there as the mentor.

This program includes four specialty tracks: autism, behavior specialists, early childhood instructional strategies, and intense interventions. All students choose at least one track, which consists of four online courses. Courses may be combined to better suit an individual student's professional needs.

Tuition Fee: $1301 per credit hour

 

#21 – University of St. Thomas

Online MA in Special Education

POINTS – 7

Website

The master of arts in special education online offers both licensure and non-licensure tracks. Delivered online using asynchronous and synchronous models, the program accommodates educators with Minnesota teaching license, those pursuing initial licensure, and professionals not seeking licensure.

The school offers six special education licensure programs, each with its own plan of study: academic behavioral strategist (K-21); autism spectrum disorders (birth to age 21); developmental disabilities (K-21); early childhood special education (birth to age 8); emotional behavioral disorders (K-21); and learning disabilities (K-21). Students in all six master's in special education online programs take common courses examining exceptionality, behavior management, and collaboration skills for school professionals. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some specializations have additional requirements.

Although class time is all online, many courses have applied assignments to be completed in schools or community settings. Applicants need to either work in a school or have connections with several schools.

Tuition Fee: $790 per credit hour

 

#20 – Liberty University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 7

Website

Liberty University's special education online master's program brings together current best practices in special education with a Christian worldview. Unlike many online special education programs, Liberty University sets out a clear path to initial teaching licensure. Students can move on to teach in Christian, public, private, and homeschool settings.

Most courses in the online program last eight weeks. Students have flexibility in when they take these courses, as the program targets working professionals. Most complete the degree program in about 18 months, though students can choose to take longer if necessary.

Those interested in broadening their career opportunities can consider Liberty University's dual endorsement programs. Completing some additional coursework beyond the special education degree can lead to an endorsement for elementary, middle, or high school education. Students need to work with admissions counselors and faculty advisors to plan a dual endorsement program, however.

Tuition Fee: $415 per credit hour

 

#19 – University of Oklahoma

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 8

Website

The University of Oklahoma offers a modular special education master's program online that can target students' specific professional goals. All students take the same 15-hour core, which covers applied behavior analysis, assessment, collaboration and accommodations, contemporary issues, research, and instructional methods. Students with no special education background must also take a course introducing them to understanding and accommodation development for these students.

Those who want to specialize within special education can pursue three concentrations. One covers certification in instruction for students with mild to moderate disabilities, another focuses on applied behavior analysis, and a third looks at secondary transition education. The applied behavior analysis and secondary transition education concentrations can also be combined into a dual concentration.

Students not interested in pursuing concentrations can instead take graduate courses that support their professional research interests. At least half of these electives must be special education courses, but others can come from other departments.

Tuition Fee: $610.80 per credit hour

 

#18 – Auburn University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 8

Website

Auburn University's Early Childhood/Elementary Special Education (P-6) online master's degree prepares teachers to serve infants and toddlers (0-2 years), children in preschool (3-5 years), and students in K-6 settings. Graduates are prepared to implement evidence-based practices at an advanced level to support families and the development of young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays and disabilities and elementary-aged students with disabilities. Our program is offered online and on campus.

The program has courses like Advanced Assessment in Special Education, Curriculum and Teaching in Specialization (Learning Strategies), Research in Specialization, Clinical Residency, Curriculum in Severe Disabilities and Rehabilitation Assistive Technology.

Tuition Fee: $630 per credit hour

 

#17 – University of Cincinnati

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 8

Website

While it best suits special education teachers, classroom instructors and advocates can also benefit from the University of Cincinnati master's program in special education. It equips professionals with the skills necessary to teach both adults and children with special educational needs. It also teaches them how to handle group work, problem solving, and individualized instruction for groups of these learners.

This program consists of 30 credits of coursework. Students choose a specialization, which can be autism spectrum disorder, advanced studies, transition to work, or behavioral disorders, but the specialty chosen does not change the number of credits required to graduate. While each program has some overlap with the others, most courses taken hone in on the specifics of that area of the field.

This program can be completed in approximately 20 months. Each semester of coursework lasts 14 weeks, and the program requires a total of six semesters.

Tuition Fee: $724 per credit hour

 

#16 – James Madison University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 9

Website

The school offers a 30-credit master of education in special education with a concentration in K-12 gifted education. The program does not meet initial teacher licensure requirements for Virginia. Instead, it prepares already licensed teachers for careers such as program specialist or behavior specialist in exceptional education programs. Students planning to pursue non-teaching careers working with individuals with exceptionalities may also find the program ideal.

The M.Ed. is, at the minimum, a 30 credit hour program with 13-16 core credit hours. College of Education and Exceptional Education courses comprise the core courses. The remaining credits are split between a selected concentration and electives that meet specific individual needs and career objectives.

The M.Ed. includes field experiences integrated into courses, which may occur as a formal placement by the university or as a result of supervised employment. All candidates complete a final portfolio OR an action research project, which serves as their comprehensive assessment.

Tuition Fee: $1,231 per credit hour

 

#15 – University of Alabama

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 9

Website

The University of Alabama

The school offers a 36-credit master of arts (MA) in special education and 45-48 credit alternative master of arts in special education through its Bama by Distance online learning platform. Both master's in special education online programs provide the professional training for collaborative 6-12 certification.

Designed for teachers who hold baccalaureate-level teacher certification, the standard MA leads to Alabama Class A certification. The curriculum delves into topics such as advanced behavior management, academic methods-secondary, teacher consultant models, mild and severe disabilities, and how to diagnose exceptional children and youth. The alternative MA provides a route for Class A certification for those with a non-education bachelor's or without initial certification/licensure. Students study a similar curriculum to those in the standard program but must also address undergraduate deficiencies in subjects such as English, math, and science. Students in the alternative program must also participate in an internship.

Tuition Fee: $1,113 per credit hour

 

#14 – George Mason University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 9

Website

The Master of Education in Special Education program at George Mason University encourages professionals to take a whole-life approach to the learning needs of those with disabilities. Coursework covers Universal Design for Learning, an evidence-based approach to learning that uses findings from cognitive neuroscience to inform teaching methods. Its final course, Special Education Research, requires the completion of a research project applying the lessons from its other courses.

This program requires students to choose one of two certificate tracks to improve their skills with specific populations. The autism spectrum disorders certificate requires 15 credit hours of study, requires no field experience, and emphasizes the unique challenges of autism spectrum disorders throughout one's lifespan. The applied behavioral analysis specialization, meanwhile, requires supervised experiences, and meets the requirements to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. This track looks at verbal and functional behavior analysis for those with disabilities, including both children and adults.

Tuition Fee: $775 per credit hour

 

#13 – Texas Tech University

Master's in Special Education Online

POINTS – 10

Website

Texas Tech University's online graduate special education program prepares students for many public and private positions working with individuals with disabilities. Common career trajectories for program graduates include public schools, private education, and higher education. Students must already have a bachelor's degree to enroll in the program.

The Texas Tech program offers nine specializations for those who want to work with specific populations with disabilities. Some specializations cover physical disabilities, including deafblindness, deafness, mobility impairment, and visual impairment, while others cover mental issues like autism and applied behavior analysis.

This program requires 36 hours of study, with some certificates requiring additional coursework. While students can choose to complete a thesis, the program does have a non-thesis option.

This program does not confer educator certification in the state of Texas. Students must pass the TExES exam to receive certification.

Tuition Fee: $483 per credit hour

 

#12 – Western Governors University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 10

Website

This online special ed program from Western Governors University includes coursework, carefully designed assessments, and completion of a capstone project. While you'll study and submit your coursework online, you'll also complete a practicum of 240 hours of in-class supervised teaching with exceptional learners.

This online Master of Science in Special Education degree program provides you with the essential skills, knowledge, and field experience needed to become a special education instructor for students with mild to moderate disabilities. This degree program is nationally recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). The WGU special education master's degree program was designed (and is regularly updated) with input from the experts on our Education Program Council. These experts know exactly what it takes for a graduate to qualify for a successful career teaching elementary school students with diverse learning abilities and styles.

The competencies you gain through this program will span these crucial topical areas:

  • Special education
  • Instructional design
  • Research fundamentals
  • Teacher work sample

Tuition Fee: $3190 per 6-month term

 

#11 – Loy0la Marymount University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 10

Website

Loyola Marymount University emphasizes transformative academic and professional development. The school administers a state-authorized master of arts in special education with accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The 36-credit curriculum gives educators the knowledge and skills to teach students with mild to moderate disabilities. The hybrid program features small class sizes for one-on-one attention from instructors.

Students choose one of two pathways, an intern option and a traditional pathway. The intern option allows certified K-12 special ed teachers in California to complete the degree in one year. The two-year traditional pathway uses the same curriculum and leads to teacher credentialing in California. The curriculum focuses on research and theory, teaching methodologies, and student teaching. Admission requirements for the master's in special education online include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a proficiency exam.

Tuition Fee: $1188 per credit hour

 

#10 – Brandman University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 11

Website

Brandman University accommodates distance learners with a hands-on curriculum and flexible ways to learn. The California-based school offers several special education master's programs online, including the 30-36 credit master of arts in special education behavior analysis. The program prepares special ed teachers to design behavior interventions, implement behavior change procedures, and evaluate students' progress.

The curriculum facilitates understanding of the factors that influence behavior and explores strategies for experimental design. Teacher candidates learn how to use evidence-based practices and educational technology to assess behavior and address students' needs. The program is aligned with standards established by the Council for Exceptional Children. Distance learners may choose a fully online or hybrid format. The program concludes with a capstone experience. To apply, educators must demonstrate at least part-time employment in a field that uses applied behavior analysis. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA, GRE scores, and a valid special education teaching license.

Tuition Fee: $650 per credit hour

 

#9 – George Washington University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 11

Website

George Washington University's Master's in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners provides advanced training for current teachers who want to dive even deeper into improving the education of individuals with special needs. Graduates are eligible to receive a K–12 teaching certification as well as an 18-credit graduate certificate.

In this certificate program, you will focus on the inter-relationships of school, home and community to improve the quality of education for children with diverse needs. A holistic approach to the curriculum utilizes the latest research, theory and data-driven best practices to prepare you to empower and improve the quality of learning for children with diverse needs.

The 33-credit online master's program in special education incorporates a theory-to-practice approach and a teaching internship while focusing on the diverse cultural, linguistic, social, and learning needs of elementary and secondary students. With the goal of staying current with the latest instructional techniques and cutting-edge research methods, this program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and can be finished in just 18 months.

Tuition Fee: $780 per credit hour

 

#8 – Mississippi College

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 11

Website

Mississippi College's master's program in special education takes a comprehensive look at the needs of those with learning and developmental disabilities. The curriculum covers these students' needs starting at preschool and continuing through high school. Graduates can apply for a Mild/Moderate K-12 endorsement on their teaching license as well as receive an upgrade to a Class AA license.

This program requires the completion of 10 courses, for a total of 30 credit hours of study. Each course lasts seven weeks. Courses cover issues like research development in special education, curriculum planning, and the psychology of exceptional children. The program goes over how to develop individualized programs for learners with special needs in great detail, spending two courses on this topic.

Mississippi College recognizes that special educators are busy professionals, and offers rolling admissions with five start dates each year. Prospective students must already be licensed elementary, secondary, or subject area teachers.

Tuition Fee: $365 per credit hour

 

#7 – Ball State University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 11

Website

ball-state-university

Ball State University, at Muncie, Indiana offers online Masters in Special Education to those who want to add special education to their existing license. Students can choose from nine focus areas and make any one as their focus unit of study. Students can in a variety of ways design their own program of study and choose one of five specializations including graduate-level certificates in applied behavior analysis, autism, response to intervention, emotional and behavioral disorders, or disabilities for post-secondary settings with an emphasis in autism.

Distance learners also avail the benefits of subject tutoring, writing center assistance, library services, and around-the-clock technology support. Ball State offers admission in the fall, spring, and summer semesters and application for admission requires cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 but no GRE.

Tuition Fee: Residents – $410 per credit hour | Non-residents – $616 per credit hour

 

#6 – University of Washington

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 12

Website

The University of Washington's applied behavior analysis program prepares professionals to work with those with developmental disabilities. Applied behavior analysis uses psychological principles regarding behavior to encourage and improve behavior.

The full master's degree program lasts two years. The first year covers the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Verified Course Sequence, while the second brings students up to a sufficient credit total for a master's degree in special education. After the first half of the program, students can sit for the BAC Exam and earn the Board Certified Behavior Analyst designation.

This program requires a practicum component for certification purposes. Students can use the University of Washington supervision option, but can also request to use a current workplace as a practicum site if it meets practicum requirements. A practicum must include at least 25 hours per week of work, and meet additional requirements regarding observation and video recording.

Tuition Fee: $927 per credit hour

 

#5 – Drexel University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 12

Website

The accredited online Master of Science in Special Education program equips teaching professionals with the fundamental skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to meet the needs of students with disabilities in multiple settings. The program is a flexible and convenient part-time graduate program that gives current teachers a comprehensive understanding of developing the potential of students with disabilities.

Drexel University offers its students high-quality one-of-a-kind Dual MS in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis program. This course is devoted to training students in the science of human behavior and special education to better serve the diverse needs of students who require special attention both in academic and life skills.

The dual course enables learners to develop tools and practices, which are applicable in various special needs settings. This program is divided into four 10-week quarters per year that enables students to take more courses in a shorter time period. Each semester credit is equivalent to 1.5quarter credits. Application for admission includes a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Tuition Fee: $949 per credit hour

 

#4 – Texas A&M University

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 12

Website

The Texas A&M online master's in special education best serves current educators, as well as related professionals such as counselors, clinicians, and therapists. The program lasts approximately two years, and requires 36 credit hours of coursework spread across 12 courses.

Prospective students need not have a teaching certificate or clinical experience, though Texas A&M does prefer students have some background in working with students with special needs before entering the program. The ideal student is interested in either pursuing a special education career or continuing their graduate-level training in the field after graduating from the master's degree program.

Texas A&M University works with the Quality Matters program, a leader in online quality assurance, to ensure that its online offerings provide the same high quality as its on-campus programs. The Quality Matters program encourages regular evaluation of the school's courses and recommends changes to ensure students receive excellent educations.

Tuition Fee: $945.00 per credit hour

 

#3 – University of Arkansas

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 13

Website

University of Arkansas

U of A Online Fayetteville offers M.Ed. in Special Education programs to prepare teachers with a current license to work with students with disabilities. This 100% online course is delivered via the Internet, allowing students an opportunity to pursue their educational goals, which fits with their schedules of time and place. For their practicum students will need to attend the designated school.

The online M.Ed. in Special Education can have one of several focus areas, like the program in special education for those seeking advanced learning in special education without pursuing an additional license. The second is designed to meet the coursework requirements of an additional license program in Special Education Instructional Specialist (Grades K-12). The third focus is designed to meet the coursework requirements of a Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The fourth focus is designed for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which, can lead to pursuing the Board Certification in Behavior Analysis. The fifth focus is on an endorsement for dyslexia therapy. The program prepares the teacher as Instructional Specialist in Special Education for grades K-12.

Application for admission requires cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and a standardized core knowledge test, which could include the GRE, the ACT, or core PRAXIS. Most students complete the 36 credit hour requirements in two years by being full-time students.

Tuition Fee: $470 per credit hour

 

#2 – North Carolina State University – Raleigh

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 13

Website

North Carolina State University at Raleigh with its special education program prepares students for instructional and pedagogical skills. Core course topics such as teaching, curriculum development, conducting classroom action research, behavior management and interpreting assessment helps students advocate for children and families with diverse learning backgrounds and needs.

The North Carolina State M.Ed. degree in special education has great flexibility as the courses are delivered in person, online, hybrid and through Distance Education. Mostly students complete the 30 credit hours requirement by being full time students in about 1.5 years while it takes a little longer for part-time students. For admission, the school requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate study excellent recommendations from others (e.g., educators and employment supervisors) who have worked with the candidate.

This course is not only intended for people who currently possess a valid teaching license but also suited for students who want to pursue deep knowledge in special education but do not want to obtain a teaching license.

Tuition Fee: $452.88 per credit hour

 

#1 – University of Florida

Online Master's in Special Education

POINTS – 14

Website

The University of Florida, at Gainesville, offers Teach Well, a fully online graduate program for practicing teachers under its special education master's degrees. Teach Well is especially designed to prepare teachers to serve students with special needs in an inclusive setting. It is a 36 credit hour program and all students are required to complete the Teach Well Core, which comprises of 12 credit hours. For the remaining 24 credit hours they can choose from tracks like Early Childhood Studies, General, Autism Focus, Disabilities in Society and Education and Health Care Transition.

These additional 24 credits can be taken through a specific track or in any combination. All Teach Well Online Academy courses are hosted under the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). The Teach Well program is designed to suit part-time students who can earn their master's in 2 years by taking two courses every fall, spring, and summer semesters. Application for admission includes GRE scores and for International Applicants, it also requires acceptable scores in TOEFL, MELAB, or IETS

Tuition Fee: $635.46 per credit hour

This concludes our ranking of the Top Online Master's in Special Education. Thanks for checking it out!

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