Employment for special education teachers is projected to grow exponentially during the next several years, with most job opportunities geared toward those who hold advanced degrees’namely a master’s. Yet, many students pursuing a master’s in special education are already licensed teachers working with special needs children. For the student enrolled in a program offering courses via a traditional classroom setting will find class time interfering with their work hours, requiring them to take extensive periods of time off from work, in addition to traveling, in order to earn the necessary degree for career advancement. However, there are several schools offering online programs, allowing students to not only obtain their degrees amidst working, but also balance their personal lives. Pursuing an online master’s degree offers a significant level of flexibility, allowing students to complete coursework online after work and during weekends.
1. St. Joseph’s University
For 150 years, Saint Joseph’s University has been dedicated to educating its students in the importance of empathy and social justice in the workplace. The university’s online Special Education Certification is geared toward working special-need teachers looking to refine their teaching techniques in order to better meet their students’ needs. The program’s convenient online format provides them with the opportunity to earn credentials while still working in the field. The certification can be earned individually, or as part of a Master’s degree in Special Education (MS Education with a concentration in Special Education). According to U.S. News and World Report’s Top Regional Universities North list, St. Joseph’s University ranks #8 in the northern region, in addition to ranking in the top 100 in its Online Honor Roll.
The benefits of earning your Special Education Certification online include:
‘ The program’s online format can accommodate nearly any schedule.
‘ Log into class from your laptop or home computer.
‘ Work at your own pace.
‘ Take advantage of the ability to connect and work with a vast array of online learners.
‘ Submit assignments online.
Consider Saint Joseph’s University’s Special Education Certification program if you have a Standard/Level 1 Teaching Certificate and a desire to bring about positive change by working with special needs students.
Tuition: Tuition at SJU for graduate education programs is $578.00 per credit.
2. University of Southern California
USC specializes in training educators to work with high-needs students, specifically in urban environments, by offering several options for those seeking an online master’s in special education:
‘ Master’s of Arts in teaching.
‘ Master’s in Education in advanced instruction.
‘ Education Specialist Credential in mild/moderate disabilities.
USC provides its students with a well-versed education blend of teaching theory and classroom experience, helping them respond accordingly to the individual needs of students. All students earn an Education Specialist Credential in Mild/Moderate Disabilities upon completing the program.
Tuition: University of Southern California’s estimated cost of program completion is $48,994. Additionally, they have a certification option for those interested in teaching special needs students. The tuition for these options runs the range of $4,617 and $25,916.
Key Features: U.S. News & World Report has ranked USC’s Rossier School of Education 17th in the nation among graduate schools of education.
3. Florida State University
Florida State University’s faculty boasts a number of prominent figures in various major field and several world class research centers. All special education programs at FSU are dedicated to high-quality preparation to improve the understanding of children and adults with disabilities.
Tuition: Tuition is estimated at $11,506 for residents and $26,716 for non-residents for the Online Masters in Special Education.
Key Features: Florida State University is ranked in the top 100 of U.S. News and World Report’s Top National Universities and its online graduate programs in education are ranked in the top 100 in all four categories evaluated by U.S. News and World Report’s Online Distance Education Honor Roll.
4. Drexel University
Drexel University has a time-honored reputation of providing its students with superior
professional programs. Drexel prides itself on being on the cutting edge of the education field and since it was the first to require all students to have access to a personal computer, offering online courses was a natural progression for a university devoted to embracing technological innovation, offering online classes since 1996’longer than many tier 1 universities. The M.S. in Special Education program is designed to train students on how to better serve the diverse needs of their students. The program prepares its students with the skills needed to meet students’ needs in a variety of settings.
‘ Autism Spectrum Disorders
There is a high demand for professionals qualified in educating children diagnosed with Autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome, given the increase over the past decade. The Autism concentration is designed for those seeking further proficiency in the field, highlighting effective teaching methods, interventions, and support.
‘ Collaborative Special Education Law and Process
Designed for students focused on building their aptitude in the procedural rules to better develop a suitable education for students with disabilities. Students will learn leadership skills in areas such as special education advocacy, IEP meeting facilitation, dispute resolution, and collaborative problem solving.
‘ Multisensory Reading Instruction Level I
Approximately 20% of school-age children deal with illiteracy. This course gives teachers the skills necessary to provide direct instruction to students with decoding deficits. Students who successfully complete the program are eligible for a WILSON Level 1 Certification, an accreditation recognized in schools nationwide.
‘ Technologies for Special Education
Geared toward those seeking advanced expertise in educational technologies that can be used to develop accessible learning opportunities and increased outcomes for students with disabilities.
For students who either already have a special education certification, or those not interested in obtaining a certification, but wish to enhance their skills in specific special education topic areas. Students may choose to take two of the concentrations (24 credits) or 18 credits of their preference, in addition to completing research courses.
Tuition: Graduate tuition rates vary depending on class but the average tuition of a class in the graduate program is $3,150.00
Key Features: Drexel’s online graduate programs are ranked #5 in Student Services and Technology by U.S. News and World Report.
5. University of North Carolina
UNC has been one of the nation’s top universities since its beginning and it brings that devotion to excellence with it into the online education marketplace. UNC offers one of the few Online Masters in Special Education programs that leads to certification in its state.
Tuition: In state tuition is est. $292.00 per credit and out of state tuition is est. $322.00 per credit for the Online Masters in Special Education.
Key Features: UNC is ranked 30th among national universities by U.S. News and World Report and its education school in particular is ranked #34. UNC offers one of the few Online Masters in Special Education programs that leads to certification in its state.
6. Lewis University
Founded in 1932 with a concentration in aviation technology, Lewis University now offers a complete line of degree options at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including a master’s in early childhood education with special education. This program trains educators to work with a variety of special needs.
Tuition: Lewis University’s tuition is $595 per credit hour for a master’s degree in the school of education.
Key Features: The Princeton Review and the U.S. News & World Report have rated Lewis University as one of the top schools in the region for the last eight years; a popular pick, with the college breaking its enrollment record in 2005 with 5,000 students.
7. Walden University
Walden University offers a master of arts in teaching and in early childhood studies with an additional graduate certificate in special education. The university’s college of education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in addition to Walden University’s accreditation by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The Masters in Special Education program is a non-licensure grades K through 12 program.
The program is intended for experienced educators, requiring 30 total semester credit hours to be completed in a 20 to 24 month duration. Core courses include:
‘ The Impact of Disabilities on Learning and Teaching
‘ Advanced Instructional Strategies in Special Education
‘ Literacy Interventions in Special Education
‘ Advanced Behavioral Interventions in Special Education
The requirements to the Masters in Special Education include a bachelor’s degree or higher, goal statement, and documentation of past work experience. The tuition for the program is $485 per semester credit hour, including course textbooks and materials, in addition to a $150 technology fee each semester.
Tuition: Walden University’s tuition is $500 per semester credit hour (including course textbooks and materials), in addition to a $150 technology fee for each semester. Thirty to thirty-six hours is typically required.
8. Ball State University
Ball State University, a public university in the state of Indiana.prides itself on embracing cutting edge technology and techniques, which is why the university has moved into the online education market. Ball State University is committed to bringing its innovative mindset to students who may not be able to attend classes in a more traditional circumstance.
Below are the seven focus areas and delivery formats:
‘ Applied Behavior Analysis’all online and in an accelerated format
‘ Deaf Education
‘ Director of Special Education/Exceptional Needs
‘ Early Childhood Special Education
‘ Severe Interventions
Ball State’s master’s in special education is recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), with its applied behavior analysis course sequence approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
Building Your Own Degree
Graduate certificates and license options can be combined to create a customized master’s. Many of the courses used for the master’s degree in special education can also be used toward various licensing programs.
Tuition: Tuition for an Online Masters in Special Education at Ball State is $299.00 per credit for residents and $506.00 per credit for non-residents.
Key Features: Ball State University’s online graduate education programs are ranked #17 in Student Services and Technology. The university prides itself on its intense interdisciplinary approach to any and all subjects, leaving students with a well-rounded education as well as the specialization they need for their field.
9. West Virginia University
WVU is a large public university with a well-established education program. WVU has been offering online programs for a long time and is always expanding its programs. Field and practicum experiences for the class are arranged with suitable public schools in the student’s home community. The College of Education and Human Services offers an online Special Education program that allows educators to earn the credentials they need. The program offers these options:
‘ Master of Arts degree
‘ Certification only
‘ Master’s degree plus certification
‘ Initial teacher certification
Classes are offered online along with live lectures. All students pay low in-state tuition, regardless of residency. This program meets the professional standards of the Council for Exceptional Children. U.S. News and World Report rated the online graduate education programs in the top 100 programs in the U.S. West Virginia University’s Professional Education Preparation Unit is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
The program offers six specializations:
‘ Autism spectrum disorders
‘ Early childhood education
‘ Gifted education
‘ Low vision/blindness
‘ Multi-categorical special education
‘ Severe/multiple disabilities
Tuition: West Virginia University tuition is $288.00 per credit for students qualified for resident tuition and $966.00 per credit for students not qualified for resident tuition.
Key Features: WVU is ranked as a tier 1 university and in the top 100 public universities by U.S. News and World Report.
10. Western Governor’s University
Western Governor’s University is a fully accredited, non-profit college offering strictly online course. The school’s online master’s degree program in special education will prepare to fill a vital role, teaching students with mild-to-moderate cross-categorical disabilities. The M.S. in Special Education K-12) program will enrich your teaching skills, providing you with teaching skills to meet the special needs of your students. WGU bills by the term versus by the credit: the more credits you take, the less money per credit the education will ultimately cost, making WGU one of the country’s most affordable online universities.
‘ Licensed teachers with bachelor’s degrees who are interested in moving into special education instruction.
‘ Individuals who can typically spend 15 or more hours per week on their studies.
This program will be flexible and adaptable to your schedule.
This online master’s degree program in Special Education (K-12) requires the completion of coursework to ensure you have the essential skills and knowledge to teach special education, as well as the completion of a teacher work sample.
Key Subject Areas
‘ Special Education
‘ Instructional Design
‘ Research Fundamentals
The average time it takes to complete a Master of Arts in Teaching, Special Education (K-12) degree program is 2 to 2.5 years. A personal evaluation of your transcripts from prior colleges is required prior to admission.
Tuition: Tuition at WGU is just $2,890 per six month term for the Online Masters in Special Education.
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