ece top online masters special education degree programs 01

Discover the best online Master’s in Special Education programs to supercharge your educational journey. In today’s ever-evolving learning landscape, we’re gaining new insights into exceptional learners. The need for well-prepared special education educators is more urgent than ever. Whether you’re eager to understand and support students with autism or assist those with visual or hearing impairments, there’s a master’s degree tailored to your goals. Our carefully selected list features programs renowned for their:

  • top-notch education
  • flexible schedules
  • reasonable costs

If you’re ready to advance your career in special education, explore our top ten choices. Take the next step toward making a positive impact in inclusive education.


  • Affordability (1/3): Combined analysis of overall tuition of the program, financial aid or scholarship assistance programs, and estimated cost per credit hour for out-of-state students.
  • Flexibility (1/3): The number of flexibility-enhancing elements specific to the degree program including teaching philosophy concentrations, degree specialties, prior learning or life experience crediting options, accelerated or self-paced courses, personalized student advisement/guidance, and competency-based credit options.
  • Academic Prestige (1/3): The academic prestige of the parent institution operationally defined through the analyses of the rankings/reviews of prominent education review entities such as US News & World Report and The Princeton Review.

1. University of North Dakota – Grand Forks, North Dakota

UND Special Education Strategist specialization

The University of North Dakota is a public institution located in Grand Forks- bordering Minnesota. There are nearly 14,000 students enrolled in this flagship university representing all 50 states as well as 85 countries. An average class size is still only 24 with a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. The athletics division is part of the Big Sky Conference with one of the top hockey teams in the nation. The Higher Learning Commission accredits programs and there are over 225 fields of study. We ranked UND highly due to its academic rigor, high rankings across fields of study and its affordability.

The University of North Dakota has everything you will need to equip yourself for a career in special education. They offer both a Master of Science and a Master of Education. The core of the curriculum is centered around approaches that benefit different learners from diagnosis through to development of curricula approaches.

There are a number of specialization areas students may focus on including:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Behavior Intervention Specialist (BIS)
  • Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)
  • Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD)
  • General Special Education
  • Intellectual Disabilities (ID)
  • Learning Disabilities (LD)
  • Special Education Specialists (SES)
  • Visual Impairment (VI)

In addition to these specializations, UND offers an Applied Behavior Analysis program that is approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

There are several benefits to choosing an online master’s in special education from UND. There are no entry exams and no on-campus travel requirements. Students can take classes on their own time and have the option to complete fieldwork requirements at their workplace. Coursework is tied to practical experience and the master’s capstone project is applicable to the field.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: asynchronous and a number of specializations
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $17,944/year

2. University of Kansas – Lawrence, Kansas

KU online Master’s in Special Education

Founded in 1865, the University of Kansas is the largest public research university in the state of Kansas. US News ranks this flagship school 151st for top schools in the nation and 104th for best colleges for veterans. The University of Kansas has a high acceptance rate and regularly meets the financial needs of its enrolled students. Top education and financial feasibility are not the only reason the University of Kansas is a great pick. Throughout each of its colleges, the University of Kansas seems to be nurturing its students dreams and rewarding them with an education that makes an impact in all areas of study. If you’re looking to achieve your goals at a high-class school for an affordable price, this is a fantastic option.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the University of Kansas has the number one ranked department of special education. The online Master’s in Special Education is lead by the same instructors as those who teach on-campus. The faculty are leader and also innovators within the field of special education, so student learn from those who have professional experience.

Students can customize their special education degree by choosing one of four concentrations including:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Leadership in includive and special education
  • High incidence disabilities
  • Secondary special education and transition

Students benefit from online and asynchronous classes. Most students can complete their degree in two years. We picked the University of Kansas for its exceptionally high rank, high value, and the many areas of focus available.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: two options, multple tracks per option, accelerated
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $23,951/year

3. The University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, Arkansas

University of Arkansas ASD degree

The University of Arkansas (U of A) is a public flagship university with a land and space grant. This university enrolls over 30,000 students representing 50 states and over 120 countries. U of A and is located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. According to U.S. News and World Report, The University of Arkansas is ranked 178th in National Universities and is considered to be one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans.” In terms of research, the University of Arkansas is in the top 2% of colleges nationwide according to The Carnegie Foundation. The Higher Learning Commission accredits U of A. In addition to academic rigor and notable academic colleges we chose The University of Arkansas for its value.

The program from the University of Arkansas received national recognition from the Council for Exceptional Children. The Master of Education in Special Education offers two program paths including:

  • A path for students with a current teaching license who want an endorsement in special education
  • A path for students who need a teaching license and want to teach special education

U of A also offers a graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis. The ABA certificate is suitable for those seeking to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts and provides up-to-date programming approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

Courses are offered 100% online and most students can complete their degree in two years. There are three start dates each year which provides students with additional flexibility.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: two program tracks
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $21,420/year

4. West Virginia University – Morgantown, West Virginia

West Virginia University Master of Art in Special Education

West Virginia University (WVU) is a public university located in Morgantown, West Virginia. WVU has a land and space grant with high research intensity according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. WVU offers comprehensive programing and is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission to offer over 190 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The mission of WVU is to offer high-quality education and promote health and vitality. The natural surrounding beauty and the millions of dollars in grant-funding account for this. In addition, hundreds of distance education courses are offered online. WVU has the entire package, highly trained faculty, connected and conscientious student body, online programming and a low tuition rate. For advancing your career in Special Education, this is a phenomenal option.

West Virginia University offers a 30-credit hour Master of Art in Special Education. The program prepares students to work with children and adolescents with mild/moderate disabilities including:

  • learning disabilities
  • autism
  • intellectual disabilities
  • emotional/behavior disorders

Courses are offered 100% online and taught by nationally and internationally recognized faculty. Part-time students can complete their degree in just 18 months. Applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 2.75. Graduates are eligible for certification through the West Virginia Department of Education Alternative Certification Program.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: online courses, accelerated option for full-time students
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $27,450/year

5. Indiana University – Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana University

Indiana University has a combined student body of 110,000 students with the flagship campus in Bloomington and the Indianapolis campus. Indiana University is ranked 73rd in the nation and 34th among public schools according to U.S. News and World Report. There are also a number of top-notch academic programs (too many to list) all in the top 10 in the nation including management and entrepreneurship. According to U.S. News, Indiana University is also a “Best College for Veterans.” We love this school for its academic rigor, prestige and overall high quality of education in addition to its value.

Indiana University offers one of the most flexible degree programs in our ranking. The online Master of Science in Education in Special Education is a 36-credit hour program that includes both core courses and emphasis area courses. Students can choose from four distinct areas of emphasis including:

  • autism
  • behavior specialists
  • early childhood
  • instructional strategies
  • intense interventions

All students complete an ongoing field-based experience in order to refine their skills. Online courses are taught by the same faculty who teach the on-campus program. Students have access to a variety of academic and other support services to get the support they need to be successful. We like this program for the ability for students to customize their degree and the support provided to online students.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: number of specialty tracks
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $31,932

6. University of Idaho – Moscow, Idaho

University of Idaho

The University of Idaho is a public university with a land and space grant accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. This rural college located in Moscow, Idaho enrolls over 11,000 students and is ranked 185th in “National Universities” and 101st in “Top Public Schools” according to U.S. News and World Report. There are over 250 academic programs available to undergraduate and graduate students both on-campus and online. The student-to-faculty ratio is low at just 16:1. UI recently receive $2.8 million dollars in funding for their online education programs with a mission to train more professionals in the fields of Special Education and STEM subjects. The value, quality of education and its dedication to student success are all reasons to consider UI for your next step in a career in Special Education.

The University of Idaho focuses on both coursework and practicum experiences to help you obtain a well-rounded and hands-on approach to teaching students with exceptionalities. The special education master’s at the University of Idaho offers two different program tracks. Experienced special educators can earn their master’s to expand their knowledge of the field. They can complete additional specialized courses to learn more about a specific area of special education. Students who are new to special education can earn their master’s plus certification in special education. These students will complete a semester long internship to gain hands-on professional experience. This program ranks highly for its flexibility and affordable tuition rate.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: two program tracks
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $26,990/year

7. Concordia University – Saint Paul, Minnesota

Concordia University St. Paul

Concordia University-Saint Paul is a private comprehensive liberal arts university that enrolls 5,544 students. There is a student-faculty ratio of 13:1 and over 80% of professors have terminal degrees. The regional ranking for Concordia University is 92 according to U.S. News. The Higher Learning Commission accredits Concordia University to offer a wide variety of programs for traditional and non-traditional learners, and at the comprehensive level- you can enroll in everything from an online associate’s degree to an online PhD! Saint Paul is the capital of Minnesota, and all of its amenities are just 10 minutes from campus. The same is true of Minneapolis. Students at Concordia enjoy all what the Twin Cities have to offer at a top-rate institution.

Concordia offers three unique online Master of Arts in Education programs in special education. These include:

  • Special Education with ASD Endorsement (MAEd)
  • Special Education with SLD Endorsement (MAEd)
  • Special Education with EBD Endorsement (MAEd)

Courses are accelerated and only take eight weeks to complete. Just like in an on-campus setting, you complete your programming in a cohort. This program is well-rounded, flexible and inexpensive.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: accelerated format with eight-week courses
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $8,550/year

8. The University of Arizona – Tuscon, Arizona

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is a public flagship research university located in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is located an hour from Mexico and is home to many beautiful sites and borders the Saguaro National State Park. The University of Arizona is also one of the world’s premier public research universities. With over 38,000 undergraduate and nearly 11,000 graduate and professional students enrolled, the University of Arizona provides a major economic impact on the state of Arizona, totaling over $8 billion dollars of economic activity impacting. The virtual campus offers a total of 40 online degrees, 22 bachelors, 17 masters, and one doctoral program all accredited through the Higher Learning Commission.

At the University of Arizona, you have the option to choose from two different specializations. These include:

  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Applied Behavior Analysis

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing program prepares teachers to work with student with varying degrees of hearing loss. Students will also gain an understanding of changes in technology and ways to set goals appropriate for these learners (70% of which will learn in the general education classroom.) The ABA program prepares students to provide evidence-based services in ABA in a variety of settings. We like these programs because there is no GRE or GMAT exam required for admission. Students can earn their degree in just 16 months. Online students pay the same rate regardless of where they live.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: two concentration areas, no entrance exams
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $32,290/year

9. University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska

University of Nebraska Lincoln

The University of Nebraska- Lincoln is a public flagship university located in Lincoln, Nebraska. According to US News, UNL is ranked 159th in the nation. UNL is also a member of the Big Ten Conference and according to Carnegie it’s listed as a “Doctoral University [with the] Highest Research Activity.” UNL is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has also been listed as a “best value” public university according to Kiplinger’s and the Princeton Review. The value of this program lies in its fantastic education standards and low cost. That’s why UNL ranks as one of our top 10 schools for a Master’s in Higher Education. In addition to academic rigor, and affordability, Lincoln has more green space (parks) than nearly any other city in America. Students who start at UNL stay at UNL and graduation rate is also high.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers both a Master of Arts and a Master of Education in Special Education. Students can choose from four graduate degree specializations including:

  • Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Students with Visual Impairments
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Orientation and Mobility

MA student complete on a thesis while MEd students focus on the practical side of education. Students must earn a minimum of 36 credit hours to complete their degree. We like this program because of their specialization options and their budget friendly tuition.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: four different specializations
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $17,928/year

10. Ball State University – Muncie, Indiana

Ball State University

Ball State University (Ball State) is a public school located in Muncie, Indiana. Ball State is ranked 216th in the nation according to the US News and is classified as a “high research activity” university by Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Their online programming uses blackboard and peer grouping on assignments. Students engage in quality interactions with professors through email and Skype. They also have access to university library services, Writing Center tutoring and technology support. Ball State makes it to the top of our list for the quality of online education. The ability for students to complete programming from anywhere at any time makes Ball State a great choice for online education.

Ball State provides an extremely flexible option for those looking to advance their career in special education. Students have five license options including:

  • Director of Exceptional Needs
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Intense Interventions
  • Mild Interventions

Students also have the opportunity to complete a graduate certificate along with their master’s degree. Certificate options include:

  • American Sign Language and Deaf Studies
  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Autism
  • Disabilities for Post-secondary Settings with an Emphasis in Autism
  • Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
  • Response to Intervention

The master’s in special education in special education at Ball State is national recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. For those interested in earning a specialized degree in special education, Ball State is a great choice.

  • Homepage
  • Flexibility-Enhancing Options: A number of specializations that can be taken mostly online
  • Estimated Out-of-State Tuition: $26,334/year

Related Resource:


US News and World Report

The National Center for Education Statistics