2020 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education

Advertisement CollegeChoice.net is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to find your fit?

What Are the Goals of Online Master’s in Special Education Degrees?

Special education is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving. Teachers usually pursue a special education master’s degree to keep up with the latest research in the field and improve their skills in the classroom.

Most Affordable Online Master's in Special Education

States typically require special education teachers to hold at least a bachelor’s degree and a recognized license or certification before they can practice. Most schools prefer to hire graduates with a degree in special education. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree in another field often must complete a teacher preparation program before earning licensure.

Many schools now offer online master’s degrees in special education in addition to their on-campus programs. Students who enroll full time can usually complete the program in two years, while part-time learners can take as long as four years.

mini icon
Advertisement CollegeChoice.net is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Accredited Online College Programs

Explore our featured online programs and find the right match for you today.

Top 10 Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education Degrees 2020

Rank School Location
1 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
2 Texas Woman's University Denton, TX
3 Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, MA
4 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
5 Wilmington University New Castle, DE
6 Brandman University Irvine, CA
7 George Washington University Washington, DC
8 Webster University Saint Louis, MO
9 Lamar University Beaumont, TX
10 University of North Texas Denton, TX

FAQ

What do special education teachers do?

Special education teachers work with students with different types of disabilities. They adapt lessons to meet the needs of each student and teach basic life skills.

Do you need a master’s degree to be a special education teacher?

Although some states may not require a special education master’s degree to teach, earning a master’s degree can lead to leadership positions and higher salaries.

Can special education teachers work in hospitals?

A small percentage of special education teachers work outside of the classroom in settings like students’ homes, special care facilities, and hospitals.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Special Education Degrees

Accreditation refers to the process in which a recognized accrediting agency evaluates an institution’s academic offerings and operational standards. Although it is a completely voluntary process, most schools seek accreditation to assure students, parents, and other stakeholders of the quality of their programs.

Regional accrediting agencies focus on nonprofit, degree-granting institutions, while national accreditors focus on career-oriented schools. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission accredits schools that offer primarily off-campus programs, including online courses and degrees.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process in the United States. Although they do not accredit schools and programs, they make sure accreditors apply the highest recognized standards to the institutions and programs they review.

Since 2014, the CHEA has recognized the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation as the main accrediting agency for teacher preparation programs, which includes special education.

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education Degrees

Many distance learners cite flexibility and affordability as two of the main reasons behind their decision to pursue an online degree. We ranked the best online master’s in special education programs based on the following factors.

  1. University of the Cumberlands
    Location

    Williamsburg, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of the Cumberlands is located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, and offers an online master's in special education.

    The program's 42-credit curriculum includes courses in research methods, special education assessment and evaluation, classroom behavior management for special student populations, and educational psychology. Graduates qualify for teaching licensure in Kentucky. Out-of-state students must check reciprocity agreements to determine if this program qualifies them for licensure in their home state.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation and GRE or Praxis CASE scores. Cumberlands allows students to transfer in up to nine credits from an accredited graduate program.

    Cumberlands is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The special education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  2. Texas Woman's University
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Texas Woman's University is the nation's largest women's college, operating campuses in Denton, Houston, and Dallas. TWU offers a variety of on-campus and online programs, including a master of education in special education.

    TWU's 30-credit online master's in special education offers a concentration in interventions or leads to educational diagnostician certification. In both cases, the curriculum covers instructional interventions for students with disabilities, collaborating for effective intervention, and legal and administrative issues of special education programs. Students pursuing certification must complete a 160-hour supervised practicum.

    Admission requirements include teaching licensure, at least two years of teaching experience, and a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit a resume, a letter of intent, two professional letters of recommendation, and a copy of their teaching license.

    TWU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Fitchburg State University
    Location

    Fitchburg, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Fitchburg State University's 60-acre campus is located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Fitchburg State offers a variety of online programs, including a master's in special education.

    This graduate program offers several concentrations, some of which lead to initial licensure. Some concentrations offer a hybrid delivery method, while others eliminate all in-person requirements. Each option requires 36-39 credits, but curricula vary by concentration. The program typically takes two years to complete.

    Prospective students must submit official bachelor's transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a one-page essay responding to one of several prompts. Applicants must have a minimum 2.8 GPA in previous college coursework.

    Fitchburg State is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

  4. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Gainesville, UF offers over 200 online, asynchronous programs, including an online master of education in special education.

    UF's unique 36-credit special education master's degree offers four tracks: autism, disabilities in society, dyslexia, and early childhood. The curriculum for each track includes the same four core courses: designing instruction for inclusive classrooms, families and transition for students with disabilities, teaching learning strategies, and collaborative practices in inclusive schools.

    Prospective students must submit GRE scores, a resume, three letters of recommendation (two must be from professional or academic sources), and official transcripts.

    UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. Wilmington University
    Location

    New Castle, DE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in New Castle, Delaware, WilmU offers a variety of online programs, including a master's of education in special education.

    Individuals pursuing this degree may select from five degree routes. Some routes lead to initial state licensure, while others cater to existing educators. Most options require 33-54 credits, and each route delivers all coursework asynchronously. The general curriculum includes courses in foundations of special education, instructional strategies, and advanced behavioral techniques. Some routes include a practicum or capstone requirement.

    WilmU uses an open, rolling admissions process, so individuals may apply at any time. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and submit official transcripts and SAT, ACT, or Praxis Core test scores. Before enrollment, individuals must schedule a meeting with a program advisor and register for WilmU's MED 6102 e-folio courses.

    WilmU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The special education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  6. Brandman University
    Location

    Irvine, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Brandman operates a central campus in Irvine, California, alongside 25 regional campuses throughout California and Washington. Brandman also offers an online campus with many online degrees, including a master's in special education. Students may complete this degree entirely online or through a hybrid format.

    Brandman's 36-credit online master's in special education includes courses in research and evaluation methods, leadership and policy in special education, advanced assessment and program evaluation, and collaboration in special education. The curriculum culminates in a capstone course and adheres to the Council for Exceptional Children’s Advanced Content Standards.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts and two letters of recommendation. To qualify for this program, individuals must have a current special education teaching license or complete Brandman's EDU 511 Collaboration For Inclusive Schooling course.

    Brandman is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The special education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  7. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Washington, D.C., GW provides experiential and flexible learning programs for individuals hoping to launch or advance their careers. To that end, GW offers several online programs, including an online master's in special education for culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

    The 33-credit program leads to K-12 certification. The curriculum includes courses covering the development of children with disabilities, quantitative research, the development of language and literacy, and academic and psychosocial assessment of culturally and linguistically diverse learners. Students must complete a supervised field-based internship to graduate.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, a resume, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation. The program starts during the fall or summer term, but individuals may apply at any time.

    GW is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The special education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  8. Webster University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Webster is a private, nonprofit university located in St. Louis, Missouri. Webster offers several distance learning programs, including an online master's in special education. Students in the program may select from one of seven concentrations to tailor the curriculum to their career goals.

    The program's 33-credit curriculum covers professional ethics, research, learner development, and teacher leadership. Notable courses include global issues in special education, assessment of learning and learning problems, disability and ethics, and planning for the inclusive classroom. This program serves working educators looking to advance their knowledge in current issues and trends in special education.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA and a prerequisite course in the psychology of the exceptional students.

    Webster is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  9. Lamar University
    Location

    Beaumont, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Beaumont, Texas, LU offers 139 programs, including an online master's in special education.

    The program requires 36 credits and typically takes 18 months to complete. The curriculum covers tests, measurement, and evaluation; educational psychology; special education law; reading and language arts for diverse learners; and models for change through collaboration.

    Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA, a teacher's license, and two years of teaching experience. LU accepts applications on a rolling basis and offers multiple start dates throughout the year.

    LU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. University of North Texas
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Denton, Texas, UNT offers a variety of accelerated online programs, including a master of education in special education with a concentration in autism intervention.

    The 33-credit program uses an eight-week course schedule for the fall and spring semesters and a choice of three-week, five-week, or 10-week sessions for the summer semester. Full-time students can complete the program in 15 months. The curriculum consists of 11 courses, including an introduction to educational psychology, special education law, and positive behavioral interventions in educational and related settings.

    Prospective students must submit official transcripts, two professional or academic letters of recommendation, a resume, a personal statement, and GRE scores. UNT waives the GRE requirement for applicants with a 3.25 undergraduate GPA.

    UNT is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Teaching Certifications and Licenses

Although all states require that teachers earn a license, specific licensure requirements vary by state. Most states typically require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, completion of a state-approved teacher preparation program, a background check, and a passing score on all state-mandated exams.

Some states participate in a teacher license reciprocity agreement, such as the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). NASDTEC’s member states allow licensed out-of-state teachers to practice by issuing a temporary license until they are qualified to apply for a permanent one.

Many states require teachers to complete a certain number of continuing education credits to maintain or renew their license. Completing a master’s degree often satisfies this requirement.

Career and Salary Outlook for Master’s in Special Education Graduates

The following table provides salary information for special education teachers on a national scale. Other factors — such as location, experience level, and degree level — also impact salary levels.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the top-paying five states for special education teachers as follows:

  1. Oregon ($81,990)
  2. Rhode Island ($81,180)
  3. Virginia ($78,340)
  4. Iowa ($75,280
  5. Michigan ($72,670)

The states that hire the greatest number of special education teachers include the following:

  1. Florida (7,310)
  2. California (2,950)
  3. New Jersey (2,340)
  4. Virginia (2,220)
  5. Michigan (1,880)
Bottom 10% Annual SalaryMedian Annual SalaryTop 10% Annual Salary
Less than $39,680$61,030More than $97,070

Source: BLS

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Master’s in Special Education Students

Start your search for financial aid to help fund your online master’s in special education by filling out the FAFSA. Colleges and universities all over the country often rely on the FAFSA to determine the financial aid that each student is qualified to receive.

Some school districts offer tuition reimbursement programs for teachers who want to pursue a master’s in their field. The TEACH Grant Program provides funding for undergraduate and graduate students who plan to pursue a teaching career. Grant recipients agree to teach in a high-need educational area or a critical-need facility after graduation.

Bishop Charles P. Greco Graduate Fellowship
Who Can Apply: Administered by the Knights of Columbus, this program accepts applications from graduate students who plan to pursue a career teaching students with disabilities. Applicants must be Knights of Columbus members or related to a member in good standing.
Amount: $2,000

Joseph T. Weingold Scholarship for Special Education Students
Who Can Apply: Administered by the New York Chapter of The Arc, this program accepts applications from students currently enrolled in an accredited New York State special education program leading to licensure in the field.
Amount: $3,000 ($1,500 per semester)

Studying Special Education Online

Online master’s in special education programs offer convenience through asynchronous coursework and multiple start dates. Pursuing a special education master’s online can also lead to substantial savings, as students do not incur additional on-campus costs like rent or parking fees. Some schools also allow distance learners to pay in-state tuition rates.

Additionally, many distance learners can pursue an online master’s in special education while still working full time.

Learn More…

mini icon

Online College Resources

Helping you prepare and gain the most out of your educational experience.


Scholarships and Financial Aid for Online Law School Students

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Online Law School Students

November 6, 2020   |   Staff Writers

Earning a law degree opens professional doors. However, law school graduates owe an average of over . Scholarships and other forms of financial aid can help law school students obtain...

College Preparation Checklist

College Preparation Checklist

October 19, 2020   |   Staff Writers

Preparing for college before the first day sets up new students for success. Beginning college can be overwhelming, even for learners who have taken college-level classes in the past. Knowing...

Advertisement CollegeChoice.net is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Discover a program that is right for you.

Search schools to find the program that is right for you.