Updated November 29, 2022

The field of education is broad and challenging, with teachers facing new challenges in the classroom - as well as outside of it - every single day. Special education teachers must be some of the most talented, dedicated professionals, as they are required to help young people at all levels of abilities. To be a ...

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The field of education is broad and challenging, with teachers facing new challenges in the classroom - as well as outside of it - every single day. Special education teachers must be some of the most talented, dedicated professionals, as they are required to help young people at all levels of abilities. To be a special education teacher, you must be passionate, committed, and most of all, compassionate.

While a graduate degree in Special Education can't necessarily instill these critical skills in you, it can teach the strategies necessary to offer quality instruction. If you're already working in the field, you likely already know that you need an advanced degree to hone your skills and to make you a more competent educator. That being said, it can be challenging - if not impossible - to leave your current job to obtain further education.

That's why an online Master's in Special Education could be the opportunity you've been hoping for. An online degree will help lead you toward potential state certification, as well as toward being a better overall teacher. Best yet, you won't need to leave your current job to advance your training in special education - you can earn a degree right from the comfort of your own home, long after the school day has ended.

Selection Criteria

If you're a licensed teacher working with children with special needs, we know how busy you are. Your occupation is not just a job - it's a rewarding career to which you should be devoting your utmost attention. You don't have time to search through the many schools that offer online degrees in Special Education.

You're in luck - we've done it for you. We evaluated the most important features a college degree should have, and then compiled a list of the Best Online Master's in Special Education. To make the final cut, a school could be either private or public but did need to be offering an online degree that was currently enrolling and graduating teachers.

Ranking Factors

Once we made a list of the top online Master's in Special Education, we then narrowed our list to schools that were the best of the best. We closely examined the following attributes when creating our final cut:

  • Academic Rigor
  • Accolades and Program Recognitions
  • Affordability and Overall Cost
  • Accreditation
  • Accessibility

While these weren't the only factors we examined, these were the most important in our final decision-making process. If you want to learn more about how we made our final selection, take a look at our methodology page.

#1 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
#2 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
#3 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, IN
#4 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
#5 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
#6 Ball State University Muncie, IN
#7 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV
#8 The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
#9 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC
#10 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS

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.

  1. Texas A&M University

    College Station, TX



    Texas A&M offers both a Master of Education and a Master of Science in Special Education, with pathways available for individuals with or without backgrounds in Special Education. Teaching certificates are not required for admission. The program allows self-motivated students to complete their studies in less than two years before moving on to rewarding careers as educators, coaches, administrators, therapists, counselors, and more. Thirty-six total credit hours are required, with core coursework required in topics like Single Case Research, Assessment in School Settings, Bilingual Special Education, and Adolescent Literacy for Students with Diverse Instructional Needs.

  2. Purdue University

    West Lafayette, IN



    The Master of Science in Education in Special Education includes a number of practical experiences, allowing students to hone their skills in assessment, instructional development, and evidence-based assessments. Students can graduate in as few as 20 months after acquiring the skills necessary to plan, administer, and evaluate special education curricula. The degree is offered in several formats, including those with initial special education licensure, additional special education licensures, and licensures in intensive intervention only. The program is one of the few that is aligned with edTPA, allowing students to meet state and national standards through completing these online-only courses.

  3. Indiana University-Bloomington

    Bloomington, IN



    The Master of Science in Education in Special Education is available for licensed elementary and secondary educators as an additional certification. Students are placed into a collaborative cohort of students who work together as they innovate and explore trends in classroom education. A number of specialty tracks are available, including those in Autism, Early Childhood, Instructional Strategies, Intense Interventions, and Behavior Specialists. Students receive highly individualized instruction during field-based learning experiences, giving them the opportunity to hone their skills in a real-world setting. A number of financial aid opportunities are available, including tuition reimbursement, tuition assistance, military discounts, fellowships, and travel awards.

  4. University of Arkansas

    Fayetteville, AR



    All classes in the Master of Education in Special Education at the University of Arkansas are delivered asynchronously through Blackboard Learn, allowing most students to earn a degree in less than two years. It is designed for individuals with active teaching licenses and prepares them for higher-level leadership roles. Sample classes include those in Life-Span Human Development, Psychological Concepts of Teaching and Learning, and more. The school also offers additional certificates in topics like Autism Spectrum Disorders, Dyslexia Therapy, Educational Examiner, and Applied Behavior Analysis. The online program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Council for Exceptional Children.

  5. Michigan State University

    East Lansing, MI



    The Master of Arts in Special Education at Michigan State University prepares practicing K-12 teachers for leadership roles in and out of the classroom. The curriculum incorporates research-based strategies and is delivered asynchronously over the course of two years. Roughly 33 credit hours are required, with core coursework in topics such as Collaboration and Consultation in Special Education and Behavior Management in the Inclusive Classroom. Students can pursue concentrations in one of two emphasis areas, including Autism Spectrum Disorders or Learning Disabilities. An additional certificate is available in Applied Behavior Analysis. Guided practice experiences are also required, and can be carried out at an organization in the student's local community.

  6. Ball State University

    Muncie, IN



    Ball State University offers an online Master's in Special Education that is at the forefront of cutting-edge teaching technologies and techniques. They offer some of the best student services and technology, utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to all subject areas. The Master of Arts in Special Education is designed for students from all backgrounds, including those without experience in education. All courses are facilitated via Blackboard in an asynchronous format. Students can customize their studies to fit their career goals, with 30 total credits required. Additional graduate certificates are available in topics like Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Disabilities for Postsecondary Settings, and more.

  7. West Virginia University

    Morgantown, WV



    West Virginia University is a large public university that has offered quality online programs for many years. Students are required to complete field and practicum experiences, all of which can be arranged in the student's home community. The university offers online programs through a Secure OnLine Environment, which makes the online program cohesive and streamlined for all students. Distance learners have access to six different concentrations, including those in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Gifted Education, Multicategorical Special Education, and more. Regardless of residency, all online students pay in-state tuition rates. The university is ranked as one of the top 100 public universities by U.S. News and World Report.

  8. The University of Arizona

    Tucson, AZ



    The University of Arizona is a public research university and employs cutting-edge research methods to ensure that all students are at the forefront of educational service. The Master of Arts in Special Education offers three different concentrations, all entirely online. Students can choose between Behavioral Support, Disabilities, or Deaf and Hard of hearing to enhance their studies. The programs are ideal for teachers who are already licensed and offer an additional opportunity to emphasize even further in areas like Sensory Impairment and Challenging Behavior. Regardless of the concentration chosen, all degree emphasis areas require 36 units to graduate. The school is ranked as one of U.S. News and World Report's Best Education schools.

  9. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

    Raleigh, NC



    The Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education at North Carolina State University integrates theory and practice. Students complete classes in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, all of which are delivered through the WolfWare platform. No past teaching licensure or experience is required. Students are also required to complete hands-on practicum experiences via internships and student teaching. Thirty-three total credit hours are required, with core courses in topics like Resource Teaching in Special Education and Organization and Behavioral Management for Inclusive Classrooms. No thesis is required, with students instead required to complete a number of cumulative examinations.

  10. University of Kansas

    Lawrence, KS



    The Master of Science in Education at the University of Kansas is offered with a concentration in Special Education. It is taught by world-renowned faculty members who are active advocates for people with disabilities. The program requires 36 credit hours of study, along with an intensive field placement. Additional tracks are available in Secondary Special Education and Transition as well as in High Incidence Disabilities. Regardless of the concentration chosen, students will take classes in areas like Family and Interprofessional Collaboration, Language and Communication and Autism Spectrum Disorders. All programs can be completed in less than two years, with tuition starting at less than $600 per credit hour.

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