Online Special Education Degree

Online Special Education Degree Overview

Special education teachers play critical roles in helping schools aid students with special needs, and an online special education master’s degree provides the latest strategies to teach them. The current shortage of special education teachers is creating a demand for trained professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in special education are projected to grow by 8 percent, as fast as the national average for all jobs, between 2016 and 2026.

An online special education master’s program offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals. Web-based programs typically follow the same rigorous curricula as brick-and-mortar options, leading to similar advancement opportunities for graduates. The online format is also ideal for students who must tackle additional commitments – such as child or family care – on top of their work and class schedules.

How long does it take to earn a master’s in special education online?

Online master’s programs in special education take about two years to complete and require students to earn 36 to 40 credits. Accelerated programs typically take about one year to 18 months to complete.

How much does a master’s in special education cost?

The cost of an online special education degree depends on several factors. State residency is an important consideration, since many colleges and universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students. However, some schools charge flat tuition for online students regardless of state residency. Technology fees are another key factor; these fees often apply to online students but not their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Per-credit costs for an online special education master’s degree typically range from $190 to $550. Students should expect to pay between $7,000 and $22,000 in total tuition.

Online master’s in special education admissions requirements

Many online special education master’s programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree, sometimes in a related field. Other programs require students to have a teaching license or a valid teacher certification in teaching special education. Some programs also require the GRE.

Choosing an accredited online special education degree program

Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school’s educational programs and student services.

A school’s accreditation impacts course credit transferability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.

Online Coursework

Example courses

  • Identification and assessment of young children with special needs
  • Behavior modification for special education students
  • Special education law
  • Theories of learning and motivation
  • Developmental disabilities
Students in special education master’s programs online learn about assessment strategies, education laws and ethics, educational technologies and methods of instruction for students with special needs. These degree programs focus on teaching the latest research and practices in the field.

Coursework in special education master’s programs online teach professionals to effectively communicate and collaborate with other teachers and administrators in their educational communities.

Internship or practicum

Many master’s in special education online programs require a student teaching component or other field experience. Student teaching is required for students seeking teacher licensure in addition to a master’s degree in special education, which typically involves 90 to 210 hours of work in a school setting.

Professional Associations in Special Education

Professional associations provide opportunities for educators to stay informed about the latest technologies, teaching practices and other strategies in this field. Below is a list of three professional associations that students earning their online master’s in special education degrees can join.

  • National Association of Special Education Teachers: This professional association supports teachers and seeks to ensure that all special education students receive the best education possible. NASET’s website provides job listings, publications and other resources to help teachers stay current on best teaching practices.
  • Council for Exceptional Children: CEC focuses on improving educational legislation, establishing professional standards and developing initiatives to improve special education practices. The association also provides extensive resources, including podcasts, publications, and professional development webinars and training.
  • National Education Association: The NEA has a section on its website that’s dedicated to special education teachers. The association also provides news and tools for helping students with disabilities.

Job Outlook and Salaries for Graduates

The BLS projects that 33,000 teaching jobs in special education will be added from 2016 to 2026, with a growth rate of 7 percent in K-12 positions. Nearly half of those will be among kindergarten and elementary school teachers, at almost 14,000.

What can you do with a master’s degree in special education?

Online master’s in special education programs prepare individuals for careers as special education teachers, administrators and professional trainers. Often, graduates are also prepared to work as rehabilitation counselors and teachers in hospitals, social service departments and juvenile corrections centers. Below is a list of common careers for individuals with a master’s degree in special education.

  • Director of special education: Directors of special education usually work at the district level and oversee special education programs in multiple schools and facilities. Daily responsibilities include ensuring that services meet student needs, supporting teachers, communicating with parents and organizing training programs. These professionals need a master’s degree in special education or a related field.
  • Special education teacher, kindergarten or elementary school: Teachers working with children in kindergarten and elementary school assess their students’ level of skills and develop individual education plans. These professionals may teach within special-needs-only classrooms or function as part of inclusion programs in general education classrooms.
  • Special education teacher, middle school: Middle school special education teachers identify individual student needs, design education plans and monitor student progress. Most middle school special education teaching positions require job candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many require candidates to have a master’s degree in special education.
  • Special education teacher, secondary school: Secondary special education teachers identify student needs, create individual education plans, enforce behavioral management strategies and work with parents to help students succeed.

Licensure and certification

Grade-level teaching licenses are required to teach in any public school. Private school requirements vary. Some states allow teachers to transfer their special education license, while others will require them to pass an exam.

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