Online Special Education Degree Graduate Programs

Online special education degree graduate programs cater to current and future special education teachers, scholars and administrators. Many students pursuing a doctorate or masters in special education online are busy licensed teachers who can appreciate the convenience of learning via web-based technology. Traditional residential programs sometimes offer courses during hours which are incompatible with an educator’s schedule. On the other hand, working towards a graduate-level special education degree online may allow balance between work, family and study, enabling learners to achieve their academic goals.

Online Special Education Degree Graduate Programs: Basics

Online special education degree graduate programs are offered as graduate certificates, masters and doctorate degrees. You can find both general special education degree programs or look for one that entails choosing a concentration area. The common prerequisite for an online Master’s in special education is a Bachelor’s degree; this may need to be in education or a related field (early childhood education, special education or human services). The common prerequisite for an online doctoral programs in special education is a Master’s degree. Note that each school may have its own specific prerequisites and enrollment procedures.

FACT: 22% of Severe/Profound Mental Handicaps Special Education Teachers hold a master’s degree; 6% a Post-master’s certificate.[i]

Why Earn a Special Education Graduate Degree?

You may either be required to earn a special education graduate degree or it may be in your favor to do so.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning a graduate degree in this field can lead to greater wage premiums[ii]. Furthermore, special education teachers must be licensed by the state in which they work. Most states require students to have a Bachelor’s

degree in special education, but some require a master's degree or extra graduate-level training[iii]. States also may require a student teaching internship and a passing score on a competency exam.[iv]

Online Special Education Degree: General vs Specific

Learners come to online special education degree graduate programs with different needs. For those that want to understand the needs of students with varying disabilities, a general special education graduate curriculum could include:

  • Mastering technologies used for special education learning
  • Understanding basic characteristics and categories of disabilities
  • Methods of assessment
  • Adaptation of Curriculum
  • Teaching specific skills to students with disabilities

Within general programs, sometimes one can choose a concentration area, although students who have a background in special education might choose a graduate program that addresses a niche group. Some possible areas of concentration within special education could include:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Hearing impaired students
  • Visually impaired students
  • Learning disabilities
  • Emotional/behavioral disorders
  • Leadership/organizational behavior
  • Education policy

Choosing an Online Schools for Special Education

Many accredited colleges and universities offer accredited online special education degree graduate programs in addition to their residential ones. Choosing an online school for special education, consider three things:

  1. Degree type and level (certificate, masters, doctorate)
  2. Unique features of an online program that stand out to you
  3. Accreditation

Online Graduate Certificates in Special Education

Typically, shorter term than a full degree, an online graduate certificate in special education may be an asset to current educators seeking specific skills and/or professional development. Also, since you can often transfer the credits to a Master’s degree program, you are leaving yourself open for continued education. If this interests you, browse our sponsored program listings such as online Graduate Teaching Certificate-Exceptional Learners Mild Intervention; online Supervisor of Special Education Certificate; online Graduate Certificate in Special Education.

Online Masters in Special Education Degree Programs

Students interested in a Masters in special education online degree program have many options, depending on academic and professional goals, and whether they are seeking initial licensure, are already licensed teachers working towards a master’s or are special education professionals seeking advanced credentials. Browse our sponsored program listings that might include online Master of Arts in Special Education; online Master of Science in Special Education; online Master of Education in Special Education; Master of Arts in Teaching & Special Education Credential (online).

Online Doctoral Programs in Special Education

Online Doctoral programs in special education may be offered as an online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or an online Doctor of Education (EdD). Along with online coursework, students in an online EdD in special education degree program may be required to complete a residency, research apprenticeship and coursework. Browse our sponsored listings to find possibilities such as Online Doctorate in Education-Leadership in Special Education Concentration; EdD Specialist in Special Education online.

Earn Your Special Education Degree Online: Potential Unique Features

Since universities and colleges format their own Online Special Education Degree Graduate programs, you may find unique features between them that help to attract you to their school (a good thing!). Earning your degree online means several things:

  • There are no geographical restrictions between you and your online graduate school
  • You have access to online digital tools for communication with your educators
  • You may be communicating with your classmates through online discussion boards or live streaming webinars where everyone logs in at the same time to a lecture that is held live on the main campus
  • You may have the same faculty as a residential program or not
  • Your courses may or may not be identical to the residential programs
  • Educational technology varies but you do need a computer and Internet; some schools have had online programs for many years while others have not
  • Field and practicum experiences may be arranged within appropriate public schools in your home community
  • You may have all pre-recorded lectures which you can access via computer anytime
  • You may have some scheduled meetings or classes which may be online or if partially online, then in person


Accreditation provides a framework for quality control and ensures that educator programs meet specific standards. Check with the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation for a list of regionally accredited higher learning institutions. In terms of program specific accreditation, you can check with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).[v]

Take the Next Step

While employment growth for special education teachers varies by type (preschool, kindergarten, middle school, secondary school), it is favorable, with an average of 6% increase between 2014 and 2024[vi]. Learn more about online special education graduate degree programs by requesting information from prospective online schools for special education. Find a degree, find a school, take the next step.

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


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!

  • Online Teaching Degrees - Recognized in all 50 States
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