There are many of reputable schools offer master's in special education online. Typically, these degrees are designed for current teaching professionals who want to earn a specialized credential or simply enhance their knowledge of the latest teaching methods. If you're a teacher, earning a MEd in Special Education could do wonders for your career and your income – as long as you don't spend too much money on your education, that is!
Fortunately, many online special education graduate programs are extremely affordable. Many of them also feature flexible scheduling options to make it easy for working adults to attend. And if you look at the programs listed below, you'll notice that some of them take as little as 12-18 months to complete. All this means that with an online master's degree in special education, you could kick your career into high gear without having to take time off from your current job or compromise your financial stability.
The 25 Top Online Special Education Graduate Programs Ranking Methodology
For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer special education master's programs online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $15,000/year or less.
We also limited our search to degree programs that are available 100% online (with the exception of practicum/internship components). Sorry, no hybrid programs allowed!
*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.
After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer special education master's programs online and meet the above criteria, we collected data in three categories:
- Special Education Program Demand: How much demand is there for a special education degree compared to other education programs at the school? To find out, we looked at the percentage of all education program graduates in the most recent school year who earned their degree in special ed.
- Overall Education Focus: How many students enroll in the school's education programs compared to other areas of study? Are the education programs one of the school's most popular areas of study? For this metric, we calculated the approximate percentage of all graduate students who are pursuing a degree in education (again using graduation data from the most recent school year).
- Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?
After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area (all categories received equal weight in the calculation). Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned an even 100 points.
Read more about the best cheap online master's degrees in special education below!
Ranking Cheap Master's in Special Education Online Degree Programs 2019
20. Southwestern College
Online Master of Education: Special Education (Low/High-Incidence Disabilities)
Southwestern College has one of the best options for Kansas residents on this online special education graduate program ranking. That's thanks to its Kansas-specific "endorsements," which ready you to work with specific populations. For example, you can earn an endorsement in low-incidence disabilities in just 33 credit hours (the full graduate degree requires at least 36 hours). Regardless of which endorsement you choose, you'll need to complete two practica: an introductory experience plus an advanced internship where you put theory into practice. That theory comes in the form of Methods classes, which address highly specific topics such as life skills, classroom management, and more.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,085/yr
19. Lamar University
Online M.Ed. in Special Education
At Lamar University, the accredited online special education graduate program is most suitable for certified teachers with at least two years of experience under their belts. That's because its M.Ed. doesn't lead to additional endorsements or certifications. Instead, this practical program focuses entirely on giving you the skills you need to help exceptional students reach their highest potential. The curriculum requires no hands-on time; instead, you'll take classes in human development, evaluation methods, and various topics specific to special education. Plus, a required "Research/Current Issues in Education" class will show you how to interpret educational research and apply it in meaningful ways.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,678/yr
18. Western Governors University
Online Master of Science in Special Education
Given that Western Governors University is solely devoted to helping adult learners advance their careers, it makes sense that the school has one of the best cheap online master's degrees in special education. The average tuition comes in around $6,800, a bargain-basement price that in no way indicates a lack of quality. A dedicated program mentor will guide you through your studies, and the school's focus on competency means you can earn your degree in just a year. That is, instead of spending a set amount of time on each course, you can take assessments and "test out" of classes as soon as you've mastered the appropriate concepts.
Average Tuition & Fees: $6,790/yr
17. University of Nebraska-Kearney
Online Master of Arts in Education: Special Education
If you're looking for an accredited master's in special education online that leads to certification, check out the University of Nebraska – Kearney. The school offers a degree that will prepare you for licensure in either K-6 or 7-12 special education, depending on your professional goals. The 36-credit-hour program might also lead to certification in other states, but you'll need to check individual requirements and adjust your schedule accordingly. Coursework looks at topics like instructional strategies, legal issues in the field, and teaching social skills to students on the autism spectrum. To wrap up your degree, you'll complete a 210-hour practicum, a final project, and a departmental examination.
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,927/yr
16. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Online Master's Degree in Special Education
As part of its determination to help special educators reach every student, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota prizes "intercultural competence" in all its courses. As such, candidates in its affordable online M.A. program addresses issues like how to assist students from different backgrounds and how to help exceptional learners succeed in a mainstream classroom setting. You'll also get to choose the professional focus of your degree: an M.A. without licensure, an M.A. with additional Minnesota licensure in a specific area, or an M.A. with initial teacher licensure. The last option is a rarity in this special education master's program online ranking, but note that it does require additional (and extensive) classroom experiences.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,100/yr
15. Armstrong State University
Online Master of Education in Special Education
For a top online master of education in special education with an emphasis in autism spectrum disorders, look to Armstrong State University. Even more specifically, this Georgia-based institution is a great choice if you'd like to help special ed (including autistic) students make the transition from school to adulthood. In fact, it's the only Georgia program with an Special Education Transition Specialist endorsement option! The coursework will prepare you to collaborate with other agencies to help students succeed and includes a three-credit research project in a topic that reflects your individual career goals.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,411/yr
14. Minot State University
Online Master of Science in Special Education
Four targeted emphasis areas help Minot State University stand out from the competition on this online special education graduate program ranking: Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Specific Learning Disabilities, Early Childhood Special Education, and Special Education Strategist. Each requires four to six specialized classes, with the Deaf or Hard of Hearing option having the most strenuous requirements. Regardless of your emphasis, you'll find a program that prizes the independence and dignity of exceptional learners and enables you to use the latest research to empower your students. The program also includes hands-on experience in the form of both a practicum and a clinical practice, and you'll conclude with a thesis based on original research.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,240/yr
13. Minnesota State University Moorhead
Online Master of Science in Special Education
Minnesota State University Moorhead offers a Master of Science in Special Education that allows students to focus on education in a number of disability areas. These include Developmental Disabilities, Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Specific Learning Disabilities, Early Childhood Special Education, and Physical/Health Disabilities. The degree can be taken fully online, and sets students up for five licensure options through the Minnesota Board of Teaching. A valid Minnesota Teaching License is required for acceptance into the online special education masters degree program.
12. Fort Hays State University
Online Master of Science in High-Incidence Special Education
Fort Hays State University delivers a robust special education program that's grounded in real-world practice. The case study-based curriculum also places a strong focus on high-incidence challenges, so you can be sure that the lessons will be relevant to a broad swath of your students. As you earn this affordable online master's degree in special education, you'll also touch on action-focused research, best practices, and specific techniques for addressing your students' individual needs. Although you'll need to hold a current teaching license to apply, you'll walk away with a full endorsement in High-Incidence Special Education in Kansas.
Average Tuition & Fees: $7,194/yr
11. Mount Vernon Nazarene University
Online MAED Intervention Specialist for Mild/Moderate Disabilities
If you'd like to incorporate your Christian faith while pursuing an accredited special education master's program online, give Mount Vernon Nazarene University a look. This 18-month program organizes students into cohorts, so you'll develop close ties with a community of like-minded learners. The broad curriculum touches on both high- and low-incidence exceptionalities and addresses both practical (e.g. how to write an IEP) and theoretical (e.g. how to conduct research) skill development. Finally, you'll put what you've learned into action by completing an advanced practicum and graduate with the qualifications to become a licensed Intervention Specialist in Ohio.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,964/yr
10. University of Wisconsin-Superior
Online Master of Science in Education — Special Education
At UW Superior, you'll benefit from both the resources of a large public school and the intimate atmosphere of a small college. As a degree candidate in the university's affordable online special education graduate program, you'll also benefit from experienced faculty (many of whom have worked as K-12 special ed teachers) and a high-quality curriculum. Courses like "The Exceptional Learner" and "Methods in Adaptive Instruction" will prepare you for licensure in Wisconsin and ensure that you have the necessary skills to help your students succeed. To obtain certification, you'll also need to complete a 135-hour internship, attend weekly seminars, and assemble a professional portfolio.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,759/yr
9. Delta State University
Online Master of Education in Special Education
The Master of Education in Special Education degree offered at Delta State University gives students the opportunity to complete this 30-33 credit program completely online. An inclusive special education setting is required for the internship requirement. Admission is granted to students with passing scores on the Core Academic Skills for Educators exam, and scholarships such as the Mississippi Teacher Fellowship Program are given to qualified applicants. This online special education masters program also offers further education for severe disabilities endorsement.
8. Carson-Newman University
Online MED: Special Education Emphasis
Carson-Newman is a Christian university that offers a variety of off-campus education programs. These non-traditional degrees incorporate both online coursework and evening classes at nearly a dozen locations throughout Tennessee. Among these is an accredited online master's degree in special education, which comes with a K-12 endorsement. As a student in this program, you'll take 15 credits of core classes in educational research, evaluation, and leadership. You'll also complete 15 credits of special education courses, including "Managing Challenging Behaviors" and "Diagnosis and Correction of Reading Problems." Lastly, you'll have the option to end your studies by either writing a thesis or taking electives in an area of interest to you.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,780/yr
7. University of Texas of the Permian Basin
Online Master of Arts in Special Education
If convenience and speed are your priorities, UTPB will undoubtedly be one of your favorite options on this online master's degrees in special education ranking. With 100% online coursework; accelerated, eight-week terms; and six annual start dates, this program is about as flexible as they come. Not only that, but you can enroll at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and graduate with an MA in Special Education in just 12 months! Even so, the program doesn't sacrifice quality for efficiency. The CAEP-accredited curriculum touches on all the important topics within special ed, from educational psychology and behavior management to teaching methods, programs, and practices for "exceptional learners."
Average Tuition & Fees: $6,366/yr
6. Greenville College
Online Special Education Master of Arts
At Greenville University, 30 credits and 18 months is all it takes to "renew and strengthen your understanding of special education" while "broaden[ing] your qualifications as a professional." Indeed, the curriculum is jam-packed with courses in special education research, teaching methods, laws, and contemporary trends to ensure that you're well-prepared to handle any and all issues you encounter in the classroom. This is also one of the top special education master's programs online for students who want to become learning behavior specialists. To qualify for this credential in Illinois, you'll just need to make sure you complete both the coursework and clinical practicum requirements that the program stipulates.
Average Tuition & Fees: $7,524/yr
5. Bemidji State University
Online Master in Special Education degree (MSPED)
Bemidji State's versatile MEd program is suitable for both practice- and theory-oriented students. If you already have a teaching degree, you can combine BSU's accredited online Master of Education in Special Education with a licensure program for a big boost in your classroom credentials. On the other hand, degree candidates looking to continue their studies at the Ph.D. level will be happy to know that this program puts a significant emphasis on research. In fact, you'll complete nine credits in research-related topics, including a capstone course in which you'll conduct research and prepare a final paper or presentation that reflects your knowledge.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,020/yr
4. University of West Alabama
Online M.Ed in Special Education Collaborative Teacher K-6
Of all the schools on our special education master's programs online ranking, UWA has one of the most narrowly-focused degree options. That is, the degree is designed specifically for K-6 teachers who want to work with students who have cognitive, behavioral, and/or physical disabilities. However, the degree also offers flexibility by allowing program members to choose between two different options for many of their required core classes (e.g., you can take "Advanced Educational Psychology" or "Life-Span Development and Learning"). The other half of the program is dedicated to topics – from behavior management and communication skills to teaching methods and strategies – that will prepare you for special education certification.
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,775/yr
3. Kentucky State University
Online Masters of Arts in Special Education with Certification (LBD, P-12)
Kentucky State University's MA in Special Education claims one main goal: to prepare graduates for certification in Learning and Behavior Disorders (P-12). If this is what you're after, KSU undoubtedly has one of the top cheap master's in special education online. Degree candidates enjoy 24/7/365 support from faculty and staff as they access course content and complete assignments. By providing courses in eight-week sessions and incorporating "a variety of instructional electronic modalities," the program also ensures that your online experience is both engaging and efficient. What's more, you'll complete a series of practica to accrue at least 200 hours of hands-on, clinical experience in real-world settings.
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,423/yr
2. University of the Cumberlands
Online Master of Arts in Teaching: Special Education – Learning and Behavior Disorders
At the University of the Cumberlands, you won't need any background experience in teaching to apply to its MAT program. In fact, UC is one of just a few schools on our cheap online special education graduate programs ranking that will prepare you for initial teaching licensure (in Kentucky and possibly some other states). The program comes with several licensure options, one of which is in special education (P-12 learning and behavior disorders). Courses within this concentration include "Teaching Math to Learners with Disabilities," "Working with Parents," and "Reading and Writing Foundations," to name but a few.
Average Tuition & Fees: $5,970/yr
1. Morningside College
Online Master of Arts in Teaching: Special Education
What does it take to become the best affordable master's in special education online? The answer to that question may be debatable, but there's no debating the value in Morningside College's MAT: Special Education program. From the 100% web-based coursework to its accommodations for both elementary and secondary school teachers, this program offers the versatility that modern-day educators need. Plus, it's curriculum packs a powerful punch thanks to classes in student diversity, data collection and research, instructional technology, contemporary issues in education, and more. Note that if you're seeking an endorsement in Iowa, MC also offers specialized "Instructional Strategist" courses that are designed to meet your professional goals.
Average Tuition & Fees: $4,320/yr
- Special Education Scholarships
- The Most Affordable Online Master's in Child Development and Early Childhood Studies Degree Programs
Thanks for reading our ranking of the 25 top cheap online master's degrees in special education in the US!