30 Best Schools for a Master’s in Special Education Online

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By Kelley Jacobs

In this article, we highlight the 30 best schools for a master’s in special education online.

The field of special education is expected to have employment growth at a rate faster than average according to the Council for Exceptional Children. In fact, according to the same source, many school districts are currently struggling to find qualified special education professionals with the proper certification and licensure to fill open positions. An online Master’s Degree in Special Education can give working professionals the qualifications and education needed to become more marketable in the workforce. An online Master’s program in Special Education provides the flexibility needed to return to school to earn an advanced degree and allow students to apply their skills in their current position or prepare for a promotion.

30 Best Schools for a Master's in Special Education Online


The ranking system that we’ve used to create this list is based on various factors, such as the cost of in-state graduate tuition, how many applicants get admitted, and the student to faculty ratio. This information came from the NCES, or National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator. 

Each part of the criteria represents several points, and we’ve listed these schools in descending order. If there was a tie between some of the schools, we gave higher placement to the college with lower graduate tuition fees.

With the criteria that we’re using, here’s how we’ve calculated those points: 

Acceptance Rate

More than 50% of applicants accepted – 3 points

25% to 50% of applicants accepted – 2 points

Less than 25% of applicants accepted – 1 point

In-state Graduate Tuition Fees

Less than $15,000/year – 3 points 

$15,001 to $20,000/year – 2 points

Over $20,001/year – 1 point

Student to Faculty Ratio

10 to 1 or less – 3 points

11 to 15 to 1 – 2 points

16 or more  to 1 – 1 points

SchoolTuitionAdmissionStudent to Faculty RatioPoints
Regent University $15,55286%29 to 16
Lamar University $6,39784%18 to 17
The University of Texas at Tyler, Texas$6,04883%6 to 19
Western Governors University$7,500100% (open)42 to 17
Indiana Wesleyan University – Marion, Indiana$13,51267%13 to 18
Emporia State University$6,54785%17 to 17
Fort Hays State University$3,72691%18 to 17
Drexel University- Philadelphia$36,25275%11 to 16
Saint Joseph’s University – Philadelphia$17,80275%10 to 18
University of Florida$10,77037%17 to 16
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota$10,26092%18 to 17
University of Cincinnati $13,22477%17 to 17
University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri$9,47881%17 to 17
Florida State University$9,68436%21 to 16
University of North Dakota$11,06081%17 to 17
University of Nebraska$6,13878%17 to 17
Stephen F. Austin State University$5,26268%18 to 17
West Virginia University$10,13484%20 to 17
University of Arizona$11,93885%15 to 18
Old Dominion University$10,20789%17 to 17
Texas Tech University$6,78869%21 to 17
Indiana University$9,78678%16 to 17
Adams State University$7,83099%15 to 18
University of Arkansas$7,75277%18 to 17
Michigan State University$18,85871%16 to 16
Kentucky State University$7,56081%11 to 18
California State University$7,17653%25 to 17
Graceland University$17,43058%12 to 17
Western Carolina University$4,43569%17 to 17
Ball State University$9,32877%14 to 18

30. Drexel University

School Profile

Master of Science in Special Education

Tuition: $36,252

Points: 6

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel University has been the winner of the 2010 Sloan-C Award for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education and offers five different concentrations for their special education degree:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Multisensory Reading Instruction
  • Collaborative Special Education Law and Process
  • Customized Option
  • Technologies for Special Education

As a result, students can pick a concentration that more closely matches the career they’re looking to pursue. Their program can be done in slightly under 50 credit hours and is even available on a part-time basis.

29. Michigan State University

School Profile

Special Education Online Graduate Program

Tuition: $18,858

Points: 6

For students looking to focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder or learning disabilities, Michigan State University does offer their Special Education Master’s Degree with those endorsements. However, if you are interested in earning an endorsement in Autism Spectrum Disorder or learning disabilities, the university does require that you already have a teaching certificate. 

Students can usually complete the program within three years, but as quickly as eighteen months, depending on their prior educational background. 

28. Regent University

School Profile

Master of Education in Special Education

Tuition: $15,552

Points: 6

Located in Virginia, Regent University offers a 42-credit online Special Education degree that you can complete in as little as 18 or 24 months. Unlike some universities, Regent University does allow students to work at their own pace and timeline by offering six different start times throughout the year and eight-week sessions. 

Some of the courses you’ll need to complete to earn your special education degree include: 

  • Characteristics of Students with Disabilities
  • Behavior Management & Social Skills
  • Legal Aspects and Foundations of Special Education

27. University of Florida 

School Profile

Masters of Education in Special Education

Tuition: $10,770

Points: 6

Located in Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida is a well-known state school that offers a Masters of Education in Special Education online. The program is designed for students that already have teaching certificates and experience, and with part-time enrollment, their program takes two years to complete. 

While students can follow a general track, they’re also welcome to specialize in autism, society, dyslexia, or early childhood. This program is especially popular for Autism specialists in Florida who need an autism endorsement from the state. 

26. Florida State University

School Profile

Special Education Studies, MS

Tuition: $9,684

Points: 6

Also located in Florida, Florida State University is in Tallahassee, Florida, and has a great online program for those that already have a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education. If you’re looking to specialize in severe disabilities or high incidence disabilities, Florida State offers specializations in these areas. 

Their MS program is accredited by SACS and the NCATE and only takes 33 credit hours to complete (which can usually be broken up by taking six credit hours per semester). Some of their courses include: 

  • Teaching the Student with Profound Disabilities
  • Teaching Deaf-Blind/Multisensory Impaired Students
  • Advanced Practicum in Mental Disabilities

25. Graceland University

School Profile

Master of Education in Special Education

Tuition: $17,430

Points: 7

Although it shares the same name as Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland University is located in Lamoni, Iowa, not Memphis, Tennessee. As far as programs go, Graceland’s online special education program has been recently revised in the January 2016 school year. Even if they’re studying part-time, most students can get through the coursework within two years. 

Despite the program being online, Graceland still encourages students to interact with peers or faculty members on-campus as much as possible. 

Their curriculum focus on a couple of key components of special education: 

  • Behavior management of special education students
  • Transitional programming
  • Assistive technology 

Regardless of specialty, Graceland’s program places a lot of emphasis on Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

24. University of Cincinnati

School Profile

Master’s Degree in Education Online – Special Education

Tuition: $13,224

Points: 7

Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, as their name suggests, this school offers a Special Education degree online with three main specializations: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Advanced Studies, and Transition to Work. 

One perk of this university’s online program is that you’ll still get a personal enrollment advisor to guide you through the enrollment process and make sure you sign up for classes that fit your future career goals in special education. The program is a total of 30 credit hours, and most part-time students can get through the program within two years of starting it. 

23. University of North Dakota

School Profile

Masters of Science in Special Education

Tuition: $11,060

Points: 7

Although their location might be a little chillier than some in-state students want, the University of North Dakota makes up for it by offering nine different specialties for their special education degree. And, if you’re interested in becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, some of their special education classes are available to help further this goal. 

Regardless of where they’re located, online students receive many of the same benefits that in-person students do: you’ll get access to their online library, online tutoring if you need it, and technical support. 

22. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

School Profile

Online Master’s Degree in Special Education

Tuition: $10,260

Points: 7

Whether you’re a student that’s not already licensed, licensed, or looking for more licensing, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota has an option for you. This is an especially great choice for students that are already licensed and looking for more, as they can specialize in Emotional Behavior Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Learning Disabilities. 

Since the university has its own mobile learning system, students will receive an iPad for better engagement – which is a perk that not many online universities offer. 

21. Old Dominion University

School Profile

Master of Science in Education

Tuition: $10,207

Points: 7

Located in Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University bases its coursework and special education program on the Exceptional Children Advanced Program standards. Their master’s program is 30 credit hours and regularly includes current research and developing technologies from the special education field. 

Keep in mind that students don’t have to continue for a Ph.D. in Special Education of ODU, but their master’s program is designed to transition to a Ph.D. program easily. 

20. West Virginia University

School Profile

Online Special Education M.A. 

Tuition: $10,134

Points: 7

With a campus in Morgantown, West Virginia, West Virginia University does not require you to have a certification already to get a master’s degree in Special Education. There are six different areas you can specialize in with your degree: 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Gifted Education
  • Low Vision/Blindness
  • Severe/Multiple Disabilities
  • Multi-categorized Special Education

Not only is the program based around (and accredited) by NCATE, but the online learning sessions are designed to be interactive (and live). 

19. Indiana University

School Profile

Masters Degree in Special Education for Indiana Schools 

Tuition: $9,786

Points: 7

If you’re interested in or planning on working in Indiana public schools, you may want to consider pursuing a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Indiana University. This program offers different specialties, but it’s especially great for anyone looking to work with high incidence disabilities like autism or intellectual disabilities. 

The program centers its teaching methodology around research-backed teaching strategies. With a relatively low faculty-to-student ratio, you don’t have to worry about getting lost in the mix of students. 

18. The University of Missouri at Columbia

School Profile

Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education

Tuition: $9,478 

Points: 7

While it was listed as one of the schools with the best online program by the US News and World Report in 2015, the University of Missouri at Columbia has a great program if you’re looking for a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. 

More specifically, this program is meant for students working in special education with children under the age of eight. Keep in mind that this may not be the right pick if you don’t have your certification—while you may get a great education, the University of Missouri does not provide certification in their special education program. 

17. University of Arkansas

School Profile

Masters of Education in Special Education

Tuition: $7,752

Points: 7

If you go to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, you should be able to complete their online special education degree within two years as it’s only 36 credit hours. There are three different areas of concentration that you can pick from, depending on what kind of certification you want: 

  • Special Education
  • Special Education with ASD Certification
  • Special Education with ABA Certification

Anyone looking to further their education for a career as a Behavioral Analyst can use the University of Arkansas’ program to earn their BACB. 

Keep in mind that you don’t need to live near campus to attend this university. However, one of the requirements is completing a practicum in your local school district—which may be easier if you already live in Arkansas. 

16. Western Governors University

School Profile

Masters of Science in Special Education for K-12

Tuition: $7,500

Points: 7

While it’s not a good choice for students lacking a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education (or their teaching certificate), Western Governors University does offer a Master of Science in Special Education for licensed teachers. 

Not only was this university the first online program to get accredited by NCATE, but rather than using a set timeframe for their course, Western Governors University claims their program is “competency-based.” The quicker you can master each subject, the quicker you’ll be able to move through the program and get your degree. 

15. California State University

School Profile

Master of Science in Education (with a concentration in Special Education)

Tuition: $7,176

Points: 7

Technically, California State University’s special education program is a Master’s Degree in Education, but students can concentrate in Special Education. What separates this program from some of the others on this list is that it’s designed for those looking to learn the skill sets they’ll need for management and leadership positions in the Special Education field. 

While you can complete this program online, you won’t lose those valuable personal interactions with your peers or faculty members. 

14. Texas Tech University

School Profile

Master of Education in Special Education

Tuition: $6,788

Points: 7

With seven different areas of concentration for you to pick from, Texas Tech University’s Master of Education in Special Education online degree is comprehensive. The areas that you can specialize in include: 

  • Deaf Education
  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Generic Special Education
  • Educational Diagnostician
  • Transition and Visual Impairment
  • Orientation and Mobility 

Like Applied Behavior Analysis and Educational Diagnostician, some of these concentrations translate extremely well into specific career paths. Although you’ll need 36 credit hours and around two years to complete the program, you can do everything online. And, if you’d like to shave off six of those credit hours, the program gives you the option of creating a thesis near the end of the program. 

13. Emporia State University

School Profile

Master’s Degree in Special Education

Tuition: $6,547

Points: 7

Located in Kansas, Emporia State University offers two different concentrations for their Master’s Degree in Special Education: 

  • Special Education with Adaptive Concentration: this concentration is for students planning to work with moderately disabled children in grades K-12. You’ll end the program with a special Master’s Project and presentation. 
  • Special Education with Gifted Concentration: this concentration is for students planning to work in gifted education. To end the program, you can choose between taking a comprehensive exam or a thesis. 

Like some of the other schools on this list, Emporia State University made the US News and World Report’s list of Best Online Programs in 2015. 

12. Lamar University

School Profile

Masters of Education in Special Education (Generic)

Tuition: $6,397

Points: 7

With a 36 credit program that most part-time students can complete within 18 months to two years, Lamar University is an excellent option for students that want to work with children on the autism spectrum. Keep in mind that you might be able to complete the program a little bit quicker if you substitute six of those credit hours for making a thesis. 

Regardless of whether you create a thesis or not, all students must pass a final exam before they graduate. 

11. University of Nebraska

School Profile

Master’s Degree in Special Education

Tuition: $6,138

Points: 7

Not only has the University of Nebraska made several online lists for their comprehensive online programs, but they also base their courses around guidelines and standards from the Council for Exceptional Children. You’ll need to complete 36 credit hours, and if you’re a part-time student or teacher furthering their education, you’re allowed to work at your own pace. 

Keep in mind that this university’s program is especially great for anyone looking to work with disabled children under eight. 

10. Stephen F. Austin State University

School Profile

Online Master’s Degree in Special Education

Tuition: $5,262

Points: 7

With 36 credit hours that you’ll need to complete before you can get your master’s degree in special education from Stephen F. Austin State University, the college has three different ways you can go about it: 

  • EC-12 Special Education Certification
  • M.Ed. in Special Education
  • Educational Diagnostician Certification

Stephen F. Austin State University is one of the few colleges to offer a certification for educational diagnosticians, making this university a great choice for anyone looking to pursue that career path. 

9. Western Carolina University

School Profile

Masters of Arts in Teaching and Masters of Arts in Education

Tuition: $4,435

Points: 7

There aren’t a lot of online programs that offer a Master of Arts in Special Education degree, but Western Carolina University is one of them. As a result, this university might be the right choice if you’re looking to segue into art therapy or work with special education children in an arts setting. 

Their M.Ed. program, however, is not a good choice if you don’t already have an “A” level license and a degree in education. 

8. Fort Hays University

School Profile

Online Masters of Science in High-Incidence Special Education

Tuition: $3,726

Points: 7

Unlike some universities that offer online special education degrees, there are no on-campus requirements for you to get your Master’s Degree in Special Education from Fort Hays University. The entire program is set up to plan out their own pace, although most students do end up completing the 36 credit hour program within 18 months to two years. 

Keep in mind that Fort Hays University’s program does meet Kansas requirements for special education degrees and is also accredited by NCATE. 

7. Saint Joseph’s University

School Profile

Masters of Science in Special Education

Tuition: $17,802

Points: 8

Not a lot of online schools offer the Wilson Reading System training program, but Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia offers a concentration in it for their special education students. The other concentration you can pick is an Autism Endorsement, and you’ll also be eligible for a Special Education Certification in Pennsylvania once you’ve completed the program. 

There are 36 credit hours of core courses in the degree, and once you’ve completed those, you can move on to courses for the concentration you’ve picked. Despite being one of the more comprehensive programs on this list, most students can get through the program in two years or less. 

6. Indiana Wesleyan University

School Profile

Masters of Education – Special Education

Tuition: $13,512

Points: 8

If you’re a current practitioner or that’s interested in (or already working) with children that have mild to moderate disabilities, Indiana Wesleyan University could be a good pick for you. Their program is accredited by the NCATE, but it’s slightly shorter than some of the other programs on this list at 33 credit hours. 

Depending on the courses you end up taking, it’s worth noting that students must complete clinical experiences throughout the program. 

5. University of Arizona

School Profile

Online Masters of Arts in Special Education

Tuition: $11,938

Points: 8

Another one of the few online schools that offers a special education degree in a Masters of Arts, the University of Arizona has three different programs to take: Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Behavior Support, and Disabilities. 

It’s worth noting that this school does not provide certification for you, so it’s a better fit for special education professionals that already have a license and just want to further their education. 

Still, the program is diverse and isn’t just settings where you work with children; professionals that also work with special education adults can also take plenty of beneficial courses within this program. 

4. Ball State University

School Profile

Master of Arts in Special Education

Tuition: $9,328

Points: 8

At Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, you can get an M.A. in Special Education in as little as 18 months or two years for more part-time students. There are three different concentrations to pick from: 

  • Autism
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • Director of Exceptional Needs

If you pick the Applied Behavioral Analysis concentration, you’ll get an approved course sequence for the BACB. Keep in mind that their courses are sixteen weeks, but if you’re looking to complete the program sooner, the university does offer an “accelerated format” for their special education degree. 

3. Adams State University

School Profile

Online Masters of Arts in Education: Curriculum and Instruction Degree with Special Education Concentration

Tuition: $7,830

Points: 8

If you’re only looking to concentrate on special education in your education degree (and you don’t need certification), Adams State University has a comprehensive program. Not only are their tuition fees fairly low, but with a 99% acceptance rate, you’re almost guaranteed admission upon applying. 

Despite lacking certification or licensure, you’ll still get a lot of valuable skills to develop your education further if you already have a teaching or arts degree. While the program is completely online, you will need to complete a capstone project before you graduate. 

2. Kentucky State University

School Profile

Online M.A. in Special Education

Tuition: $7,560

Points: 8

In addition to low in-state tuition fees, Kentucky State University is a great pick for students that need more individualized attention from faculty. Their special education degree comes with a certificate in learning and behavior disorders, and you don’t need a teaching degree to apply or complete the program. 

However, before you’re able to graduate, you’ll need to finish 200 hours of field experience, which may put out-of-state students at a disadvantage.

1. University of Texas

School Profile

Master’s Degree in Special Education 

Tuition: $6,048

Points: 9 

While all the schools on this list have great programs, two major factors separate the University of Texas: in addition to its low tuition fees, there’s an incredibly low faculty-to-student ratio. As a result, this school is a great option for students that may need more individualized attention and want to build personal connections with staff. 

Although you don’t have to receive this certification, their Master’s Degree in Special Education also comes with the option to pursue a certification for educational diagnosticians. 

Best online master's special education degrees

Top 5 Careers with a Master’s in Special Education 

Once you’ve got your special education master’s degree, here are some of the best careers you’ll be qualified for: 

Special Education Teacher

Average Annual Salary: $44,000 to $69,000

Becoming a special education teacher may be one of the most popular, if not the most popular, career choice for those that pursue special education master degrees. As a special education teacher, you’ll be working with students that have mild to moderate disabilities and adapt general lesson plans to meet the needs of their special education students.

Behavior Intervention Specialist

Average Annual Salary: $45,000 to $57,000

Using behavior management and coping skills, a behavior intervention specialist helps train and support students with behavioral challenges. Most behavior intervention specialists work in school settings, and they may help develop individualized plans for students struggling in regular classroom settings. 

Rehabilitation Counselor 

Average Annual Salary: $53,000 to $89,000

While they may do some work with children, rehabilitation counselors often work with adults with physical, developmental, mental, or emotional disabilities. As a rehabilitation counselor, your job is to help these adults live as independently as they can. 

Educational Consultant

Average Annual Salary: $55,000 to $130,000

Educational consultants that have specialized training in special education may have their own administrative or teaching experience. Still, their job is to help advise and train members of the educational community on new special education technologies, student achievement, and even classroom policies. 

Adjunct Professor

Average Annual Salary: $29,000 to $40,000

While you’ll teach courses just like any experienced professor, adjunct professors do not receive the same pay, and they’re typically only working on a part-time or contractual basis. Keep in mind that many four-year universities require their adjunct professors to have doctorates, but some community colleges or vocational schools only require a master’s degree.

This concludes our ranking of the 30 Best Schools for a Master’s in Special Education Degree Online.

Careers special education

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