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Best 25 Master’s In Special Education Programs in 2021

August 6, 2021 | Staff Writers

Masters in Special Education
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If you have a Bachelors’s degree in Special Education and want to take it one step further, there are a handful of noteworthy schools where you can earn your Master’s in Special Education. By earning an advanced degree you’ll be able to make a more significant difference in the lives of those students in the school system that need some extra help and attention. The work you do to earn this degree allows you to give back in a way that those in other professions simply can’t.

Top 5 Master’s In Special Education Programs

Why Earn A Masters In Special Education?

While simply working in any school is a worthwhile goal, with a Master’s degree you can seek out employment in a special education program. These days, teaching is an extremely competitive field, and having an advanced degree puts you ahead of those who don’t. There is an added benefit if you haven’t received a teaching certificate. When you earn a Master’s degree you are that much closer to becoming a licensed teacher if you aren’t already.

You’re also setting yourself up for financial and career stability. On average, special education teachers with a Master’s degree earn a yearly salary of $62,198. In comparison, those teachers with only a Bachelor’s degree earned an average salary of $52,475 for the 2019-2020 school year. These numbers may rise as the industry expects a 3% increase in demand for special ed teachers between 2019  and 2029.

Though many schools offer this degree, we bring you 25 of the best choices for pursuing a career in special education. Here are the top degree programs to choose from.

Best 25 Master’s In Special Education Programs

1

Vanderbilt University (55 points)

  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Graduation Rate: 92%

Ranked among the best in the U.S. for its Peabody College Special Education Master’s program is Vanderbilt University. Students that enroll in the program experience hands-on learning. This includes working in the field as well as teaming up with other special education students to further field-specific initiatives. It also includes overseeing undergraduate special education students as they work in the field.

This degree program is broken up into three categories of study; Early Childhood, High Incidence, and Low Incidence. The Early Childhood category is meant for students interested in working with babies and toddlers, as well as younger children with developmental delays, along with their parents and other family members.

The High Incidence category is meant for students who want to work with children and even young adults that have math or reading disabilities, as well as those who display persistent problems when it comes to their behavior. Those who study this category do so if they want to become an intervention specialist.

The Low Incidence category has two subcategories; Severe and Visual Disabilities. The Severe Disabilities subcategory is more specialized and trains students to work with children diagnosed with autism and similar disabilities. The Visual Disabilities subcategory is meant for those who want to teach classes where some children are visually disabled and others are not.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 30-60
Tuition: $18,546 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 10%
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2

Johns Hopkins University (55 points)

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Graduation Rate: 92%

Students have a lot of choices when they study at John Hopkins University. Both part-time and full-time programs are offered in the special education major, with some paving the way for students to become certified teachers and others not. Either way, students can choose concentrations like Early Childhood, Mild to Moderate Disabilities, and Severe Disabilities.

The Early Education concentration certifies students to teach children up to the third grade, focusing on children that are getting early intervention from their school. The Mild to Moderate Disabilities concentration teaches students to work with children who have been diagnosed with intellectual, learning, or emotional disabilities. The Severe Disabilities concentration is meant for those who want to work with children that are on the spectrum for Autism. It also prepares them to teach adaptive behavior and independent living skills to their own students.

School Overview

Program Length: 1-5 years
Tuition: $16,243 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 9.2%
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3

University of Texas at Austin (75 points)

  • Austin, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

The University of Texas at Austin is also among the highest-ranked schools in the U.S. with a Master’s program in special education. Many of the graduates of this program continue their careers as a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst. In addition to the school’s Early Childhood Special Education program, it also offers an Autism and Developmental Disabilities program. Students that enroll in these programs are taught classes in both English and Spanish. This allows the school to prepare the program’s students to work with bilingual children in the classroom.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 36
Tuition: $12,646 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 32%
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4

University of Georgia (65 points)

  • Athens, Georgia
  • Graduation Rate: 84%

The Mary Frances Early College of Education at the University of Georgia allows students to study a general curriculum, specialize in an adapted curriculum, or focus on birth through kindergarten. The adapted curriculum is meant for those who want to teach children with various developmental disabilities as well as severe autism. It teaches them how to teach these children outside of the standard curriculum.

Birth through kindergarten helps students learn how to work with disabled and non-disabled children up to the age of five. Students that study birth through kindergarten also go on to work in early and preschool intervention programs as well as inclusive learning, with early intervention programs covering birth to three years old and preschool intervention programs for three to five-year-olds.

School Overview

Program Length: 2 years
Tuition: $11,600 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 54%
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5

Ohio State University (60 points)

  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Graduation Rate: 83%

The College of Education And Human Ecology at Ohio State University gives students the opportunity to choose from several specializations. These include:

  • Early Childhood Intervention
  • Mild-to-Moderate Intervention
  • Moderate to Intensive Intervention
  • Hearing Impairment Intervention

The Early Childhood specialization addresses how to teach students between three and eight years old who may or already have developed a disability. The Mild-to-Moderate specialization addresses the teaching of students from kindergarten to twelfth grade who have ADHD or any mild intellectual or learning disabilities The Moderate to Intensive specialization prepares students to help children with special needs to achieve milestones in their development and education. The Hearing Impairment specialization shows students how to teach deaf children by using a combination of words and sign language.

No matter which specialization students choose, they are required to complete a thesis based on an applied research study or project. The thesis must include a detailed description of how the student put their skills to use in a special education classroom setting.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 34
Tuition: $15,762 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 54%
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6

Boston University (55 points)

  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Graduation Rate: 87%

The Wheelock College of Education & Human Development at Boston University also offers several specializations to students seeking a master’s degree in special education. They can combine their efforts to become certified in elementary education with teaching students with moderate disabilities or teaching students with severe disabilities. The program also allows students to become certified in special education discrimination.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 36
Tuition: $28,843 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 18.9%
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7

Syracuse University (55 points)

  • Syracuse, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 82%

Syracuse University graduate students can study inclusive special education with concentrations in first through sixth grade or seventh through twelfth grade. They can also opt for a concentration in severe/multiple disabilities or early childhood special education. The inclusive special education program not only teaches students to work with disabled children but also those whose first language is one other than English. It also prepares students to teach children who identify as LGBTQ.

School Overview

Program Length: one year to 16 months
Tuition: $15,147 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 51.9%
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8

University of Washington (75 points)

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Graduation Rate: 84%

The College of Education at the University of Washington – Seattle Campus offers four different specialties for their special education majors; Applied Behavior Analysis, Early Childhood, High-Incidence Learning, and Behavioral Disabilities, and Low-Incidence teacher education. The Applied Behavior Analysis specialty teaches students to work with both children and adults. While the High-Incidence Learning and Behavioral Disabilities specialization prepare students to work with children who have behavioral, emotional, or learning disabilities, the Low-Incidence teacher education prepares them to work as a part of a team with other teachers, to meet the educational needs of their students.

School Overview

Program length: two years
Tuition: $5,063 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 57.3%
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9

University of Nevada, Las Vegas (100 points)

  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Graduation Rate: 40%

Students who study special education at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas have a lot more opportunities for learning the field than almost any other college in the U.S. The extensive lists of specializations to choose from include Autism, Emotional Disturbance, Intellectual Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, Early Childhood Infant, Early Childhood Preschool, and Emotional and Behavioral disorders.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 36
Tuition: $3,276 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 81.9%
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10

University of Arizona – Tucson, AZ (70 points)

  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Graduation Rate: 60%

The College of Education at the University of Arizona allows students to focus on one or more of the following specializations:

  • Mild to Moderate Disabilities
  • Severe and Multiple Disabilities
  • Visual Impairment

The Mild to Moderate and Severe and Multiple disabilities specializations prepare students to not only teach in special ed schools/classrooms but also to work with special education students in a rehab setting. In the case of Severe and Multiple Disabilities specialization students are taught to use a functional approach as opposed to a developmental one.

The school’s Visual Impairment specialization is recognized nationally as one of the best. It teaches students how to instruct visually impaired children by studying Braille and incorporating both non-optical and optical aids into the educational experience.

School Overview

Program Length: 16 months minimum
Tuition: $5,700 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 85%
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11

George Mason University (100 points)

  • Fairfax, Virginia
  • Graduation Rate: 69%

George Mason University’s special education Master’s program prepares its students to teach both inside and outside of the classroom. The highlight of the program is Mason Life. By participating in it, students get to work in the field as a resident advisor, instructor, or mentor. As a result, students get a head start on working with children diagnosed with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 30
Tuition: $3,935 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 86%
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12

Frostburg State University (90 points)

  • Frostburg, Maryland
  • Graduation Rate: 47%

The special education masters program at Frostburg State University holds an accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Students get hands-on in-classroom training. They can specialize in special education certification for first through eighth grades or sixth through twelfth grades. Regardless of which specialization they choose students complete at least 300 hours working in classrooms with special needs students.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 32
Tuition: $4,480 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 63%
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13

California State University (90 points)

  • San Bernardino, California
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

The Michael D. Eisner College of Education at California State University, San Bernardino offers the standard program for a Master’s in Special Education, as well as Educational Therapy. In the case of the Educational Therapy program, students are trained to work as practitioners aiding special needs children as well as teenagers and adults. The goal of this program is to teach students how education and therapy both play an important role in any special education classroom.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 30 – 36
Tuition: $4,193 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 45%
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14

Utah State University (75 points)

  • Logan, Utah
  • Graduation Rate: 59%

At the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, at Utah State University, students can study under the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling. They can choose a specialty in Applied Behavioral Analysis or they can enroll in the Transition Concentration Program. Those who study in this program are able to teach teenagers with disabilities how to make the transition to adulthood. They are also able to guide special education students through post-high school level classes or other training, as well as finding and maintaining employment.At the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, at Utah State University, students can study under the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling. They can choose a specialty in Applied Behavioral Analysis or they can enroll in the Transition Concentration Program. Those who study in this program are able to teach teenagers with disabilities how to make the transition to adulthood. They are also able to guide special education students through post-high school level classes or other training, as well as finding and maintaining employment.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 36
Tuition: $6,048 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 89%
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15

Towson University (60 points)

  • Towson, Maryland
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

Towson University originated as a teaching college and now offers a Master’s program in Special Education. Students can choose the standard special education concentration or the Teacher as a Leader in Autism Spectrum Disorder concentration. Those that choose the standard can specialize in special education for birth through third grade, elementary and middle school, and secondary school (sixth grade to twelfth grade.)

School Overview

Program Length: 2 years
Tuition: $12,167 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 76%
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16

SUNY- Cortland (55 points)

  • Cortland, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 74%

When it comes to schools offering a Masters in Special Education, SUNY-Cortland ranks in the top 10% of colleges. Their master’s program prepares its students to teach children in grades seven through 12. It prepares students to work in general classrooms while still assisting special education children. It also includes the study of various disabilities and ways to help students develop the proper social skills to succeed in the classroom. Before students can earn their Master’s in this program they must complete a 150-hour internship that requires them to work one-on-one with special education students.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 35
Tuition: $11,780 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 44.1%
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17

St. Joseph’s College Long Island (55 points)

  • New York City, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 65%

Students that study at St. Joseph’s College Long Island can earn a Master’s degree in Childhood or Adolescent Special Education, which includes an Annotation in Severe and Multiple Disabilities. Completion of the program certifies graduates to teach both primary and secondary special education students. The program includes courses in instruction for Students with Diverse Needs, Issues in Severe Disabilities, and Strategies for Applied Behavior Analysis, among others.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 36
Tuition: $9,406 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 76.7%
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18

University of Wisconsin Madison (80 points)

  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Graduation Rate: 85%

Those who study for a Master’s of Science in Special Education at the University of Wisconsin – Madison can choose from the Research and Theory program or Teacher Certification program. Students who complete the Teacher Certification program are then licensed to teach children special education between the ages of six and 13, as well as 10 and 21.

The Research and Theory program prepares students to work as teachers or to work for organizations and agencies that help disabled individuals become independent members of society. It teaches students how to intervene on behalf of children in need of special education.

School Overview

Program Length: 2 years
Tuition: $6,100 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 54%
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19

Arizona State University (75 points)

  • Glendale, Arizona
  • Graduation Rate: 78%

At Arizona State University – West, the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College prepares its students to work in special education. Completing the program certifies graduates to work as special education teachers for Kindergarten through twelfth grade, but also certifies them to teach students with mild to moderate disabilities. Whether they are interested in one, the other, or both, students are required to complete an applied action research project. Those that choose this course of study may go on to teach at a school, other types of facilities, or even work as a special education director.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 33
Tuition: $5,600 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 86%
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20

Lehigh University (90 points)

  • Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 89%

Students that earn their Master’s degree in Special Education from the College of Education at Lehigh University are qualified to teach special education for Pre K through twelfth grade. The program’s faculty includes instructors who serve as experts in emotional behavior disorders autism and more.

While earning their degree, students train in the college’s Centennial School. This is a special education day school lab where masters degree candidates work with autistic and emotionally disturbed children between the ages of six and 12.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 30 credits
Tuition: $4,237 per semester
Acceptance rate: 22%
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21

Loyola Marymount University (55 points)

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Graduation Rate: 83%

At Loyola Marymount University, Special Education Master’s degree students learn to teach children with mild to moderate disabilities. Students that complete the program earn their certification to do so, but also receive the California Preliminary Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Credential. Those students who are already teachers can pursue the college’s Intern Practitioner track. This allows them to make the transition from a full-time Educational Specialist to a certified Special Education teacher.

Students don’t have to do this on their own. The program’s academic advisors are there to help them earn their Education Specialist Credential.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 36
Tuition: $10,425 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 44%
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22

Monmouth University (52 points)

  • West Long Branch, New Jersey
  • Graduation Rate: 69%

Teachers wanting to earn a Masters in Special Education have a few options available to them when they study at Monmouth University. The college’s special education programs meet the strict standards of the Council For Exceptional Children. Master’s degree candidates can choose from the Autism track or the Autism/Applied Behavioral Analysis track.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 30
Tuition: $9,502 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 70.8%
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23

University of St. Thomas (85 points)

  • Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

Those who study for a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of St. Thomas are trained to teach children from newborn up to six years old who have one or more of the following disabilities:

  • cognitive
  • motor
  • social-emotional
  • health
  • sensory
  • communication

Studying here opens students up to opportunities they wouldn’t have at other schools. One of them is the development opportunities they have access to thanks to the Department of Special Education and Gifted Education. During the summer, special sessions are held for students, that cover learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum disorders.

Students are also invited to participate in community partnerships the college has with organizations such as the Collaborative Urban Educators program and the Northwest Suburban Integration District, among others.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 30
Tuition: $4,950 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 83%
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24

Temple University (50 points)

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 71%

The College of Education and Human Development at Temple University gives students the chance to learn practical skills for the special education classroom. Students can choose to specialize in mild and severe disabilities or autism spectrum disorders. In Philadelphia, where Temple University is located, many public school students have been diagnosed with these disorders and disabilities.

This program allows students to choose between teaching preschool through eighth grade or seventh grade to twelfth grade.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 37
Tuition: $8,713 per semester
Acceptance rate: 64.5%
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25

Northern Illinois University (100 points)

  • DeKalb, Illinois
  • Graduation Rate: 46%

At the College of Education Department of Special and Early Education at Northern Illinois University, Master’s degree candidates can choose from three specializations; Advanced Special Education Practices, Behavior Analysis, and Learning Behavior Specialist. The Learning Behavior Specialist concentration goes beyond teaching deaf and visually disabled students to teach candidates how to treat classes that include special education and non-special education students.

Degree candidates also have the option of completing the Visual Disabilities Program. The program teaches students how to work one-on-one with children who are either visually impaired or completely blind, often in a rehab setting as opposed to a school setting. Those that enroll in this program can specialize in Visual Impairments, Orientation and Mobility, and Visual Rehabilitation Therapy.

While the Visual Impairments specialization simply instructs students on how to assist children diagnosed with low vision or blindness, the Orientation and Mobility specialization instructs students on how to help visually impaired children to travel with others and even by themselves. Those who complete this specialization are awarded credentials from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals. Those who complete the Visual Rehabilitation Therapy specialization are awarded the same certification.

School Overview

Credit Hours: 30
Tuition: $3,690 per semester
Acceptance Rate: 54%
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Can’t decide which school to pick from the list? Our Degree Finder tool is here to help you make the right decision.

Master’s In Special Education Ranking Methodology

Using a combination of information we obtained from Google and the respective websites for each school. All tuition rates apply to students who live in the same state where a particular school is located. The total cost of tuition was divided up so that you can see what you would pay per semester. We sorted out the schools on the list by both tuition and acceptance rate, with the best tuition getting a maximum of 50 points and the best acceptance rate getting a maximum of 50 points. By adding these scores we determined the ranking for each school.

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