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Online Masters in Special Education

Earning a masters in special education online teaches how to help exceptional students achieve their educational goals. In order to accomplish that, programs teach how to

create an effective course of study and how to nurture a safe learning environment for each student. This may include how different students and disabilities process information. Typically, courses also look at developing ways to communicate with each student.

Did You Know?

Nearly four times as many boys are diagnosed with learning disabilities than girls.

Masters in Special Education Online: Basics

While earning your online masters in special education, programs cover a deep study of the issues related to teaching students with disabilities. Normally, this includes planning and creating a course of study that helps all students reach their goals. Some schools also offer concentrations that may tailor your course of study to one part of special education.

Admissions Requirements for Online Masters in Special Education Programs

Many schools ask that you have already earned a state licensure to teach special education students. That’s because many masters degree programs do not provide your first certification. Other admissions requirements may include those listed here.

  • Bachelors degree from an accredited university with a 2.3 GPA or higher
  • Resume
  • Essay
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts

Keep in mind that each school has their own make-up. Therefore, you should check with a few schools to find one that fits your goals.

How Long Does it Take to Earn a Masters in Special Education?

Many full-time students earn their masters in special education online in two to three years. However, that depends on when courses are available. Typically, it takes longer for part-time students to earn their degree.

Upon completing all required courses, many programs ask that you complete a capstone or thesis project. This helps show that you have a complete grasp on the concepts and methods of teaching students with special needs. However, each school has their own rules.

Special Education Masters Degree Online: What You’ll Learn

Special education masters degrees look at the many parts of teaching students with special needs. This may include clinical application, leadership and collaboration, and assessment and intervention. Courses may also focus on teaching in a number of different settings.

For instance, sometimes special education teachers spend time at home with the parents of disabled newborns showing them how to work with their child moving forward. Therefore, some of the topics you may study include how to teach students with special needs at different ages and with different disabilities.

Common Masters in Special Education Online Courses

While earning your masters in special education online, courses focus on developing a complete understanding of all the special education principles. These may include topics such as growth theories, relevant content teaching areas, as well as the legal, ethical, and history of special education at the state and national levels.

Some of the common courses while earning a masters in special education include those listed here.

  • Developing Strategies that Support Children’s Social Behavior
  • Literacy of the Special Learner
  • Individual with Disabilities in Schools and Communities
  • The Young Special Needs Child: Child, Family, and Community
  • Foundations of Learning Disabilities
  • Assessment Practices and Programming for Students with Learning Disabilities
  • Instruction for Special Education Students
  • Technology and Students with Disabilities
  • Management of Challenging Behaviors
  • Research Issues and Trends in Special Education

Every school has a unique make-up and may not offer each of the courses listed above, or they may be listed as a different name. Specific courses may also vary depending upon the concentration you choose in special education. To find a school that matches your goals, research a few options.

Available Special Education Concentrations

There are a number of concentrations available when you pursue a masters in special education online. By choosing a concentration, your course of study may be tailored to provide even more in-depth focus on a specific area of special education. That added emphasis might help make you an expert in that field.

Some of the concentrations for online special education masters degrees include those listed here.

  • Teacher of Students with Disabilities
  • Autism
  • Early Childhood Special Education, Birth to Grade 2
  • Teaching English and Teaching Students with Disabilities
  • Instructional Design
  • Applied Behavior Analysis

Typically, concentrations also include courses on general topics in special education as well. This is in addition to a number of courses in the concentration. Plus, each school may have other options as concentrations. Every school may not offer every concentration. Therefore, you should research a few schools to find one that fits your goals.

Definition of Special Education

Special education is the education of students who are mentally, physically, socially, and/or emotionally delayed. This delay can impact physical, cognitive, or scholastic skills. This may result in students with special needs falling behind their peers. Therefore, the needs of these students cannot be met with traditional classroom settings.

As a result, masters in special education online programs strive to teach how to improve the learning of disabled students. Usually, this is through adapted methods and materials. These processes can include sign language with deaf students or a student pointing to pictures in a book. Special education focuses on helping students perform these tasks to communicate with others.

What Is the Most Common Accreditation for Online Masters in Special Education Programs?

While there are a number of regional accrediting bodies, and a few other national ones, the main accrediting body for online masters degree in special education programs is the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

The NCATE accredits a number of educational degree programs. In regards to special education, they focus on schools that continuously improve upon established and modern research, concepts, and theories. They also look for programs that strive to create better ways of teaching and putting into place emerging educational policies and practices.

Common Careers in Special Education

While there are many careers you may pursue upon earning your masters in special education online , becoming a special education teacher is one of the most common jobs. Many special education teachers work with other teachers, counselors, school superintendents, administrators, and parents to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to match each student’s needs[i]

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for special education teachers in 2015 was $56,800.[ii] The BLS also expects the number of special education teachers to increase 6% during the ten years from 2014 to 2024.[iii]

Many states and employers don’t require that special education teachers have a masters degree. In fact, many only ask that candidates have a bachelors degree and state certification or licensure. However, to become fully certified in some states you may need a masters degree.[iv] Check with you state to find specific requirements.

Take the Next Step!

Are you interested in a career where you can impact the lives of disable students? Then take the next step to earn your masters in special education online. Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page to learn more about each school. You’ll find specific admission and graduation requirements. You can even reach out to your favorites directly to request more information.


[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-2 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-5 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-6 [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-4