Along with teachers in STEM disciplines, special education educators are the most in-demand educators out there. Without enough back up, special educators are often placed in the front lines of dealing with the individual needs of students, ranging from the most gifted and talented, to emotionally disturbed or students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Depending on their current class, special educators may need to deal with learning disabilities, communication disorders, emotional ad behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, or students who are gifted, talented, or creative. To account for the wide range of specialized knowledge needed to cater to all of these needs, many special educators elect to obtain their masters in special education. Luckily, there are more online options–that allow working teachers to fit education around their potential work and family lives–than ever before. Keeping in mind the importance of flexibility, quality, and affordability in choosing a graduate program, we’ve constructed a ranking of the 10 best online programs below. Check it out!
- Affordability (1/3): the estimated cost per credit hour for an out-of-state student to attend a given program.
- Online Learning Support Services (1/3): the use of individualized learning services, online tutoring, accelerated programs, and synchronous learning to promote quality and accelerated online education.
- Academic Reputation (1/3): the average ranking of the graduate education department of a given institution as seen in other prominent rankings.
10. Auburn University
Auburn University offers both a traditional and alternative master’s in Education program in Early Childhood Special Education entirely online, the main difference in the programs being that the alternative master’s allows students with non-teaching bachelor’s degrees to complete their certification with their master’s education. Both programs of study focus on special education in children aged birth through age eight. Auburn University’s graduate level education program ranked fifth for academic reputation of programs surveyed. Estimated tuition per credit hour is currently $560.
9. University of Florida
The University of Florida offers five ways to get your master’s in Special Education online, including a bachelors/master’s hybrid program, a specialist track that can be tacked onto the end of a master’s for additional research, as well as a traditional master’s program with three concentrations: a general track, an autism track, and an education and health care track. The traditional master’s program consists of 36 credit hours, with an estimated per credit hour tuition cost of $690. The University of Florida’s graduate level education program ranked 9th for academic reputation of programs surveyed.
8. Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University offers a fully online master’s in Special Education consisting of 36 credit hours. The program is recommended for both current special education educators as well as English as a second language educators. Fort Hays State University’s graduate level education program ranked 17th in academic reputation of programs surveyed. Estimated out-of-state tuition per credit hour is currently $251, placing the program as the 2nd most affordable of programs surveyed.
7. University of Nebraska – Lincoln
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers five special education-related master’s degrees in online or hybrid formats, including master’s in deaf education, early childhood special education, mild moderate disabilities, special education administration, and visual impairment. The master’s in visual impairment is the only program listed that may not be completed fully online. Estimated out-of-state tuition per credit hour is currently $507. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s graduate level education program ranked fourth for academic reputation of programs surveyed.
6. Pennsylvania State University – World Campus
Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus offers a fully online master’s of education in special education requiring 32 credit hours to graduate. Currently three emphases are available for students, including an emphasis on academic and behavioral supports, an emphasis on applied behavior analysis, and an emphasis on autism. With full-time study the program may be completed in as little as one year, though can also be taken so as to finish in two years. Pennsylvania State University’s graduate education program ranks second for academic reputation of programs surveyed. Currently estimated out-of-state tuition is $784 per credit hour.
5. Indiana University – Bloomington
Indiana University at Bloomington offers a fully online master’s of education in special education with five specializations, including autism, behavior specialists, early childhood, instructional strategies, and intense interventions. All students must complete a capstone project or thesis, and the entire program takes a total of 36 credit hours. Indiana University’s graduate education program ranks 11th of programs surveyed in regards to academic reputation. Currently estimated out-of-state tuition is $495 per credit hour.
4. Graceland University
Graceland University offers two special education-related master’s level programs fully online, including a master’s in education in differentiated instruction, and a master’s in education in mild/moderate special education. The master’s in special education requires 30 credit hours and focuses on curricular and instructional methodologies as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder. The program may be completed within two years. Graceland University’s graduate level education programs ranked 3rd for academic reputation of programs surveyed. Current out-of-state estimated tuition is $450 per credit hour, the 7th most affordable of programs surveyed.
3. Ball State University
Ball State University offers one special education-related graduate program fully online, a master of arts in applied behavior analysis with an emphasis in Autism. The program requires 30-credit hours, and offers eight-week courses for those who wish to accelerate their time until degree. A number of graduate certificates in specialized special education topics are also available. Ball State University’s graduate level education programs ranked 6th for academic reputation of programs surveyed. Current estimated out-of-state per credit hour tuition is $530.
2. Florida State University
Florida State University offers fully online graduate programs in special education at the master’s, specialist, or doctoral levels. At the master’s level, students can specialize in autism, early childhood special education, literacy and response to intervention/differentiated instruction/high incidence disabilities, severe disabilities, or transition. A second program in special education studies for current teachers takes a minimum of 33 semester hours, and allows students to specialize in early childhood special education, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or high incidence disabilities. Florida State University’s graduate level education programs ranked 1st of programs surveyed in regards to academic reputation. Estimated out-of-state tuition per credit hour is $614.
1. Emporia State University
Emporia State University offers five special education related graduate programs entirely online, including an MS in special education with an adaptive concentration, an adaptive endorsement, a MS in special education with a gifted, talented, and creative concentration, a gifted endorsement, or a certificate in Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Endorsement programs require 24 credit hours, while master’s degrees require 36 credit hours. Graduate level education programs at Emporia State University ranked 7th in academic reputation of programs surveyed. Current out-of-state estimated tuition per credit hour is $331, the third most affordable of programs surveyed.