Students with learning, physical, and mental disabilities need educational support — and special teachers that can offer them the help they need to succeed in education. With a master’s in special education, you will be prepared to serve students with disabilities, adapting general education to their needs and teaching basic skills including literacy and communication.
Why You Should Earn a Master’s in Special Education
A master’s degree in special education holds a range of benefits for graduates. Whether you want to attain certification in special education, wish to explore leadership positions in your district, or are interested in a particular field such as autism intervention or emotional impairment, there is a master’s program designed to help you reach your goal. With this degree, you will be able to better serve students while enjoying better career opportunities and often, higher pay.
Typical Curriculum Offered in a Master’s in Special Education Degree Program
Like most graduate education programs, a master’s in special education focuses on practical classroom application. Coursework can cover specific methods of teaching students with disabilities, contemporary issues and trends, learning and behavioral research, and/or educational assessment. A capstone project, thesis or practicum is often required. Course titles may include:
- Educational Leadership
- Special Education Assessment and Instruction
- Foundations of Special Education
- Instruction for Learning Disabled Students
- Understanding the Exceptional Child
Earning Your Master’s in Special Education Online
Master’s degrees in special education are offered by many leading universities as online programs. Some of the degree programs available include:
You may also choose to home in on a particular field of interest. For instance:
- The University of Missouri’s online master of education in special education offers an emphasis in early childhood special education and a focus on autism. Coursework focuses on the design, delivery and evaluation of services to children with disabilities from birth to age 5.
- Michigan State University has developed an online master of arts in special education for K-12 teachers. Collaboration and consultation skills are a cornerstone of the program, and students can choose an emphasis in learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorders.
- The University of Cincinnati offers a more general online master of education in special education that focuses on evidence-based teaching practices. The degree is designed to help educators shape curriculum decisions and overall learning strategies for students with disabilities.
- Virginia Commonwealth University offers a master’s of education in special education with a specialization in severe disabilities. The program places emphasis on person-centered planning, school and community inclusion, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Graduates will be prepared to work with students in grades K-12 in a public school setting.
Common Questions About Online Masters in Special Education Degrees
Who are the students I can work with after achieving certification in special education?
Special education programs may be widely available throughout the U.S. which can provide focus on students with disabilities, those considered gifted and talented and even students working on learning English as a secondary language. When you become certified in special education, you can work at many different grade levels and come into contact with students from various backgrounds and intellectual levels.
Can I enroll in an online program if I do not have a lot of computer experience?
Online degree programs may have been designed with all students in mind. The general technical qualifications for online degree programs include having the right type of computer software, some knowledge of word processing programs and the ability to navigate internet browsers. Upon entering into these programs, students may be provided with extensive training that can help introduce them to the online courses provided by their university. If you are new to computer technology, your university can provide you with support throughout your online learning experience.
Is there a certain amount of teaching experience I need to have before enrolling in this program?
The school you choose to enroll in may have an influence on the amount of experience you may need prior to being accepted. Some degree programs at this level contain the certification component, which means students from different academic disciplines with no teaching experience can enroll. However, there are some specific master’s programs that require students to already be licensed as teachers and have 1-2 years of teaching experience. Be sure to locate your school’s requirements prior to applying.
Are there different degree programs available for different grade levels?
Special education programs can be found at different grade levels in schools all over the country. In order to accommodate for the need of special education teachers, degree programs have been introduced for elementary teachers, as well as those that may be interested in teaching at all grade levels. If you have an interest in teaching a certain age group, you may be able to find a degree program suitable for what you are seeking.
Estimated Cost and Length of The Degree
The time investment of master’s programs is another component you should consider seriously before enrolling in any program. There are plenty of online programs available that can be completed within 2 years, which is generally the standard for most degrees at this level.
However, some colleges provide programs with a much shorter completion time, some having the ability to be finished in as little as 1 year. Whether you are currently employed or taking time to complete your degree without a career, a shorter timeframe can mean quicker entry into the field. Check out the online programs below and be sure to note the differences in their completion times.
- Penn State University: Online Masters in Education – Special Education – $853 per credit hour – 1-2 years for completion
- Purdue University: Online Masters in Education – Special Education – $447.85 per credit hour – 20 months for completion
If you have a passion for working with exceptional students, the field of special education can be a great place to expand your career capabilities. This area of expertise can be an influential component in the country’s educational field and help to provide great educational opportunities to students with special needs.
Before taking the plunge into higher learning programs, students should consider what type of investment this type of degree may include, both in terms of costs and time. Our team of educational experts has over a decade of experience in researching educational programs for various degree and career specialties. In this section, they have provided some further information into what the cost and length of Masters in Education – Special Education programs may look like for you.
There are generally 2 types of students interested in enrolling in master’s programs in education. The first type of student may be a current educator, interested in pursuing higher-level careers within their current field.
The second type of student may have a bachelor’s degree in another subject area, but considering a change to the field of education. Regardless of which group you hail from, there may be programs available to suit your needs.
The costs of these programs can help you sort through the many different options available, since the tuition rates at universities can vary greatly. The tuition rate for your chosen university, fees associated with your program and the cost of supplies or books are factors to consider when adding up what each program can cost you as a whole.
Careers Available with a Master’s in Special Education
Tougher graduation standards and earlier diagnoses of learning disabilities have created a demand for qualified special education teachers, especially in inner city and rural school districts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that enrollment of special education students will grow in both elementary and secondary schools from 2010 to 2022, driving an increased demand for special education teachers
Outside of a preschool or K-12 setting, graduates with an online master’s degree in special education may wish to explore career options in:
- home-based therapy
- child care
- residential facilities
- bilingual special education
In addition to healthy demand, special education teachers enjoy above average pay, with most earning about $55,060 per year. Teachers in higher levels of education may earn more: secondary special education teachers often earn about $56,830.