Master’s in Special Education

Note: This page provides details for a Master's Degree in Special Education. For overall information on programs, please see our main Special Education page.

Special education is a field with many options. In addition to the typical grade level options, there are several other specialties. A special education teacher could specialize in mild, moderate, severe, or gifted areas. Choosing to go into special education often guarantees a job opening, but it takes a special person with the right passion. Those who are passionate and willing to take on the challenge, often continue their education by seeking a Master's Degree in Special Education.

Choosing an Online Master's in Special Education

For busy and working students, online programs have become a viable option. When researching prospective schools for a Master's Degree in Special Education, make sure to prioritize schools that are reputable and legitimate. To help, review the questions below.

Is the program accredited?

An accredited Master's in Special Education program is one that is endorsed by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (formerly NCATE and TEAC). Accreditation helps determine if a school or program meets standards of quality. If a school or program is not accredited, it may not be considered reputable and your degree may not be valid.

How long has the program been offered?

In general, the longer an online program has proven to be successful year after year, the better. You should have doubts about a school that has not been around long enough to obtain accreditation. Schools should be able to provide this information easily upon request.

What technologies will be used to facilitate online learning?

Online programs use virtual classrooms to facilitate instruction. These online learning platforms can be accessed through the internet - no need to buy an expensive software. For example, Moodle and Canvas are online learning platforms that allow students and teachers to access lecture materials, assignments, and communicate.

What resources will I have access to?

Good online colleges and universities might give students access to learning resources such as scholarly journals, online catalogs, research centers, as well as mentorship programs. Generally, the more resources the better. Resources are tools to help students professionally and with assignments.

What skills and topics are covered?

When considering an online Master's Degree in Special Education, it might be wise to review goals and outcomes. Schools should be able to provide the general curriculum upon request. The learning outcomes outline what a students should know by the time the program is completed. Check to see how the program goals line up with your personal and career goals.

Do you have job placement information for students who recently graduated from the program?

Another good resource is alumni. Will the school connect you with an alumni association? Connecting with recent graduates can give you real life examples of how an online Master's Degree in Special education can help your career. Don't be afraid to ask questions about school and career. Use their knowledge and experience to help guide you.

Is an Online Degree Right for You?

Getting a Master's Degree in Special Education is typically the route those who are already in a teaching position choose to take. This makes time precious and an online master's degree more attractive. Online programs allow students to maintain a far more flexible schedule. Online degrees allow students to earn a degree at their own pace. With online classes, you are in charge of your study schedule and how much you study within the course framework. The following can help you learn more about online schooling:

Flexible Schedule

Online Master's Degree in Special Education programs offer a more flexible schedule than traditional programs - this is great for students who have to work or have families to care for. Since physical attendance is not required, students will be able to complete assignments whenever it is most convenient for them - whether that's at a coffee shop after work or early in the morning before taking the kids to school.

Fast Completion

Many online master's degree programs offer fast-paced courses. This allows students to get more done in a shorter amount of time. Keep in mind that these type of courses may be more rigorous, so it is important to remain organized. Accelerated programs allow students to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.

Variety of Programs

Since physical attendance is not required for most online degree programs, students will have a wide range of schools and programs to choose from. In other words, your education will not be compromised based on your geographic location. However, it is very important to note that a strong internet connection as well as a reliable computer will play a big role in easing your study experience.

Tuition and Costs

An online Master's Degree in Special Education may end up costing less than a traditional on campus program. Consider the following:

  • No costs associated with parking passes, car maintenance, gasoline, transportation, or on-campus dining.
  • No fees related to relocation and moving closer to campus.
  • Time is money and online students have the ability to keep up with a regular working schedule during the day.
  • Some online schools omit out of state fees.

Master's Program Course Topics

Pursuing a Master's Degree in Special Education offers unique endeavors for every graduate student to promote the learning of students with exceptionalities both in school and in their community. Upon completion of the degree, master's students can pursue work in the classroom, as an administrator, consultant, or researcher. While programs do vary between institutions, many of the courses and core elements of the special education master's program are as follows:

Communication, Consultation, and Collaboration for Special Education

Special education programs require teamwork with fellow educators and students in order to meet goals set forth for each student. Keeping lines of communication open can be difficult during the busy school year. This class will help the student understand how, when, and why communication, consultation, and collaboration are important in the special education setting.

Instruction for Learning Disabled Students

Those students who are labeled as learning disabled often struggle with the basic concepts that most students take for granted. In order to build on the basic concepts different forms of instruction formats must be used, sometimes on the daily basis. This class will help students prepare to teach in many different formats to reach every learner.

Programming and Leadership for Diverse Groups

Gaining an advanced degree in special education means you can be a leader in the field. Since special education covers so many diverse groups, leading in the area can be a challenge. This class will prepare the learner for what may come as they step into the leadership role. In addition this class will cover choosing a curriculum and strategies for the various ability and age groups.

More Potential Course Topics for a Master's in Special Education:

  • Research infant, toddler, youth developmental and cognitive development
  • Research infant, toddler and youth social, emotional and behavioral development
  • Support families of children with exceptionalities in their educational endeavors
  • Research supports for exceptional children and offer as part of an educational plan, including adaptive or modified programming for cognitive, communication, social, adaptive behavior, and/or motor exceptionalities
  • Create valid, evidence based assessment tools for children and youth that have learning disabilities, behavior disorders, or mild intellectual disability (MID)
  • Create valid programming for students that have severe intellectual disabilities, autism, multiple needs, or who are medically fragile
  • Offer support to teachers and support staff who work with students who are d/Deaf, blind, low vision, experience central auditory processing disorder (CAP-D) who need to provide access to the curriculum with alternate communication systems such as ASL or braille
  • Conduct Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) training with students that have Autism Spectrum Disorder or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (ASD-PDD)
  • Create and implement evidence based behavior intervention programs
  • Create and implement meaningful transition plans for major milestones (graduation, work to career) and minor milestones (new grade level, summer vacation)
  • Learn the characteristics and development of intellectually gifted students
  • Consider how to program for a range of giftedness at a certain age, grade or developmental level
  • Study and apply curriculum development theories
  • Consider each life skill task for its component parts and create a program that evaluates success at each part, leading to mastery and independence of the task
  • Techniques for assessing a student's receptive and expressive language abilities
  • Model strategies for tailoring and implementing language instruction that meets the needs of the student
  • Understand the characteristics of intellectual abilities and their psychological and social implications on the individual and their family
  • Understand, program for, and implement assistive technologies and devices in the special education classroom
  • Act as a resource to assist classroom teachers with implementation and troubleshooting of assistive technologies and devices in the mainstream classroom
  • Work collaboratively to create family-centered practice for students with exceptionalities

What Can I Do with a Master's in Special Education?

Having a Master's Degree in Special Education can help you shine brighter than other potential job candidates. In this growing and demanding field, there are a number of career choices for those with a Master's Degree in Special Education:

  • Special education teacher
  • Educational diagnostician
  • Program coordinator
  • Program specialist
  • Textbook writer or editor
  • Social and human services associate
  • Juvenile detention corrections officer
  • College professor or assistant professor

Professional Associations

Another great way to strengthen your career in special education is to take part in conferences and professional organizations. This is a great way to enhance your knowledge and expertise in the field. For example, the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) is dedicated to ensuring that all students with special needs receive the best education possible. NASET helps members stay on top of current issues that are shaping the field and impacting the lives of students and professionals.