The 25 Best Master’s in Special Education Online for 2018

online-special-ed-mastersSome postgraduate degrees are designed to help you; some are designed to help those around you. A Masters in Special Education is the latter. With this degree, you’ll be in a position to work with children who might otherwise not have access to the special care they need. In general, this includes children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, and developmental disorders, among others.

Featured Online Master’s In Special Education Programs:

If you are interested in further information of a general nature regarding distance learning, visit our ranking of the top online colleges.

Below is the list of the top 25 online programs for obtaining a Masters in Special Ed, according to our methodology.

1. Emporia State University

Emporia StateThe online program at Emporia State University includes two tracks—a Masters of Science, or an endorsement program, which is a set of foundation courses to qualify for a state’s minimum competency requirement. The endorsement program is a 24 credit ­hour, basic track, whereas the MS includes 12 additional hours for a total of 36. All coursework must be completed within seven years of admission, but students may otherwise finish the required curriculum at their own pace. Emporia also offers a number of specializations and concentrations to pursue according to students’ interests. GPA and undergraduate credit ­hour requirements vary on the particular track.

2. University of Nebraska—Lincoln

11. NebraskaThe online program at Nebraska—Lincoln includes four separate Special Ed tracks, including programs in Early Childhood, Deaf Education, and Mild Moderate Handicaps. UNL also offers endorsement programs, in addition to a Masters. Dependent upon undergraduate coursework—18 hours of which are transferable — an endorsement typically includes 30 credit hours. The Masters runs between 36 and 44 credit hours, and may also require a thesis and comprehensive exam, according to the individual program’s graduation requirement. While the time it takes to complete a degree varies, courses are mostly taught asynchronously, allowing students to study at their own pace.

3 (tied). Graceland University

Graceland UniversityGraceland University’s online program includes two MEd tracks in Differentiated Education and Mild/Moderate Special Education, which is a 30 credit­ hour curriculum. The MEd in Differentiated Education combines the work of world­ renowned experts Dr. Carol Anne Tomlinson and Dr. William Glasser, each of whom also appears as video instructors in several of the program’s courses. In particular, Graceland emphasizes a collaborative approach with fellow online students, clear and practical connections between coursework and classroom practice, and opportunities to combine classroom practices with national standards.

3 (tied). Florida State University

Florida StateThe online program at Florida State University includes specialized tracks in autism, early childhood, differentiated education, severe disabilities, and transition. FSU also offers an excellent online Master’s in Special Education Studies, which consists of 33 semester hours, and is designed for current teachers who already have a some kind of degree in education, general or special. For admission, applicants must have earned at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit GRE scores. The average verbal score is 146, and the average quantitative is 140.

5. University of Northern Colorado

Northern ColoradoThe University of Northern Colorado offers seven different special education programs, each of which are available to complete totally online. The expected time to graduate varies per track, but certain emphases may be completed in just two years. In addition, Northern Colorado also offers certificate and endorsement programs for students who choose not to pursue the full master’s.

6. Ball State University

16. Ball StateBall State University offers an online MA in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) with an emphasis on Autism. This is a 30 credit­ hour course typically completed in 18­24 months, with the option for accelerated 8­week courses for students who wish to complete their degree as soon as possible. Graduate certificates in a specialized education field are offered as well, for students unsure of an MA. Admission requires applicants to have earned at least a 2.75 cumulative undergraduate GPA, but GRE scores are not necessary.

7. Auburn University

17. AuburnAuburn’s online program offers both a traditional and alternative fifth­ year MEd in Early Childhood Special Education. Depending on transferable credits and specific track, the online coursework ranges from 30 to 60 credits. Each track emphasizes teaching field courses and provides students with a valuable experiential learning angle, including internship programs. For admission, students must have earned at least a 2.75 undergraduate GPA.

8. Pennsylvania State University—World Campus

9. Penn StatePenn State’s online program is a 32 credit ­hour MEd in Special Education, with three potential emphases: ABA, autism, and academic and behavioral supports. For full­ time students, expected graduation time is just one calendar year. Students who take one or two courses per semester typically take two calendar years to graduate. There are also certification programs available to students not interested in the full master’s.Tuition per credit here is $784.

9. University of Florida

6. FloridaThe online program at the University of Florida is a 36 credit ­hour curriculum with three possible tracks: general, autism, and transition. All students are required to complete the 12 credit­ hour “Teach Well Core.” Designed primarily for part ­time students, each track typically takes students two years to complete, with two courses per semester. Florida also offers an integrated/accelerated bachelor’s to master’s track, and a specialist degree for students who have already completed a master’s and are looking for leadership roles in their professional environments.

10. Indiana University — Bloomington

1. IndianaIndiana University’s online program is a 36­ hour curriculum, typically spread out over the course of two years. Students choose an individualized track according to their area of interest, which inlcludes autism, behavior specialists, early childhood, instructional strategies, and intense interventions. A capstone thesis is also required to complete the degree. For admission, GRE scores are only required if the student’s undergraduate GPA is lower than 3.0.

11 (tied). University of Nebraska — Kearney

Nebraska KearneyUniversity of Nebraska—Kearney is a 100% online program that consists of 36 credit hours. Emphases include mild/moderate disabilities and an MEd in Advanced Practitioner and Supervisor of Special Ed. In addition to an MEd, two endorsement programs are also available.

11 (tied). Regent University

18. RegentThe MEd in Special Education at Regent University is a 42 credit­ hour program delivered via eight ­week courses. There are also several certificate and endorsement add­ on options, including an autistic certificate and reading specialist endorsement. An educational specialist degree with an emphasis on special education is also offered. Accelerated options are available.

13. Michigan State University

21. Michigan StateMichigan State’s online program is a 100% online program that culminates in a MEd in Education with a Concentration in Special Ed. In addition, students who want to pursue a broader background may also choose to add an additional concentration from a wide variety of subjects, including literacy education, math and science, and technology and learning, among others. GRE scores are not required for admission, but applicants must have earned at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, ideally in a relevant field.

14. Lamar University

18. LamarLamar University offers two online programs—a generic MEd in Special Education, and a MEd in Special Education for Autism. The generic MEd consists of 36 credit hours, though an optional final thesis can be counted toward 6 of those. Applicants who have not earned at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA must submit GRE scores.

15. Arizona State University

2. Arizona StateThe online program at Arizona state offers an MEd degree toward autism, ABA, gifted children. The autism track includes in a final portfolio that demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of the material and vidence of competency in the six Council for Exceptional Children autism standards. For admission, applicants must have earned at least a 3.0 GPA in their last 90 hours of coursework. GRE scores are not required.

Tuition per credit is $555.

16. University of Cincinnati

17. CincinnatiThe University of Cincinnati offers three areas of concentration for the MEd in Special Education—autism spectrum disorder, transition to work, and advanced studies. Each track consists of 30 semester credits, and can be completed in as little as two years. Courses run for 14 weeks and are 100% online. Admission requires at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and GRE scores.

17. University of South Florida

South FloridaThe University of South Florida offers an MA in Exceptional Student Education (ESE), best suited for individuals with a background in education, special education or a closely related field. The program consists of 36 total credits—27 core requirements, and 9 in a specialization, of which students can choose between learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, intellectual disabilities, and ESE. All specializations, with the exception of ESE, include one advanced theories course and two electives, which can potentially lead to an endorsement in one of the following: autism, gifted education, and reading.

18. University of Mississippi

MississippiThe program at the University of Mississippi consists of 30 credit hours, which includes 15 hours of concentration in Special Ed. In addition, there are emotional disability and gifted endorsement options available to eligible students. The university also offers a specialist’s program as an advanced degree beyond the master’s for interested students. For the MEd, admission requires at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, Praxis II content scores, and proof a licensure in content area.

19. College of St. Scholastica

St ScholasticaThe 100% online program at St. Scholastica consists of 33 total credit hours and may be completed in as soon as two years. In addition, up to 6 credits are transferable to further accelerate studies (so long as the credits have been earned in the past 7 years). Students will pursue a Master’s in Professional Studies, through which students can individualize a special ed coursework program.

20 (tied). Fort Hays State University

8. Fort Hays State UniversityFort Hays State University offers an MS in Special Education that consists of 36 credit hours. This program can either be completed for Gifted or High-Incidence Special Education. Rolling enrollment allows for a transition back into school made even easier for teachers who are currently working. Tuition is currently $253 per credit hour, making the program one of the most affordable of those surveyed. Related Masters degrees including Counseling, School District Leadership, and Educational Leadership are also available fully online from Fort Hays State University.

20 (tied). Boise State University

Boise StateBoise State offers four fully online graduate level special education programs including a Masters in Teaching in Special Education, a Masters of Education in Early and Special Education, a Master in Teaching in Early Childhood Intervention, and a graduate certification for Behavioral Specialists. Most full Masters-level programs in Special Education require 34 graduate credit hours. Some courses are offered in video conferencing format, allowing for live feedback from professors and other students. Estimated out-of-state tuition is currently $697 per credit hour.

20 (tied). Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern KentuckyEastern Kentucky offers a Master’s in Special Education for learning and behavioral disorders, deaf and hard of hearing, and interdisciplinary early childhood education. In addition, graduate, non­ degree granting certificate programs include coursework in moderate and sever disabilities, learning and behavioral disorders, deaf and hard of hearing, and interdisciplinary childhood education. Depending upon undergraduate coursework and if additional certifications are added, the program consists of 30­42 credit hours. Courses are traditionally delivered in eight week denominations, but accelerated 6­ week programs are available as well.

23. Western Kentucky University

Western KentuckyWestern Kentucky’s online program offers two tracks to students: the Master’s of Arts in Special Ed for Moderate and Severe Disabilities, and one for Learning and Behavior Disorders. For the latter, two concentrations are available for advanced preparation, one for students with prior LBD experience, and one for students with prior special experience excepting LBD. Each track consists of 37 credit hours. A certificate for autism disorder is also offered. Applicants must have earned at least a 2.75 undergraduate GPA, or otherwise submit GRE scores.

24. Old Dominion University (Darden)

19. Old DominionThe program at Old Dominion consists of 30 credit hours and culminates in an MS in Education, with a concentration in Special Ed. Classes may be taken synchronously or a synchronously, affording students a flexible schedule at which to complete their studies. For admission, applicants must have earned a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit GRE scores. Other features include endorsement programs in mild disabilities and severe disabilities, and certificate programs in ABA and autism disorder.

25. Drexel University

14. DrexelDrexel University offers an MS in Special Education with concentrations in a wide variety of areas, including autism, reading, and technologies, among several others. The total course work requires 49.5 credit hours, which tallies up as 31.5 core credits, 12 concentration credits, and 6 research credits. Field work is particularly an emphasis at Drexel’s program, and most courses include it as a component.


  • Affordability (1/3): the average out­of­state tuition per credit hour.
  • Flexibility (1/3): if the program offers additional specializations and/or an accelerated track
  • Academic Reputation (1/3): the rank of the school’s parent institution according to US News

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