Online graduate programs & master’s in special education at KU

#1 Online master’s in special education

 in the nation1

Multiple program offerings

 in autism, leadership and transition; master's degrees, graduate certificates and licensure endorsements are available

Setting the standard

 KU has been educating special education professionals for over 50 years


The University of Kansas online special education programs help guide educators who support students with disabilities as they work to achieve their full potential. They are leaders and advocates—educators, other professionals and family members—who must understand the unique abilities and needs of persons with disabilities.

Online graduate study through the University of Kansas School of Education and Human Sciences can prepare you to enter or advance your career in this in-demand field. Our online Master’s in Special Education has been ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report,1 and in this department you'll learn from faculty members who are internationally acclaimed as academics and educators who adeptly balance research, policy and practice. Through applied experiences and case-based learning, build a toolkit of special education resources and techniques with true real-world application that will help you make a difference in the lives of students with disabilities, their families and others.

Find the right program for you

Autism spectrum disorder

Gain the foundational and advanced knowledge and skills you need to serve students identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Which online graduate program in ASD is right for you?

  1. I want a master's degree to focus my professional career as a specialized ASD educator or service professional. Explore the online master's in ASD
  2. I already have a master's degree or am not ready for a full master's program, but I want to be better equipped to work with children with ASD in my current career or as an advocate. Explore the online graduate certificate in ASD

What is a master’s in special education, graduate certificate, or licensure endorsement?

Graduate certificates, licensure endorsements, and master’s degrees are all forms of postgraduate education. There are a few factors to consider when choosing between the three, including your qualifications, desired career outcomes, and how much time and money you’re willing to invest.

Graduate certificate

  • Recognition of specialized training
  • Does not require an undergraduate or master’s degree in teaching or special education
  • Usually takes less than a year to complete

Licensure endorsement

  • Recognition of specialized training
  • Requires a teaching license, undergraduate degree, or master’s degree in teaching or special education
  • Usually takes about two years to complete

Master’s degree

  • Advanced graduate degree
  • Requires a teaching license, undergraduate degree, or master’s degree
  • Usually takes about two years to complete

What to expect from an online master’s in special education program

Female educator works with student on laptop

An online master’s in special education degree is a great way to expand your knowledge, learn new strategies, and evolve your training to serve students with disabilities. When you apply, you’ll be asked to submit a collection of materials including a completed application, transcript, and two fieldwork practicums to make sure you’re a good fit for the program. You can find a more detailed checklist of our application requirements on our Admissions page.

Once the program starts, you’ll be able to complete your coursework whenever and wherever you prefer through our innovative online learning system. Every student is different, but you should expect to spend 8-10 hours per week on master’s work. Courses typically include a mix of observation, group discussions, projects, assessments, and persona-based case studies, with each course lasting eight weeks. The number of credits you’ll take, as well as the cost and length of the program, will depend on the online master’s degree that you choose, but most students graduate within two years.

For specific information about our programs, tell us more about you in this short form.

Filling the gap in special education

The need for special education teachers and professionals is growing: about 38,600 openings for special education teachers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from replacing workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.2 To fill this need, we offer several online graduate programs on different topics for those who want to deepen their expertise in special education, or those that want to move into this concentration.

Since there are so many different positions in multiple industries (education, government, etc.) that you can obtain with an online master’s in special education, the average salary can vary greatly. However, 88% of large districts (including the 100 largest districts in the country and the largest in each state) offer additional pay to teachers who have master's degrees. This starts as an additional $2,760 in the first year of teaching and grows to an average of $7,358 more per year at the maximum point of the pay scale.3

Career outcomes

With an online master’s in special education or similar graduate credential, you could go on to thrive as a:
  • Primary or secondary special education teacher
  • Director or administrator of special education/Exceptional Student Education (ESE) programs
  • Autism or behavioral specialist
  • Educational advocate/consultant
  • Special education resource specialist
  • Transition specialist/coordinator
  • Disability services professional

Find more career statistics

Admission requirements

Review the necessary admissions requirements for an online master’s in special education or graduate program from the Department of Special Education.

Financial aid options

Learn more about your options for financing your graduate education.

Explore Our Online Experience

Discover how students collaborate and develop their professional potential through our online classroom.

Featured articles

Read on to learn about the highest paying special education careers that are available to educators who have the right experience and skills which can be learned in a top-ranked special education master’s programs from a leading university.


Application Deadline
December 17
Spring 2023 Term
Next Start
January 9
Spring 2023 Term


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