Written By - Cynthia S.

Edited By Arlene Ward

Review & Contribution By Dr. Edmund Moyer

A Master’s in Special Education program is designed to equip educators with advanced knowledge and skills to support learners with diverse learning needs. In this program, students delve into specialized areas of education, focusing on understanding and addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities or exceptionalities. Through coursework, practical experiences, and research, they gain a deep understanding of evidence-based practices, instructional strategies, and interventions tailored to the diverse needs of disabilities. The curriculum typically covers various topics, including special education law and policy, assessment and evaluation techniques, differentiated instruction, behavior management strategies, assistive technology, and collaboration with families and other professionals. They learn to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and implement inclusive practices to create supportive and inclusive learning environments for persons with disabilities. Graduates of a Master’s in Special Education program are prepared to serve as advocates, leaders, and effective educators in various settings, including K-12 schools, special education classrooms, resource rooms, inclusive classrooms, and community-based organizations

Special Education Online

Table Of Contents

Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the GetEducated.com Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Best Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

What goes into the academic quality of an online Master’s degree in Special Education? In evaluating the best special education schools, we used a formula that ranks things like tuition, faculty expertise, graduation rates, and employment outcomes. Here are the rankings of the best available special education master’s programs:

<a href="https://www.onlinemasterscolleges.com/masters-in-special-education-online/">Masters in Special Education Online</a>

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
University of Florida
Tigert Hall, Gainesville, Florida 32611
James Madison University
800 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807
Texas A&M University
JKW Administration Building, Suite 200, College Station, Texas 77843
North Carolina State University, Raleigh
2101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695
Purdue University
Hovde Hall of Administration, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
University of Washington
1400 NE Campus Parkway, Seattle, Washington 98195
Saint Joseph’s University
5600 City Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19131
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824
George Washington University
1918 F Street, NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20052
Loyola Marymount University
One Lmu Drive, Los Angeles, California 90045
University of Alabama
739 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487
George Mason University
4400 University Dr, Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Ball State University
2000 University Ave, Muncie, Indiana 47306
University of Arkansas
Administration Bldg 425, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
Florida International University
11200 S. W. 8 Street, Miami, Florida 33199
Texas Tech University
Broadway and University Avenue, Lubbock, Texas 79409
Brandman University
16355 Laguna Canyon Road, Irvine, California 92618
Drexel University
3141 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Mississippi College
200 South Capitol Street, Clinton, Mississippi 39058
Western Governors University
4001 South 700 East Suite 700, Salt Lake City, Utah 84107

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Most Affordable Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

Affordability is among students’ major concerns in choosing a program. To help prospective students decide on an affordable online master’s degree in Special Education, we evaluated universities based on total tuition costs and other critical factors. Here is the list of the most affordable online master’s in special education programs:

<a href="https://www.onlinemasterscolleges.com/masters-in-special-education-online/">Masters in Special Education Online</a>

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Fitchburg State University
160 Pearl St, Fitchburg, Massachusetts 01420
Albany State University
504 College Drive, Albany, Georgia 31705
University of the Cumberlands
6191 College Station Drive, Williamsburg, Kentucky 40769
Valdosta State University
1500 N Patterson St, Valdosta, Georgia 31698
Texas Woman’s University
304 Administration Dr, Denton, Texas 76204
Eastern New Mexico University
ENMU Station 2, 1500 S Ave K, Portales, New Mexico 88130
Wichita State University
1845 N. Fairmount, Wichita, Kansas 67260
Northwestern College, IA
101 Seventh St SW, Orange City, Iowa 51041
Columbus State University
4225 University Ave, Columbus, Georgia 31907
University of North Texas
1501 W.Chestnut Ave., Denton, Texas 76203
Lamar University
4400 MLK Blvd, Beaumont, Texas 77705
Western Governors University
4001 South 700 East Suite 700, Salt Lake City, Utah 84107
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Avenue, Charleston, Illinois 61920
University of Arkansas
Administration Bldg 425, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
Campbellsville University
1 University Dr, Campbellsville, Kentucky 42718
Minot State University
500 University Ave W, Minot, North Dakota 58707
Wilmington University
320 Dupont Hwy, New Castle, Delaware 19720
Buena Vista University
610 W 4th St, Storm Lake, Iowa 50588
University of Florida
Tigert Hall, Gainesville, Florida 32611
Brandman University
16355 Laguna Canyon Road, Irvine, California 92618

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding Master’s in Special Education Programs

A Master’s in Special Education is a graduate-level program designed to provide educators with advanced knowledge and skills in supporting students with diverse learning needs and disabilities. This specialized degree program aims to prepare teachers, administrators, and other educational professionals to address the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and to promote inclusive education practices.

Graduates of a Master’s in Special Education program are prepared to work in various educational settings, including K-12 schools, special education classrooms, inclusive classrooms, resource rooms, and community-based organizations. They may serve as special education teachers, resource specialists, instructional coaches, behavior interventionists, or special education administrators, among other roles. Overall, a Master’s in Special Education provides educators with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to make a positive difference in the lives of persons with disabilities and to advocate for inclusive and equitable educational opportunities for all learners.

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

Special education courses build the foundation of skills necessary for therapeutic relationships with disabled K-12 students. These courses provide a comprehensive understanding of the theoretical foundations, assessment practices, instructional strategies, and behavior management techniques essential for effectively supporting learners with disabilities in educational settings. Through coursework, field experiences, and practical applications, graduates develop the knowledge, skills, and competencies to promote inclusive education practices and facilitate positive outcomes for all learners.

The curriculum of a Master’s in Special Education typically covers a wide range of topics relevant to understanding and addressing the needs of persons with disabilities. These topics may include:

Foundations of Special Education 

This foundational course provides a comprehensive understanding of special education’s historical, legal, and philosophical underpinnings. Topics covered may include the evolution of special education legislation, landmark court cases, the rights of individuals with disabilities, and the role of advocacy organizations. One also explores current trends and issues shaping the field, such as inclusive education practices, culturally responsive teaching, and the use of technology to support learners with disabilities.

Assessment and Evaluation

In this course, students learn about the various assessment methods and tools used to identify and evaluate persons with disabilities. They explore formal and informal assessment techniques, including standardized tests, observations, interviews, and portfolio assessments. Emphasis is placed on understanding and using assessment data to inform instructional planning, intervention strategies, and decision-making processes. They also examine ethical considerations and best practices in assessment administration and interpretation.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

This course focuses on developing, implementing, and evaluating Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for individuals with disabilities. One learns about the legal requirements of the IEP process, including eligibility determination, goal setting, accommodations and modifications, and progress monitoring. They gain practical skills in writing comprehensive and legally compliant IEPs that address the unique needs of individual learners. One also explores strategies for collaborating with families, educators, and other professionals to ensure effective IEP implementation and academic success.

Instructional Strategies for Inclusive Education

In this course, students explore evidence-based instructional strategies and interventions for teaching persons with disabilities in inclusive classroom settings. They examine principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and differentiation to meet the diverse learning needs of all individuals. Topics covered may include instructional planning, curriculum modification, scaffolding techniques, assistive technology integration, and fostering peer interactions and social-emotional development. They also explore strategies for creating inclusive learning environments that promote equity, access, and academic success for all learners.

Behavior Management and Positive Behavior Support

This course focuses on understanding and effectively managing challenging behaviors of persons with disabilities. They learn about the principles of behavior analysis, functional behavior assessment (FBA), and behavior intervention planning (BIP). They explore evidence-based strategies for promoting positive behavior support, preventing problem behaviors, and teaching replacement skills. Emphasis is placed on collaborative approaches involving families, educators, and support staff to create supportive and inclusive learning environments. They also examine ethical considerations and legal requirements related to behavior management practices in educational settings.

Here’s an additional list of courses commonly found in a Master’s of Special Education programs:

  • Foundations of Special Education
  • Assessment and Evaluation in Special Education
  • Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) Development and Implementation
  • Instructional Strategies for Inclusive Education
  • Behavior Management and Positive Behavior Support
  • Differentiated Instruction for Diverse Learners
  • Assistive Technology for persons with Disabilities
  • Transition Planning for Persons with Special Needs
  • Collaboration and Consultation in Special Education
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Special Education
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders: Characteristics and Interventions
  • Learning Disabilities: Identification and Instructional Approaches
  • Intellectual Disabilities: Assessment and Intervention Strategies
  • Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Assessment and Intervention
  • Speech and Language Disorders: Assessment and Intervention

Students in a Master of Special Education program develop a wide range of skills that prepare them to support individuals with disabilities and diverse learning needs effectively. Some of the essential skills gained from this program include one’s ability to:

  • administer various assessments, interpret assessment data, and use assessment results to inform instructional planning and decision-making for persons with disabilities;
  • demonstrate expertise in developing, implementing, and evaluating Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) tailored to meet the unique needs of persons with disabilities;
  • design and implement differentiated instruction to accommodate diverse learning styles, abilities, and needs within inclusive classroom settings;
  • develop strategies for managing challenging behaviors and promoting positive behavior support for those with disabilities, including using behavior intervention plans and functional behavior assessments;
  • gain proficiency in selecting, implementing, and evaluating assistive technology tools and supports to enhance access to the curriculum and facilitate learning and independence;
  • demonstrate effective communication and collaboration skills for working with families, educators, support staff, and other professionals to support individuals with disabilities in educational settings;
  • demonstrate an understanding of cultural diversity and its impact on teaching and learning, as well as strategies for creating inclusive and culturally responsive learning environments;
  • knowledge of relevant laws, regulations, and ethical standards related to special education, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act;
  • critically evaluate research literature, apply evidence-based practices in special education, and contribute to advancing knowledge in the field through research and inquiry;
  • develop leadership skills and advocacy strategies for promoting equity, access, and inclusion for individuals with disabilities within educational systems and communities.

Master’s in Special Education Online Degree Types

There are three types of online master’s degrees in Special Education. The best one depends on whether one plans to move on to a doctorate program or prefers to remain a special education teacher/administrator.

MA Special Education

The online MA in Special Education prepares teachers for certifications to work with students. This degree may require a final project since the MA focuses on the humanities curriculum. It is designed for teachers who do not plan to enter a doctoral program as a terminal degree.

MEd Special Education

The Master’s in Special Education online is designed for licensed teachers, early childhood teachers, and school administrators who want to focus on the Special Ed field.  Licensed teachers can advance to roles as special education administrators, assessment specialists, and case managers. There are also MEd. in Special Education K-12 programs that enable one to earn their teacher license with an endorsement in special education.

MS in Special Education Online

The online MS in Special Education prepares one to become a special education teacher. Programs may be offered as master’s degrees with certification, without certification, or degree only. They may choose programs requiring a thesis or those that do not.  The MS is not a terminal degree and is suitable for those who plan to earn a doctorate.

Specializations in Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

Special education is a sub-concentration of Education Master’s Degrees. Within the Master’s in Special Education online curriculum, some concentrations prepare to work in specialized niches in the field. Some of these concentrations are highlighted below:

Autism Spectrum DisordersThis specialization focuses on understanding the characteristics, needs, and interventions of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).Autism Specialist, Behavior Analyst, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapist, Special Education Teacher specializing in autism, Autism Consultant, and more.
Learning DisabilitiesThis specialization delves into the assessment, identification, and instructional strategies for individuals with specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.Learning Disabilities Specialist, Special Education Teacher specializing in learning disabilities, Dyslexia Specialist, Educational Therapist, Reading Specialist, and more.
Intellectual DisabilitiesThis specialization focuses on supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities in educational settings through assessment, intervention, and skill development.Intellectual Disabilities Specialist, Special Education Teacher specializing in intellectual disabilities, Developmental Disabilities Specialist, Adaptive Behavior Specialist, and more.
Emotional and Behavioral DisordersThis specialization explores strategies for addressing emotional and behavioral challenges in learners, including assessment, behavior management, and social-emotional skill development.Behavior Intervention Specialist, Emotional/Behavioral Disorders Specialist, Special Education Teacher specializing in emotional and behavioral disorders, School Counselor specializing in behavior, and so on. 
Multiple DisabilitiesThis specialization addresses the unique needs of individuals with multiple disabilities, including those with complex medical conditions, sensory impairments, and significant support needs.Multiple Disabilities Specialists, Complex Needs Educators, Special Education Teachers specializing in numerous disabilities, Assistive Technology Specialists for various disabilities, and more.
Deaf and Hard of HearingThis specialization focuses on meeting the educational needs of students who are deaf or hard of hearing, including communication strategies, assistive technology, and language development.Deaf Education Specialist, Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Educational Audiologist, Sign Language Interpreter, Auditory-Verbal Therapist, and so on. 
Visual ImpairmentsThis specialization addresses the unique learning needs of individuals with visual impairments, including assessment, orientation and mobility, braille literacy, and assistive technology.Visual Impairments Specialist, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Teacher of learners with Visual Impairments, Braille Transcriber, Assistive Technology Specialist for visual impairments, and so on. 

Timeline for graduation from Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

The timeline for completing a Master’s in Special Education program varies depending on program structure, course load, and individual circumstances. Typically, students begin by completing the admissions and enrollment process, which can take 1 to 3 months. They then progress through core coursework covering foundational topics in special education, which generally takes 1 to 2 years. Some programs offer specialization tracks or elective courses, which can extend the timeline by one semester to one year. Additionally, one typically engages in a practicum or field experience component, lasting one semester to one year, to gain hands-on experience. The timeline may vary for those required to complete a thesis or capstone project. The timeframe for graduating from a Master’s in Special Education program typically ranges from 1.5 to 3 years, with variations based on program requirements and individual progress.

Accelerated Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

An Accelerated Master’s in Special Education program offers students an expedited path to earning their degree in a shorter timeframe than traditional programs. Typically designed for individuals with a background in education or a related field, accelerated programs streamline coursework and may offer intensive schedules, allowing one to complete their studies more quickly. These programs often feature condensed semesters and accelerated courses and may provide options for year-round study. By compressing the curriculum into a shorter timeframe, accelerated degrees enable graduates to advance their careers and enter the workforce as special education professionals in less time. Some fast-track graduate programs in special education include the ones offered by:

Master’s in Special Education Online Programs Admission Requirements

The requirements of an online special education graduate program are essential; however, it’s critical for prospective students to carefully review the admissions requirements for each program they are interested in applying to, as specific requirements may vary between institutions. Different colleges may have different kinds of requirements. However, some standard admissions requirements for a Master’s in Special Education program typically include:

  1. Bachelor’s Degree: Applicants are typically required to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. While a specific undergraduate major may not always be required, some programs may prefer candidates with a background in education, psychology, or a related field.
  2. Minimum GPA: Most programs have a minimum GPA requirement for admission, usually ranging from 2.5 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Some programs may require a higher GPA for admission into competitive programs or for applicants seeking funding opportunities.
  3. Transcripts: Applicants submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. These transcripts provide evidence of academic performance and completion of prerequisite coursework.
  4. Letters of Recommendation: Many programs require letters of recommendation from academic or professional references who can speak to the applicant’s abilities, experiences, and potential for success in graduate studies. The number of required letters may vary, typically around 2-3.
  5. Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement: Applicants must often submit a Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement outlining their academic and professional background, career goals, reasons for pursuing a Master’s in Special Education, and how the program aligns with their aspirations.
  6. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): Applicants may be asked to submit a current resume or CV detailing their educational background, work experience, relevant skills, certifications, professional development, and any other relevant information.
  7. Prerequisite Courses: Some programs may require applicants to have completed specific prerequisite courses related to education, psychology, or special education. These prerequisite courses ensure one has a foundational knowledge in relevant areas before beginning graduate-level coursework.
  8. Standardized Test Scores: While not always required, some programs may request standardized test scores, such as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), as part of the application process. However, many programs have waived this requirement in recent years.
  9. Interview: In some cases, applicants may be required to participate in an interview as part of the admissions process. This interview may be conducted in person, over the phone, or via video conference and provides an opportunity for the admissions committee to learn more about the applicant’s background, experiences, and goals.

Accreditation for Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

Employers and licensing organizations require graduates from accredited online master’s programs in special education. Voluntary accreditation assures that the university meets academic quality and standards for the profession. One is only eligible for federal financial aid programs if they attend an accredited university. While National accreditations come from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) [3], regional accreditation is provided by one of the six regional agencies:

For detailed information, read the Accreditation Guide.

No GRE Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

Many Master’s in Special Education programs have waived the requirement for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) as part of their admissions process. This decision is often made to make the application process more accessible and inclusive for prospective applicants. Without the GRE requirement, applicants can focus on other aspects of their application, such as academic background, professional experience, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. By eliminating the GRE requirement, programs seek to attract a diverse pool of applicants who may not perform well on standardized tests or have unique strengths and experiences that may not be fully reflected in test scores. This approach aligns with the inclusive principles of special education, which emphasize recognizing and valuing all individuals’ diverse abilities and backgrounds. Some colleges providing no gre master’s in special education are:

Free Special Education Courses

Many organizations, universities, and educational platforms offer free online courses and webinars on topics related to special education, including assessment, instructional strategies, behavior management, and assistive technology. These resources aim to support the learning, development, and well-being of individuals with disabilities and promote inclusive education practices. Here are some examples of free courses in special education:

CourseDisability Inclusion in Education: Building Systems of Support [12]
Provided byCoursera
DescriptionThis course provides participants with the knowledge, skills, and strategies needed to create inclusive educational environments that support the full participation and success of individuals with disabilities. By learning about effective practices and collaborative approaches, participants can advocate for disability inclusion and implement positive changes within educational systems.
CourseWorking with Students with Special Educational Needs [13]
Provided byAlison
DescriptionIn this course, participants gain an understanding of various types of special educational needs, including learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and emotional and behavioral disorders. They learn about inclusive education principles and strategies for creating inclusive learning environments accommodating diverse abilities and needs.
CourseSupporting children’s development [14]
Provided byThe Open University
DescriptionIn this course, participants delve into theories of child development, learning about cognitive, social-emotional, physical, and language development and how these domains interact and influence each other. They explore typical developmental milestones, individual development variations, and risk and protective factors that shape children’s growth.

How to Pay for Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

Many prospective graduates may find themselves concerned about covering the costs of tuition and fees for their education. Regardless of their academic achievements, military background, or financial situation, several avenues of financial assistance are available to candidates pursuing an online master’s in special education. These options help alleviate the burden of tuition expenses.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

Completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is crucial in financing a college education. This form evaluates eligibility for various forms of financial assistance, including work-study benefits, federal loans, grants, and scholarships.


Scholarships are another valuable resource awarded based on academic achievements, contributions, or talents. These awards may come from companies, clubs, schools, or organizations and can be tailored to specific fields of study or qualifications. It’s essential to be cautious of scholarship scams.


Grants provide financial aid to individuals with demonstrated financial need and do not require repayment. These funds, typically awarded by nonprofit organizations, foundations, or the federal government, can cover expenses like transportation, books, housing, and research materials.


The Federal Work-Study program offers part-time employment opportunities to graduates with financial needs, allowing them to earn money to offset educational expenses. These positions may be on or off-campus and could align with the course of study.


Private loans are another option for covering educational expenses, allowing students to borrow funds for tuition fees and living expenses. These loans come from private lenders, credit unions, banks, and other organizations. Seeking donors and grants can also aid in repaying loans.

For further information on financial aid, read a financial aid guide.

Scholarships for Online Special Education Students

Scholarships are available for those in a Master’s in Special Education online program and do not require repayment. They are awarded based on academic merit or potential and come from universities, special education associations, foundations, and university education departments. Here are some scholarship examples for those pursuing their Master’s in Special Education online:

Bishop Charles P. Greco Graduate Fellowships [15]

The Bishop Greco Scholarship is a prestigious program that provides financial assistance to deserving students pursuing their educational goals. Recipients of this scholarship receive financial support to help cover the costs of tuition, fees, books, and other educational expenses associated with their studies. It recognizes outstanding learners who embody the values of academic excellence, leadership, and service, and it allows them to further their education and reach their full potential.

Award: $500 to $2,000

Application Deadline: Varies

Save a Life Scholarship [16]

The Save a Life Scholarship is a program designed to recognize and support students committed to promoting safety and wellness within their communities. Eligibility criteria for the Save a Life Scholarship may vary. Still, applicants demonstrate their dedication to promoting safety and wellness through academic achievements, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or personal experiences. They may be asked to submit essays, letters of recommendation, or other materials highlighting their commitment to this cause.

Award: $1,500

Application Deadline: May for the Spring term and October for the Fall term

Lucile Hope Special Education Scholarship [17]

The Lucile Hope Special Education Scholarship is a program established to honor Lucile Hope’s dedication to special education. This scholarship aims to support and empower aspiring educators pursuing careers in special education. Recipients of the scholarship receive financial assistance to help cover the costs associated with their education, including tuition, fees, books, and other educational expenses. It provides financial support to deserving students and recognizes and celebrates their dedication to positively impacting the lives of individuals with disabilities. By supporting future special education educators, this scholarship contributes to the continued growth and success of the special education field.

Award: $1,500

Application Deadline: May for the Spring term and October for the Fall term

Careers and Salary Outlook for Master’s in Special Education Online Graduates

Careers in special education encompass various roles dedicated to supporting individuals with disabilities in achieving their educational and developmental goals. Here are some common career paths in special education:

  • Special Education Teacher
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • School Psychologist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Behavior Analyst
  • Educational Diagnostician
  • Special Education Administrator
  • Adaptive Physical Education Teacher
  • Assistive Technology Specialist
  • Transition Specialist
  • School Counselor
  • Developmental Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Social Worker
  • Special Education Paraprofessional/Aide
  • Braille Instructor
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialist
  • Visual Impairment Specialist
  • Autism Specialist
  • Early Intervention Specialist
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist
  • Music Therapist
  • Art Therapist
  • Recreation Therapist
  • Rehabilitation Counselor

This list is not exhaustive; there are many other specialized roles within special education. Each career path offers unique opportunities to support individuals with disabilities in achieving their educational and developmental goals. A few of these career paths are expanded below:

OccupationSpecial Education Teachers [18]
Skills RequiredCommunication, critical thinking, interpersonal, patience, and resourcefulness skills.
Median Annual Salary$62,950
Job Growth (up to 2032)0% (little or no change)
Job DescriptionSpecial education teachers are essential in supporting students with disabilities, ensuring they have the tools and resources to succeed academically and develop crucial skills. Their responsibilities include assessing abilities and needs, adapting lessons to meet individual requirements, and developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that outline personalized goals and accommodations. 
OccupationCareer and Technical Education Teachers  [19]
Skills RequiredCommunication, organizational, patience, and resourcefulness skills.
Median Annual Salary$61,450
Job Growth (up to 2032)0% (little or no change)
Job DescriptionCareer and technical education (CTE) teachers play a crucial role in preparing for success in specific career pathways by imparting practical skills and knowledge. They design comprehensive lesson plans and assignments tailored to the requirements of various professions. Through hands-on activities, they demonstrate the application of classroom knowledge, ensuring learners gain practical experience. Additionally, CTE teachers oversee the safe and proper use of tools and equipment, emphasizing adherence to safety protocols.
OccupationChildcare Workers [20]
Skills RequiredCommunication, decision-making, interpersonal, patience, and physical stamina skills.
Median Annual Salary$28,520
Job Growth (up to 2032)-2% (decline)
Job DescriptionChildcare workers ensure children’s safety, well-being, and development. Their responsibilities include supervising and monitoring children to maintain a safe environment, preparing and serving meals and snacks, and assisting with personal hygiene tasks such as diaper changes. They also organize and facilitate age-appropriate activities or implement curricula that foster learning and exploration.
OccupationInstructional Coordinators [21]
Skills RequiredAnalytical, communication, decision-making, interpersonal, and leadership skills
Median Annual Salary$63,740
Job Growth (up to 2032)7% (as fast as average)
Job DescriptionInstructional coordinators, called curriculum specialists, oversee school curriculums and educational standards. They are responsible for developing educational materials, collaborating with teachers and principals to implement them effectively, and assessing their impact on student learning. Instructional coordinators ensure alignment with educational objectives by evaluating the effectiveness of curriculums and teaching methods established by school boards, state guidelines, or federal regulations.
OccupationOccupational Therapists [22]
Skills RequiredAdaptability, communication, compassion, interpersonal, and patience skills.
Median Annual Salary$93,180
Job Growth (up to 2032)12% (much faster than average)
Job DescriptionOccupational therapists are crucial in improving clients’ lives by helping them overcome physical and cognitive challenges. Their responsibilities encompass various tasks, including evaluating clients’ conditions through comprehensive assessments, which involve reviewing medical histories, conducting interviews, and observing clients perform tasks. Based on their assessments, occupational therapists develop and implement personalized treatment plans tailored to clients’ needs and goals.
OccupationRecreational Therapists [23]
Skills RequiredCommunication, compassion, leadership, listening, patience, and resourcefulness skills. 
Median Annual Salary$51,330
Job Growth (up to 2032)4% (as fast as average)
Job DescriptionRecreational therapists play a pivotal role in enhancing their patients’ well-being and quality of life through engaging and therapeutic activities. Their responsibilities encompass a range of tasks to assess patients’ needs, develop tailored treatment plans, and facilitate therapeutic interventions. To begin, recreational therapists conduct thorough assessments of patients’ physical, emotional, and social needs by gathering information from various sources, including medical records, observations, tests, and discussions with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals.

Certifications and Licensing for Master in Special Education Online Graduates

Obtaining certifications and licensure in special education can enhance qualifications and credibility as a professional. While requirements may vary depending on location and specific career goals, here are some standard certifications and licenses for individuals with a Master’s in Special Education:

Special Education Teaching License/Certification

Many states require special education teachers to hold a valid teaching license or certification. The specific requirements for obtaining a permit typically include completing a state-approved teacher preparation program, such as a Master’s in Special Education, passing required exams (such as Praxis exams), and completing a period of supervised teaching or internship [24].

Board Certification in Special Education [25]

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) offers board certification in special education. This voluntary certification demonstrates advanced knowledge, skills, and expertise in special education teaching. Candidates must meet specific eligibility criteria and complete a rigorous assessment process, including portfolio submissions, written assessments, and classroom observations.

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Certification [26]

For individuals interested in working with students with autism or behavioral disorders, obtaining certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) can be beneficial. The Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential requires a Master’s degree in a related field (such as special education), completion of specific coursework in behavior analysis, supervised experience, and passing the BCBA exam.

Assistive-Technology-Professional-ATP Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) Certification [27]

Assistive technology professionals help individuals with disabilities access and utilize assistive technology devices and services. The ATP certification, offered by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), demonstrates expertise in this area. Candidates need to meet eligibility requirements and pass the ATP exam.

Additional certifications may be available depending on one’s area of interest or specialization within special education. For example, certifications in dyslexia therapy, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), or sensory integration therapy may be relevant for specific roles or populations.

Additional Resources for Master’s in Special Education Online Professionals

Governmental and special education associations are indispensable resources for online Master’s in Special Education students and teachers already in the profession. Some organizations require memberships; many offer free resources. Joining an organization opens doors to news and research findings, along with invaluable networking opportunities with experts and fellow educators. One’ll find teaching guides, curriculum samples, and materials for use in the classroom. Here are some resources to consider:

  • The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) [28] – The National Association of Special Education Teachers is a national membership organization serving special education teachers and those enrolled in a Master’s in Special Education online degree program. Members receive a monthly journal and access to professional development courses.
  • The National Education Association (NEA) [29] – The NEA serves more than 3 million educators in 14,000 American communities. Implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the NEA is committed to providing resources to students pursuing a Master’s in Special Education online.
  • Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) [30] – CEC is a leading professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with disabilities and gifted learners. Members can access research publications, professional development opportunities, conferences, and advocacy resources.
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) [31] – CASE is a professional organization for special education administrators, supervisors, and coordinators. Members benefit from networking opportunities, leadership development programs, and resources on best practices in special education administration.
  • Autism Society [32] – The Autism Society is a leading organization advocating for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Professionals working with individuals with autism can access training, conferences, support groups, and resources on evidence-based interventions and services.

FAQs About Master’s in Special Education Online Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

How many credits are required for a master’s degree in special education?

The number of credits needed to complete a master’s degree in special education varies depending on the specific requirements of each university or program. Typically, students are required to complete between 36 to 40 credits of coursework.

Why should one consider completing a Master’s in Special Education?

What career opportunities are available with a Special Education Master’s degree?

What are the benefits of choosing an online Master’s in Special Education program?

Can I pursue a Master’s in Special Education online?

Can I pursue a Master’s in Special Education if my undergraduate degree is in a different field?

What types of practicum or field experiences are included in a Master’s in Special Education program?


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