Online Masters in Special Education Degree Programs

Online masters in special education degree programs prepare individuals to find effective teaching strategies for students with various disabilities, such as autism, emotional disorders, mental handicaps and hearing impairments. Special education teachers learn about different disabilities to be able to develop individual educational plans (IEPs) that are modified to their student’s capability. The employment outlook continues to be favorable for special education teachers as schools need qualified and well trained educators who can work with students who have various disabilities[i].

Why Earn a Masters in Special Education Online?

Online masters in special education degree programs may suit the scheduling needs of busy licensed teachers or aspiring teachers working in other fields such as human services or social work, who want to transition into education. Pursuing a masters in special education online may offer a significant level of scheduling flexibility. Some traditional on-campus programs may offer courses that clash with your work hours, and this may mean it takes you longer to complete your degree. With an online masters special education program, you may be able to balance out your other responsibilities with your study time, logging into your courses when it is most convenient. This may enable you to attain your educational goals at a more appealing pace.

DID YOU KNOW? When surveyed about their education level, 39% of middle-school special education teachers responded that they had earned a master’s degree[ii].

Online Masters in Special Education: Basics

Online masters in special education degree programs may be designed for licensed teachers or aspiring educators seeking a masters degree as well as initial license in special education. Some programs may be completed in approximately 2-years of full-time study, although this may vary

between online education schools. Graduate level special education degrees are commonly geared for students who have earned an undergraduate degree. Some students may have earned a bachelors degree in education, others may be ready to transition into education from another field.

Types of Special Education Masters Degree Online Programs

Some graduate schools offer different options when it comes to pursuing a masters in special education online, so while they may all be “master’s degrees”, there may be differences to weigh. Consider whether you are drawn to learning about instructional strategies and assessment, basic knowledge, advanced certification (i.e. intense intervention) or initial licensure. Even within one type of degree you may find different options (thesis/non-thesis), so take a deep breath, figure out what you need from a program, and read through how each university describes their programs. You may find degree programs listed as:

  • Online Master of Arts in Special Education (MA)
  • Online Master of Science in Special Education (MS)
  • Online Master of Education (MEd)
  • Online Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education  (MAT)

How to Choose an Online Masters in Special Education Degree Program

Several universities have both classroom-based and online masters in special education degree programs, so when deciding which to choose, it may be helpful to have some guidelines.

A few suggestions in this domain are:

  1. Look for accredited masters in special education programming
  2. Look for the programming and course curriculum that aligns with your career goals
  3. Look for a program that will keep you motivated (format & features)

Online Masters Special Education: Why Accreditation Matters

When deciding what special education masters degree online program to enroll in, it is important to choose an accredited university and program. Universities and education schools may be accredited nationally (and regionally) and are listed U.S. Department of Education database. Online masters in special education programs may be accredited specifically by CAEP – the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. CAEP reviews departments, schools and colleges which prepare future educators. After completing a program, a teacher may seek licensure or certification from the state in which they wish to teach.[iii]

Which Online Masters in Special Education Degree is Right for You?

The variety of online masters in special education tracks are intended to meet your career goals whatever they are. Regardless of whether you are working towards your first certificate in special education or you are a current educator interested in current evidence-based practices to bring into your classroom, what are you looking for from your graduate degree?

  • Online master’s degree only – you may be seeking knowledge in special education to further your insight into special education issues, research and interventions (in some schools, the online master of arts in special education degree).
  • Online master’s degree with initial special education licensure – you may be seeking your degree plus the initial license in special education (this may require a practicum and student teaching). In some schools the online master of science in special education degree.
  • Online master’s degree with advanced special education licensure – you may already have your initial teaching license and are looking to add on advanced licensure (this may require a practicum). In some schools the online master of science in special education degree.
  • Online master’s degree in special education for those with no prior teaching experience, and interested in gaining initial licensure in special education (in some schools, the online master of arts in teaching in special education degree)
  • Online master’s degree in special education for those who want to move beyond the classroom and possibly specialize in curriculum and instruction, counselor education or administration. (in some schools, the online master of education).

Potential Features of an Online Masters in Special Education Program

Each university has unique features that may speak to you, whether in the form of interesting courses, research, student satisfaction (technology and support), school philosophy. If you are worried about not staying motivated or disciplined, a prospective school may have tips for students, so this is certainly a question to pose in your dialogue with them. While it varies, some of the things you may encounter in online programs might include:

  • Live lectures that take place on campus that online students log into synchronously or that are available in videotaped or MP3 formats on a course management system;
  • Online discussion boards that encourage or necessitate student participation;
  • Different modalities to contact professors (e.g. email, video conferencing, online chatrooms);
  • Virtual libraries or online publications which may be in addition to textbooks;
  • Short on campus conferences where you can meet your classmates and faculty;
  • Briefing session or tutorial on how to use the educational technology;
  • You may be assigned a student advisor just as you would have on campus.

Take the Next Step

Special education majors are needed in hospitals, child day care, colleges, universities and elementary and secondary schools[iv]. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall, employment of special education teachers is projected to grow by 6% from 2014 to 2024.[v] If you are looking for a potentially convenient learning format, why not find online masters in special education degree program? Browse our sponsored program listings to find ones that may align with your ambitions, then use the ‘request info’ to start an online conversation with prospective schools. Take the next step!

sources: [i] | |[ii] | |[iii] | |[iv] | [v]

GCU offers a variety of M.A. and M.Ed. education programs designed for current educators looking to take the next step in their career. Earn your degree from an accredited non-profit university. No Application Fee!

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