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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Autism

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Autism

Value

The best online master’s degree in autism for value is the University of Massachusetts – Lowell. Ranked among the top 100 public universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report, the school has expanded their online offerings in recent years, including a number of programs in the field of education. Reasonable tuition rates, experienced faculty, a strong academic reputation, and a history of generous financial aid awards make the University of Massachusetts – Lowell a great value for prospective online students. In fact, in-state graduates can expect an average return on investment of 10.7% once financial aid is considered, according to Payscale.com’s 2012 ROI Rankings. Out-of-state graduates can expect a higher cost of attendance, but still had a strong average ROI at 8.7%.

Flexibility

Arizona State University was awarded the title of the best online master’s degree in autism for flexibility. The largest university in the country with more than 72,000 students, ASU has also become a leader in online education. Their dedication to offering a wide variety programs that allow adult students to continue working while balancing the demands of higher education with their family responsibilities has placed the school at the top of our list. The state-of-the-art virtual learning environment allows students to log in to the online classroom, access course materials, complete assignments, participate in discussion boards, and contact their instructors at any time and from any location with internet access.

Career Support

Arizona State University also won recognition as the top online master’s degree in autism for career support. The school’s online graduate-level education programs were ranked 14th for student services and technology by U.S. News & World Report, demonstrating ASU’s dedication to providing equal opportunities to their online students. In keeping with this, students enrolled in online programs still have full access to the school’s career services department. This includes live chat with advisors, downloadable career guides, resume and cover letter editing, online job listings, and electronic library resources. In addition, distance learners who can travel to campus at the scheduled times are welcome at career fairs, workshops, and networking events. All of these resources and services helped to place ASU at the top of our list for career support.

Financial Support

The award for best online master’s degree in autism for financial support was given to Arizona State University. Reasonable tuition rates and a strong track record of generous financial aid packages place ASU at the top of this category. According to reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, financial aid was awarded to 89% of incoming students in 2010. Approximately 83% of those who received assistance were awarded some grant or scholarship funds as part of their aid package. Nearly half of students also took out loans to help with the cost of continued education, though mostly through federal loan programs. In 2009, the student loan default rate was 3.9%, an indication of manageable levels of debt for the vast majority of graduates.

Technology Support

Ball State University was selected as the top online master’s degree in autism for technology support. This public four-year institution located in Muncie, Ind. offers a number of online degree programs, including several in education. The school’s online graduate-level education programs were ranked 17th for their student services and technology by U.S. News & World Report in 2012. BSU students can access the online classroom from PC, Apple, or Linux computers. In addition, an application is available for tablets and mobile devices. Students in need of assistance will also find a number of online tutorials, troubleshooting guides, and 24/7 technical support. With all this in mind, Ball State topped our list in this category.

Student Engagement

The best online master’s degree in autism for student engagement is Michigan State University. This public university located in East Lansing serves more than 47,000 students, including an expanded number of distance learners. U.S. News & World Report ranked the university’s online graduate education programs among the top 100 schools for student engagement and accreditation. Faculty members skilled in fostering intellectual growth among online students, a highly interactive virtual learning environment, and strong retention and graduation rates all helped to place Michigan State University at the top of our list for student engagement.

Library and Research Support

Arizona State University was selected as the best online master’s degree in autism for library and research support. Online students at ASU have access to a number of e-journals, online catalogs, databases, video resources, and library and subject guides. Additionally, the school offers students access to 24/7 librarian assistance via chat and/or email. Students can also seek assistance from a subject specialist over the phone during designated hours. A number of research skill and general orientation tutorials are also available through the library’s website for those interested in self-help materials. All of these services and resources help to distinguish ASU.

Learning Support

The best online master’s degree in autism for learning support is the University of Missouri. This public four-year institution based in Columbia serves more than 33,000 students, including a growing number of individuals enrolled in distance learning programs. Online students at the University of Missouri have access to a variety of resources to aid them in their studies, such as electronic library materials, academic advising, and an online learning center. This learning center provides distance learners with tutoring and writing lab services. Students can also easily contact their instructors through the online learning platform, via chat, email, or even telephone. For these reasons, the University of Missouri took the top spot for learning support.

Faculty Credentials

Ball State University was awarded the title of best online master’s degree in autism for faculty credentials. The school’s online graduate-level education programs were ranked 30th for faculty credentials and training by U.S. News & World Report in 2012. The school employs 71 full-time and 29 part-time online instructors with expertise in working with distance learners. BSU also places a great deal of importance on selecting faculty members with adequate field experience. This ensures students receive both theoretical and practical instruction throughout the program. All of this factored into Ball State’s placement at the top of our list for faculty credentials.

Alumni Engagement
Arizona State University earned the award for best online master’s degree in autism for alumni engagement. Alumni services include career resources, community events, networking opportunities, travel programs, and access to athletic events. On top of this, the school also offers an online community designed to help students stay connected with their peers and stay up to date with campus and other alumni events. There are more than 80 chapters, clubs, and connections across the country, providing graduates local opportunities to stay involved with their alma mater.

New Student Orientation

Arizona State University also was recognized as the best online master’s degree in autism for new student orientation. Prospective online students can take a tour of LearningStudio, ASU’s online platform through a video presentation on the school’s website. There are also step-by-step online video tutorials available to help new students learn all the important aspects of the virtual classroom. This includes, but is not limited to, how to submit assignments, access course materials, and communicate with fellow students and professors. ASU also offers several social media applications designed to help online students create a sense of community with their peers, despite the lack of face-to-face contact. With all this considered, Arizona State University topped our list for new student orientation.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Autism

Due the increasing number of children being diagnosed with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in recent years, there is a growing demand for educators and caretakers trained to work with these students. Many master’s degree programs in special education will offer concentrations in Autism to help equip future educators with the knowledge and skills they need to provide effective teaching methods and support to these special needs children. Online master’s degrees with a concentration in Autism are designed to teach students about learning techniques and strategies, as well as various assessment techniques. Career opportunities are available as teachers and administrators in both public and private schools.

Students enrolled in an online program can continue at their jobs while taking classes either full or part time. The average time needed to complete this type of program is two to three years. However, a number of factors such as how many classes a student takes each term, applicable transfer credits brought in, and whether or not the student takes a break from the program can all influence how long it takes to earn this degree.

Class Curriculum

Students in an online program in special education with a concentration in Autism can expect to take courses in emotional and behavioral support, methods and practices, and special education processes. Most curriculums will also include courses about evaluating disabilities, intervention techniques, and technologies for enhancing special education instruction. Some specific examples of courses that may be included are:

  • Fundamentals of Special Education. This survey course covers the history of special education, the purposes of formal and informal assessments, and research on inclusive classrooms. Students will also learn about the legal and ethics considerations involved in special education.
  • Characteristics and Methods: Autism. This class will explore advanced topics in the diagnosis, unique characteristics, and educational needs of students with Autism.
  • Communication and Language Interventions: ASD. Students will learn about the communication deficits, needs, and intervention techniques for student with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This will cover research-based interventions for the behavioral and sensory needs of these students.

Students enrolled in this type of program should expect course work to include reading assignments, group projects, papers, presentations, field observation, and active research. Since personal interaction is crucial to the field of special education, students can expect to conduct their own research in actual classrooms. Active research or capstone research projects will allow students to apply the theoretical principles and concepts they have learned in a real-world setting prior to graduation.

Building a Career

Graduates who earn their master’s degree in special education with a focus on helping Autistic students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to work as special education teachers, curriculum development specialists, or school administrators. Due to the growing number of children being diagnosed with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome over the last decade, special education teachers and administrators trained to work with these students are in high demand. Job opportunities can be found in both public and private schools from preschool to the secondary level.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for special education teachers at all levels is expected to grow by 17% from 2010 to 2020. Demand for preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school special education teachers is expected to grow by 21% over the same projection period. This is significantly faster than the 14% growth expected for jobs overall. The median annual salary for special education teachers was $53,220 in 2010, with high school teachers earning the highest wages at a median of $54,810, according to the BLS. However, please note that starting salaries and available jobs can vary based on location, level of experience, education, the specific employer, and the general job market.

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