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Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education 2020

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Online Master’s in Special Education

Most Affordable Online Master's in Special Education badge

By Staff Writers Published on December 18, 2019

What Are the Goals of a Master’s Program in Special Education?

A special education master’s degree prepares graduates to help students with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities complete their studies and reach developmental milestones. Special education teachers collaborate with other teachers and oversee Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Many of these teachers work in public school settings, while others find jobs at private schools or work as clinical researchers.

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Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Many schools offer higher salaries for special education teachers with master’s degrees than teachers with only bachelor’s degrees, and several lucrative clinical jobs require at least a master’s degree. This guide ranks the most affordable online master’s in special education programs. We also cover important information for prospective students, such as common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is special education?Special education refers to teaching students with disabilities. Special education teachers develop and implement IEPs and help students overcome learning challenges.
Can you work in a hospital with a master’s in special education?Yes, hospitals hire special education professionals. These employees work in early intervention programs to help families prepare young children for school. However, clinical jobs often require additional certifications.
How long does it take to earn a master’s in special education?Typically, it takes two years of full-time study to earn a master’s in special education, but the length of a program varies by factors like credit requirements, delivery format, and enrollment status.
What is a special education advocate?These professionals work with students with disabilities and their families, connecting them with special education services like community resources and therapy.

Top 10 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education for 2020

Why Study Special Education Online?

Earning a special education master’s online allows students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Online learning also allows students to attend the top programs in the country without relocating.

Most states require special education teachers to complete student-teaching requirements to earn certification. Therefore, online learners who did not complete student-teaching hours during their undergraduate studies must complete this requirement during their master’s studies. Most online programs allow students to complete student-teaching requirements at an approved site in their community.

Many schools tailor their special education curriculum to their state’s teaching licensure requirements. For example, if students want to teach in Michigan after graduation but they currently live in Missouri, they may benefit from attending an online program offered by a Michigan-based school.

Accreditation for Online Special Education Programs

Accreditation status should serve as a top factor when choosing a special education master’s degree. The U.S. Department of Education oversees third-party agencies that assess school quality to grant accreditation.

Schools can earn regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions, and it’s generally considered more prestigious than national accreditation, which applies to for-profit, vocational, and technical schools.

Different regional accrediting bodies accredit schools based on where the school is located. For example, the Higher Learning Commission accredits schools based in the Midwest. Only students at accredited institutions qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept credits and degrees from accredited institutions. Additionally, many employers prefer to hire candidates with an accredited degree.

Programs within a school can also earn accreditation, such as business, social work, and education programs. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation serves as one of the top accrediting agencies for education programs. Online learners should also research a prospective school’s distance-learning accreditation status. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission oversees accreditation for online programs and ensures their quality matches traditional face-to-face programs.

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education 2020 | Best Value Schools

Finding a quality school that offers affordable tuition can pose a challenge. To guide the research process, we collect information about low-cost, online master’s in special education programs and rank them based on factors like student-to-faculty ratios and graduation rates. Read through our most current list below.

  1. Western Governors University
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    WGU's online master's in special education program prepares licensed teachers to educate K-12 children and adolescents. WGU's 12-course, 36-credit curriculum emphasizes the foundations of instructional design, behavioral management and intervention, and psychoeducational assessment. All learners must also complete a 240-hour practicum at a school.

    Academic and professional success starts with an in-depth online learning orientation. On WGU's Career and Professional Development (CPD) website, students can access multiple 24/7 resources, including Handshake, an industry-leading networking and job-hunting site. Other CPD services include one-on-one coaching and interest assessments.

    WGU accepts new students on the first of each month. Application materials include a valid teaching license and transcripts. All applicants also speak with an enrollment counselor. WGU charges a flat tuition rate per six-month term, meaning accelerated students save money compared to full-time and part-time degree-seekers. New learners may qualify for a scholarship.

  2. Texas Woman's University
    Location

    Denton, TX

    TWU's special education master's degree features a 30-credit curriculum that appeals to both licensed teachers and education researchers. Students analyze high-incidence and low-incidence disabilities, assessments for effective interventions, and legal and administrative issues. Learners can customize the program by earning an optional educational diagnostician certification.

    TWU's Career Connections (CC) professionals maintain a blog that covers online networking strategies and interviewing best practices. CC also offers online learners virtual counseling sessions through Handshake as well as recorded webinars and virtual career fairs.

    TWU admits new online learners -- both men and women -- in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Prospective students apply through ApplyTexas.org and submit transcripts that reflect a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. A public university, TWU provides in-state learners with a significant tuition discount. Students must take a minimum of nine credits each semester to qualify for institutional aid.

  3. University of Houston-Victoria
    Location

    Victoria, TX

    UHV's 30-39-credit special education master's online offers four concentrations: applied behavior analysis, autism spectrum disorders, diagnostic certification, and dyslexia. Each track emphasizes coursework in diagnostic teaching, assistive technology and instructional strategies, and programming and collaboration. Graduates find work in public schools and government agencies.

    UHV provides resources for distance learners, including online workshops, top job boards, and networking sites. Students can also consult the Literature Rack, guides that cover the Texas job market, specific industries' evolving needs, and how to work abroad.

    Out-of-state licensed teachers and unlicensed prospective students may apply. UHV uses a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA cutoff, and some applicants may need to submit standardized test scores. Out-of-state students pay double the in-state tuition rate. Learners interested in institutional financial aid submit both FAFSA results and UHV's scholarship application.

  4. Southeastern Oklahoma State University
    Location

    Durant, OK

    SOSU's online master's in special education program requires a 30-credit curriculum that full-time students can complete in 12 months. The program includes two components: core courses and challenging behaviors specialty courses. Specialty coursework prepares students to use positive behavioral intervention, teach children with autism, and apply behavior analysis in the workplace.

    At SOSU's Career Management Center, students can search for a new job and explore internship opportunities. Online services include mock interviews, resume and cover letter critiques, and one-on-one career counseling.

    SOSU admits new students at nine points throughout the year. Admission requirements include a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. SOSU does not require GRE scores. All distance learners pay the same per-credit tuition regardless of residency. New students can learn more about institutional financial aid by contacting SOSU's Student Financial Aid Office.

  5. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Students who want to learn asynchronously choose UF's special education master's degree. The 36-credit curriculum features four concentrations that can lead to a fulfilling career: autism, disabilities in society, dyslexia, and early childhood studies. All students complete coursework in designing instruction for inclusive classrooms, teaching learning strategies, and collaborative practices.

    UF students can turn to the Career Connections Center (CCC) to attend a virtual resume lab, speak with an advisor over the phone or through web conferencing, and create a career action plan. CCC's Resource Library provides cover letter templates, career roadmaps, and interviewing strategies.

    Admission requirements include undergraduate transcripts, three recommendation letters, and GRE scores. UF uses a GRE score cutoff, and in-state students save approximately 75% on tuition compared to out-of-state degree-seekers. Learners who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA may qualify for an institutional scholarship.

  6. Averett University
    Location

    Danville, VA

    Averett's special education master's online helps licensed Virginia teachers take their career in a new direction. Students can select from six concentrations, including child psychology, effective student assessment methods, and behavior management. The program uses a cohort-based format, and students take 1-2 courses at a time. Students in the accelerated track can earn a degree in 24 months, while other learners can graduate in 28-32 months.

    Averett features several career-centered resources for all students, including academic portfolio assistance, interest inventories, and professional etiquette training. Students can also work with an advisor to improve interviewing skills.

    Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and a Virginia state teaching license. Averett may grant conditional admission to applicants with a lower GPA. All graduate education students pay the same per-credit tuition, and learners may qualify for one or more federal financial aid programs.

  7. Missouri State University-Springfield
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    MSU's online master's in special education prepares graduates to educate children with blindness or low vision. The program's 39-credit curriculum requires coursework in the principles of orientation and mobility, the application of technology in special education, and the methods of teaching independent living skills. All students complete a practicum experience.

    p>Online learners can access virtual resume reviews, counseling appointments, and the latest job postings at the MSU Career Center. MSU's Career Planning Toolkit includes career inventories, career development courses, and job-research tools.

    Prospective students should have a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit three recommendation letters. Out-of-state applicants also submit an FBI background check. MSU charges the same per-credit tuition to all learners. MSU's College of Education awards more than 60 scholarships each year to eligible students.

  8. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
    Location

    Edinburg, TX

    Licensed teachers who can learn in an accelerated format should consider UTRGV's special education master's degree. The program's 30-credit curriculum uses seven-week courses and features coursework in the legal foundations of special education, applied behavioral analysis, and the foundations of assessment in special education. All students also complete an action research project.

    UTRGV's Career Center provides students with essential services such as Handshake, career workshops, and an online resource library that contains the latest industry trends. Students interested in a doctoral program can also consult with an advisor on how to secure financial aid and prepare for an admission exam.

    Application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, two recommendation letters, and a resume. Although a public school, UTRGV charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all learners regardless of residency. Online graduate students can apply for federal financial aid programs through the university.

  9. The University of Texas at Tyler
    Location

    Tyler, TX

    Licensed Texas teachers can enroll in UT Tyler's special education master's online program. During the program's two-year, 36-credit curriculum, students hone knowledge and skills related to learning theory, educational strategies, and individual assessment of cognitive function. The program uses a cohort learning model. Additionally, over 95% of graduates pass the special education TExES exam on the first try.

    UT Tyler's Office of Career Success and Alumni Engagement offers mock interviews, resume critiques, and coaching appointments. Students can also network at the university's annual Career Success Conference. Learners can find links to top job-hunting and networking sites on the office's website.

    In addition to a Texas teaching license in any field, admission requirements include a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA, an interview, and GRE scores. All degree-seekers pay the same tuition rate at this public university. Students who teach full time can apply for the Teachers in Excellence Scholarship.

  10. Lamar University
    Location

    Beaumont, TX

    LU's online master's in special education program appeals to licensed educators who want to earn a special education endorsement. All courses last five weeks and include educational psychology, special education law, and functional behavioral assessment. The program follows the Council on Exceptional Children's curriculum guidelines.

    LU's Career and Professional Development (CPD) professionals prepare degree-seekers for life after graduation by offering InterviewStream and Focus 2 Career software. The CPD website also includes resume templates, and students can receive a resume critique. Special education students considering a doctoral program can receive feedback on a personal statement or application essay.

    Application requirements include a teaching license, two years of teaching experience, and a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Admission materials also include a recommendation letter from the applicant's principal. LU charges the same tuition rate to both in-state and out-of-state students. Degree-seekers can apply for federal financial aid programs by submitting FAFSA results.

  11. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    FIU's special education master's degree allows licensed special education teachers to earn a Florida autism endorsement, which transfers to many states. The one-year, 36-credit curriculum includes coursework in the foundations of educational research, instructional technology for special education, and assistive and instructional technology.

    On FIU's Career and Talent Development website, degree-seekers can sign up for a counseling appointment, review resume writing best practices, and learn how to create an online brand. Students can also access Vault, a platform that contains company profiles and articles that cover the latest career trends.

    Admission requirements include a teaching license with a certification in special education and a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applicants submit a statement of purpose and three recommendation letters. All students pay the same tuition regardless of residency, and incoming degree-seekers with a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA may qualify for an FIU Online Academic Scholarship.

  12. Wilmington University
    Location

    New Castle, DE

    WilmU's special education master's online attracts both practicing and aspiring educators. Students can select from five degrees, four of which award a Delaware teaching license with a special education endorsement. Program requirements include 33-54 credits depending on the degree and may include coursework in reading in content areas, technology for instruction, and curriculum in special education.

    In addition to Handshake, WilmU provides students and alumni with many essential services, including professional organization tips and a guide that matches WilmU's academic programs with potential career paths. Degree-seekers can also take a career assessment by logging on to Focus 2 Career.

    Application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and a valid teaching license. All incoming learners meet with an admission specialist. WilmU charges the same tuition rate to all degree-seekers. Students who need financial aid should submit the WilmU Scholarship Application by April 1.

  13. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Prospective learners living in and around Huntsville, Texas, should consider SHSU's online master's in special education program. The program features a unique bilingual track wherein Spanish-speaking students train to work with recent immigrants. The 36-credit curriculum requires coursework in the education of individuals with disabilities, a seminar in special education, and outcomes in behavior intervention.

    On SHSU's Career Services (CS) website, learners can research the latest job openings on JOBSforKATS. CS also offers students resume and cover letter assistance and an in-depth Career Readiness Handbook.

    SHSU accepts applications through ApplyTexas, and applicants submit two recommendation letters, GRE scores, and proof of one year of teaching experience. SHSU also requires an interview and uses a standardized test score cutoff. The university extends its in-state tuition rate to all out-of-state online learners. New graduate students can research and apply for institutional aid on the Scholarships4Kats website.

  14. National University
    Location

    La Jolla, CA

    NU's special education master's degree offers two tracks for practicing and aspiring California educators: mild/moderate and moderate/severe. Both degrees use an accelerated, 77-quarter-credit curriculum with coursework in learners and learning, advanced behavioral supports, and language literacy. Degree-seekers pursuing licensure complete student teaching.

    Through NU's Career Services (CS), learners can hone salary negotiation and resume writing skills. The CS website offers interest inventories, a workshop calendar, and specialized services for international and veteran degree-seekers. Students can also sign up for MentorMe, an online mentor network.

    NU admits new degree-seekers on the first of each month. Prospective students submit undergraduate transcripts, and the university requires a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants with a lower GPA can still receive conditional admission. A private university, NU charges the same per-credit tuition to all learners. Active-duty service members and veterans qualify for automatic financial aid through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

  15. Texas Tech University
    Location

    Lubbock, TX

    TTU's special education master's online program features a concentration in applied behavior analysis. The 36-credit curriculum includes courses in strategies for children with low-incidence disabilities, behavior change, and human development in education. Some courses may require students to attend an orientation or other academic event on TTU's Lubbock campus.

    TTU's University Career Center (UCC) offers resume critiques, mock interviews, career assessments, and career-exploration tools. Online students who visit the UCC on campus can also participate in the Career Closet, where students can pick up a free set of professional clothes for interviews.

    TTU admits new online learners in the fall and spring semesters. Transfer students may apply up to six outside credits toward the degree. Although a public university, TTU charges the in-state tuition rate to online out-of-state degree-seekers. Incoming students may qualify for a College of Education scholarship.

  16. University of Wyoming
    Location

    Laramie, WY

    Licensed Wyoming teachers enroll in UW's online master's in special education program to take their teaching career in a new direction. Students can choose between a 33-credit program that concludes with an action research project or a 41-credit program that requires a thesis. In both tracks, students analyze research applications in the classroom, assistive technology, and transition planning. All students also complete two practica.

    UW's Career Services and Professional Development counselors connect students with job-search resources, professional development courses, and virtual advising appointments. UW also offers mock interviews and cover letter critiques.

    Application requirements include a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA and a Wyoming teaching license. UW does not require standardized test scores. In-state learners receive a significant tuition discount. Incoming students can log on to WyoScholarships to research and apply for the latest institutional scholarships.

  17. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
    Location

    Natchitoches, LA

    NSU's special education master's degree features four concentrations: gifted education, early intervention, elementary mild/moderate, and secondary mild/moderate. Foundational courses include curriculum development, instructional improvement, and action research for school improvement. Each concentration requires 36 credits and may not prepare degree-seekers in all states for licensure.

    NSU's Career Center (CC) offers job postings, Handshake, and virtual appointments. CC counselors also lead mock interviews and offer students advice on how to dress. Learners can download a resume rubric and different templates on the CC website.

    Admission requirements include undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, and two recommendation letters. NSU does not charge a higher tuition rate to out-of-state learners who earn a degree entirely online. In-state students, veterans, and first responders may qualify for a tuition reduction or institutional scholarship. Other degree-seekers can still apply for federal grants and loans.

  18. Holy Family University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    HFU's special education master's online program enrolls licensed educators looking for a career change. The flexible curriculum allows learners to specialize in one of five areas, including autism, reading specialist, and ESL program specialist. Courses last eight weeks, and students living in and around HFU's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, campus can earn the degree in a hybrid format.

    HFU's Career Development Center offers specialized online resources for distance learners, including O*Net Online. This extensive database allows users to pair interests and strengths to different career tracks. Other services include career workshops and counselors who help degree-seekers create a 10-year career plan.

    Before applying, out-of-state prospective students should determine whether a Pennsylvania endorsement transfers. Application requirements include a valid teaching license and undergraduate transcripts that reflect a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission requirements include two recommendation letters and an essay of 250-300 words. Out-of-state learners do not pay a higher tuition rate at HFU.

  19. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
    Location

    Odessa, TX

    Motivated students who want to earn a degree in 12 months select UTPB's online master's in special education program. Required coursework includes educational psychology, the foundations of special education, and transition programming for exceptional learners. The program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

    UTPB offers one-on-one counseling sessions, recorded webinars, and resume templates. Unique services include a guide that covers how to create and manage a professional website.

    Applicants with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA need not submit GRE scores. Other admission requirements include a short essay in which applicants explain why they wish to earn a special education degree. Although a public university, UTPB does not charge out-of-state students a higher tuition rate. Incoming learners may qualify for a TEACH Grant.

  20. University of North Texas
    Location

    Denton, TX

    UNT's special education master's degree includes a required concentration in autism education. Students examine special education law, positive behavioral interventions, and teaching social skills to children and youth with disabilities. The curriculum requires 33 credits, and full-time students can graduate in 15 months.

    UNT's Career Center (CC) offers free business cards, interview preparation, and interest inventories and assessments that reveal users' personal and professional strengths. CC also provides a downloadable guide that breaks down a resume by section and offers essential writing tips.

    Prospective students can apply for one of five annual start dates. Application materials include two recommendation letters, a personal statement, and GRE scores. UNT waives the GRE requirement for applicants who possess a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA. In-state students receive a significant tuition discount.

  21. Purdue University-Main Campus
    Location

    West Lafayette, IN

    Purdue's special education master's online program appeals to aspiring educators who want to earn an Indiana teaching license. The degree features six concentrations, and all students complete coursework in advanced assistive technology, applied behavior analysis, and advanced characteristics of children with mild disabilities. Some concentrations allow learners to customize the degree by selecting electives.

    Online students can plan for professional success by taking Purdue's Career Services' (CS) detailed career assessment. Other CS services include over-the-phone counseling appointments and CareerNetwork, a platform that features job opportunities, resume critiques, and networking resources. Purdue reports that 93% of master's students find full-time or part-time employment shortly after graduation.

    Purdue offers a virtual open house for prospective online learners. Admission requirements include a resume, three recommendation letters, a personal statement, and undergraduate transcripts. Out-of-state learners pay approximately twice as much on tuition than in-state students. Incoming students can apply for federal financial aid programs by submitting FAFSA results.

  22. University of Washington-Seattle Campus
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Students who work full time choose UW's online master's in special education program. Online courses meet in the evenings. Students examine the concepts of principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), assessment in ABA, and designing comprehensive behavioral interventions. Most students can earn the degree in 1-2 years.

    UW's Career Center writes a blog that covers career trends and offers online resume review and virtual workshops. The virtual workshops provide cover letter guides, job-searching tips, and specialized advice for LGBTQ+ degree-seekers.

    Application materials include GRE scores, two recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. UW requires that applicants have experience working with individuals with disabilities. All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency. Incoming learners interested in a departmental scholarship should contact the College of Education for more details.

  23. Fitchburg State University
    Location

    Fitchburg, MA

    Fitchburg State's special education master's degree uses a hybrid curriculum with some Saturday sessions on the university's Fitchburg, Massachusetts, campus. The program features five 36-39-credit concentrations, including dyslexia specialist, reading specialist, and teacher of students with moderate disabilities. Additionally, learners can supplement a degree by earning a graduate certificate in one of three areas.

    On Fitchburg State's Career Services (CS) website, students can log on to Handshake to set up a counseling appointment and receive a resume critique. CS also offers degree-seekers a mentoring network, on-campus workshops, and networking tips.

    Prospective students can sample an online course before applying. Applicants to non-licensure programs should already possess a valid teaching license. Other admission requirements include three recommendation letters and an essay. Although a public university, Fitchburg State charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all online learners. Degree-seekers can research and apply for scholarships on the university's Our Opportunities website.

  24. Indiana University-Bloomington
    Location

    Bloomington, IN

    IU's special education master's online program attracts licensed K-12 educators who want to teach children with mild or moderate disabilities. The 36-credit degree requires coursework in classroom management and behavior support, collaboration and service delivery, and a field-based seminar in teacher education. Students work with an academic advisor to create a bespoke concentration.

    IU's Career Development Center (CDC) features advisors who work with distance learners over the phone or through an online portal. CDC also maintains a blog wherein readers can learn the latest information regarding career fairs, economic trends, and alumni's professional outcomes.

    Admission requirements include a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA, a personal statement, and two recommendation letters. International applicants provide a resume and GRE scores. IU provides a significant tuition discount to Hoosier State residents. Learners can apply for multiple scholarships by submitting one application.

  25. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    FHSU's online master's in special education program prepares degree-seekers to work with children with high-incidence disabilities. The 36-credit curriculum includes coursework in legal and professional issues, behavior management in schools, and methods and materials for exceptional students. Students complete an educational research project in their final semester.

    FHSU's Career Services (CS) offers resume assistance, a job-search booklet, and links to top job-hunting and networking sites. CS also provides students with interviewing practice through Big Interview and networking strategies.

    Both licensed and unlicensed educators may apply. Application materials include a personal statement, two recommendation letters, and a personal statement. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. FHSU does not charge a higher tuition rate to out-of-state degree-seekers. Learners interested in financial aid should apply for institutional scholarships by the February 15 deadline.

Career and Salary Outlook for Special Education Graduates

Special education professionals enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for special educators to grow 3% between 2018 and 2028. In 2019, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $61,030. However, related occupations that graduates with a master’s in special education can pursue feature higher growth rates. For example, the BLS projects the need for instructional coordinators to grow 6% between 2018 and 2028. In 2019, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $66,290.

Graduates with an online master’s in special education can also potentially work as medical researchers, who made a median annual salary of $88,790 in 2019, or postsecondary teachers, who earned an annual median salary of $79,540 in 2019.

Experience plays a major role in how much professionals make. According to PayScale, teachers with 1-4 years of experience earn an average salary of $43,000 per year, while those with more than 20 years of experience earn $61,000, on average.

Pay also varies by location. For instance, teaching jobs in cities with high costs of living tend to pay more than teaching jobs in more rural areas.

Bottom 10%Less than $40,730
Median Annual Salary$61,030
Top 10%More than $98,530

Source: BLS

Certifications and Licensure for Special Education Teachers

Many states require special education teachers to obtain licensure or certification. For example, California requires special educators to earn an education specialist instruction credential. Nearly every state requires prospective teachers to complete student-teaching requirements before earning licensure. Some states require students to complete student-teaching hours in both an elementary classroom and a high school classroom.

Some states with similar licensing requirements participate in reciprocity agreements, which allow teachers to transfer their license from one state to another. Students should research the licensure and certification requirements for their state, but the following list outlines three common teaching credentials.

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification

Most states accept this certification for teachers. This organization sets standards for practicing teachers and awards credentials based on experience, education, and an exam.

American Board’s Special Education Teacher Certification

The American Board offers this certification for practitioners in Florida, Idaho, Utah, and Wisconsin. Candidates must complete self-paced, online courses.

National Association of Special Education Teachers Board Certification

This certification allows special education teachers to demonstrate their professional expertise. Candidates must obtain a master’s degree and complete five courses.

Courses in Special Education Programs

When researching programs, prospective students should read through course descriptions to ensure the content aligns with their career goals. For example, individuals who want to work with high school students with disabilities should look for a program that covers education methods specific to this age group. While courses vary by program, the following list outlines five common special education classes.

  • Application of Technology in Special Education Most IEPs include a technology component. In this class, future teachers learn how to use technology to break down learning barriers for students. For example, students who struggle to process visual information can benefit from computer audio that reads assignment instructions to them.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis In an applied behavior analysis course, participants learn how to use the principles of motivation to encourage positive actions in students. This course focuses on how to effectively help learners with behavioral disabilities improve their social interactions. Class participants read through case studies and discuss what factors contribute to helping students overcome behavioral challenges.
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Teaching Approaches This course covers common research-based cognitive and behavioral teaching approaches that special educators use in the classroom. Class participants learn how to empower students to control their own behavior. The course discusses methods other than external reinforcements that teachers can use to help students with disabilities stay on task.
  • Practicum Most special education master’s degrees include a practicum component that gives students hands-on, supervised experience working with learners with disabilities. Some programs require multiple practicums with various age groups.
  • Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders Since autism is a relatively common disorder, many special education programs include a class devoted to this topic. In this course, students discover how to enhance learning and social interactions in children with autism spectrum disorders. While this class does not teach students how to diagnose this disorder, it teaches them signs of the disorder so they can make professional recommendations for testing.

Specializations in Special Education

Many online master’s in special education programs allow students to pursue concentrations that prepare them for certain career paths. For instance, individuals who want to work with children in preschool or elementary school can pursue an early childhood development concentration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 54 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. An autism concentration teaches educators how to help these students learn social and learning skills specific to their needs.

Scholarships for Special Education Students

Students can help offset the costs of their education with financial aid opportunities, such as scholarships. Many organizations offer scholarships reserved specifically for education students, several of which we outline below.

Applegate-Jackson-Parks Future Teacher Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing an education-related bachelor’s or master’s degree can apply. Applicants must demonstrate their knowledge of voluntary unionism through a 500-word essay.

Amount: $1,000 Apply for Scholarship

Dr. Marc Hull Special Education Leadership Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Residents of Vermont with a minimum 3.0 GPA majoring in special education administration may apply. Applicants must attend an accredited graduate institution approved for federal Title IV funding.

Amount: $1,750 Apply for Scholarship

Joseph T. Weingold Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students in New York currently completing a degree program that leads to special education certification may apply. The Arc New York Chapter also reserves scholarship funds for current employees who want to further their studies in this field.

Amount: $3,000 Apply for Scholarship

Shon Shadrick Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduate students majoring in special education may apply for this scholarship. The application requires a 1,000-word essay, transcripts, and two recommendation letters.

Amount: $5,000 Apply for Scholarship

TEACH Grant

Who Can Apply: The government provides this grant to prospective teachers who plan to work in a high-need field in a low-income area. Recipients must take specific classes during their studies and commit to the award’s career requirements. Otherwise, this grant converts to a loan.

Amount: $4,000 Apply for Scholarship

Financial Aid for Special Education Students

Students can apply for federal financial aid by submitting the FAFSA. The online application requires tax filing information. Students with legal guardians who claim them as dependents must enter their guardian’s tax information.

The government awards FAFSA funds based on financial need. It typically takes 45-55 minutes to complete, but it could take longer for first-time applicants. Due dates vary based on state funds, but the due date for federal funds typically falls near June 30. Some colleges use FAFSA information to award scholarships as well.

Students who demonstrate financial need can receive subsidized loans. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest until after graduation. All other students can receive unsubsidized loans, which start accumulating interest immediately. However, both of these loans do not require payments until six months after graduation. Grants do not require repayment.

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10 Best Affordable Ph.D.s in Special Education

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