Online Graduate Schools with Special Education Programs: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online graduate special education school. Continue reading to get an overview of the program options, degree appropriateness, and common topics offered for the field of study.

When considering an online graduate school for special education, students should look at the award levels offered and the type or format of the program. Learn more about these options and some of the schools that have these programs.

How to Select an Online Graduate Special Education School

Students looking for an online graduate special education school should take several points into consideration. There are a number of online graduate programs in special education for professional and licensed teachers. Current educators and graduates with a bachelor's degree in education can enroll in an online certificate or master's degree program in special education. Students should then weigh the award level with the program type.

Award Level

In most states, a bachelor's degree in special education does not offer enough preparation to work with children with special needs. A master's degree in special education is often the minimum requirement. Special education teachers will also need to earn a specialized license from the state they intend to teach in.

Program Type

Online graduate programs in special education are available in full-online format. Students work from their home computer or laptop and are generally not required to visit the campus. Course instruction is completed through a virtual classroom platform. Students participate in classroom discussions and schedule virtual meetings through online forums, chat rooms and e-mail.

Popular Online Graduate Programs in Special Education

Online Master of Science in Special Education

A Master of Science in Special Education degree program is designed for current educators or certified educators with a bachelor's degree who want to move into special education.

Depending on a student's needs and the course load each semester, the length of the program can take from 1.5 to 2.5 years to complete. Students will have a chance to specialize in an area of special education with personalized help of an enrollment counselor. In order to graduate students will need to pass an exam (oral and written) and finish a final project. Core courses cover essential topics in special education such as:

  • Legal issues
  • Psycho-educational assessment
  • Foundations of instructional design
  • Behavioral management and intervention
  • Research foundations

Online Special Education Certificate

The curriculum in special education certificate programs is designed for professional, licensed educators who are looking to meet the demands of working with special education students. The full content of the certificate program is available online and few programs require on-campus attendance.

Since many programs are designed to meet the demands of working students, the length of the program can vary between 1-2 years. Students complete assignments and lessons at their own pace or pursue part-time study while working. The curriculum prepares teachers to identify mild to mid-level disabilities and optimize teaching strategies to reach students in need of special attention. Core courses address:

  • Strategic collaboration in special education
  • Diagnostic assessment
  • Promoting literacy
  • Advanced instructional strategies

Schools With Online Graduate Programs in Special Education

Purdue University has an online Master of Science in Education in Special Education program that can be completed in 20 months. The program offers four different tracks to help match students to their career goals. These programs include a master's only, master's with initial special education licensure, master's with advanced licensure and master's with advanced licensure- intense intervention only. The master's only track is the only one that does not require a practicum.

Pennsylvania State University also has an online master's program in special education. Their Master of Education in Special Education can be completed in 32 credits and offers an emphasis in autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA) or academic and behavioral support. The program can be completed in about two years and requires a capstone seminar.

Walden University offers an online Graduate Certificate in Special Education that consists of four courses for 12 total credits. Students use a unique virtual classroom to explore various scenarios within special education.

Online certificates and master's degree programs in special education are available from several different institutions. Potential students need to consider which award level they need for their intended career, and how the program formatting and any practicum requirements fits into their schedule.

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