Best Master’s In Special Education Degrees

A master’s in special education degree is the perfect degree for future advocates and educators who believe that all students should receive a quality education, regardless of difference in learning needs.

Best Master’s In Special Education Degrees

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Growing up and attending school can be challenging regardless of who you are, but for some it may be particularly difficult if they are not receiving the extra care and attention they need.

Believe it or not, but the field of special education is relatively new, with only a history of about 50 years. After the United States was founded in the late 1700s, rights for students with special needs did not exist, and many children were denied education. The first advocacy groups were made up of parents whose children had been discriminated against. It wasn’t until the 1970s when many legal landmarks allowed the beginning of special education programs to be nationalized. Although the field of special education has a long way to go, the many successes and improvements over the years are thanks to dedicated educators and parents who wanted to make a difference.

A master’s in special education degree is the perfect degree for future advocates and educators who believe that all students should receive a quality education, regardless of difference in learning needs. This is an advanced degree ideal for students who already have some knowledge of teaching and experience in working with children. These programs are designed to not only increase knowledge of different needs, but to help create passionate and empathetic leaders.

What type of master’s in special education should you get?

Although the most common degree in this field is the master of education degree, throughout this ranking you will see schools that offer a master's of science or a master's of arts degree instead. What are the differences?

An ME.d is primarily for already licensed teachers who want to move up in their career or obtain additional licensure in a specialized area. A master's degree may be for students who have a background in education, but may not necessarily have the teaching credential. Finally, a master's of science degree is more research-based, meaning a thesis will most likely be required. A master's of science is ideal for those wishing to get their PhD or pursue a more research/policy-related career in education.

Interested in getting your master’s in special education degree online? Check out our picks of the Best Online Master’s in Special Education.

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How much money do people make with a degree in special education?

According to PayScale, those who hold an ME.d in special education make an average salary of $53,000. Those who work as a special education teacher at a preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school make slightly less than teachers in middle or high school. Directors of special education programs or institutions make an average salary of $72,679. The top ten percent in this field, regardless of specific job title, earned an average salary of $90,260.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that careers in special education are expected to experience a growth of six percent from 2012 to 2022. Due to better screening and knowledge of students with different learning needs, special education jobs have slowly been increasing as the years go by. As demand increases, salaries can also expect to rise. Location, years of experience, and type of school or institution (i.e. public, private, government-funded) are all factors that affect salary.

What can you do with a degree in special education?

Most Master’s degrees in this field prepare graduates to work in elementary or secondary schools with students who have physical or mental disabilities. In most programs, students will either choose the “Generalist Specialization” meaning that they will learn about all students from K-12, or will only choose one group such as K-6. Some programs even have concentrations in specific disabilities, such as autism.

In working with these students, job titles include but are not limited to teacher, aid, counselor, program advisor, or administrative worker. Special education workers work full-time and receive benefits like any other teacher or faculty member of a school. Graduates of this degree will be prepared to work with a variety of students from different cultural backgrounds.

What are the requirements for a degree in special education?

When applying to these programs, students should check to see if a teaching credential is required. While some programs do require it, others may only require a Bachelor’s degree in education; these degrees usually pave the way for students to obtain state licensure. Students should submit transcripts, letters of recommendations, and any graduate test scores that are required.

During the program, students will most likely need to complete a practicum or internship. These are supervised programs designed to expose students to what a future career would look like serving special needs children. Placements are usually local and have partnerships with the college or university. For more research-focused programs, a capstone or thesis will be required before graduation.

Best Master's in Special Education Degrees

See our rankings methodology page.

#1

Vanderbilt University

School Information
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

For students seeking career advancement, Vanderbilt University offers a master's program in special education. This Nashville, Tennessee-based private school serves degree candidates of all types, with online enrollment options to accommodate working professionals. During the master's in special education program, learners complete a rigorous curriculum that builds on their undergraduate training.

Master's candidates rely on the school's support services to make progress toward their degree. Academic advisors help with course selections, while career counselors offer workshops, job fairs, and resume reviews. Master's degree-seekers can also take advantage of career counseling, writing tutoring, and extensive library services.

Vanderbilt University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 104

Total Online Master's Programs: 1

Admission Rate: 9%

Graduation Rate: 93%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 7-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $48,624

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $48,624

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $61,900

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#2

Johns Hopkins University

School Information
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Johns Hopkins University prepares graduates for career advancement in its master's in special education program. The private institution, located in Baltimore, Maryland, serves degree-seekers with diverse needs by offering many enrollment options. In the master of science in special education program, learners strengthen their special education knowledge and skills through a rigorous curriculum.

While pursuing a master's degree, enrollees benefit from college resources and support services. For example, career counselors host job fairs and offer resume workshops for specific industries. The university also offers library services, networking events, and more for graduate degree-seekers.

Johns Hopkins University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 124

Total Online Master's Programs: 30

Admission Rate: 11%

Graduation Rate: 93%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 6-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $55,350

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $55,350

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $68,000

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#3

The University of Texas at Austin

School Information
Location Austin, Texas
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's program in special education at The University of Texas at Austin offers an affordable, rigorous option for graduate learners. The master's degree in early childhood special education serves students seeking advanced education and increased career opportunities. Candidates benefit from flexible enrollment options, including schedules designed for full-time professionals.

The master's curriculum uses theoretical and practical approaches to encourage a comprehensive understanding of special education. Internships and other hands-on learning opportunities apply classroom knowledge in real-world settings. Concentrations and electives let learners specialize their education around particular fields.

The University of Texas at Austin at a Glance:

Location: Austin, Texas

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 32%

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,998

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $22,966

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 67%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $10,686

Average Price After Aid: $15,502

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#4

University of Georgia

School Information
Location Athens, Georgia
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Georgia offers a top-ranked program in special education as one of its 116 master's degrees. Students gain advanced knowledge and skills in the MA in special education program. At the school, programs offer flexible enrollment options that appeal to busy enrollees balancing school with other responsibilities.

Learners gain a comprehensive understanding of special education through a curriculum that highlights theoretical and practical approaches. Students often complete internships and other experiential learning opportunities to build career-ready skills. Learners meet with faculty advisors to choose electives and concentrations to individualize the special education degree.

University of Georgia at a Glance:

Location: Athens, Georgia

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 45%

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,878

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $25,186

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 97%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $10,577

Average Price After Aid: $15,961

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#5

University of San Diego

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 49%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of San Diego enrolls learners in 39 master's programs, including a master of education in inclusive learning. The special education master's program helps students advance their education and increase their career opportunities. Candidates may be able to choose from on-campus and online enrollment options, adding flexibility for enrollees who need to work full time while in school.

Learners take advanced special education classes that build a theoretical and practical understanding of the field. Students strengthen their career-readiness through internships and hands-on learning opportunities. A concentration also helps learners specialize their training and pursue focused careers after completing the master's degree.

University of San Diego at a Glance:

Location: San Diego, California

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 49%

Graduate Tuition In State: $27,288

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $27,288

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 82%

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#6

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

School Information
Location Minneapolis, Minnesota
Admission Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Learners can earn their master's in special education from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, which offers 171 master's program options. Students can increase their earning potential and advance their careers in the master's in special education program. Flexible enrollment options help candidates balance graduate courses with work or other obligations.

The master's curriculum builds comprehensive knowledge, highlighting theoretical and practical approaches to special education. Students build valuable professional connections during internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. Learners choose concentrations and electives to build specialized skills in a specific area of special education.

University of Minnesota Twin Cities at a Glance:

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 57%

Graduate Tuition In State: $17,580

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $27,204

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 81%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,544

Average Price After Aid: $17,279

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#7

The Ohio State University

School Information
Location Columbus, Ohio
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's in special education at The Ohio State University is one of 119 master's programs offered at the university. Students can increase their earning potential and advance their careers in the MA in educational studies program. Flexible enrollment options make it easier for busy enrollees and working professionals to attend a graduate program.

During the special education program, learners gain theoretical and practical knowledge through the rigorous curriculum. Internships and experiential learning opportunities build professional connections and provide real-world experience. A concentration also helps learners specialize their training and pursue focused careers after completing the master's degree.

The Ohio State University at a Glance:

Location: Columbus, Ohio

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 54%

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,560

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $35,144

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 79%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $8,176

Average Price After Aid: $18,706

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#8

Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's in special education degree from Boston University helps graduates pursue advanced careers. From its campus in Massachusetts, the private institution offers several enrollment options, including online programs designed for working professionals. In the M.Ed. in special education program, learners complete a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes advanced special education knowledge and skills.

College resources and support services help master's candidates participate fully in campus life and meet graduation requirements. Academic advisors help with course selections, while career counselors host workshops, offer internship programs, and provide career planning services. Master's degree-seekers also attend networking events and make use of library services.

Boston University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 170

Total Online Master's Programs: 24

Admission Rate: 19%

Graduation Rate: 88%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $54,720

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $54,720

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $52,800

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#9

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

School Information
Location Champaign, Illinois
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Learners seeking a graduate degree in special education can enroll in the MS program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Students gain advanced knowledge and skills in the MS in special education program. At the school, programs offer flexible enrollment options that appeal to busy enrollees balancing school with other responsibilities.

The master's curriculum builds comprehensive knowledge, highlighting theoretical and practical approaches to special education. Internships and other hands-on learning opportunities apply classroom knowledge in real-world settings. Electives and concentrations allow learners to individualize the program around their professional goals.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at a Glance:

Location: Champaign, Illinois

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 59%

Graduate Tuition In State: $14,997

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $28,404

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 64%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $15,442

Average Price After Aid: $14,660

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#10

University of Oregon

School Information
Location Eugene, Oregon
Admission Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 74%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Students seeking increased professional responsibilities can earn their master's in special education degree at the University of Oregon. From its Eugene campus, the public university meets the needs of diverse degree-seekers by offering flexible enrollment options. In the master's in special education program, the graduate-level curriculum encourages learners to strengthen their special education skills.

College resources and support services provide guidance to master's candidates throughout their program. For example, financial aid counselors recommend scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. Master's degree-seekers also attend networking events and make use of library services.

University of Oregon at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 78

Total Online Master's Programs: 1

Admission Rate: 82%

Graduation Rate: 74%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 17-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $14,958

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,811

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $39,800

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#11

Minot State University

School Information
Location Minot, North Dakota
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 45%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Minot State University offers several career-focused graduate programs, including a master's in special education. From its Minot campus, the public institution offers graduate programs in several enrollment formats, including online options designed for working professionals. In the master of science in special education program, learners strengthen their special education knowledge and skills through a rigorous curriculum.

While earning a master's degree, enrollees rely on college resources and support services for assistance. Academic advisors help with course selections, while financial aid counselors recommend grants and scholarships to pay for a master's degree. The university also hosts networking and training events for master's degree-seekers.

Minot State University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 12

Total Online Master's Programs: 6

Admission Rate: 67%

Graduation Rate: 45%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,049

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $8,049

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $38,300

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#12

Syracuse University

School Information
Location Syracuse, New York
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A master's degree in special education from Syracuse University helps students seeking career advancement. Located in New York, the private university offers a variety of enrollment options for degree-seekers, including online programs. In the early childhood special education program, the curriculum covers advanced topics in special education.

Master's candidates access a generous selection of college resources and support services during their degree. For example, career counselors host workshops and job fairs while also recommending resume changes. Master's degree-seekers also take advantage of writing centers, career advising, and library services.

Syracuse University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 123

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Admission Rate: 44%

Graduation Rate: 83%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 15-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $38,880

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $38,880

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $48,700

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#13

University of Washington

School Information
Location Seattle, Washington
Admission Rate 52%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Washington enrolls learners in 273 master's degrees, including a master's in special education program. The master's of education in special education program helps students advance their education and increase their career opportunities. Candidates may be able to choose from on-campus and online enrollment options, adding flexibility for enrollees who need to work full time while in school.

During the program, learners complete a challenging curriculum that builds comprehensive knowledge of special education. Students often complete internships and other experiential learning opportunities to build career-ready skills. Electives and concentrations allow learners to individualize the program around their professional goals.

University of Washington at a Glance:

Location: Seattle, Washington

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 52%

Graduate Tuition In State: $18,198

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $32,439

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 57%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $15,354

Average Price After Aid: $10,692

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#14

University of Missouri

School Information
Location Columbia, Missouri

The University of Missouri offers a top-ranked master's program in special education. Students can increase their earning potential and advance their careers in the M.Ed. program. At the school, graduate programs offer flexible enrollment options, including schedules designed for working professionals.

The master's curriculum balances theoretical and practical approaches to special education, emphasizing a comprehensive understanding of the field. Internships and hands-on learning opportunities strengthen classroom skills and help students expand their professional networks. Learners meet with faculty advisors to choose electives and concentrations to individualize the degree.

University of Missouri at a Glance:

Location: Columbia, Missouri

School Type: Public

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#15

University of Vermont

School Information
Location Burlington, Vermont
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 77%
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Vermont offers a special education master's program that helps graduates advance their career. The public institution, located in Burlington, offers a variety of enrollment options for degree-seekers, including online programs. In the master of education in special education program, learners take graduate-level courses to strengthen their understanding of special education.

Master's candidates participate in campus life and benefit from the university's support services. Financial aid advisors recommend scholarships and grants, while academic advisors help with course selections. Master's degree-seekers also attend networking events and make use of library services.

University of Vermont at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 49

Total Online Master's Programs: 1

Admission Rate: 67%

Graduation Rate: 77%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 16-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $12,294

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $30,960

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $40,400

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#16

Washburn University

School Information
Location Topeka, Kansas
Graduation Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Washburn University offers a top-ranked program in special education as one of its 15 master's degrees. The master of education in special education serves students seeking advanced education and increased career opportunities. Flexible enrollment options, including online classes, help busy enrollees balance coursework with their other responsibilities.

Learners gain a comprehensive understanding of special education through a curriculum that highlights theoretical and practical approaches. Internships and other hands-on learning opportunities apply classroom knowledge in a real-world setting. Learners specialize their education by choosing electives and concentrations.

Washburn University at a Glance:

Location: Topeka, Kansas

School Type: Public

Graduate Tuition In State: $9,306

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $18,788

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 92%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $5,912

Average Price After Aid: $13,752

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#17

Utah State University

School Information
Location Logan, Utah
Admission Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 54%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Learners interested in special education can enroll in a top-ranked master's program offered by Utah State University. The master of science in special education and rehabilitation counseling incorporates career-focused training to help students advance their professional opportunities. Flexible enrollment options help candidates balance graduate courses with work or other obligations.

Learners take advanced special education classes that build a theoretical and practical understanding of the field. Students apply their classroom knowledge through internships and hands-on learning opportunities, which also build professional connections. A concentration also helps learners specialize their training and pursue focused careers after completing the master's degree.

Utah State University at a Glance:

Location: Logan, Utah

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 91%

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,996

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $20,327

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 86%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $5,857

Average Price After Aid: $13,452

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#18

Northwest Missouri State University

School Information
Location Maryville, Missouri
Admission Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 52%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A master's degree in special education from Northwest Missouri State University helps students seeking career advancement. This Maryville-based public school serves degree candidates of all types, with online enrollment options to accommodate working professionals. During the MS in education in special education program, learners gain an advanced understanding of topics while strengthening their skills.

College resources and support services help master's candidates make progress toward their degree. Academic advisors help with course selections, while financial aid counselors connect students with ways to pay for their education. Master's degree-seekers also take advantage of career advising, tutoring centers, and internship programs.

Northwest Missouri State University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 35

Total Online Master's Programs: 8

Admission Rate: 73%

Graduation Rate: 52%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 21-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,004

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $6,004

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $34,000

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#19

Pennsylvania State University

School Information
Location University Park, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 71%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Pennsylvania State University offers 136 master's programs, including a highly-ranked special education master's degree. The M.Ed. in special education program helps students grow their career opportunities and increase their earning potential. Flexible enrollment options help candidates balance graduate courses with work or other obligations.

Learners strengthen their theoretical and practical understanding of special education through the program's challenging curriculum. Students apply their classroom knowledge through internships and hands-on learning opportunities, which also build professional connections. Electives and concentrations allow learners to individualize the program around their professional goals.

Pennsylvania State University at a Glance:

Location: University Park, Pennsylvania

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 76%

Graduate Tuition In State: $21,960

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $37,694

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 73%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $8,354

Average Price After Aid: $24,724

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#20

University of Nebraska Lincoln

School Information
Location Lincoln, Nebraska
Admission Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 66%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's in special education program at the University of Nebraska Lincoln appeals to students seeking career advancement. The public university offers a variety of enrollment options for degree-seekers, including online programs. In the M.Ed. program, learners take graduate-level courses to strengthen their understanding of special education.

Master's candidates benefit from advising and support services, including career counseling. For example, career counselors host mock interviews to prepare graduates for the workforce. Master's degree-seekers also participate in training events, networking opportunities, and tutoring sessions.

University of Nebraska Lincoln at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 73

Total Online Master's Programs: 11

Admission Rate: 78%

Graduation Rate: 66%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 17-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,976

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $17,280

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $39,900

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