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Common Questions: Online Master's Degree in Special Education

Online Master's Degree in Special Education

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 6.9 million children and youth with disabilities receive special education services each year in our nation's public schools. Expanded definitions of exceptionality under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and greater student opportunity under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are now leading to earlier and better special education access for students with disabilities. In turn, many states and their public school districts are making a large investment in special education and in the teachers who serve this student population.

A master's degree in special education will prepare you to work with children and youth with disabilities in a variety of educational settings. You might lead a special ed classroom, provide students with one-to-one instruction, or serve as a resource for general education teachers who have exceptional learners in their classes. You may also participate in transition planning for a student's life after high school or focus on working with a specific population of students, such as those with hearing impairment, traumatic brain injury or autism spectrum disorder.

Read on to learn more about online master's in special education programs. Both new and experienced teachers can benefit from this degree.

What Is Special Education?

Students with disabilities have a right to the same quality of education

Special education is a term that refers to educational services for children and youth with exceptionalities, and the way teachers work with this population of students. It also references federal education law that requires schools to provide students with disabilities the same quality of education that students without disabilities receive.

Special education is about maintaining an inclusive and accessible school environment, and making sure that students have the learning support and accommodations they need in the classroom.

What Is a Master of Science in Special Education?

The Master of Science in Special Education is a degree that offers current classroom teachers the chance to broaden their knowledge about disability and earn certification in special education. It is also for experienced special education teachers who want to enrich their teaching practice and gain the career benefits that come with a master's degree. Coursework orients teachers to the broader goals of special education and also focuses on evolving definitions and concepts of disability.

Arkansas State University's degree prepares teachers for the vital role they can play in their students' success, both in school and in life.

Which Students Are Eligible for Special Education Services?

There are 13 categories of disability currently covered under the IDEA

There are 13 categories of disability currently covered under the IDEA, but school districts are guided by their state's interpretation of the federal law when it comes to providing special education services. National disability coalition Understood notes that the definition of a learning disability can be different state to state, for example.

According to Understood and the Council for Exceptional Children, students with the following exceptionalities may qualify for special education services under the IDEA:

  • Specific learning disabilities (including dyslexia)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Language or speech impairment
  • Sensory impairment (including deafness, blindness and other forms of visual or hearing impairment)
  • Orthopedic impairment (physical disabilities caused by genetics, disease or accident)
  • Intellectual impairment (including developmental disabilities)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Other health impairments (a range of conditions that can affect a student's learning or educational performance, including asthma, ADHD, cancer, sickle cell anemia, Tourette syndrome and more)
  • Multiple disabilities
 Dr. Gwendolyn Neal, Assistant Professor, online A-State MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program
Our differences shouldn't set us apart, they should bring us together as part of the human race … we all learn differently. We may not all be able to do the same things in the same way, but there are things we can do and things that we excel in, and you find that for each individual that you serve.

Is An Online Master's in Special Education Right for Me?

Is An Online Master's in Special Education Right for Me?

An online master's degree in special education could be a great fit if you're a teacher seeking a fast and flexible path to special ed certification and better opportunity for career advancement. It's also a good option if you're an experienced special education teacher looking to expand your knowledge and pedagogy.

If you are ready to take on new challenges as an educator, or you want to work with a broader range of students as an instructor, this master's degree could be right for you.

What Will I Learn in a Special Education Master's Program?

This master's degree provides students with timely and relevant instruction that can expand their knowledge of disability and enhance their understanding of special education. The degree can also improve a teacher's practical skills in the classroom, whether in working with groups of exceptional learners or with children and youth one to one.

Online graduates of the MSE in Special Education program at A-State learn:

Learn the importance of inclusion and support for positive student outcomes

Cindy Nichols, Instructor, A-State online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program
I want my students to learn how to create engaging, accepting and effective learning environments for their students.

What Kinds of Courses Will I Take for a Master's in Special Education?

Master's coursework in special education gives teachers a comprehensive overview of the teaching field, and helps them refine and strengthen their teaching practice with exceptional learners.

Students in A-State's online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program complete the following to earn the degree:

  • Contemporary Issues in Special Education
  • Characteristics of Individuals with Disabilities
  • Philosophies of Education
  • Educational Diagnosis and Assessment in Special Education
  • Educational Procedures for Individuals with Mild Disabilities
  • Educational Procedures for Individuals with Moderate-Profound Disabilities
  • Teaching Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Special Education Law
  • Collaboration for Special Education Service Delivery
  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Support
  • Introduction to Statistics and Research
  • Special Ed Lab Experiences

Angela McKinnon, 2018 online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 graduate
I really enjoyed Dr. Kimberly Davis' Educational Diagnosis and Assessments class. I liked hearing about how the district goes about administering tests because not every student is given the exact same test. You learn about the different kinds and different purposes of tests.

Can I Get a Master's in Special Ed Without a Bachelor's Degree in Education?

Can I Get a Master's in Special Ed Without a Bachelor's Degree in Education

Yes, as long as you have an active teaching license, whether you earned it through a traditional or alternative certification process. More college graduates from a variety of academic backgrounds are becoming teachers, and many are now choosing to get their master's degree in special education.

If you do not have a teaching certification, but are interested in becoming a teacher while earning a master's degree in special education, consider the .

What Are the Admission Requirements for Master's Programs in Special Education?

Master's program admissions requirements for teachers seeking their initial special education certification may be slightly different than the requirements for seasoned special ed teachers interested in the degree alone. However, here are the most common requirements you'll see for both groups of applicants:

common admissions requirements for an online master's degree in special education
  • A valid teaching certificate
  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
  • Online application for admission (application fees vary by school)
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate programs attended
  • A GPA that meets or exceeds the program's minimum for admission

All applicants for the online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program at A-State must meet each of these requirements, and have either a 3.0 GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework or a 2.75 GPA overall. Candidates for admission must also:

Learn more about our MSE in Special Education online program!

Will I Have to Take the GRE?

Arkansas State does not require the GRE for online master's programs

It depends on your school. Some special education master's degree programs have a GRE requirement for admission, while others do not. Programs that require GRE scores usually do so because they feel the test predicts your chance for success in graduate school.

A-State's online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program does not require the GRE for admission. Applicants are welcome to submit their GRE scores however, if they want that information considered as part of the admissions decision.

Do Master's Programs Accept Graduate Transfer Credits?

Transfer credits to a master's program

Some online master's programs do accept a limited number of credit hours from another college or university, as long as the previous school is accredited. Check with the special education master's programs you are considering for more information.

A-State's MSE in Special Education accepts up to nine graduate hours from other accredited schools (including other degree programs at A-State), . Approval of the MSE director is required, so be sure to complete the Graduate Transfer Credit Evaluation Form early in the application process.

Is Online Degree Accreditation Important?

CAEP accreditation

Yes. Accreditation is just as important for online degree programs as it is for traditional programs. Online programs undergo the same meticulous evaluation and review process during accreditation that on-campus programs do, covering every aspect of their work with students.

All of A-State's education degree programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and the university is also regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Why Should I Choose an Accredited Master's Program in Special Education? What's the Difference?

When your master's program in special education has been approved by accreditors, it has met high standards for its faculty, teaching methods, graduation rates and curriculum. Without accreditation, there is no guarantee for students that their degree program meets the same academic and professional standards.

How Does Accreditation Benefit Online Students?

Accreditation was conceived to benefit students most of all. Here are a few reasons why it matters:

  • Accreditation helps ensure your degree program is training you in a relevant and appropriate manner for the work you plan to do after graduation, and that it's meeting current standards for your profession.
  • Students who attend an accredited school or program are eligible for federal and state financial aid and military education benefits, as well as many employer-sponsored tuition programs. Students who don't attend an accredited school do not enjoy these advantages.
  • Graduates from accredited teacher preparation programs are eligible to work in most publicly-funded schools and school districts in the United States, which require that certified teachers hold a degree from an accredited institution. Many private schools, nonprofits and companies that employ certified special education teachers also have this requirement.

If I'm Already Licensed, Can't I Just Take an Exam to Get Certified in Special Education?

Most states don't allow for 'testing out' for special education certification

While licensed teachers can use certification by examination to qualify in some academic subjects and areas of teaching, most states don't allow "testing out" for special ed certification. The role of special education teacher requires specialized knowledge, skills and training, so lawmakers and state education agencies often set different standards for these teachers.

Completing a degree or certificate program before taking any Praxis exams or state-based tests for special ed certification is a common requirement.

What Is the Special Education Teacher Certification Process?

There is no nationwide standard for special ed teacher certification at present, so each state has its own process and conditions for licensure. Many states have requirements similar to Arkansas, where teachers must:

Prepare for the Praxis 5354 exam

The Praxis 5354 test is required in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and many other states, but each one sets its own passing score for this assessment.

How Do I Find Special Ed Teacher Certification Information for My State?

Check with the special education agency in your desired state of employment to confirm licensure and certification standards there. You can use the interactive state contacts map at the Department of Education to find information on the agencies that govern each U.S. state or territory.

If I Am Certified for Special Ed in One State, Is It Easier to Get Certified in Other States?

Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Missouri, Mississippi and Florida issue special ed teachers a comparable license

It depends on the new state where you want to teach. Research by the nonprofit Education Commission of the States confirms that only six states offer full teacher certification reciprocity by statute, meaning they recognize out-of-state teacher licensure/certification. Currently, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Missouri, Mississippi and Florida will issue special ed teachers a comparable license to the one they hold without further qualification. Some other states, like Oklahoma, issue special ed teachers a provisional license first and grant full reciprocity after a year on the job.

In many places, you'll have to jump through a few hoops to get certified if you're new to the state. You may have to provide evidence of previous teaching success, take additional tests, get a transcript review, or even take additional coursework at an in-state school. The good news is that a number of state legislatures are now working on better reciprocity and on changing their legal standards so it's easier for out-of-state teachers with special education certification to receive full licensure.

Will Employers Care That I Earned My MSE in Special Education Online?

Online degrees are widely accepted by education employers. The fact that you have the right preparation, experience and teaching certificate to work with exceptional children and youth is much more important to recruiters than whether you earned your degree online or on campus.

Learn more about our MSE in Special Education online program!

What Is the Career Outlook for Special Education Teachers?

There is already great demand for certified special education teachers across America, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts steady job growth of 8% for this profession through 2026. BLS data indicates that demand for kindergarten and elementary school special education teachers will be highest during this period, followed by secondary and middle schools teachers.

Since more children are now qualifying for special education services earlier in their lives, BLS also suggests that the need for certified teachers in this area of K-12 instruction may grow faster than predicted. Education market analysis from Burning Glass Technologies projects that job growth for special education teachers through 2026 will significantly outpace the BLS estimate in the following states:

Florida 13.6%
Wisconsin 14.1%
Tennessee 14.4%
Arkansas 14.5%
Texas 18.9%
Washington 19.1%
Colorado 24.2%
Arizona 26.4%

Burning Glass nationwide recruiting data for 2018 through early 2019 also indicates there is plenty of opportunity for new master's graduates in special education right now. Over 76,000 postings for special education teaching jobs during the period required two years of experience or less, signaling very good job prospects for new graduates.

Where Are Special Education Teachers in High Demand?

Some districts seek out teachers for students with specific exceptionalities, such as autism or visual impairment.

According to Burning Glass Technologies, employers in seven states consistently struggle to recruit enough qualified candidates for open special education teaching jobs.

Arizona and New Mexico schools have twice the difficulty filling open jobs as schools in other parts of the country, and Vermont schools must work four times as hard to find qualified candidates. Washington, California, Minnesota and Maryland also experience an ongoing lack of qualified applicants for open teaching jobs in special education.

To learn more about the need for special education teachers across the nation, check out the Department of Education's comprehensive list of federally designated teacher shortage areas. This searchable online resource outlines the demand by state, subject and grade level. It also includes information on districts seeking teachers for students with specific exceptionalities, such as autism or visual impairment.

Do Special Education Teachers Make More Money Than Other Teachers?

They often do, but the difference in pay depends largely on state and school district compensation policies. Your degree, certifications, experience and past performance as a teacher all factor into the equation, in addition to the subjects and grade levels you can teach.

However, your location might be the biggest factor that influences your earning potential as a special education teacher. A quick look at the latest BLS salary data for just a few states demonstrates how much variance there can be.

Average Annual Salary – Secondary School Connecticut California New York Oregon
All teachers, except special and career/technical education $76,980 $80,510 $85,300 $72,640
Special education teachers $77,520 $82,380 $86,330 $84,350

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Where Are Special Education Teacher Salaries the Highest?

The latest BLS salary data indicates that special education teachers in New Bedford, Massachusetts are among the highest paid kindergarten and elementary school educators in the nation, at $93,850 on average. About four hours west in Kingston, New York, special ed teachers at the same grade level average $85,690, and four hours south in Jersey City, New Jersey, they average $78,460.

While each of these salaries exceeds typical pay rates across the country, the difference by location illustrates the fact that place is an important consideration for master's in special education graduates who want to earn more.

Here are a few other places where special education teachers can find higher-than-average pay according to the latest BLS data:

Statistical Area Kindergarten & Elementary Middle School High School
National Average $63,110 $64,390 $65,320
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California) $83,030 $78,560 $100,040
New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) $78,460 $81,310 $89,350
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro (Oregon and Washington) $78,350 $80,480 $85,350
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland) $68,220 $72,250 $69,510
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington (Minnesota and Wisconsin) $66,780 $69,800 $64,590

BLS also notes that a number of school districts throughout California, New York and Alaska offer higher salaries for special education teachers, as do some districts in South Florida and the north and west central regions of New Mexico. According to education nonprofit, top instructors in some school districts can even earn $100,000 or more once bonuses and other forms of incentive pay are added to their base salary.

Spotlight: Signing Bonuses for Special Education Teachers

many districts are offering incentives to special education teachers

A 2018 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) found that two out of three school districts have pay policies that reward teachers for working in high-need schools. But the more surprising fact, according to NCTQ, is that districts are nearly twice as likely to spend money on extra pay and incentives for teachers in high-need subject areas such as special education.

Signing bonuses and other recruitment incentives for special ed teachers are one indicator of the increased competition for their services and their value in the job market. Here are a few examples that illustrate how hard school districts all over the country are working to attract the number and quality of special education instructors they need.

  • The San Francisco Chronicle reports that many California districts with a high need for special education teachers are paying signing bonuses of $4,000-$5,000 and also offering to match the salaries of veteran teachers willing to transfer from higher-paying districts.
  • The New Orleans Advocate reports that the $5,000 signing bonus Louisiana's John the Baptist Parish offers special education teachers to work at low-performing schools is twice what it offers all other teachers.
  • The Charleston Post and Courier reports that competition for teachers in special ed and other high-need areas has become so intense between South Carolina school districts that new hires are receiving stipends for moving, housing and commuting expenses in addition to signing bonuses of up to $5,000.
  • The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the local Knox County School Board has added a $7,000 stipend to its special education teacher recruitment package. This is on top of the $5,000 bonus the district already offers to attract special education teaching talent from higher-paying school districts in Tennessee and beyond.

Can Returning Teachers Make More by Switching to Special Education?

In some districts, yes. Many states are actively recruiting former teachers to fill new roles and offering financial incentives to bring them back. If it's been two years or longer since you taught in an Oklahoma classroom for example, and you want to return as a special education teacher, your timing might just be perfect.

Oklahoma City's KFOR News reports that lawmakers passed House Bill 2645 in early 2019, providing school districts with match funding to help them rehire former teachers and fill critical instruction needs. Teachers who left in good standing are eligible for a one-time signing bonus of up to $10,000 and there are additional pay incentives for special ed teachers at high-need schools.

Is an Online Master's in Special Education Affordable?

There are affordable online master's in special education programs out there

Online master's programs in special education are among the most affordable graduate degrees in the nation. One reason is because online degrees are streamlined to give students the essential coursework and hands-on experience they need, without expensive extras.

There's no need to staff dining halls or maintain dormitory buildings for online students, for instance, or build new football stadiums or parking garages. Online master's programs help you meet your budget for a degree by focusing exclusively on your education.

How Much Is Tuition for a Master's in Special Education Online?

It depends on a few variables, such as your program's per-credit tuition rate, number of credits required and whether you choose to attend a public, private or for-profit school. Public college and university tuition for a master's degree in special education averages $540 per credit hour, while private institutions average $637 per credit hour. Some schools do charge more, however. Per-credit tuition costs can run as high as $886 per credit hour at some public schools, and $1,265 per credit at private schools.

The average tuition for the degree at a for-profit school is $412 per credit hour, but as Forbes has pointed out, that cost savings can come with considerable risk. According to the magazine, for-profit schools account for 96 percent of all college closures in America since 2013, and 94 percent of credits earned will not transfer to a public college or university. For-profits are also less likely to be accredited.

Tuition for A-State's online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 degree is just $11,412 for the entire program. That's only $317 per credit hour.

The cost was a big reason why I chose A-State. The MSE program was extremely affordable. Plus, they guaranteed that the entire program was online.

Do Online Graduate Programs Charge Out-of-state Tuition?

No out-of-state fees for Arkansas State online students

It's not a common practice, but some schools offering online master's degree programs in special education do charge out-of-state students a higher tuition rate.

Tuition policies for the special education master's program at the University of Houston illustrate the type of difference you might encounter. Texas teachers studying there pay $386 per online credit hour, while out-of-state teachers pay more than double that figure, $908 per online credit hour.

All students in A-State's MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program pay the same low tuition rate, whether they live in Arkansas, Texas or even Alaska.

What About Fees — Don't They Add to My Cost?

Yes. You really have to keep an eye on student fees, because they can bump up the cost of your education significantly over time. For instance, online tuition for a master's in special education is $420.19 per credit hour at the University of Arkansas online, but students also pay an additional $43.57 in fees for each credit they earn. By graduation, those fees add $1,568.52 to the cost of the 36-hour degree program.

All fees for A-State's online MSE in Special Education are included in the low tuition rate of $317 per credit hour.

Can I Get Financial Aid for an Online Degree?

Financial Aid for an Online Degree

Online students are no different than on-campus students when it comes to receiving financial aid. As long as you are attending an accredited school, you can apply for federal and state aid. Just be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) by your graduate program's deadline, and provide all documents required to determine your eligibility for scholarships, grants, loans and other forms of assistance.

Arkansas and many other states also have tuition reimbursement and student loan forgiveness programs for teachers. Special education teachers who achieve National Board Certification or participate in the federal TEACH Grant program can receive educational awards as well.

Angela McKinnon, 2018 online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 graduate
I had [considered a master's], but I didn't think I could afford it. When A-State came along with different financial possibilities, my husband and I looked into it, researched and discussed it. We felt like I could do it that way.

Can I Use My Military Benefits to Pay for Online Classes?

Use Military Benefits to Pay for Online Classes

Yes, as long as you are attending an accredited school and your program of study meets U. S. Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs requirements for tuition assistance. Just consult your graduate program's financial aid officer or your school's veterans' affairs office for further information.

Experienced A-State enrollment specialists help military personnel from all branches of the service navigate the application and approval process for government tuition assistance programs. They can also assist service members looking for scholarship opportunities, applying for funding through the Troops to Teachers program, or who wish to transfer education benefits to family members through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Special Education Degree Online?

An online master's in special education usually takes two years to complete, but many students in accelerated degree programs finish faster.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Special Education Degree Online

Students in A-State's online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program can complete the 36-credit degree in a few as 16 months, and many do. But some teachers in the program prefer to move at a slower pace due to work or family obligations, and that's fine too.

One of the best things about getting your graduate degree online is that you have control of your schedule, and you can set your own graduation goal.

How Do Teachers Balance a Full-time Job and a Master's Degree?

Some teachers wonder if the timing and circumstances will ever be right for earning their master's degree, because adding graduate study to a full-time job can certainly be a challenge. However it's one that many teachers find they can handle quite well. Since online graduate courses tend to have weekly readings and assignments rather than ongoing deadlines, and there are no regular class meetings, your study schedule can be as flexible as you need it to be.

Balance a Teaching Job and a Master's Degree

Core skills that teachers bring to their work – such as organization and time management – also tend to serve them well as grad students. As you get oriented to your courses, you may find that your ability to prioritize and coordinate naturally leads you to the most effective way to study week to week. Your ability to communicate as a teacher, and work well with others, can certainly help facilitate a good experience with online peers and professors too.

"The online format was the easiest way for me to do the master's degree. In fact, I would not have been able to do it any other way." – Renee Dixson, 2016 graduate, online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program and special education teacher at Hector Middle School in Arkansas

How Many Hours Per Week Will I Need to Study?

Study time is a bit different for every student, but just consider the difficulty of the courses you are taking as you plan your week. Many professors suggest setting aside three hours of study time for every hour of course credit, and that's a good place to start. You'll probably figure out pretty quickly whether nine hours per week is adequate for your three-credit course, and you can adjust accordingly as you go.

I liked the fact that I usually had all of my assignments fairly early. I had some of them for the whole class and some of them at least for the whole week, so I could plan my schedule and get them done early. I typically took two courses per term, and I usually waited until the kids went to bed and did what I needed to do with school.

Are Online Courses Right for Me?

It depends on how you like to study and whether you like a bit more independence when you do.

Most students who choose a distance education degree find that it's not so different from an on-campus program when it comes to academics. Your courses still work the same way, in that you'll view lectures from your professor, read the textbook, submit assignments and check your grades. And you'll still have to motivate yourself to study, but since there are no class meetings, that's a bit more important.

You may find it much easier to get coursework done when you can make your own schedule and decide how studying fits into your available time. You have a lot more options as a student when "going to class" means logging in to your course anytime, instead of driving to campus several times a week or on the weekends.

Angela McKinnon, 2018 online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 graduate
In the beginning, I was stressed. I was not used to being online. I'm kind of older and used to being in a classroom. It took some time to learn how to adjust to the fact it wasn't directly in a classroom. After that first semester, I got comfortable enough and was able to manage everything.

What Are the Technology Requirements for Online Courses?

Requirements can vary from one school to the next. At minimum you'll need a Mac or PC and an internet connection so you can handle the following aspects of online coursework:

Modern laptop needed for online courses
  • Video streaming and conferencing
  • Live chat and messaging
  • Internet browsing
  • Email
  • Word processing
  • Spreadsheets and presentations

A desktop, laptop or tablet will usually work, but consult your potential master's program for further information on the operating system version you'll need and other requirements. You may also have to add specific software or browser plug-ins to ensure online courses can operate smoothly on your system.

Will I Have Professors I Can Talk to If Needed?

Although professors in online courses are not with you in person, they are still engaged with their students. Aside from teaching your course and grading your work, online professors will usually provide you the same feedback and support that they would if you studied with them on campus. You can connect with them throughout the course, whether you need clarification on deadlines or assignment guidelines by email or you want to talk about a project in a video chat.

 Dr. Gwendolyn Neal, Assistant Professor, online A-State MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program
I want [students] to know that I'm for them. It's challenging coming back at any stage in your life, getting an MSE … Not only am I their professor, but I am an advocate for them. A support system.
Cindy Nichols, Instructor, A-State online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program
Being a special educator requires compassion, patience, determination, flexibility, learning, dedication and hard work. Stay organized and do not be afraid to ask for help.
Cindy Nichols, Instructor, A-State online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program

Do Online Students Take Courses Together?

Yes. Online master's students learn alongside other teachers taking the same courses, even though they may live in different parts of the country. Studying with a diverse group of educators exposes teachers to a wide variety of perspectives on special education. It also provides opportunities for collaboration.

If you're in Arkansas and studying at A-State online, you'll probably have some classmates nearby in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi or Tennessee. Or you may discover that your best study buddies live miles away, as far as Hawaii, Montana or Maine. In an online course, they're all as good as next door neighbors.

How Do I Meet My Classmates?

Online master's students in special education connect with each other in a variety of ways. Here are three elements of online courses that will allow you to meet and work with your classmates:

Online students connect in a variety of ways
  • Discussion boards are active spaces for conversation about a variety of subjects related to the course. Many professors use them as a place for students to talk about readings and other assigned content, and in some courses students can post questions about assignments or other elements of the course for classmates and the professor to discuss.
  • Group assignments and projects in online courses often require students to work together on research and writing tasks, or on presentations. Collaborating with other students is a great way to meet teaching colleagues from other cities and states, and to learn from each other as you work together.
  • Online study groups can help students stay motivated by keeping the conversation going outside of the virtual classroom. Video chat, online hangouts, and meeting apps allow students to get together and work through challenging readings or assignments, or just have some social time together to talk shop about teaching.

"The conversations are dynamic. The students are learning from one another and they're sharing that information and they're able to take it back to their classroom and share." – Dr. Gwendolyn Neal, Assistant Professor, A-State online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program

"I've been in the classroom for 26 years, and special education changes every day. [The MSE degree] really helped with the collaboration with the individuals in the program, between general education teachers and special education teachers. This program was a great way to go." – , 2018 online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program graduate and fifth-grade math and science inclusion teacher at Lewisburg Elementary in Olive Branch, Mississippi

Can I Access Library Books and Reference Materials Online?

Most schools with a master's program in special education also have online library services for students. MSE student support at A-State's Dean B. Ellis library includes:

Access Library Books and Reference Materials Online
  • Video tutorials on using the library's catalog and services
  • Online research databases and journal access
  • 24/7 live chat research assistance (with an actual librarian!)
  • One-to-one librarian consultations via Skype
  • Interlibrary loan services

Are There Support Services Just for Military Members?

Yes. Online degree programs offer many different types of support for military members, including help with financial aid and military benefits. Resources will vary by school, but programs may also provide career services or other supports. The goal is to help you study for your special education master's degree no matter where you are deployed or where you are living after discharge or retirement.

U.S. News & World Report ranks A-State among the Best Online Graduate Education Programs for Veterans in 2019, and the school is proud to provide a range of assistance and support that veterans can use to continue their education.

A-State has also been recognized as a top military-friendly university by the Military Times and veterans career site VIQTORY.

When I Graduate With My Master's in Special Education, Will There Be a Ceremony?

At most schools, yes. The achievements of online students are recognized with graduation ceremonies too. Just be aware that graduation for online and on-campus students is often held together, so you may have to wait until December or May to participate.

''They said that I didn't have to come to campus until the day I graduate. I got my cap and gown on graduation day, and that was the first time I had ever been to Arkansas State. It was very convenient.'' – Renee Dixson, 2016 graduate, online MSE in Special Education – Instructional Specialist K-12 program

Can I Attend Graduation in Person and Bring My Family?

Yes. Inside Higher Ed reports that more online students are now attending their college graduation in person, and even traveling cross country to do so.

A-State encourages all online master's program graduates in special education to come to graduation if they desire, and to bring their loved ones too. It's your time to celebrate with classmates, professors and family.

Learn more about our MSE in Special Education online program!


U.S. Department of Education:
About IDEA
Every Student Succeeds Act
Section 300.8 Child With a Disability
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
IDEA: Section 1414 (d) (1) (A)
Office for Civil Rights: Protecting Students With Disabilities
A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth With Disabilities
State Contacts
Teacher Shortage Areas
FAFSA: Apply for Aid

Make a Difference, Be a Mentor
Process for Evaluation of Candidate Professional Dispositions (PECPD)
Graduate Transfer Credit Evaluation Form
A-State Online for Military
Dean B. Ellis Library
A-State Earns Bronze Rating on Military-Friendly School List

Special Education: Federal Law vs. State Law
The 13 Conditions Covered Under IDEA

The Council for Exceptional Children: Who Are Exceptional Learners?

United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division:

U.S. Department of Labor: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

The Danielson Group: Framework for Teaching (FFT)

Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Educational Testing Service:
Arkansas Test Requirements
Praxis 5511 Fundamental Subjects: Content Knowledge
Praxis 5354 Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications
The Praxis Passing Scores by Test and State

Arkansas Foundations of Reading

Education Commission of the States:
50-State Review: Teacher License Reciprocity
50-State Comparison: Teacher License Reciprocity
Targeted Teacher Recruitment

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Special Education Teachers
Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018, 25-2052 Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School
Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018, 25-2053 Special Education Teachers, Middle School
Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018, 25-2054 Special Education Teachers, Secondary School
May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: New Bedford, MA
May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Kingston, NY

Burning Glass Technologies (reports by state) It Pays to Teach in 2019

National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ): How Are Districts and States Using Pay to Staff High-need Schools and Subjects?

San Francisco Chronicle: SF Offers Rare Signing Bonuses Amid Big Teacher Shortage

New Orleans Advocate: 'Urgent' Need for More Qualified Teachers in New Orleans Metro Area, Experts Say

St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools

Charleston Post and Courier: Amid Teacher Shortage, South Carolina School Recruiters Get Aggressive

Knoxville News Sentinel: Knox County School Board Approves Incentive Plan to Recruit More Special Education Teachers

Knox County Schools

KFOR News: House Approves Bill to Give Former Teachers a Bonus to Head Back to Oklahoma Classrooms

Forbes: 20,000 More Reasons to Never Go to a For-profit School

State of Arkansas:
Financial Aid and Incentives for Teachers
Educator Licensure: Background Checks

U.S. Department of Defense:
Military OneSource: Preparing for Higher Education
Education and Scholarships

Troops to Teachers: Frequently Asked Questions

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

Education and Training: Education Programs

Education and Training: Transfer Post-911 GI Bill to Spouse and Dependents

U.S. News & World Report: Best Online Graduate Education Programs for Veterans

Military Times: Best for Vets - Colleges 2015


Inside Higher Ed: Online Students, On-Campus Graduates