As classrooms and federal policies evolve to be more inclusive of students with learning disabilities, Special Education teachers are in increasingly high demand. Over the past decade, the number of students participating in Special Education programming has grown by a whopping 30 percent.

The rising number of students enrolled in Special Education programs helps explain why there are more than 439,000 vacant Special Education teaching jobs across the country and 49 states report a shortage of Special Education teachers. In light of this demand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job growth in the field of Special Education will increase at a rate of eight percent through 2026. Per the BLS, Special Education teachers who help fill this shortage can expect to earn a median salary of $57,910 for their efforts. (For comparison’s sake, a teacher who does not specialize in Special Education and teaches secondary education earns a median salary of $58,030; one who teaches kindergarten or elementary school students earns a median salary of $55,490; and one who teaches middle school students earns a median salary of $56,720 per year.)

For those with the passion and character to serve students with learning disabilities, the best entree into the field exists in the form of a Masters in Special Education. Here’s why: In order to become a Special Education teacher in the U.S., would-be teachers must obtain their teaching licensure. As part of this process, many states require the student to have an advanced degree or certificate in Special Education.

Not only does obtaining a Masters degree in Special Education facilitate teaching licensure, but it also prepares graduates to meet the specific needs of preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, and/or adult students at risk for or living with a wide range of learning, physical, mental, and/or emotional disabilities. It can also open up a number of career pathways for those looking to advance their prospects in the field of Special Education.

If you’re thinking about pursuing a Masters in Special Education, there are a number of things you should take into account as you begin your school search. This guide sets out to help you in your decision making process.

In the following sections, we’ll provide some background on the benefits and qualifications conferred by a Masters in Special Education, share some information about how we created this guide and who it’s for, and provide a list of important considerations for anyone pursuing a Masters in Special Education — as well as some suggestions for programs that may fit the bill. While finding the right program can feel like a daunting process, our hope is that this guide will make your search that much easier.

Who This Guide Is For

This guide sets out to educate prospective Masters in Special Education students with the information necessary to make an informed decision as to the program you want to attend. Whether you’re a current teacher seeking to specialize in Special Education or a would-be Special Education teacher with no previous teaching experience, this information is for you.

For the purposes of this guide, we’re assuming you already possess a Bachelor’s degree or higher and that you’re interested in teaching children and individuals with learning disabilities. Because much of our readership lives within 150 miles of the Washington, D.C. region, you’ll notice that many of the programs we’ve selected fall into that locale. Don’t fret if you’re not from the Mid-Atlantic or if you’re looking for an online program; we’ve also included schools that fall beyond the scope of D.C. Many of the online schools help prepare students for teaching not only in the states in which these schools are located, but also through licensure reciprocity with other states around the country.

In the following sections, we’ll shed light on the types of questions any education seeker should ask before committing to a program. This will help you determine your priorities and aid you in your search for the program that best suits your needs.

We’ll also jump start your exploration of the huge variety of Masters in Special Education programs available. There are over 1,000 schools of education in the country and 250 alone in the 150 miles surrounding our nation’s capital, so this guide is meant to help you sort through your options without becoming overwhelmed. We’ve done this by outlining our picks for various programs based on the pain points and priorities students are likely to encounter during their search process.

Background on Masters of Special Education – Learning Disabilities

As a general rule, Special Education Masters programs use a combination of coursework and fieldwork to prepare graduates to meet the specific needs of students with learning disabilities. After earning a Masters in Special Education and obtaining their teacher licensure (or pursuing a Special Education Masters program with licensure included), graduates will be qualified to teach in a variety of classroom settings, from elementary to high schools, public to private schools, and so on.

For those who do not enroll in a Special Education Masters program with licensure, the teacher licensure process generally involves the following: passing a standardized test (such as the Praxis I and two Praxis II exams or another state-mandated exam), presenting verification of completion of a state-approved teacher education program (such as a Masters in Special Education degree), submitting transcripts for all of your degrees, completing an FBI criminal background check, providing verification of previous teaching experience (if applicable), and submitting a processing fee.

Once the teaching licensure process is complete, Masters in Special Education graduates will be qualified to get to work. As teachers, they’ll hold a number of responsibilities, including:

  • Developing individualized education programs (IEPs) for their students
  • Implementing curricula for a variety of subjects and life skills ranging from communication strategies and following directions to basic reading, writing, and math
  • Collaborating with general education teachers, parents, counselors, social workers, teacher assistants, school superintendents, and psychologists to ensure the best possible attention is paid to students’ needs, experiences, and progress

Some teachers may choose to specialize in working with students of a certain age group or with a certain category of disability, such as high-incidence disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, autism spectrum disorders, or low-incidence disabilities such as sensory, developmental, or multiple/severe disabilities.

In addition to teaching, a Masters degree in Special Education opens up pathways to a variety of different career opportunities. These include childcare services, occupational or physical therapy, speech language pathology, school counseling, program or school administration, residential programming, or teaching would-be Special Education teachers at a college or university. So if you’re wondering, “But what can I do with a Masters in Special Education?,” the answer is: Quite a lot!

If you’re considering earning a Masters in Special Education in order to serve students with learning disabilities and access the career opportunities this degree can afford, then your first step is to research the different programs available to you.

Our research revealed there are more than 1,000 Schools of Education in the country as well as hundreds of teacher preparation programs offered at non-University institutions. The sheer number of programs on offer can make it extremely difficult to determine which program suits you best.

That’s exactly where this guide comes in. We’ve done the legwork for you to help narrow in on some of the many different options available and determine which questions to ask in order to find the right fit.

Research Methodology

In order to develop this guide, we first consulted the National Council on Teacher Quality, U.S. News and World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and various Department of Education websites within a 150-mile radius of Washington, D.C.

After researching a complete list a large list of potential programs for inclusion in our guide, we narrowed down the list by confining it to Schools of Education that had Special Education programs designed for aspiring teachers. (That’s not to say current teachers cannot enroll in these programs, but these programs are designed to help would-be teachers receive their teaching certificate.)

In the end, we selected 16 Special Education Masters programs to include in this guide:

  • American University Masters of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
  • Catholic University of America Special Education Graduate Degree
  • George Washington University Masters in Secondary Special Education
  • Johns Hopkins University Masters of Science in Special Education: Mild/Moderate Disabilities
  • Kansas University Masters in Special Education – High Incidence Disabilities
  • Michigan State University Masters of Arts in Special Education
  • Purdue University Masters with Initial Special Education Licensure
  • Saint Joseph’s University Special Education (PK-8 or 7-12) – Education M.S.
  • Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Masters of Arts in Special Education
  • Towson University Masters of Arts in Special Education
  • Trinity Washington University Masters of Arts in Teaching Special Education
  • University of Maryland Special Education, Masters of Education with Certification
  • University of Southern California Masters of Arts in Teaching – Special Education
  • University of Virginia Master of Teaching – Special Education
  • West Virginia University Online Special Education M.A. and Certification
  • Xavier University Master of Education in Special Education

After compiling these selections, we set about researching the minutiae of each program. We conducted this inquiry through a combination of online research and phone or email interviews with representatives from each institution. Through interviews with prospective and current teachers to better understand what mattered most, we focused our research on the following categories:

  • Admission requirements
  • Online coursework
  • Flexibility of scheduling
  • Cost considerations
  • Class size
  • Faculty
  • Student support
  • Curriculum
  • Teaching licensure pass rate
  • Alumni network
  • Post-graduate teaching opportunities
  • Job placement and preparation

In order to keep things from getting too overwhelming, we selected only our top three picks for each of the categories. These picks should not be taken to mean that the three schools represented in each section are the only schools that fall into those categories. They are simply our top picks based on the information we were able to obtain about the different programs.

A note on some of these categories:

We learned during our research phase that it’s difficult to track down information about the following:

  • Starting salaries
  • Job placement rates in Special Education teaching roles
  • Special Education teaching licensure pass rates
  • The types of school settings graduates are most likely to teach in after earning their degrees

We believe it is important to provide this information, because it offers prospective students essential insights into their potential career opportunities after graduation. However, some schools do not track this data, while others prefer not to release it publicly. This means that in many cases it is difficult to secure this data from a trusted, first-party source. Thus, developing recommendations in these areas becomes more complex. We have provided the most detailed and accurate information we were able to obtain, but we encourage you to contact prospective schools with additional questions along these lines.

How to Use This Guide

Prospective Masters in Special Education students can utilize this guide in a number of ways:

  • Browse through the category subheads to develop a sense of the kinds of questions we asked of each program. This will give you insight into the types of questions you should be asking as you research potential schools.
  • If you’re already clear on your priorities when it comes to choosing a program, scroll to the category(s) that matter most to you to see our top picks based on our in-depth research into a variety of programs.
  • Browse through the entire guide to develop a broad sense of the kinds of programs available to you as well as our top picks for each of the categories included in this guide.

As you read through the guide, keep in mind that there is no “best” or “perfect” Masters of Special Education program — but there is possibly a “best fit” for you.

Our Picks

Teaching Special Education in Washington, D.C. Teaching Special Education in Washington, D.C.

If you’re looking to live and work in Washington, D.C. after graduation, then it’s a smart idea to pursue a degree that prepares you to work in an urban setting. The following programs offer opportunities to conduct fieldwork in urban areas, which means graduates will be well equipped to respond to the demands of a city classroom.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

American University is located amidst the bustling streets of Washington, D.C. While its program takes place online, any local students who enroll in the program will be able to avail themselves of the University’s close connections with schools in the city and surrounding region. The opportunity to conduct fieldwork in D.C. schools offers stellar preparation for working in urban and suburban schools throughout the D.C. area after graduation. Additionally, American boasts alumni throughout the city, which makes networking a breeze.

Catholic University of America Department of Education

Special Education Graduate Degree
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Thanks to its stellar location in Washington, D.C., Catholic University of America has developed partnerships with schools throughout the city and the surrounding region. These include the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Washington, public schools throughout D.C. and Maryland’s Prince George’s County, and a number of specialty and charter schools in the same area. The opportunity to gain 500 hours of field experience in this region greatly prepares program graduates to secure employment in Washington, D.C.

George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Masters in Secondary Special Education
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 4 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Like American and Catholic Universities, George Washington is located smack dab in the heart of Washington, D.C., so it should come as no surprise that students enrolled in GWU’s program are afforded the opportunity to conduct their fieldwork in and around D.C. Whether you’re looking to teach in a public or private school or an inner-city or suburban setting, the internship program facilitates experiential learning in D.C. schools and prepares graduates to continue working in the D.C. area.

Job Placement Rate into Special Education Teaching Roles Job Placement Rate into Special Education Teaching Roles

As we mentioned in the introduction to this guide, Special Education teachers are in high demand across the country. This means a degree from virtually any accredited program should set you up for a great chance of job placement after graduation. But in case you need more proof, the job placement rates at the following institutions speak for themselves.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

Because American University’s online Masters of Arts in Special Education is just starting up, the university does not yet have data on job placement rates for this specific program. That being said, the school’s existing Masters of Arts in Special Education degree boasts a job placement rate of 100 percent.

George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Masters in Secondary Special Education
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 4 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Approximately 90 percent of all graduates from GWU’s program receive job placements in school districts within six months of graduation. (Other graduates go on to obtain jobs in government agencies, hospitals, and so on.) Once placed, these new teachers demonstrate high retention rates: After four years, 80 percent of them are still in the school system.

Towson University College of Education

Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: Towson, Maryland
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Between 95 and 100 percent of Towson University graduates obtain jobs in their field within the first six months after graduation. Not only that, but the majority of them are employed even before they graduate.

Special Education Teaching Licensure Pass Rate Special Education Teaching Licensure Pass Rate

For the most part, once you’ve earned a Masters in Special Education, you’ll still need to obtain your teaching licensure prior to landing a job in the classroom. (Some Special Education Masters programs include licensure, while students of other programs will need to pursue licensure on their own after graduation.) Teaching licensure pass rates can give you some indication of how successfully a given program prepares its graduates for success in teaching roles. Unfortunately (as noted in the Research Methodology section), we discovered this data is often hard to find, either because schools don’t track this information or because they prefer not to disclose it. Thus, we were only able to hunt down reliable teaching licensure pass rate data from the following two schools.

Towson University College of Education

Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: Towson, Maryland
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Graduating cohorts at Towson University boast a whopping 100 percent pass rate when it comes time to obtain their teaching licensure.

Xavier University

Online Master of Education in Special Education
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Location: Cincinnati, OH
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Cost: Cost 2 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

As of 2013, Xavier University graduates who pursue teaching licensure pass their state exams at an impressive rate of 99 percent.

Cost-Conscious Students Cost-Conscious Students

For most people interested in Special Education masters programs, one of their primary considerations is cost. If you’re looking to earn your degree without breaking the bank or taking on years and years’ worth of student debt, these programs offer some of the most cost-conscious degrees.

Purdue University College of Education

Online Master of Science in Education in Special Education
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Location: West Lafayette, IN
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Cost: Cost 2 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

In-state students enrolled at Purdue can obtain their degree for a relative steal: The per-credit cost is $329.05, or $10,783.35 total tuition. Out-of-state students will pay significantly more, but the cost is still on the lower side among the programs we reviewed: $650 per credit hour or $20,732.80 tuition. Additional costs are nominal and include things such as books and supplies.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Online Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: Winona, MN
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Those pursuing the on-campus M.A. and certificate program at Saint Mary’s University pay $475 per credit, while online students pay $510 per credit. Students are also financially responsible for all course materials and textbooks. Additional fees are relatively minor; they include charges such as final paper presentation fees, student teaching fees, and graduation fees.

West Virginia University

Online Special Education M.A. and Certification
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Location: Morgantown, WV
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Course fees at WVU are currently $561 per credit; each course amounts to three credits. There are only two other costs associated with enrollment: All students are responsible for purchasing textbooks, and those students who carry more than six credit hours at a time are billed for health insurance.

Planning to Study 100 Percent Online Planning to Study 100 Percent Online

Everybody learns differently. In fact, that’s one of the core tenets of Special Education. So it’s important to consider your preferred learning style before committing to a program. Maybe you can’t fathom learning outside of a classroom — or maybe you can’t fathom learning in one. Perhaps you simply don’t live near any of the schools on this list, and you’re not able to uproot your whole life in order to obtain your Masters. No matter your situation, these programs enable you to earn a Masters in Special Education online.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

American University’s newly created online Special Education Masters program enables students to obtain their degree in a convenient online-only format. Classes meet via live video conferencing; students connect with faculty during virtual office hours or scheduled virtual appointments; and students are invited to attend a number of events via live stream in order to feel like they’re part of the university community. The fieldwork component of the program takes place offline in students’ local communities; program administrators will provide ample support for coordinating these opportunities.

Michigan State University College of Education

Online Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: East Lansing, MI
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Cost: Cost 3 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Ti

The entirety of the MSU Masters curriculum is conducted online, and it’s designed to accommodate both full- and part-time students. The structure of each online course varies depending on the faculty member in charge; many courses utilize some form of video conferencing. Students are not required to interact with faculty or other students in any capacity other than online, but they’re welcome to engage offline if they so choose.

West Virginia University

Online Special Education M.A. and Certification
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Location: Morgantown, WV
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The entirety of the WVU Online Special Education Masters program takes place online via live video conferencing. All classes will utilize the Blackboard platform, while others may utilize additional technologies in order to further facilitate interactions between students. Students work together via group projects and discussions and have plenty of virtual interactions with faculty as they pursue their Masters in Special education online.

Low Barriers for Admission Low Barriers for Admission

We get it: Not everybody got through undergrad with a flawless transcript. If your undergraduate transcript is nothing to write home about but you’re passionately committed to earning a Masters degree in Special Education, don’t fret. The following programs will still consider you for admission even if your parents never tacked your report card up on the fridge.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

The School of Education at American University teaches its graduates to engage with their students as individuals — so it’s fitting that the school practices what it preaches. The admissions team reviews applications as a whole rather than focusing exclusively on test scores or GPA. Here’s what that looks like in terms of admission requirements:

  • When a student applies with a GPA of less than 3.0, they are asked to include an essay reflecting on why this is the case. This helps the admission staff assess whether the applicant in question has the capacity to understand who they are as a learner.
  • All applicants are also asked to submit evidence of having passed the Praxis Core or equivalent. Those students with a 3.0 GPA or higher on their undergraduate transcript will have until the first semester of the program to pass the exam. Parts or all of the Praxis Core may be waived for those who have demonstrated equivalent capabilities on the SAT, GRE, or ACT.

Purdue University College of Education

Online Master of Science in Education in Special Education
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Location: West Lafayette, IN
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Cost: Cost 2 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The primary requirement for admission to Purdue’s program is very straightforward: Applicants must have earned a 3.0 GPA or higher during their undergraduate program. That being said, not having this GPA doesn’t mean someone will be disqualified for admission. It simply means they must submit GRE scores of 1631 or more that are less than five years old. Depending on the applicant’s intended track, they may or may not have to submit scores from the ACT, SAT, or GRE.

Trinity Washington University

Special Education (M.A.T.)
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 3 icon

Prospective students may submit applications to Trinity Washington free of charge, and the university is especially generous when it comes to its admission requirements:

  • Applicants with a GPA of slightly less than 3.0 are welcome to apply; the cutoff to apply is a GPA of 2.8.
  • The only test score required for application to the program is a passing Praxis score in math, reading, and writing.

High Starting Salary High Starting Salary

When you invest time and money in obtaining a Masters in Special Education, you want to see notable returns for your efforts. Your starting salary will vary depending on the region in which you teach, your specialty, and the school in which you are placed, so there is no guarantee of a specific salary. The ambiguity here helps explain why many schools do not track this data, while others choose not to disclose it. As a result, we were not able to obtain reliable salary data from the bulk of the schools we researched. One exception to this general rule is American University.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

The university’s existing Masters of Special Education program (which, again, is not to be confused with the new online program) discloses the following data:

  • 52 percent of its graduates make between $50K and $60K per year
  • 18 percent of its graduates make between $40K and $50K per year
  • 12 percent of its graduates make more than $60K per year
  • Another 12 percent of its graduates make between $30K and $40K per year
  • 6 percent of its graduates make between $20K and $30K per year
  • 0 percent of its graduates make less than $20K per year

Source:

http://www.american.edu/weknowsuccess/#GR,CAS,SELD

Teaching Special Education in a Private School Setting Teaching Special Education in a Private School Setting

If you’re hoping to teach Special Education in a private school setting after graduation, then it may be helpful to enroll in a program that is uniquely designed to prepare its graduates to work in these types of schools. The following programs do just that.

Catholic University of America Department of Education

Special Education Graduate Degree
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Students at Catholic University of America have an opportunity to conduct fieldwork in a variety of private school settings, thereby preparing them to teach in private schools after graduation. The University has partnered with the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Washington as well as a large number of specialty and charter schools throughout Washington, D.C. and Maryland’s Prince George’s County. Program participants have their pick of the litter.

George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Masters in Secondary Special Education
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 4 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Because it’s convenient to schools throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, George Washington is equipped to place students in the Special Education & Disability Studies Department in any of a variety of charter and private schools. Students can choose from urban or suburban settings to further hone in on their preferred school environment.

Johns Hopkins University School of Education

Masters of Science in Special Education: Mild/Moderate Disabilities
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Location: Baltimore, MD
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The program at Johns Hopkins is specifically designed to prepare educators and related professionals to work with students with disabilities in a variety of classroom settings, including general education classrooms or special education resource rooms in private (or public) schools and self-contained special schools. This preparation helps ensure that graduates will feel empowered to work in a private school setting of their choosing.

Teaching Special Education in a Kindergarten and Elementary School Setting Teaching Special Education in a Kindergarten and Elementary School Setting

Hoping to work with kindergarten and/or elementary school students? Then it may be a good idea to seek out a program that specifically prepares its graduates for this task. The following programs offer curricula that can be tailored to an interest in working with young students.

University of Maryland College of Education

Special Education, Masters of Education with Certification
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Location: College Park, MD
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Cost: Cost 2 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

University of Maryland students who wish to pursue teaching Special Education in an elementary school setting can take advantage of the school’s Elementary/Middle Special Education Teacher Preparation Program Curriculum, which is designed to prepare teachers for working with students in grades 1 through 8. This two-year option is completed in two full-time academic years.

University of Southern California Rossier School of Education

Online Masters of Arts in Teaching – Special Education
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The online Masters of Arts in Teaching program at USC offers students a number of concentration options, including a specialization in elementary school education. The concentration prepares students to teach multiple subject areas in an elementary school setting.

West Virginia University

Online Special Education M.A. and Certification
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Location: Morgantown, WV
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

WVU students may elect to pursue a specialization in Early Childhood Special Education. The program is designed for educators who want to provide early childhood special education services to young children and their families in public schools or community agencies, thus preparing graduates to thrive in a kindergarten and/or elementary school setting.

Teaching Special Education in a Middle School Setting Teaching Special Education in a Middle School Setting

Middle schoolers inhabit a developmental stage marked by distinct pedagogical needs and challenges. To best prepare for teaching this age group, consider a program that offers concentrated study in this area. The following programs all fall into this camp.

George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Masters in Secondary Special Education
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 4 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The entire curriculum at George Washington is designed to prepare teachers to work with students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in grades 6 through 12. This means all graduates of the program should be equipped to meet the unique needs of middle school students with a broad range of learning disabilities.

Saint Joseph’s University

Online Special Education (PK-8 or 7-12) – Education M.S.
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
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Cost: Cost 3 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Saint Joseph’s offers students the opportunity to focus their education around preparation for teaching students in pre-K through grade 8 — with one catch. Those who wish to pursue certification in one of these areas must already hold Level I Certification in Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle School, or Secondary Education. Students who qualify to pursue certification in PK-8 will be equipped to teach in a variety of middle school settings.

University of Maryland College of Education

Special Education, Masters of Education with Certification
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Location: College Park, MD
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Cost: Cost 2 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

As noted above, the program at University of Maryland offers an optional concentration in Elementary/Middle School Education. The program focuses exclusively on teaching students with learning disabilities in grades 1 through 8, which means it serves as preparation for anyone looking to focus their teaching efforts in a middle school classroom. The curriculum is completed in two full-time academic years.

Teaching Special Education in a High School Setting Teaching Special Education in a High School Setting

Just like elementary and middle school students, high schoolers possess their own set of unique needs and challenges. If you’re hoping to work with this population after graduation, the following programs are likely to set you up for success.

George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Masters in Secondary Special Education
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 4 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

As mentioned above, the full curriculum at George Washington concentrates on preparing educators to teach in grades 6 through 12. This programming ensures that graduates are equipped to teach to the distinct needs of high schoolers with a variety of learning disabilities.

Towson University College of Education

Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: Towson, Maryland
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Students who are confident they want to pursue teaching secondary education may choose to enroll in Towson’s Masters of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Special Education program. The degree requires 40 credits of graduate coursework and is available only as an Extended Year option, which features evening classes and is designed to fit the schedules of students with external obligations.

University of Virginia Curry School of Education

Master of Teaching – Special Education
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Location: Charlottesville, VA
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Cost: Cost 3 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Like Towson, UVA offers a special track for those students who are committed to teaching secondary education. Their Masters of Teaching – Special Education – Secondary Education program prepares graduates to teach in a high school (or middle school) setting. Upon completing the program, graduates will have earned a degree with licensure and endorsement in Special Education – General Curriculum (K-12) as well as a specific content focus in secondary education. Starting in May 2018, the program will be converted into a one-year, field-based Post-Graduate Master of Teaching program.

Class Size DOES Matter Class Size DOES Matter

The smaller your classes, the more personalized your instruction will be. This helps explain why research finds that class size plays a big role in determining student outcomes, with larger class sizes having a more detrimental influence and smaller classes improving performance. While your mileage may vary, many degree seekers will benefit from enrollment in programs that promise small, personable classes. The following programs do just that.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

The program at American University is just starting up, so there isn’t historical precedent to draw on here. But the program’s designers intend to cap class sizes at no more than 18 students in order to facilitate personalized instruction.

George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Masters in Secondary Special Education
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 4 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

George Washington prides itself on its small class sizes. The average graduating cohort from GWU consists of only 13-15 people, so class sizes are comparatively small. This offers students plenty of opportunities for individualized guidance.

Trinity Washington University

Special Education (M.A.T.)
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 3 icon

Trinity Washington endeavors to provide its students with individualized, 1:1 support in the classroom. In order to make that happen, they keep class sizes small. On average, any given class has no more than 15 students.

Students Requiring Flexible Scheduling Students Requiring Flexible Scheduling

Many would-be Masters students don’t have the ability to shoulder a full-time course load. Perhaps you’re working while going to school or you have responsibilities to your family that limit your ability to attend school during “normal” hours. No matter your situation, these schools make a degree accessible thanks to their flexible scheduling options.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

The entirety of American University’s program is designed to accommodate students with full-time jobs or other major obligations outside of their coursework. In fact, students are required to start the program on a part-time basis. In addition to this part-time enrollment requirement, live online classes meet in the evenings to ensure maximum flexibility.

Saint Joseph’s University

Online Special Education (PK-8 or 7-12) – Education M.S.
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
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Cost: Cost 3 icon
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Flexibility: Full-Time, Part-Time

Saint Joseph’s program is tailored specifically to part-time students who have other obligations outside of graduate coursework. The program features late afternoon, evening, and hybrid classes in a variety of learning formats to meet the needs of adult learners. Students work closely with their advisors to ensure they’re able to properly sequence their courses in a way that enables them to advance in their degree without neglecting their other obligations.

West Virginia University

Online Special Education M.A. and Certification
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Location: Morgantown, WV
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Most of the students enrolled in WVU’s program have full-time jobs, so you’ll be in good company if you fall into this camp. Coursework is delivered online so students can access the program from anywhere, while live evening sessions ensure classes are accessible to people working part- or full-time. Students are technically not grouped into cohorts, meaning they may advance through the program at their own pace. Fieldwork is conducted in students’ home communities in order to make it as convenient as possible.

Research-Based Curriculum Research-Based Curriculum

The manner in which a school develops its curriculum and the philosophies that undergird said curriculum will greatly inform both what you are taught about Special Education and how you are taught it. Because the field of Special Education is constantly evolving along with new developments in psychology and pedagogy, it’s essential to seek out curricula that represent the latest research. The following programs consistently update their curricula as new developments shift the landscape of Special Education.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

The graduate curriculum at American University reflects the research-based curriculum developed by Sally Smith at the Lab School in Washington, D.C. (Smith was also a faculty member in American University’s School of Education, and AU partners closely with the Lab School to this day.) This distinct methodology focuses on hands-on, arts-based learning, positive psychology, and technology as a transformative learning tool.

Johns Hopkins University School of Education

Masters of Science in Special Education: Mild/Moderate Disabilities
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Location: Baltimore, MD
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The curriculum at Johns Hopkins draws heavily on evidence-based practices that have been tested and validated in the field and/or through cutting-edge research. The university’s commitment to research-backed programming is further exemplified by the fact that John’s Hopkins faculty are active researchers in their field, which enables them to provide instruction that reflects the latest research developments. Students graduate from the program prepared to apply evidence-based strategies in a number of classroom settings.

Michigan State University College of Education

Online Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: East Lansing, MI
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Cost: Cost 3 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Ti

The curriculum for the Masters of Arts in Special Education at Michigan State focuses heavily on teaching students research-validated methods and evidence-based practices. This strong research focus is also exemplified by the program’s faculty, all of whom are active researchers at the forefront of their field. Program participants are called upon to conduct their own research in the form of clinical projects and practicums, which will further provide opportunities to apply the lessons learned in research-based coursework to real-life classrooms.

Rockstar Faculty Rockstar Faculty

Who you learn from matters — especially when the education you receive will inform the way you go on to teach your own students. The faculty of any given program will have a major impact on the quality of the education you receive, the guidance you’re given along the way, and the connections you’re able to forge as you pursue job placement. While stellar faculty can be found at virtually every institution, the following Special Education Masters programs boast some of the most rockstar faculty around.

American University School of Education

Master of Arts in Special Education: Learning Disabilities
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Location: Washington D.C.
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Cost: Cost 4 icon

Baked into the online program at American University is a belief that online faculty should possess the same qualifications as those who teach on campus. Thus, the same faculty who have successfully taught on-campus courses at American will also be in charge of teaching the online program. Some of these faculty hold Ph.D.s; all of them have hands-on experience teaching students with learning disabilities. Together, the faculty have accumulated more than 20 years of experience working in schools and conducting research in the field of Special Education.

Michigan State University College of Education

Online Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: East Lansing, MI
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Cost: Cost 3 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Ti

The faculty at Michigan State are active researchers at the cutting edge of Special Education research and practice. Their research focuses on everything from improving outcomes for secondary students with high-incidence disabilities to decreasing social vulnerability among students. Many of the faculty are Board Certified Behavior Analysts; many have had research published in high-profile publications; and many are active in their field beyond the ivory tower. They serve as editorial board members for relevant publications, researchers with NGOs, and co-chairs or co-directors of organizations and research projects such as the Early Learning Institute, the Technology and Media Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, and the Spartan Project SEARCH.

Kansas University School of Education

Online Masters in Special Education – High Incidence Disabilities
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Location: Lawrence, Kansas
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Cost: Cost 2 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

As a collective, Special Education faculty at the University of Kansas have authored dozens of books and more than a thousand academic articles pertaining to research and practice in the field of Special Education. They’ve directed tens of millions of dollars in federal grant funding. And they’ve served as leaders at and received recognition from major organizations in the field, including the Council for Exceptional Children and The Arc.

Go Above and Beyond to Support Students Go Above and Beyond to Support Students

No matter where you choose to obtain your Masters in Special Education, you’re bound to pay a pretty penny for your degree. That investment should be supported not only with quality instruction and accreditations, but also a variety of student services that empower your success. The following programs boast a number of services that can help take your student experience to the next level.

George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Masters in Secondary Special Education
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Location: Washington, DC
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Cost: Cost 4 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

GWU goes above and beyond for its students by designing every aspect of its program with professional success in mind. Three dedicated coordinators work with students to ensure they’re on the right track when it comes to their educational progress and chosen career path. Because the program is so small, career services staff function almost like personal counselors to each student. Additionally, the curriculum is based on a professional development model in which students conduct field work during the day and then meet for evening coursework where they strategize for greater success in the field.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Online Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: Winona, MN
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Online students at Saint Mary’s University will feel like they’re part of a vibrant, supportive community thanks to a number of stellar benefits. Every online student is issued an iPad (at no additional cost) to make completing coursework online all the easier. They’re also paired with a dedicated student services coordinator who provides guidance and accountability for their educational goals. Technical support is available to online students 24/7, and professors make themselves highly available via email or phone.

University of Southern California Rossier School of Education

Online Masters of Arts in Teaching – Special Education
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

USC goes above and beyond for all students hoping to teach after graduation. The fieldwork opportunities are thoughtfully designed to sustain participants’ growth as teachers via peer-reviewed practice teaching sessions prior to entering the field, customized field placements, progressive student teaching responsibilities, and mentoring relationships with experienced teachers. Once they’re conducting fieldwork, students have several opportunities to film their teaching experiences and upload the videos for feedback from their peers and faculty. Beyond this supportive approach to fieldwork, students at USC can take advantage of resume support, career fairs, and other job search and professional development resources.

Top Notch Alumni Network Top Notch Alumni Network

A quality alumni network helps you make connections, identify potential job opportunities, forge a supportive community of peers who can identify with your trials and successes as a Special Education teacher, and generally get a leg up on your career. While every school on this list possesses an alumni network, the following three programs boast distinct alumni communities and services.

Johns Hopkins University School of Education

Masters of Science in Special Education: Mild/Moderate Disabilities
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Location: Baltimore, MD
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The Johns Hopkins University alumni network boasts more than 212,000 members and counting, and they all bear the clout of the Johns Hopkins brand. Graduating from the Special Education program automatically grants you free access to alumni events, career resources, continued learning opportunities, research and library services, and a chance at networking with Johns Hopkins graduates around the globe.

Towson University College of Education

Masters of Arts in Special Education
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Location: Towson, Maryland
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Cost: Cost 1 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

The Towson University Alumni Association has been around for nearly 70 years, and in that time its network has grown to the hundreds of thousands. Graduates of the Special Education program can avail themselves of this massive network. They also benefit from a dedicated Special Education Alumni Series, which provides Special Education alumni with an opportunity to stay connected and take advantage of a variety of professional development activities. In the future, the program hopes to offer mentoring to new teachers during their transition to school-based careers.

University of Southern California Rossier School of Education

Online Masters of Arts in Teaching – Special Education
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Cost: Cost 5 icon
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Flexibility: Part-Time, Full-Time

Graduates from the USC Rossier School of Education join a large alumni network and benefit from services dedicated to their professional success. The Career Services department provides alumni with assistance on resume development, mock interviews, job searching, and more. Anyone willing to teach in California will enjoy the fact that the USC alumni network includes a large number of superintendents throughout the state. No matter where you plan to live and work, it’s likely you’ll be able to network with USC grads who can lend you a helping hand.