25 Best Master's in Special Education 2020

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These are the best 25 colleges that offer a Master's Degree in Special Education, based on median salary one year after graduation for students who complete this program. With a median starting salary of $73,900, California State University-Los Angeles outranks the other schools on the list. CUNY Brooklyn College students with this major graduate with $15,000 of student debt, the lowest median debt on the list. The range of median salaries for the top 25 schools is $57,400-$73,900.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 California State University-Los Angeles $17,687 $20,500 $73,900
#2 #2 CUNY Brooklyn College $20,352 $15,000 $66,800
#3 #3 California State University-Dominguez Hills $17,880 $30,702 $66,300
#4 #4 St. John's University $18,836 $44,493 $65,600
#5 #5 Pace University $31,462 $33,901 $64,400
#6 #6 $20,232 $19,042 $64,000
#7 #7 $20,228 $22,496 $63,400
#8 #8 $20,400 $21,716 $63,200
#9 #9 $23,138 $41,289 $62,900
#10 #10 $20,442 $18,750 $62,800
#11 #11 $16,072 $21,760 $61,500
#12 #12 $19,139 $19,290 $60,500
#13 #13 $34,363 $34,200 $60,400
#14 #14 $26,479 $28,882 $60,200
#15 #15 $17,525 Not Reported $60,100
#16 #16 $15,480 $51,290 $59,900
#17 #17 $17,831 $19,552 $58,800
#18 #18 $25,162 $40,513 $58,800
#19 #19 $21,998 $40,140 $58,700
#20 #20 $16,950 $34,375 $58,400
#21 #21 $28,881 $30,404 $58,100
#22 #22 $21,850 $22,000 $57,600
#23 #23 $26,814 $29,523 $57,600
#24 #24 $18,198 $22,499 $57,400

2020 Best Master's Program Highlights

Median Debt
$20,500
Median Salary
$73,900

California State University-Los Angeles features a Master of Arts in Special Education through the Division of Special Education and Counseling of CSULA’s Charter College of Education. The degree can be completed in two years and requires 30 to 37 credits.

Students can choose from a variety of specialties in the degree. There are two specialties relating to visual impairment: Visual Impairment and Blindness – Orientation & Mobility and Visual Impairment and Blindness – Teacher Preparation. Other specialties include Multicultural/ Multilingual Special Education, Physical and Health Impairment, Early Childhood Special Education, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe Disabilities.

The program's goal is to provide administrators, teachers, and others with advanced preparation to work with exceptional learners. Students will learn current theory and methods for teaching in special education, the importance of working with family and community, and legal issues and professional ethics. Courses in the program include Problems and Practices in Special Education, Behavioral Assessment and Intervention, and Legal and Ethical Issues in Applied Behavioral Analysis

Visit California State University-Los Angeles’s website.

Median Debt
$15,000
Median Salary
$66,800

CUNY-Brooklyn's Master of Science program in Teacher of Students with Disabilities in Childhood Education (1-6) has two tracks: traditional and bilingual. These are on-campus programs that may be completed in two years. The traditional program requires 30 credits, and the bilingual program requires 45. There are several variants in the traditional program in terms of credit requirements, depending on a student’s previous teacher preparation and coursework. Applicants must have a New York State Initial Certificate in Early Childhood or Childhood Education.

The program is being redesigned to reflect the above requirements. It will resume accepting students for the 2020-21 academic year. The overall emphasis is effective application of theory, assessment and effective intervention, collaboration with families, and designing learning environments that produce active participation. Students will learn assessment and intervention strategies, interpersonal skills for working effectively with families and colleagues, and professional ethics.

Among the courses in the curriculum are Learning Environments for Students with Special Needs, Advanced Methods for Teaching Children Mathematics, and The Family and Community of Students with Special Needs.

Brooklyn College is one of 26 colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. It’s located in Brooklyn, one of New York City’s boroughs.

Visit CUNY Brooklyn College's website.

Median Debt
$30,702
Median Salary
$66,300

California State University Dominguez Hills features a Master of Arts in Special Education. This is a 30 credit program that is usually completed in two years. The program is heavy on experience, and students choose one of two pathways: Intern or Student Teaching.

The program emphasizes communication skills, ethical, legal, & professional conduct, and best practices in working with students with special needs and their families. Students will specialize in one of three areas. They may choose Mild/Moderate Disabilities (M/M), Moderate/Severe Disabilities (M/S), or Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE). Both M/M and M/S result in credentials to provide K-12 services and classes for adults up to age 22. The ECSE is for M/M and M/S services for children up to age 5 and their families.

The credential process for some options requires credits beyond the basic 30. For example, the Student Teaching option in ECSE requires 42 credits, 7 of which are in student teaching in the classroom. The ECSC Intern option requires 47 credits, 10 of which are in practicums. Among the courses offered are Behavior Management in School Settings, Collaborating to Develop Self Determined Learners, and Assessment of Students with Mild/Moderate Disabilities.

CSUDH is located in Carson, California, in the Los Angeles metro area.

Visit California State University-Dominguez Hill’s website.

Median Debt
$44,493
Median Salary
$65,600

St. John's University offers several Master of Science in Education in Special Education degree options. They are available at the Queens and Staten Island campuses and the Long Island Graduate Center. Several programs are on-campus only and one is online. The basic degree is the MSEd in Children and Childhood Special Education. There is also an MSEd in Special Education: Career Change. The programs usually take 2 years for completion.

The MSEd in Adolescent Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities (7-12) is a 33 credit program. The Early Childhood (B-2) is a 45-48 credit program. The 33 credit MSEd in Teaching Children with Disabilities in Childhood Education (1-6) is offered both on campus and online.

The program focus is developing student skills and abilities to identify and remediate learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. Students will learn to provide safe and nurturing learning environments for students with mild to profound disabilities. They will learn best practice collaboration with families, teachers, and other service providers. Courses in the programs include Teaching and Learning: Childhood, Adapting and Modifying Curricula, and Educating Individuals with Exceptionalities. Program completion leads to New York state certification.

Visit St. John's University's website

Median Debt
$33,901
Median Salary
$64,400

Pace University-New York features a Master of Education in Special Education. This 30 credit degree is offered on both the New York City and the Westchester campuses. The degree is designed for students who already have initial certification in Childhood or Adolescent Education.  It can be finished in 18 to 24 months of full-time study, or 24 to 36 months part-time. It leads to a certificate in Teaching Students with Disabilities. Students choose one of two concentrations: Childhood or Adolescent.

The program focuses on theory, technique, and practice and ends with a one-semester practicum, emphasizing inclusive practices and differential instruction. Students will learn to work with both typical and atypical learners. Courses offered include Trends and Issues in Special Education, Child Abuse and Violence Prevention, and Supporting Positive Behavior and Autonomy.

Pace's campuses are in Manhattan and in Pleasantville, in suburban Westchester county.

Visit Pace University's website.

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