Online master's degree programs in teaching special education are readily available from public and private colleges and universities. These programs are primarily designed for experienced educators who already hold a master's or a bachelor's degree in education. They can usually be completed within two years, and some offer the option to obtain certification in special education.
These programs usually lead to a Master of Science in Special Education or a Master of Science in Education with a special education focus. They provide educators with information about the latest developments in teaching students of all abilities. The most current research in areas such as assessment, intervention and neuroscience is covered in many of the programs, which examine the findings and theories of nationally recognized special education experts. Most standard coursework can be completed fully online, though some programs require supervised teaching experience.
Those interested in pursuing an online master's degree in special education must have a bachelor's degree prior to admission. Prospective students may also have to provide documentation verifying their initial teacher certification, although some programs may not require this if the student is not planning to pursue a career in public school teaching after graduation. Schools could require applicants to successfully complete a prerequisite course in special education foundations.
Coursework in online special education teaching programs are designed to be the same as courses conducted on campus. Some programs offer the opportunity to pursue a specialization in areas such as early childhood education, intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorders. Typical courses for an online special education master's degree include:
Instructional Leadership: This course explores the influences that internal and external forces have on the leadership capacity of special educators, such as students' emotional and physical health. Current education trends are discussed.
Strategic Collaboration: Special educators must use teaming and partnerships to maximize the learning potential of each student. The course focuses on this collaboration.
Advanced Strategies of Instruction: Students examine the alternate and varied instruction methods essential to special education. Topics of study include content standards and curriculum.
Literacy: This class helps the special educator identify reading and writing disabilities and explores effective, collaborative intervention methods.
The format of most online master's degree programs is flexible, making the programs convenient for working students who teach full-time during the day. Within a virtual classroom, they can view lecture materials, learning aids or assignments and interact with their classmates and instructors using course chat rooms, discussion boards or video conferencing technology.
Programs that do not offer teacher certification components usually do not have any on-campus or fieldwork requirements. However, those schools that do offer certification options have on-site requirements as part of the program. In such cases, students gain supervised experience working with special education students and their families in K-12 settings.
A distance-learning master's degree program in special education offers fully online coursework to help working teachers enhance their skills and credentials. Programs are offered in certification and non-certification formats and sometimes involve in-person teaching experience.