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Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education 2020

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Online Master’s in Special Education

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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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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.

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.

Learn More…

What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Special Education?
Special Education Scholarships
10 Best Affordable Ph.D.s in Special Education

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