Best Online Master’s Degrees in Special Education

Discover Degree Options & Potential Careers in Special Education

Schools need experienced and dedicated educators to work with students who have learning, mental, emotional or physical disabilities. Completing an online master’s degree in special education provides the advanced skills and knowledge needed to excel as a special education teacher, counselor or curriculum developer. This guide provides information on enrolling and succeeding in an online master’s degree in special education.

Best Online Master’s in Special Education Degrees: 2017

Finding the right special education degree program at the master’s level can take time since some schools offer licensure training in addition to the core program, while others only have the standard master’s program. Some factors to consider when comparing schools are student-to-faculty ratios, graduate placement rates and financial aid availability. Here are our top-ranked online master’s degree in special education programs:

RankSchool Title Net Price Financial Aid Total Programs Student-Teacher ratioGrad RateRanking ScoreSchool DescriptionAdditional Benefits: Placement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1University of South Florida-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
73%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
6
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
57%
Ranking SCORE 99.83
Read more

Students who complete the master of arts in special education degree program at the University of South Florida-Main Campus will be ESE certified after they graduate. The program prepares teachers to develop the pedagogical and clinical skills needed to serve children with exceptionalities as well as their families. Web-based learning, non-traditional scheduling and accelerated instruction make it possible for students to complete the program while working full time. The College of Education maintains several centers and institutes for graduate students to use during their time at the school, including the Institute for School Reform and the Center for Migrant Education.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
2University of North Dakota Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
30%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
6
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
52%
Ranking SCORE 99.16
Read more

The master of education degree at the University of North Dakota can be completed 100 percent online by distance learners. The program begins three times a year, and takes at least one-and-a-half years to complete. All classes are offered in the asynchronous format, which provides extra flexibility by not requiring students to be online at a specific time. Students will receive assignments on a weekly basis, and they will also complete several projects. All examinations are non proctored. The program prepares teachers to diagnose exceptionalities in children and plan curriculum accordingly. Graduates will be prepared to work in hospitals, schools, and human service agencies.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
3St John's University-New York Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
59%
Ranking SCORE 97.68
Read more

St. John's University-New York offers graduate students a master of science in education degree with a special focus on childhood and childhood special education. Graduates will be prepared to identify variations in human development while diagnosing and intervening on a case-by-case basis. Students will also learn how socioeconomics, personal health, culture and environment affect learning and development variations, especially where abuse is present. Upon completion, graduates will be prepared to create healthy, nurturing environments for students with disabilities ranging from mild to profound. Coursework and instruction combines both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
4Niagara University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
67%
Ranking SCORE 97.34
Read more

The master of science in education degree, which can be completed completely online, concentrates on special education for either grades 1-6 or 7-12. Both tracks are 40-hour programs that lead to either an initial or professional certificate. All applicants must hold an approved teaching certificate, and can use the degree to achieve professional certification in the state of New York. The program instills teachers with the skills required to work with special education students from a variety of ethnic, racial, social and cultural backgrounds. Distance learners can complete the course of study in two years.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
5Carlow University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
56%
Ranking SCORE 97.00
Read more

Graduate students who complete the MEd in special education at Carlow University will have the option of pursuing a PA certification. The certification can either be K-8, 7-12 or both. In order to be accepted into the program, prospective students must be certified as teachers in another area. The 33-credit program takes five semesters to complete. Students can complete the flexible degree either on campus, online or through a hybrid combination of traditional instruction and distance learning. Students are not required to submit GRE or GMAT results, and classes begin in the fall, spring and summer.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
6Morningside College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
59%
Ranking SCORE 96.31
Read more

Special educators can pursue a graduate program in special education that culminates in a master's degree. The entire program can be completed 100 percent online. Candidates for the program must hold a bachelor's degree, and admission is open only to current teachers with valid licenses. Aside from the regular coursework, students are required to complete an instructional strategist endorsement program. The program, which is designed for elementary and secondary education teachers, allows students to transfer as many as nine credits. Students will be guided by academic advisors to make sure they enroll in the right courses and satisfy all graduation requirements.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
7National University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
1%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
23%
Ranking SCORE 96.30
Read more

Current teachers who are already licensed, or who have a preliminary credential in special education can pursue a master of arts in special education through National University. The program is also open to professionals seeking to expand their knowledge of PK-22 special education. Students will learn how to create effective teaching and learning environments school-wide and analyze and assess the validity of methodologies that pertain to special education. They will also examine special education law, and develop an understanding of how it applies to them as educators, while learning how to implement Free And Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
8Ball State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
47%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
57%
Ranking SCORE 95.76
Read more

Distance learners can add special education to their existing licenses through the master of arts in special education program at Ball State University. The program, which can be completed 100 percent online, focuses on autism, severe interventions, applied behavior analysis, response to interventions and directing special education and exceptional needs. Blended programs include instruction in deaf education, mild interventions and early childhood special education. Students have the unique opportunity to build their own master's degrees by adding individual licenses and certificates. The program is nationally recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
9Eastern Kentucky University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
41%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
37%
Ranking SCORE 95.73
Read more

Eastern Kentucky University offers a variety of master's degrees in special education for graduate students. Some programs require students to hold provisional certification or other professional certificates, while others are specifically designed for students who do not currently hold credentials. Students will have the opportunity to supplement their education with participation in a wide range of organizations and groups affiliated with the University, including the Kentucky Speech-Language-Hearing-Association (KSHA), Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA), and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). The university also provides many web-based student resources.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
10Cardinal Stritch University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
43%
Ranking SCORE 95.22
Read more

The master of arts in urban special education is designed specifically for teachers seeking placement in high-need districts at the middle- and high-school levels. Graduates will be prepared to work with linguistically and culturally diverse students from a variety of backgrounds. The program stands out for its unique mentor framework, which pairs program candidates with a supporting mentor who advises the student in the classroom and helps the student understand and learn to fulfill his or her role as a special educator. The program supports students who were recruited by Teach for America.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
11University of North Carolina at Charlotte Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
34%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
53%
Ranking SCORE 95.00
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
12Nova Southeastern University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
94%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
42%
Ranking SCORE 95.00
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
13University of Southern Mississippi Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
74%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
50%
Ranking SCORE 94.94
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
14University of Toledo Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
85%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
46%
Ranking SCORE 94.70
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
15Southwestern College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
95%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
51%
Ranking SCORE 94.60
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
16Saint Joseph's University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
95%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
79%
Ranking SCORE 94.57
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
17Drexel University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
93%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
65%
Ranking SCORE 94.50
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
18Arkansas State University-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
65%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
39%
Ranking SCORE 94.47
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
19Buena Vista University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
51%
Ranking SCORE 94.33
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
20University of Nebraska at Omaha Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
49%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
46%
Ranking SCORE 94.24
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
21Graceland University-Lamoni Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
50%
Ranking SCORE 93.94
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
22Kentucky State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
61%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
14%
Ranking SCORE 93.92
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
23Indiana Wesleyan University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
70%
Ranking SCORE 93.91
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
24Campbellsville University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
90%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
44%
Ranking SCORE 93.88
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
25Brenau University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
45%
Ranking SCORE 93.86
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
26University of Massachusetts-Boston Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
58%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
38%
Ranking SCORE 93.86
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
27Baldwin Wallace University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
68%
Ranking SCORE 93.66
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
28Rowan University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
52%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
72%
Ranking SCORE 93.66
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
29Georgetown College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
60%
Ranking SCORE 93.65
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
30Washington State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
51%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
67%
Ranking SCORE 93.60
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
31Greenville College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
94%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
54%
Ranking SCORE 93.57
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
32Columbus State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
13%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
34%
Ranking SCORE 93.53
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
33Concordia University-Wisconsin Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
59%
Ranking SCORE 93.51
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
34Arcadia University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
65%
Ranking SCORE 93.46
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
35The University of Alabama Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
53%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
67%
Ranking SCORE 93.42
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
36Concordia University-Nebraska Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
63%
Ranking SCORE 93.36
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
37University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
50%
Ranking SCORE 93.35
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
38Saint Leo University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
43%
Ranking SCORE 93.35
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
39Western Oregon University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
54%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
45%
Ranking SCORE 93.32
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
40Francis Marion University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
29%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
43%
Ranking SCORE 93.32
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
41University of Idaho Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
78%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
56%
Ranking SCORE 93.30
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
42Texas Woman's University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
36%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
47%
Ranking SCORE 93.25
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
43Minot State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
70%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
33%
Ranking SCORE 93.24
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
44Adams State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
70%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
25%
Ranking SCORE 93.22
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
45Wilmington University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
20%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
34%
Ranking SCORE 93.14
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
46Concordia University-Chicago Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
49%
Ranking SCORE 92.99
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
47The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
86%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
37%
Ranking SCORE 92.93
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
48Jacksonville State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
56%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
29%
Ranking SCORE 92.92
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
49University of Alaska Fairbanks Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
43%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
33%
Ranking SCORE 92.92
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
50University of Southern Maine Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
63%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
30%
Ranking SCORE 92.92
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Special Education

Students committed to pursuing a career as a special education teacher, curriculum developer or counselor can choose from several accredited programs at top-ranked schools. The search tool below can help prospective educators narrow their options by filtering by school type, tuition, acceptance rate and other criteria.

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Acceptance Rate Student Population School Type Online Special Education Programs

The Online Special Education Master’s Degree Timeline

As undergraduates, students should focus on excelling in all of their teacher education courses and obtaining work experience, either as a teacher’s assistant or through a formal training or mentoring program at an area school. As graduate students, educators will build from their experience working with students, receiving advanced training to work intensively with students with specific disabilities or collaborate on special education research. The following section outlines the steps a student needs to take before applying to an online special education master’s degree program:

Admission Process

Admission requirements vary from school to school, but most online schools require applicants to submit an application form, official college transcripts and a resume. Students must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university before they can pursue graduate level studies. Students who completed a teaching degree or earned any type of teaching certificate may want to include professional letters of recommendation from professors, colleagues and employers.

Major or minor in education or special
education

Many graduate programs prefer to enroll students who majored or minored in education or special education during their undergraduate career, so students who have obtained their teaching license and served as an educator in any setting may be admitted over students who have no work or educational experience in the field. However, majors and minors in psychology, social work or similar subjects may be acceptable.

Gather letters of recommendation

Collecting letters of recommendation from instructors and employers can be especially valuable when applying to a master’s program. Obtaining a letter of recommendation or references from educational institutions the student has worked at, professors from other schools, and colleagues will support a prospective graduate student’s application. Most programs require at least two or three letters of recommendation upon submitting the application for admission.

Take standardized tests

Not all online special education programs require applicants to take a standardized test, but those that do may ask for scores from the GRE, Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP), Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or Praxis Core Test for Educators. Such tests demonstrate a student’s verbal and quantitative reasoning.

Year 1 Milestones
Complete core special education courses

In their first year, master’s students take a series of foundational courses centered on issues and trends in special education, the educational assessment process for individuals with disabilities, and curriculum theory.

Obtain education specialist credentials

Some schools offer several different credentials for educators who want to work with specific student populations. For example, a student may specialize in working with pupils with mild or moderate disabilities versus pupils with severe disabilities. The first year of the program will consist of taking courses specifically to earn these credentials.

Pursue student teaching and internship opportunities

Graduate students must obtain real-life experience working under the supervision of an instructor or teacher in a classroom. They will work directly with special needs students and may develop curricula, handle special cases, and conduct teaching sessions under supervision.

Year 2 Milestones
Take master’s in education courses

The second year of an online master’s degree in special education typically involves a series of advanced courses in education, psychology and learning models to fulfill the master’s-level educational requirements. Students may also take elective courses to supplement their educational track, such as subjects related to Asperger’s syndrome, at-risk youth or autism spectrum disorder.

Submit analytical report

Some schools require students to submit an analytical report once they have completed all coursework. This report summarizes key trends, models and processes the student has learned, and may also provide a recommended course of action to solve a particular problem in the field of special education.

Obtain special education certification

Many schools offer the option to complete courses toward certification during the program. Certifications can improve career prospects and give students a chance to delve deeper into topics that interest them. For example, a graduate student may choose to obtain Wilson Reading Certification to aid special needs students struggling with reading comprehension.

Graduation Requirements

Before graduating from a special education master’s program, online students must obtain the credentials and skills to not only work one-on-one with special needs students but also develop curricula or conduct research. This includes completing the minimum number of core courses and courses toward any specializations or credentials. Requirements vary by university but are typically around 36 credits.

Earn passing grades in all core and elective courses

Students must earn an acceptable grade for all core and elective courses they take during their online master’s degree program in special education. Core courses may include topics such as applied behavior analysis, social and legal issues in special education, and assistive technology for communicating with special needs individuals. Elective courses may cover the study of severe characteristics and disorders, the nature of certain disorders and conditions, and reviews of recent research findings.

Finish student teaching experience

Some schools require students to demonstrate their ability to teach special needs students in a classroom, develop lesson plans and establish discipline. This requirement may be limited to those pursuing licensure since graduate students exploring research studies do not need to acquire extensive classroom experience to graduate.

What Can You Do After Earning Your Online Master’s in Special Education?

Completing an online master’s in special education can open up doors to a lifelong career as an educator or counselor. Working in many counseling positions, such as rehabilitation counselor, requires having at least a master’s degree. Some schools prefer to hire teachers who have completed an advanced degree program and taken specialized courses.

Master’s degree programs in special education ensure educators are up-to-date on the latest learning models, and many include field experiences so students can apply their skills to real-life situations and positively affect learners. Graduates learn how to work with all types of special needs students and prepare lesson plans on different subjects. Here is an overview of career paths to explore with an online master’s in special education degree

Browse Master’s in Special Education Careers
Special Education Teachers – Preschool

Work with young children who have learning, mental emotional and physical disabilities in a preschool classroom or child care facility. Must have at least a bachelor’s degree and a state certification or license.

Mean Annual Wage

$53,990

Growth Potential

9%

Special Education Teachers – Kindergarten & Elementary

Typically work in public or private schools to prepare young students for their educational future. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers use fun formats to cover basic subjects such as math, reading, English and art.

Mean Annual Wage

$55,810

Growth Potential

6%

Special Education Teachers – Middle School

Work in public or private schools to teach middle school students literacy skills, prepare lesson plans, and help students work through reading, writing and math subjects. Some also help students learn basic socialization skills so they can get along with their peers and transition into life as a high school student and community member.

Mean Annual Wage

$57,280

Growth Potential

6%

Special Education Teachers – High School

Typically work one-on-one with high school students who are physically handicapped or mentally impaired. May create specialized programs to help these students learn and develop basic life skills and prepare them for high school and/or college.

Mean Annual Wage

$58,500

Growth Potential

6%

Speech-Language Pathologists

Assess and treat speech problems in students with special needs in addition to the entire student body. Speech therapists work to improve an individual’s communication skills and may recommend alternative communication systems if needed.

Mean Annual Wage

$73,410

Growth Potential

21%

Rehabilitation Counselors

Help students with physical, mental and emotional disabilities overcome personal challenges and participate in school activities. Requires at least a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or related field, as well as certification and licensure in some cases.

Mean Annual Wage

$34,390

Growth Potential

9%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2015)

Key Principles Learned in an Online Master’s in Special Education

Master’s in Special Education

  • Assessment of exceptional individuals

    Special needs educators often must perform individual student assessments to determine the learner’s level of impairment and cognitive intelligence. Master’s degree students learn advanced techniques and skills to perform accurate assessments so they can better prepare learning activities and curriculum options for each student.

  • Collaboration and transition practices

    Educators work with families and caregivers to ensure students’ needs are being met. They acquire in-depth knowledge and skills to perform consultations and work closely with other educators and families to ensure students receive a well-rounded educational experience regardless of learning ability and physical or mental limitations.

  • Advanced research skills for education

    Many research projects at the master’s degree level require students to develop strong critical thinking, advanced problem-solving, analytical and writing skills. These help students formulate their own theories and draft reports or research papers for future projects. Students learn how to use educational research methods and evaluation methodologies to seek out relevant data and materials for research purposes.

Best Online Master’s Degree in Special Education: 2016

Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-teacher Ratio Grad Rate
Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-teacher Ratio Grad Rate
1 Columbus State University 99.79 69% 2 17:1 34%

The master of education in special education degree centers on advanced pedagogical and professional coursework. The program is designed for teachers who possess a renewable and clear T-4 certificate. The program, which can be completed 100 percent online, enables graduates to upgrade to T-5 level certification. It is is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). CSU distance learners work through the CougarVIEW online learning environment. The learning management system has been recently updated and students will receive a CougarNet username and password. Online courses begin and end on the same schedule as traditional, on-campus courses.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate55%
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2 Northwestern State University of Louisiana 99.79 76% 1 20:1 36%

The 36 semester hour master of education in special education program is designed for certified teachers who are working to increase their certification, as well as to earn a graduate degree. Students will learn how to develop and apply special education curricula, and will participate in field experiences that take place in diverse settings outside of their current school or classroom. Students will complete 12 hours of core courses, and an additional 24 hours in one of four concentrations: gifted education, elementary mild/moderate, elementary early intervention or middle school and secondary mild/moderate.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate73%
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3 Minot State University 99.72 58% 1 13:1 33%

Among the areas of emphasis available in the master of science in special education degree program are specific learning disabilities, special education strategist, deaf and hard of hearing, developmental disabilities/autism spectrum disorder, and early childhood special education. Students will complete a set of core courses followed by a capstone thesis. The program focuses on data-based decision making as achieved through systematic data collection and analysis. Online classes are both synchronous and asynchronous, and the degree is attainable by students with different undergraduate backgrounds. The program can be adjusted to accommodate varied licensure requirements from different states.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate58%
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4 Albany State University 99.55 80% 1 16:1 39%

The master's degree in special education is open to any qualifying student who has T-4 certification in education. Students with a four-year degree in a different field may also work toward the degree, but those without a sufficient background in special education may have to take supplementary courses before working toward the master's. The program, which leads to T-5 certification, focuses on research-based best practices as they apply to the student's chosen concentration. Some students under some categories of admission may be able to matriculate in the program. The course requires 36 hours to complete.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate47%
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5 Niagara University 99.48 94% 3 13:1 67%

The master of science in education degree, which can be completed completely online, concentrates on special education for either grades 1-6 or 7-12. Both tracks are 40-hour programs that lead to either initial or professional certificate. All applicants must hold an approved teaching certificate, and can use the degree to achieve professional certification in the state of New York. The program instills teachers with the skills required to work with special education students from a variety of ethnic, racial, social and cultural backgrounds. Distance learners can complete the course of study in two years.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate66%
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6 Bowling Green State University-Main Campus 99.25 73% 1 19:1 58%

Distance learners can earn a master's degree in special education in one of three specializations: secondary transition, autism spectrum disorders and assistive technology. The program accepts applicants on a rolling basis. Classes start in January, May and August. Graduates will be eligible for licensure in Ohio, and students can also pursue several graduate-level certificate completely online. All applicants will require three personal references and a letter of intent. The Center for Online and Blended Learning maintains a website with information regarding the school's graduate programs, and online students will have access to counseling and advisement assistance, just like on-campus students.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate53%
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7 Northern Michigan University 99.23 72% 1 21:1 44%

Students who already hold teaching certifications may pursue a master of arts in education with a concentration in learning disabilities. This will result in an endorsement in learning disabilities. Other students can pursue only the endorsement without earning the master's degree. A faculty advisor will analyze each student's history and prior learning, and help determine the right path. Some requirements can be avoided or substituted for appropriate electives if students have already fulfilled those credits. The NMU Educational Access Network offers distance learners access to unlimited data, or they can choose to use their own Internet connection.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate72%
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8 Liberty University 99.19 84% 1 18:1 46%

Liberty University's master of arts in teaching with a specialization in special education is designed specifically for students who do not have teaching experience, but who are pursuing their initial certification in special education. Six of the required 36 credits can be transferred in from other institutions. To complete the program, students will have to complete a three-hour student teaching internship, as well as residency requirements that include three on-campus intensives. Liberty's licensure program is approved by the state of Virginia and will have to be validated by the Department of Education. Individual out-of-state requirements may vary.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate22%
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9 University of Toledo 99.16 71% 2 20:1 46%

There are several potential areas of concentration in the University of Toledo's master of education in special education degree program: behavior disorders, transition, early intervention, severe disabilities, preschool special needs and high incidence conditions. The degree satisfies certification requirements in the states of Michigan and Ohio. Teachers licenses may include special endorsements. Among the related research projects and active grants in the Judith Herb College of Education are The Partner Project, NURTURES, Project LEA - Leading Educators in Advancing Inclusive Early Education, Direct Connections and University of Toledo Parent Professional Partnerships.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate95%
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10 University of Idaho 99.10 76% 1 17:1 56%

The master of education and certification program is designed for students who want to teach special education, a high-demand field that enjoys a nearly 100 percent employment rate. The degree, which can be attained through any one of four different tracks, is available to students with bachelor's degrees, even if they are newcomers to the field. Graduates may also go on to careers as administrators, professionals or trainers who work with special needs clientele. Undergraduates can earn a bachelor's degree in secondary or elementary education, as well as dual certification and a master's degree in special education in just five years.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate67%
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11 University of Nebraska at Omaha 99.06 59% 2 16:1 46%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate79%
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12 Kentucky State University 98.96 73% 1 12:1 14%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate48%
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13 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus 98.95 61% 1 18:1 62%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate76%
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14 Saint Joseph's University 98.89 88% 2 13:1 79%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate85%
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15 University of Central Florida 98.88 72% 1 31:1 65%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate50%
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16 Adams State University 98.85 77% 1 15:1 25%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate65%
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17 Concordia University-Saint Paul 98.83 66% 1 15:1 47%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate53%
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18 University of Southern Maine 98.79 53% 1 15:1 3%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate84%
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19 Dominican College of Blauvelt 98.79 85% 2 15:1 33%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate63%
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20 Carlow University 98.75 57% 3 11:1 56%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate91%
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21 Drexel University 98.73 78% 2 10:1 65%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate76%
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22 Indiana Wesleyan University 98.71 55% 2 16:1 7%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate95%
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23 George Mason University 98.69 43% 1 16:1 66%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate67%
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24 Pittsburg State University 98.69 63% 1 19:1 5%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate79%
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25 Chaminade University of Honolulu 98.68 84% 1 11:1 36%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate86%
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26 Greenville College 98.66 91% 1 11:1 54%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate56%
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27 University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne 98.65 88% 1 12:1 5%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate97%
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28 Lamar University 98.63 61% 2 22:1 32%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate79%
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29 Monmouth University 98.49 95% 1 14:1 64%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate74%
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30 Baldwin Wallace University 98.48 89% 1 13:1 68%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate64%
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31 Graceland University-Lamoni 98.41 84% 1 13:1 5%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate50%
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32 Brenau University 98.39 59% 1 11:1 45%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate76%
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33 Fitchburg State University 98.39 65% 1 15:1 51%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate72%
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34 Stephen F Austin State University 98.36 66% 1 20:1 44%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate59%
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35 St John's University-New York 98.34 67% 4 17:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate63%
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36 University of Wisconsin-Superior 98.32 61% 1 16:1 35%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate89%
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37 Indiana State University 98.31 71% 1 20:1 43%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate83%
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38 Buena Vista University 98.25 84% 1 9:1 51%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate68%
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39 University of Alaska Fairbanks 98.25 43% 1 14:1 33%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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40 Montana State University-Billings 98.23 52% 1 17:1 33%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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41 Concordia University-Chicago 98.16 90% 1 17:1 49%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate54%
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42 Concordia University-Wisconsin 98.11 72% 1 13:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate75%
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43 University of Massachusetts-Boston 98.09 55% 2 16:1 38%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate71%
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44 Jacksonville State University 98.06 65% 1 19:1 29%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate83%
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45 University of Utah 97.98 50% 1 17:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate81%
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46 Cardinal Stritch University 97.96 63% 2 17:1 43%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate83%
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47 Wilmington University 97.95 41% 2 14:1 34%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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48 Notre Dame College 97.94 73% 1 14:1 36%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate89%
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49 Southeastern University 97.92 76% 1 18:1 4%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate44%
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50 Bemidji State University 97.86 58% 1 22:1 44%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate94%
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Additional Resources

Below are some organizations that focus on special education. Their websites include information on training programs, networking events and grant funds.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

CEC is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of children and teens with disabilities. It sets professional standards for special needs students as well as gifted and talented students.

Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

This division of the U.S. Department of Education works to provide leadership and financial support to states and local school districts to help children and youth with disabilities.

National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET)

NASET is a national membership organization designed for special education teachers. It provides membership benefits and resources for educators who wish to further their professional career and connect with fellow educators.

National Education Association – IDEA/Special Education

This organization supports special education programs in the United States by providing useful guides for educators, including a downloadable guide on teaching students with autism.