If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of students with learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities, then a career in special education could be right for you. It’s a rewarding and fulfilling job in which you can help students with a range of complex problems to take steps forward in their lives. It is also a growing sector that can span industries such as education, clinical services, publishing, or consulting. Those with a special education master’s degree are in demand from various institutions as a result of their tailored, specific knowledge. 
While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.
In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.
For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.
If you are not sure whether a master’s in special education is the right choice for you, it is important to consider the other options available in similar areas. These might include:
When conducting your research into special education master’s programs, you might find the following organizations and associations to be useful. These industry associations bring together like-minded individuals and academics for networking, career advice, and educational support. These include:
One of the core certifications to work in special education is the AASEP Professional Board Certification in Special Education.  It is voluntary, but it demonstrates to employers, peers, and parents that you are committed to excellent standards and high-quality teaching principles, and are highly competent in special education.
The AASEP Professional Board Certification in Special Education seeks to create an industry standard recognized across various disciplines and by all professionals working in the sector.  It represents the graduate’s qualifications and standards, highlighting that they have obtained a certain level of knowledge and experience. It also helps to increase the visibility, expertise, and credibility of your skills with those working outside the profession.
It is the highest level of certification that can be obtained from the AASEP, although it doesn’t replace state licensing. State licensing puts in place a series of entry-level standards to be upheld by special education professionals, while the AASEP Professional Board Certification in Special Education establishes an advanced level of standards for those working in this field. It is important to check with the state you are working in and the various professional governing bodies you are accountable to, to establish what certification and licensure is required.
The AASEP Professional Board Certification in Special Education can help you:
To gain this certification, you will need a master’s degree from an accredited U.S. or Canadian institution of higher education. Alternatively, you must have studied at a university outside of these countries that meets the standard equivalent to those accredited in the U.S. Your master’s degree must be in a related field. 
To gain the certification, you must complete the following five certificates:
Some concentrations will prepare students to take other licensure exams. You might also consider taking your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) graduate-level certification. If you are certified at the BCBA level, this means you are a professional practitioner who can provide behavior analysis services. This certification demonstrates that you have met the highest standards in terms of ethics, discipline, and training. It is a recognized industry standard that garners respect and credibility. 
A Master of Education in Special Education degree allows educators to learn about evidence-based practices to support development in students with exceptional needs or those who are at risk.
Most master’s degrees in special education are specifically designed for experienced educators who have their bachelor’s degree and teaching license.
This program typically focuses on current trends and topics that are relevant in the field of special education.
The standard GPA required for admission is a 3.0 on a 4.0 GPA scale.
Some colleges may require you to have a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate discipline.
Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.
Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.
The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.
There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. 
The typical core courses of a special education master’s degree program may include subjects such as educational research, foundations, trends, and issues in special education, inclusive classroom practice, and evidence-based practices.
When searching for a master’s in special education graduate-level program, you must look at the course offerings, specializations, and accreditation.
Many institutions offer Master of Education in Special Education degrees online.
Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.
Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.
Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.
Most colleges offer customizable master’s degrees in special education. Students can choose from a variety of areas of emphasis to study, such as Transition to Work, Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism, Educational Diagnostician, Infancy and Early Childhood Special Education, and more.
An M.Ed. in Special Education with a specific specialization or concentration can make you more marketable based on the needs of an organization or institution.
The typical job titles for special education include special education teacher: early/Pre-K to 12; ESE teacher for higher-incidence disabilities; teacher/specialist: autism spectrum disorders; teacher/specialist: emotional or behavioral disorders. 
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), the median pay for special education teachers in 2015 was $56,800. 
No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.
Search for online programs that are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP accreditation assures the quality of departments, schools, and colleges that prepare teachers in the United States. 
A particular college’s program costs are mostly determined by the institution’s instructional budget, not accreditation status.
Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.
SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.
Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. 
Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.