Master of Education
Special Education

All-in price:
View Tuition Details
Application due date for January 9, 2023 term:
January 6
Estimated time to completion:
17 Months
All-in price:
View Tuition Details
Application due date for January 9, 2023 term:
January 6
Estimated time to completion:
17 Months

Exceptional students require exceptional teachers.

How do you meet the diverse needs of students with exceptionalities? Designed for current PreK-12 teachers, the M.Ed. in Special Education provides an in-depth study of research-based methods to enhance instruction. You’ll gain valuable skills to develop curriculum, design learning environments, and to build and maintain partnerships to better support students.

in the nation for most Master's degrees awarded in Special Education*.

Thinking of starting your journey?

Connect with an ACE enrollment counselor who can help you get started.

How you'll get there.

  1. You’ll take a total of twelve courses. Seven courses (most students take one at a time) center around special education. In your coursework, you’ll explore ethical practices and standards in special education, building collaborative relationships, and assessment and evaluation in special education. You’ll also take one course in classroom management and one course in research. Each course is five weeks long.
  2. Your chosen focus of study comprises three courses to align with your goals. Choose from Differentiated Instruction, Early Childhood Education, or General Special Education. Alternatively, you can customize your own General Track by selecting the courses that interest you most.
    • Differentiated Instruction
    • Early Childhood Education
    • General Special Education
    • General Track
  3. At the end of the program, you’ll complete a capstone course to demonstrate and document the impact of the knowledge you’ve gained throughout the program.

What you can expect along the way.

  • Quality instruction ACE is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and we’re the #4 nationwide conferrer of master's degrees in education.*
  • Flexible class format Our asynchronous online classes enable you to plan your coursework around your life. Each course is 5 weeks long with outlined expectations each week.
  • Relevant coursework You can immediately use what you learn. In this program, you’ll gain valuable instruction in diagnosing learning disabilities, developing individual education plans, special education counseling, and applicable laws and policies.
  • Customizable curriculum Choose your focus of study: Differentiated Instruction, Early Childhood Education, or General Special Education. You can even create a General Track of the courses that interest you most.

What it costs

Our tuition and fees have nothing to hide. The total cost you see is your all-in price, without hidden fees, add-ons, and even textbooks. See if you can say the same about other institutions. Go ahead — we’ll wait.

Total Tuition

34 semester credits
x $235 per credit



$50 Application Fee

$1,360 Technology & Library Fee
($40 per credit)

$100 Program Conferral Fee


Total Program Cost1


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On average, see how ACE compares to other online universities.

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Based on information on each institution’s website as of April 9, 2020. Totals include tuition only for M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction or comparable programs provided and do not include fees or associated expenses.

Learn how we cut costs.

Partnerships save you more.

ACE has more than 1,750 education partners that provide a discounted rate and other partner benefits.

Learn about ACE partnerships.

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Meet your department chair.

Tiffany Hamlett, Ph.D.

Tiffany Hamlett, Ph.D.

Chair, Teaching and Learning,
Department of Teaching and Learning

Read Bio

A degree you can count on.

American College of Education is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission— a federally-recognized accrediting agency. The College’s accreditation includes approval to offer degree programs, in education, healthcare, nursing and business and leadership through distance education via the Internet. Accreditation ensures that an institution’s academic program meets or exceeds acceptable levels of quality and is the most recognized accreditation status for higher education entities. To receive and maintain HLC accreditation and affiliation approval, we must continuously undergo routine peer review cycles and provide proof that our programs meet or exceed HLC accreditation criteria and expectations of quality.


M.Ed. in Special Education

Explore the classes you'll take to fulfill this program's 34 semester credit requirement. For more information, a complete list of requirements, and course options, see the College Catalog.

Choose your focus of study.

Nine of your semester credits will specialize in a focus area of your choice. View the College Catalog for full descriptions.  You also have the option of customizing this program by selecting a General Track and choosing the three courses that best fit your needs.

  • Differentiated Instruction
  • Early Childhood Education
  • General Special Education

Special Education Courses  (19 semester credits)

3 semester credits
Student diversity impacts learning, the environment, and classroom behavior. This course examines the legal definitions, characteristics, prevalence, and educational adaptations for each primary category of exceptionality. Emphasis is placed on the accommodation and selective modification of curricula, materials, and procedures to meet the needs of diverse learners.
3 semester credits
Data-driven instructional decision-making is critical to improve student outcomes for diverse learners across the continuum of disability in special and general education settings. This course focuses on conducting and analyzing ongoing student assessment and utilization of current research and theory as the foundation for driving instructional decisions and professional practices.
3 semester credits
Basic knowledge of statutory requirements, policy, and values are prerequisite to successful teaching in special education. This course focuses on federal legislation regarding identification, service provision, and current issues. Legal rights of students with exceptionalities and their parents, and the responsibilities of educators in addressing those rights are emphasized. Organizational policies and values associated with serving diverse learners also are emphasized.
3 semester credits
Collaboration between or among instructional personnel, student's home/family and the community is increasing in importance in meeting the diverse learning needs of students. This course addresses strategies and tools to build collaborative relationships between general and special education instructors, families, the community, advocacy, and other outside organizations to positively impact student outcomes.
3 semester credits
Students investigate developmental issues experienced by individuals across transitional stages throughout the life span. Characteristics of individuals demonstrating patterns of thought or behavior potentially contributing to the identification of learning disabilities are examined. Neurological impairments, which change the functionality of the brain, are surveyed for factors creating unique risks across cognitive and sensory, social and emotional, and behavioral areas and conditions which impact academic learning.
3 semester credits
In this course students will be presented with an overview of current special education professional standards and guidelines. They will also learn the 12 Special Education Professional Ethical Principles outlined by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Students will discuss challenging ethical dilemmas in which they will have to practice professional ethics and sharpen their skills as advocates for students with disabilities and their families.
1 semester credit
The Capstone Experience is designed for candidates to demonstrate and document the impact of their knowledge and competencies gained throughout, and as a result of the Master of Education in Special Education.

Curriculum and Instruction Course  (3 semester credits)

3 semester credits
This course prepares educators to implement a Positive Behavioral Support System (PBSS). The evidenced-based PBSS components are designed to guide educators to teach preK-12 learners competencies in social, emotional, and behavioral self-management for consistent application in classrooms and school-wide.

Research Course  (3 semester credits)

3 semester credits
In this course students will learn about the science and research methods of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and how applying principles of behavior analysis can affect student behaviors. Students will be introduced to the history of ABA as well as the various strategies that fall under ABA. While ABA is a part of the Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) used in many schools today, there are other applications that are relevant to teachers, such as how to use ABA as a way to maintain skills that have been learned, how to use principles of ABA to observe student behaviors, how to determine which behavior to focus on, how to generalize behaviors to settings outside the classroom, and how to use ABA strategies as a teaching tool for both students with exceptionalities and their typically developing peers. Students will apply action research methods to support the utilization of ABA in the classroom.

Focus of Study

Customize this degree by choosing a three - course Focus of Study to fulfill the remaining nine semester credits.

Differentiated Instruction 

3 semester credits
This course examines the major tenets of differentiated instruction in relation to the diverse needs of 21st century learners, establishing and authenticating the philosophy driving learning centered teaching while exploring how neurological changes influence thinking. A range of instructional and assessment options are prospected to amplify the learning experience exemplified by national and state standards.
3 semester credits
Exploring the impact of 21st century skills on traditional literacies, this course disseminates characteristics of the new literacies including visual, digital, critical, economic, and scientific as they influence sustainable learning in content areas while instruction shifts to accommodate these differences. By building connections and layering curriculum, this course probes effective frameworks to deliver a range of instructional options to brand the cognitive and affective domains.
3 semester credits
Blending principles of thought with action, this course maximizes learning through integrated and inquiry-based experiences, enhanced creative expressions, and elements found in habits of the mind; applying brain-based research to augment instruction. Moving principles to form action, concepts of DI are infused into lesson plans by contrasting frameworks to deliver content, process and products, while influencing affective thought within the learning environment.

Early Childhood Education 

3 semester credits
Language forms the foundation for the acquisition of reading skills. In this course, atypical language development is contrasted with normal progression of linguistic skills to identify the type and cause of potential problems, addressing the difficulties associated with instruction and promoting practical methods for enhancing the required language skills needed for effective communication. Assessment, diagnostic, and development techniques for intervention and remediation are examined, including the exploration of augmentative language and the use of alternative and assistive technologies to support individuals with exceptional needs.
3 semester credits
Focused on early childhood developmental issues, this course includes formal and informal approaches to assessing young children while diagnosing potential concerns which lead to informed instructional and intervention choices. Choices in curriculum are aligned to needs to enhance student achievement.
3 semester credits
This methods course takes an action research approach, providing a systematic framework for early childhood professionals to apply data-based decision making for the improvement of their practice. The course differentiates quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods action research with a focus on application of results in the workplace. Emphasis is placed on development of a literature review featuring evidence-based strategies as a part of a research proposal.

Illinois Endorsement 

Courses in this sequence are recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education as meeting some of the coursework requirements for an endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education.

  • Courses recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education as meeting the coursework requirements for an endorsement in an Early Childhood Special Education can be found in Early Childhood Special Education Endorsement

General Special Education (Select three courses) 

3 semester credits
This course prepares educators to assist challenging students through the use of evidence-based behavioral interventions. Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) is a major focus of the course with major emphasis on strategic Tier 2. Tier 3 interventions for intensive student need and crisis management situations are also addressed.
3 semester credits
This course examines formal and informal methods of diagnosing academic and socio-behavioral issues related to those potentially identified with special needs. Designed to model appropriate planning and program delivery, students explore methods and materials utilized in the diagnostic-prescriptive process to monitor progress, measure benchmarks and gather data for application, i.e. Individualized Education Plans. This includes evaluating procedures used in schools to determine eligibility for special education services guided by testing measures. Attention is given to selecting and adapting tests for a variety of disorders and aligning appropriate instructional methods to measure student success.
3 semester credits
This course emphasizes the role of social skills instruction in effective classroom and school management. The Stop & Think program serves as a model in the course to assist educators in implementing a cognitive-behavioral approach to the teaching of social skills. Prevention of and response to student teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, and physical aggression are a major course focus.
3 semester credits
Exploring developmental and learning needs of children with exceptional learning abilities, the content will address the diverse needs of the gifted, students with exceptional needs, and children with learning disabilities. Strategies will be established to support a variety of learning needs while working with families to foster a consistent learning environment.
3 semester credits
This course examines assessment approaches for diagnosing reading needs and methods for identifying, prescribing, and evaluating intervention plans based upon specific data. An embedded field experience targets developmental and age-appropriate instructional strategies to support struggling readers across diverse populations.

Illinois Endorsement 

Some courses in the General Special Education Focus of Study option are recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education as meeting coursework requirements for a Learning Behavior Specialist I (LBSI) endorsement.

• Courses recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education as meeting the coursework requirements for an endorsement in Learning Behavior Specialist I (LBSI) can be found in  Learning Behavior Specialist I (LBSI) Endorsement. Illinois students must choose ED5403 and SPED5063. 

General Track (9 semester credits)

Any three of courses from the courses above.

Admission Requirements

M.Ed. in Special Education

ACE General Admission Requirements

  • Complete and submit all application components including the admission application, the enrollment agreement, and the payment agreement.
  • Submit the nonrefundable application fee.*
  • Provide official transcripts from a regionally accredited institution indicating successful completion of the level of education required for entry to the program.**

*The application fee is valid for one year from date of submission.
**Additional evidence may be required to fulfill state requirements, including but not limited to verification of professional experience, test scores, or an interview.

Program Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's or Highest Post-Baccalaureate degree earned
  • Minimum Grade Point Average 2.50 on a 4.00 Scale for full admission
  • Minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average of 2.00 on a 4.00 Scale for Provisional Admission
  • Applicants must acknowledge they have access to the educational settings for completion of course assignments throughout the program
  • Applicants must achieve and maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout their program

A Note About Licensure:

While this program provides a comprehensive understanding of the intended program outcomes, it does not lead to licensure, certification, or endorsement. ACE offers several programs that do provide a pathway to licensure, certification, or endorsement and they can be found here.

1This is an estimated value of the cost for tuition and fees. Amounts may vary depending on number of transfer credits applied to the selected program hours or program pathway credit hours, the pace and satisfactory completion of the selected program or program pathway credit hours, receipt of, or eligibility for, institutional or non-institutional scholarship and/or grant amounts, and adjustments to tuition or fees as described in the Catalog Right to Modify Tuition section.

State of California Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF)

It is a state of California requirement that a student who pays his or her tuition is required to pay a state-imposed assessment two dollars and fifty cents ($2.50) per one thousand dollars ($1,000) of institutional charges, rounded to the nearest thousand dollars, for the California Student Tuition Recovery Fund. For more information and to see if you must pay the state-imposed assessment for Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF) click here.

For information on international transcript requirements, see the Admissions Information section of the College Catalog.

For English as a second language applicant information, see the Admissions Information section of the College Catalog.

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