2019 Best Master's in Special Education Online Programs

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The following 24 schools are ranked for their impressive salaries and affordable tuitions for their online master's in special education degrees. All schools on this list are under $32,000 per year, and 15 are under $15,000. Ranked #1 is The George Washington University, with a low cost of only $14,620 each year. Graceland University, ranked #11, has a great return on investment, with an affordable annual tuition of $7,575 and a reported mid-career salary of $71,500.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about SR Education Group.

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Rank School Annual Tuition Median Salary
#1 #1 The George Washington University $14,620 $91,400
#2 #2 Purdue University - Main Campus $11,200 $89,200
#3 #3 Mercy College $15,696 $89,000
#4 #4 Michigan State University $12,945 $82,200
#5 #5 Hofstra University $21,504 $80,100
#6 #6 New York University $31,068 $77,000
#7 #7 University of Massachusetts-Boston $10,925 $74,100
#8 #8 National University $15,480 $73,200
#9 #9 Portland State University $16,537 $73,300
#10 #10 University of Washington - Seattle $26,505 $74,100
#11 #11 Graceland University $7,575 $71,500
#12 #12 Central Michigan University $10,728 $69,000
#13 #13 University of North Texas $12,150 $66,900
#14 #14 University of South Florida - Main Campus $15,864 $67,300
#15 #15 University of Houston $17,046 $67,000
#16 #16 University of Memphis $9,045 $64,700
#17 #17 Ball State University $9,240 $63,900
#18 #18 Arizona State University $8,925 $63,100
#19 #19 University of Louisville $12,852 $63,600
#20 #20 University of St. Thomas $12,037 $63,000
#21 #21 Lesley University $10,725 $62,800
#22 #22 Indiana University - Bloomington $9,273 $61,000
#23 #23 Texas A&M University-College Station $20,422 $61,200
#24 #24 Liberty University $9,960 $59,800
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo.

2019 Online Master's Degree in Special Education Ranking Details

  • Annual Tuition: $14,620
  • Median Salary: $91,400
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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The George Washington University offers three online master's programs in special education. The MA in Education and Human Development has a focus in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners. This 33 credit program may be completed in under two years; it concentrates on developing competencies in assessment, culture, and teaching. The MA in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services is a 36 credit program that takes a "train the trainers" approach. The MA in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services is new and focuses on Youth, Transition, Career and Vocational Services. All GWU's education programs are highly regarded. Graduate tuition in special education programs is $1,090 per credit. GWU is located in Washington, D.C.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,200
  • Median Salary: $89,200
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Purdue University’s main campus features two online master's programs in special education: the MS in Education in Curriculum and Instruction in Gifted, Creative and Talented Studies, and the MS in Education in Special Education. The 30 credit Gifted, Creative and Talented Studies program can be completed in 18 months. It focuses on evaluating, creating and teaching curriculum, and also on introducing STEM elements and social justice issues  The MSEd in Special Education is a 31 credit program, with additional credits required for programs with licensure. The basic program focuses on mild intervention high incidence disabilities. Students can add an intense intervention licensure. Admission to either program requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. Tuition for both programs is $329.05 per credit.

  • Annual Tuition: $15,696
  • Median Salary: $89,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Mercy College offers an online Master of Science in Teaching Students with Disabilities Birth-Grade 6 and Early Childhood program. Admission into the program requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. The 42 credit program usually takes five semesters, but may be completed in less time by taking more courses per term. A capstone project is required. The program leads to initial certification in birth-grade 2 and grades 1-6. Among the courses offered are Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Autism, Development and Exceptionalities, and Language Development and Literacy Acquisition. Tuition is $872 per credit hour. Mercy is located in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,945
  • Median Salary: $82,200
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Michigan State University offers three highly rated online Master of Arts in Special Education programs. They include the MA in Special Education (MASE) and what MSU calls "endorsements," the MASE in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and the MASE in Learning Disabilities (LD). Admission to each program requires a bachelor's degree and 3.0 GPA. The general MASE degree is 30 credits and prepares students to teach Learning Disabilities K-12. The ASD program is 36 credits and focuses on evidence-based practices. The LD program is also 36 credits and focuses on assessment and applied behavior analysis. Graduate online tuition for these education programs is $863 per credit hour. The programs are not available in all states, so students should check their own state's licensure procedures.

  • Annual Tuition: $21,504
  • Median Salary: $80,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Hofstra University offers an online Master of Science in Education- Special Education: International Perspectives. The 31 credit program is designed for participants from all over the world, targeting professionals and educators. 7-week courses allow four courses per term, so the degree can be completed in two years or less. The program looks at the entire range of disabilities, and the curriculum considers assessment, diagnosis, early intervention, inclusivity, and behavior management. Graduates will understand the needs and situation of special education from early childhood through adolescence. Required courses include Introduction to Inclusive Education and Developing Positive Classroom Communities. Admission requires a bachelor's and a 3.0 GPA. International students may have other requirements. This is not a licensure program. Graduate tuition is $1,344 per credit.

  • Annual Tuition: $31,068
  • Median Salary: $77,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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New York University offers an online Master of Science in Communicative Science and Disorders. The 48 credit program requires two on-campus immersions and three clinical field placements. Admission requires a bachelor's with a 3.0 GPA. Students with little or no related coursework may be required to take foundational courses, in addition to the 48 credits. The immersions take place at NYU's New York City campus. Program content is broken into four distinct areas: foundational, disorders, instrumentation, and research. Among the courses offered are Motor Speech Disorders, Fluency Disorders in Children, and Augmentative and Alternate Communication. Licensure requires 375 direct clinical hours. Tuition is $1,726 per credit.

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $10,925
  • Median Salary: $74,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NECHE
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The University of Massachusetts-Boston features three online master’s in Vision Studies programs: an M.Ed. in Orientation and Mobility (OM), an M.Ed. in Teacher of Students With Visual Impairments (TVI), and an M.Ed. in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT). All programs are 37 credits, require a pre-practicum field experience and a practicum, and end with a capstone portfolio. Admission requires a bachelor's with a 3.0 GPA. The TVI program trains educators to work with visually impaired students and their families. The OM program focuses on students orienting themselves and traveling safely. The VRT program focuses on vocational home living and education. In-state tuition is $745.70 per credit, regional tuition (New England) is $1,210.80, and out-of-state is $1,495.50.

  • Annual Tuition: $15,480
  • Median Salary: $73,200
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: WASC ACCJC and WASC WSCUC
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National University offers five online Master of Arts in Special Education options. These include specializations in Autism, Early Childhood Special Education, Language and Academic Development, Mild/Moderate, and Moderate/Severe. NU also has two MS programs in Special Education, one available only in Nevada and the other only in California. The MA programs require 45 quarter credits. Programs are designed for licensed teachers, or for professionals who wish to enhance their knowledge about Pre-K through 12 special education. Courses include Speech and Language Development, Intensive Language Intervention, Life Skills and Transition M/S, and Autism Collaboration with Parents and Family. Tuition is $430 per quarter unit or $1,935 for a 4.5 credit course. National's main campus is in San Diego.

  • Annual Tuition: $16,537
  • Median Salary: $73,300
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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Portland State University, a regional leader in special education, offers four online master's programs in special education: the MA/MS in Early Intervention Special Education 0-5 (EISE), the MA/MS in Early Intervention Licensure, the MA/MS in Early Childhood Special Education 2-3 Years, and the MEd in Visually Impaired Learner (VIL). The programs vary in length from 45-64 credits and require a bachelor's with a 3.0 GPA. The VIL requires a 3-week in-person summer session and is a licensure and endorsement program. The Early Intervention Licensure program has an embedded master’s and generally takes two years to complete. Resident graduate tuition is $4,600.50 for 3 credits and non-resident tuition is $6,544. Students from some Western states qualify for a discount.

  • Annual Tuition: $26,505
  • Median Salary: $74,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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The University of Washington-Seattle offers a Master of Education in Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis. The program is a minimum of 45 credits and courses are synchronous. Admission requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. The program focuses on using applied behavior analysis to improve outcomes for children and adults with developmental disabilities. The intensive practicum requires 750 supervised hours, which can be supervised remotely and may include a student's current employment. Students have the option of a thesis or capstone project, and a comprehensive exam is also required. The program does not lead to licensure, but graduates can sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analysis exam for certification. Annual tuition is $17,979 for residents and $32,409 for non-residents.

  • Annual Tuition: $7,575
  • Median Salary: $71,500
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Graceland University, located in Independence, Missouri, offers an online Master of Education in Special Education. The 30 credit program, which uses a cohort system, may be completed in less than two years. It is designed for K-12 teachers who serve students with disabilities. The program focuses on curriculum, teaching methodologies, assistive technology, transitional programming, behavior management, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Among the classes offered are Strategies for Collaboration, Educational Assessment, Collaborative Study of Mild/Moderate Disabilities, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. This degree does not lead to licensure. Tuition for the program is $525 per credit hour.

Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $10,728
  • Median Salary: $69,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Central Michigan University offers three Master of Arts degrees in Special Education that range between 36-39 credits. They are the MA in Special Education, the MA in Special Education- Autism Spectrum Disorders, and the MA in Special Education- Learning Disabilities. Admission requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores are not required. The program’s goal is to create master teachers. Among the courses offered are Current Issues and Historical Trends in Special Education, and Consultation and Collaboration in Special Education. Students also have a capstone project option. Tuition is $596 per credit. These programs are currently only available to Michigan residents who hold a valid Michigan teaching certificate and Special Education Endorsement.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,150
  • Median Salary: $66,900
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The University of North Texas offers two Master of Education in Special Education programs that require 33 credits: Autism Intervention and Educational Diagnostician. Admission is holistic, but usually requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA and GRE scores. The Autism program trains students to use evidence based practices to work with autism spectrum individuals. Courses include Special Education Law and Adapting Curriculum to Meet Special Learning Needs. The Diagnostician program focuses on classroom assessment and offers courses, such as Collaboration with Parents, Paraprofessionals and Professionals, and Special Education Programs and Practices. Upon program completion, graduates will be certified to administer the Stanford Binet V and other measurements. Tuition for 3 credits is $683.37 for residents and $1,928.37 for non-residents.

  • Annual Tuition: $15,864
  • Median Salary: $67,300
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The University of South Florida-Main Campus offers eight online Master of Arts degree programs in Special Education. Programs range from 33 to 36 credits, and admission requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA and GRE scores. The programs can be completed in less than two years. The MA in Special Education offers four specializations: Learning Disabilities, Behavior Disorders, Exceptional Student, and Intellectual Disabilities. The MA in Applied Behavior Analysis prepares students for the certification exam. The MA in Gifted Education focuses on identification, assessment, and curriculum. The MA in Autism Spectrum Disorders concentrates in ASD curriculum. The MA in Exceptional Student Education focuses on behavioral disorders and intellectual disabilities. Graduate tuition for both residents and non-residents is $347.91 per credit.

  • Annual Tuition: $17,046
  • Median Salary: $67,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The University of Houston offers two highly regarded online Master of Education in Special Populations programs: one in Special Education and one in Gifted and Talented. Two other M.Ed. in Special Populations programs are hybrid: Educational Diagnostician and Special Ed Leadership. The programs are 30 credits and usually take two years to complete. Admission requires GRE scores and a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. The Special Education emphasis trains teachers to work with students with disabilities and meets certification to teach special ed EC-12 in Texas. The Gifted and Talented program focuses on research and best practices. Tuition is $447.12 per credit for residents and $962.12 per credit for non-residents.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,045
  • Median Salary: $64,700
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The University of Memphis offers a Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA. The program is designed for students who do not already have a teaching license and leads to initial certification for Special Education/ Modified (mild disabilities). Program emphasis is on behavior management, teaching, inclusion of disabilities in the regular classroom, consulting, and co-teaching with regular teachers. Courses include Introduction to Exceptional Learners and Language and Communication for Inclusive Classroom. UM also has a new online graduate certificate in Autism Studies. Graduate online tuition is $603 per credit for all students.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,240
  • Median Salary: $63,900
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Ball State University offers six well-regarded online Master of Arts in Special Education degree programs: an MA in Special Education, an MA in Special Education in Applied Behavioral Analysis, Autism, Disabilities for Post-Secondary Settings with Emphasis in Autism, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, and Response to Intervention. Programs are 30 credits, but licensure may add additional credits. Admission requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. The programs do not provide initial teacher's license. Licensing programs available include Director of Exceptional Needs, Early Childhood, Mild Intervention, and Intense Intervention. In-state graduate tuition is $410 per credit and out-of-state tuition is $616 per credit. Ball State is in Muncie, Indiana.

  • Annual Tuition: $8,925
  • Median Salary: $63,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Arizona State University offers three online master's programs in special education: an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: Autism Spectrum Disorders, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: Gifted Education, and an MA in Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis. These programs are 30 credits each and classes are 7.5 weeks. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA.  The Autism program focuses on assessment and instruction. The Applied Behavior Analysis program prepares students to sit for the certification exam. The program in Gifted Education focuses on assessment, advising, and appropriate curriculum. Tuition is the same for both residents and non-residents, at $10,908 for the academic year. ASU is located in Tempe.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,852
  • Median Salary: $63,600
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The University of Louisville has five online master's programs in special education. The Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership is a 30 credit program with three specializations: Assistive Technology, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Applied Behavioral Analysis, and Enhanced Content. There is also a 36 credit Master of Education in Special Education degree with two concentrations: Moderate and Severe Disabilities, and Assistive Technologies. The fieldwork for the Moderate to Severe degree must be done in Kentucky. The Teacher Leadership programs focus on skill assessment, evaluation, curriculum development, and instruction and were designed primarily for Kentucky certified teachers. Online graduate tuition is $714 per credit and there is a reduced rate for active military members.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,037
  • Median Salary: $63,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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The University of St. Thomas has two online Master of Arts programs in Special Education: License and Non-License. The programs requires 30 to 34 credits, depending on licensure selected and students largely construct their own program. The degree and Minnesota teaching license can be completed in 15 months. Academic terms last 8 weeks, with 6 terms per year. The requirements for fieldwork dictate that students will need employment or some connection with local schools. The six available license options are Academic Behavior Strategist (K-21), Autism Spectrum Disorder (birth-21), Developmental (Intellectual) Disabilities (K-21), Early Childhood Specialist (birth-8), Emotional Behavior Disorder (K-21) and Learning Disabilities (K-21). Tuition is $1,075 per credit. St. Thomas is affiliated with the Catholic church and is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,725
  • Median Salary: $62,800
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NECHE
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Lesley University offers a Master of Education in Individually Designed Program for Educators- Autism Spectrum Disorders. The 33 credit program is usually completed in two years, and there is a campus residency required. The degree results in licensure for Massachusetts. For state endorsement, the student must have an initial or professional teaching license. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA. Students construct their own program by utilizing certificate programs in Special Education and Autism Spectrum Disorders: Allies and Advocates. Courses include Positive Behavior Support for Diverse Classrooms, Language and Communication Development and Disorders, and Assessment for Students with Disability. The estimated total cost of the online program is $22,225. Lesley is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,273
  • Median Salary: $61,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Indiana University- Bloomington offers a 36 credit online Master of Science in Education in Special Education. There is a thesis or capstone project option, and the program typically takes two years to complete. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and 3.0 GPA. The program has five tracks, each one consisting of four courses. The tracks are Autism, Behavior Specialist, Early Childhood, Instructional Strategies, and Intense Interventions. The focus is on research, teaching methods and interventions. Courses include Families, School and Society,  Assessment and Remediation of the Mildly Handicapped, and Collaboration and Service Delivery. IU offers outstanding support for online students. In-state online graduate tuition is $429.31 per credit, and non-resident tuition is $515.17 per credit.

  • Annual Tuition: $20,422
  • Median Salary: $61,200
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Texas A&M University- College Station features two highly regarded master's degree programs in special education: the MS in Special Education and the M.Ed. in Special Education. Both programs are 36 credits and typically take two years to complete. Admission requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA, and preference is given to students with prior experience working with diversity and disabilities. The MS degree focuses on research and has a comprehensive exam. When combined with the Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis, the M.Ed. program can lead to Texas teaching certification in Applied Behavior Analysis. Courses include Single Case Research, Bilingual Special Education, and Transition from School to Work. Graduate tuition for three credits is $1,691 for residents and $3,110 for non-residents.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,960
  • Median Salary: $59,800
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC and TRACS
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Liberty University offers three online master's programs in special education: an MA in Teaching Special Education, and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with specializations in Special Education and Gifted Education. The programs are 36 credits and may be completed in 1.5 years. Admission to each program requires a bachelor's degree and 3.0 GPA. The MAT focuses on educational behavior and development, theory, methodology, and classroom management. The MEd in Special Education focuses on education, behaviors, and curriculum. The Gifted Education program prepares teachers to educate gifted students. They also offer graduate certificates in Autism Educated and Gifted Education. All of Liberty's courses reflect a strong evangelical Christian viewpoint. Online graduate tuition is $415 per credit. Liberty is located in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Online Master's in Special Education Overview

As part of a master's degree curriculum, students will take classes in subjects such as adaptive instruction and assessment, instruction for special education students, social, legal, and ethical issues in special education, and applied behavior analysis. An internship or student teaching is also required, unless one is enrolled in a program that does not lead to licensure.

Upon completing a master's degree, graduates will be qualified to work as licensed special education teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. They might also find employment as a special education consultant or in supervisory roles within a school setting. Admission requirements for a master's degree program will vary based on the institution, but most require that applicants have earned a bachelor's degree. Although it is beneficial to have an undergraduate degree in a related field, admission to a graduate degree program is not dependent on this factor. Other admission requirements may include a resume, personal statement, GRE test scores, and letters of recommendation. Some of the more competitive programs may require applicants to go through an interview process as well.

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