Special Education M.Ed

M.Ed. Special Education

credits 30  |  completion 2 years (5 to 6 semesters)  |  next start July 1

Earn your M.Ed. in Special Education online. Improve your ability to educate and inspire students with special learning needs with your M.Ed. in Special Education. Build on your knowledge of effective teaching strategies and methods for creating meaningful learning experiences for all students. An online master's in special education will equip you for leadership roles in assessment, instructional strategies and evidence-based practices. Prepare for career opportunities as a specialist or consultant.  
(Ranked #3 Most Affordable Online Master's in Special Education by SR Education Group)

It's more than a lane change.

100% online. 8-week courses. 

Earning a graduate degree is a valuable investment, but it doesn't have to cost you all of your time away from other responsibilities. Northwestern College's online Masters in Special Education structure allows you to log into class and complete your weekly coursework when it's most convenient for you.

Take one online 8-week class at a time, completing two classes each semester, and you'll finish your M.Ed. in 2 years or less and be eligible for financial aid. The Masters in Special Education program also enables students to count credits toward their M.Ed. from our endorsement in Instructional Strategist I or II or work on both at the same time.

Our online Masters in Special Education curriculum was developed in concert with the Iowa Board of Education (BOE).


This master's program is approved for the TEACH Grant which can help you pay for your masters if you teach or plan to become a teacher in a high-need field in a low-income area. For more information visit the TEACH Grant website.

Program Requirements



Required Core (15 credits):
EDU 555 - Trends and Issues in 21st Century Education (3 credits)
(3 credits) Teachers and schools must continually examine current practices in PreK-12 education in search of better solutions to increase student achievement and to thoroughly prepare children for the world in which they will live and work. In this course students will study current social, political and academic trends and issues affecting children, teachers and schools. Students will define their personal positions based on facts and experience, and will collaborate with others to advocate for solutions that improve education for PreK-12 grade students. Prerequisite: completed bachelor's degree in education.
EDU 570 - Teaching and Learning with Technology (3 credits)
(3 credits) Technology integration in the K-12 setting can enhance learning, improve motivation and engagement, increase accessibility, individualize instruction, differentiate assessment and improve communication with parents and stakeholders. In this course students will broaden their understanding of the technology available to them in the PreK-12 classroom and improve their ability to leverage specific technology to improve teaching and learning. Prerequisite: completed bachelor's degree in education.
EDU 610 - Educational Research Methods and Design (3 credits)
(3 credits) This course will provide an overview of research methodology employed for studies in the field of education. Topics include basic research methodology, interpretation of findings, and application of research in educational settings. Students will develop their ability to critically evaluate educational research and to judiciously apply findings in their professional settings. By the conclusion of the course students will be able to identify a potential topic for future research and outline the basic methodology needed to conduct the study. Prerequisite: completed bachelor's degree in education.
EDU 635 - Master’s in Education Capstone (3 credits)
(3 credits) In this course students will apply the cumulative knowledge and skills learned in their master's program through an action research project. Research focus may be related to student learning, teacher effectiveness, school quality, school policy or other area by approval. The project will be proposed, approved, designed, and implemented prior to the student's graduation with a master's degree in education from Northwestern College. Students who do not have a finished capstone approved by the M.Ed. Director at the conclusion of EDU635 will repeat the course for credit. Prerequisite: completed bachelor's degree in education. Note: Graded on a pass/no pass basis.
Choose one
EDU 540 - Teaching Young Children with Diverse Needs (3 credits)
(3 credits) Students will learn to design curriculum, instruction and assessment specific to the needs of diverse children ages 0 through 8. Create safe and nurturing classroom environments that are developmentally appropriate and respect diversity. Collaborate with stakeholders to meet the needs of young children. Prerequisite: completed bachelor's degree in education.
EDU 565 - Instructional Strategies for Diverse Students and Settings (3 credits)
(3 credits) This course is intended for experienced teachers, and will focus on building off of prior knowledge and experience to improve student learning. Research-based instructional strategies will be studied, with particular emphasis on adapting and employing strategies to fit students' cognitive abilities, motivation, interest, cultural background and other unique characteristics in diverse settings. Students in this class will apply new instructional strategies in their practice to positively impact learning in the PreK-12 classroom. Prerequisite: completed bachelor's degree in education.

Special Education Emphasis (15 credits):

SPED 520 - Assessment Planning and Practice
This course will provide an in-depth presentation of the complex issue of assessment, including an examination of evaluation procedures, from pre-referral intervention, eligibility/placement/program decision-making to progress monitoring of research-based instructional interventions based on Response to Intervention (RTI). Students will examine a variety of formal and informal instruments and techniques used in assessing the strengths, needs, interests, and preferences of children and youth with exceptional learning needs. The focus is placed on providing students with knowledge and skills necessary for selecting, using, interpreting, and evaluating results from measurement and/or screening instruments and techniques commonly employed by professionals to facilitate special education placement, Individual Education Program (IEP) development and evaluation of the effectiveness of that instruction using progress-monitoring techniques. Issues in assessment and instruction concerning multicultural and bilingual special education will also be addressed. (3 credits)
SPED 605 - Instructional Decision Making and Leadership in Special Education
This course provides an introduction to theoretical and practical applications of data-driven decision making, assessments, and curriculum planning for educators. Students will explore the uses of qualitative and quantitative data by educational leaders for the purpose of improving student and organizational outcomes. This course will also focus on using a collaborative problem-solving approach and response to intervention processes to improve the learning rate of student. (3 credits)
SPED 612 - Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues in Special Education
This course is an intensive study of the legislation and litigation involved with individuals with disabilities specifically concentrating on those students between the ages of birth - 21 years. A historical as well as current study of legislation used as the basis for providing special education services on the federal and state level will be covered. The legal system on the federal and state level is covered as well as critical litigations that have influenced the field of special education. The student will become knowledgeable about the legal precedence for all that they do as a special educator. (3 credits)
SPED 550 - Communication and Collaborative Partnerships
This course will prepare special education personnel, classroom teachers, related services personnel, and other support staff for collaborative consultation, teamwork and transition in serving the educational needs of students and their families. Consideration of the role of home and parents in the educational programming for exceptional children, and practical to positive strategies that can be used in working with parents. The context, content, processes, practices, and support of collaborative school consultation will be addressed. (3 credits)
SPED 545 - Behavior and Social Interventions of Learners
In this course students will learn about the basic principles of learning that govern human behavior as well as how these principles can be applied in the classroom to help individuals with exceptional learning needs reach their maximum potential. Students will also learn how to measure and analyze student behavior in order to evaluate student learning and make necessary adjustment to teaching strategies for individuals with exceptional learning needs. (3 credits)

Total Credits: 30 credit hours

Special Education M.Ed. + Endorsement

credits  36-42 | completion  just over 2 years (6 to 7 semesters)

Seamlessly earn your master's degree along with an Instructional Strategist I or II Endorsement. Add only a few more courses and a student teaching experience* to further expand your teaching opportunities. Here's how.  

*some students may not be required to student teach based on their certification.

Passion for Education

Rebecca is a K-12 literacy coach who loves the challenge of instructional coaching and learning new literacy strategies that support her students and other teachers. Through her M.Ed. program, she has gained not only educational resources, but a deepened passion for education.

Rebecca's story

With an online M.Ed. + endorsement program, Brandie was able to earn the credential she needed along with a master’s degree. What she didn’t realize was just how impactful the program would be on her teaching and life.

Brandie's story

Levi Letsche, M.Ed. Educational Administration Northwestern College, Teacher of the Year Finalist

Top Teacher

As one of five finalists for Iowa's 2023 Teacher of the Year, Levi has been recognized for his teaching excellence. As an instructional coach, he is striving to help others learn how to live a life of excellence—and succeeding. His M.Ed. in Educational Administration has equipped him to use his influence in new leadership roles.

Levi's story