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Online Masters Degree in Special Education: Where and Why

written by: Elizabeth Porter•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 5/29/2009

Are you looking to advance your career by working with students with special needs? Getting your online masters degree in special education is the next step! Read on to find out why you should do it, where to go and why, and learn how much it will cost you to do it!

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    Why a Degree in Special Education?

    Getting your masters degree in special education prepares you to work with exceptional children, learn the background and methodologies of disabilities, learn inclusion strategies, and how to diagnose and assess disabilities. Most educators will tell you that there definitely appears to be an increase in students diagnosed with special needs. In tough economic times, there is still a need for special education. Plus, you can walk away with the knowledge that you are impacting many children's lives by giving them the strategies and resources that will make the difference between a struggling student and a successful student.

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    Where to Get Your Online Degree

    Where should you get your online masters degree in special education? There are many options out there for you to choose from, but here are some that I found:

    University of Phoenix: They offer a Master of Arts in Education with a specialization in Special Education. Students need to complete a minimum of 100 hours of verified field experiences. Documentation is monitored and maintained in an electronic portfolio. Student teaching helps the graduate student grow to become a better educator and fulfill state standards. There is also an action research project which is typical of most programs.

    Kaplan University: They offer a Master of Science in Education with a specialization in Teaching Students with Special Needs. The program consists of 36 "core" credits that are specific to education, and in addition there are 12 more credits (3 courses) for special education. The courses are pretty typical of most programs, but it is disappointing that there aren't more credits directed at the specific topic of special education.

    Western Governors University: WGU offers a Master of Science in Special Education (PK-12). This is not a traditional program by any stretch of the imagination. Their motto is that they "offer degrees, not courses." Instead of courses they give challenging assessments to test your knowledge in subject areas. Each term is 6 months long. You can complete work at your own pace, but you must complete at least 8 CU's (competency units) in a term. The standard time it takes this program is two to two and a half years.

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    How Much Does It Cost?

    Each university has their own method of charging you for tuition and fees, so careful research is important before making any decisions. I have found all the information available from the aforementioned universities; however, depending on whether you are full-time or part-time or whether you live in a different state from the university can affect the cost. If you have any questions, contact a guidance counselor from the university.

    University of Phoenix: Phoenix makes it pretty easy to see what the costs are, but you still need to get your calculator out to figure out the total cost. For a masters degree it costs $515 per credit, $45 application fee, and a $95 course materials fee. There are 45 credits, so that brings us to roughly $23,315.

    Kaplan University: The special needs program consists of 48 credits. The cost per credit hour at KU is $350. This brings the total cost of tuition to $16,800. This is definitely a bargain! However, this doesn't include the $100 technology fee per term, and you have to deposit $65 at the time of enrollment, but this is credited toward your tuition when you begin classes.

    Western Governors University: They are certainly a special case! It's almost impossible for me to tell you how much it'll cost you in the end since the less time it takes you to complete your degree the less it costs, but here are some prices that they give. If it takes you two years (4 terms) it'll cost you about $11,560, and if it takes you one and a half years (3 terms) it'll only cost you $8,670. This has to be the cheapest degree out there! However, you get what you paid for. You aren't getting the benefit of college professors to guide you and teach you, but if you are able to be self-taught and self-paced then this is an amazing program for you!