Program Description

The online Master of Education in Special Education prepares students to address the complex learning needs of individuals with disabilities. Mason’s unique, innovative approach to inclusive education is designed to benefit learners with disabilities throughout their entire lives.

Students enrolled in Mason’s online special education master’s degree program choose between two supporting graduate certificate tracks in Autism Spectrum Disorders or Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate

  • Field experience not required
  • Extensive community, school, and agency perspectives addressed
  • Emphasis on working with individuals with autism across their lifespans

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Certificate

  • Exposure to basic and intermediate behavioral principles
  • Applications of behavior analysis with multiple populations, including but not limited to autism
  • Coursework that meets ABAI Verified Course Sequence criteria, and satisfies BACB™ coursework requirements to sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Exam™*

A prior degree in an education-related field or industry experience is not required for admission but is helpful.

Special Education (MEd)

The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified the ABA courses toward the coursework requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst® examination. Applicants will need to meet additional requirements before they can be deemed eligible to take the examination.

* For Certificate Only – The Behavior Analyst Certification Board™ has specific degree requirements for eligibility to apply for the BCBA® credential. Details can be found at Check with your state for licensure regulations.

Professional Licensure Disclosure
This program has been identified by George Mason University as one that may lead to a career requiring professional licensure/certification. Federal regulations require Mason to disclose information as to whether this program meets/does not meet the educational requirements for licensure/certification in your state, or whether such a determination has not been made. Please consult our Licensure Disclosure Tool ( for the disclosure statement specific to your desired state/program combination.

Students residing outside of the United States, Canada, and Australia are encouraged to visit for further information about whether they will be eligible for BACB™ certification after January 1, 2023. They are also encouraged to check with their local governing bodies to determine whether George Mason University’s coursework may satisfy requirements for credentialing in their country of residence. Completion of the requirements for Mason’s ABA Graduate Certificate does not guarantee an individual’s eligibility to obtain certification.

Ranked #7 of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Special Education Programs, 2022

Application Deadline

The MEd in Special Education online program accepts applications on a rolling basis. Applicants should apply here.

Virtual Open House

The George Mason University faculty dedicates time throughout the year to hold interactive sessions online for those who would like to learn more about the programs we offer. If you would like to find out more about what you can expect from an online Master of Education in Special Education or one of our certificates, visit our pre-recorded Virtual Open House and watch at your convenience. For information on upcoming sessions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Program Summary

100 Percent Online

Program: Special Education (MEd)

Degree: MEd

College/School: College of Education and Human Development

Credits: 30 total

Who should apply?

Prospective students of George Mason’s MEd in Special Education come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. Many students find special education through their experiences as a substitute teacher, instructional assistant, provisionally licensed teacher, or as professionals from completely different fields who are supporting a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Why choose Mason?

  • Mason’s online graduate program is part-time, which allows for busy professional and family schedules while providing a high-quality, immersive student experience.
  • Students choose between two graduate certificate tracks in Autism Spectrum Disorders or Applied Behavior Analysis. Standalone certificates are also offered.
  • An experienced faculty of distinguished scholar-practitioners delivers an education informed by extensive academic and professional experience.

Program requirements are subject to change; please refer to the University Catalog for the most up-to-date requirements.

Requirements: 30 total credit hours

Most courses for Mason’s online MEd in Special Education are offered in convenient, online, asynchronous and synchronous (i.e. real time virtual participation) formats. Students complete four foundational classes in conjunction with courses in a selected area of focus. Two tracks are available allowing students to earn a graduate certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders or Applied Behavioral Analysis, along with their MEd in Special Education.

Core Courses:

EDSE 501 Introduction for Special Education
EDSE 517 Computer Applications for Special Populations
EDSE 590 Special Education Research


EDSE 590 involves a research application project applying key concepts from multiple courses throughout the program.

Autism Track Courses for MEd in Special Education

EDSE 634 Characteristics of Individuals with Autism
EDSE 620 Supporting the Behavior and Sensory Needs of Individuals with Autism
EDSE 635 Interventions for Individuals with Autism
EDSE 636 Supporting Communication and Literacy for Individuals with Autism
EDSE 637 Autism Across the Lifespan: Collaboration with Critical Partners
EDSE 638 Autism Spectrum Disorders: Issues in Assessment and Intersectionality

*Students on the Autism track will need to take either EDAT 524 or EDSE 619 to reach 30 credit hours.

ABA Track Courses for MEd in Special Education

EDSE 619 Applied Behavior Analysis: Principles, Procedures, and Philosophy
EDSE 621 Applied Behavior Analysis: Empirical Bases
EDSE 622 Philosophical and Conceptual Issues in Behavior Analysis
EDSE 623 Applied Behavior Analysis: Assessments and Interventions
EDSE 624 Applied Behavior Analysis: Applications
EDSE 625 Applied Behavior Analysis: Verbal Behavior
EDSE 664 Ethical and Professional Conduct for Behavior Analysis

Tuition & Fees (2023-2024):
Tuition is $805 per credit hour. An additional charge of $35 per credit hour applies for a Distance Learning fee.

Financial Aid:
For information on loans and scholarships, visit the Office of Student Financial Aid. For information regarding grants, tuition waivers and other merit aid, please inquire with your graduate department.

A study by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)™ suggests a steep increase in the number of qualified behavior analysts needed internationally. According to a 2009 survey by the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA), most individuals are working full-time.

Graduates are prepared for a broad range of special education and administrative positions in schools, private practice, social service agencies, and to support at-home learning needs. Mason’s online MEd in Special Education provides two specialized graduate certificate tracks in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis.

Autism Spectrum Disorders Specialists: work with children and adults with autism spectrum disorders in school, home and community settings. Mason’s online special education graduate program is unique in that it emphasizes working with individuals with autism across their lifespans, from childhood to adolescence; adulthood to advanced ages.

The Autism Spectrum Disorders graduate certificate track is ideal for:

  • School Administrators
  • Interventionists
  • Psychologists
  • Speech and Language Pathologists
  • Behavior Analysts
  • Physical and Occupational Therapists
  • Family Members Touched By Autism

Applied Behavior Analysts: are devoted to understanding all human behavior and are trained to make behavioral improvements for a broad range of students, both with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) graduate certificate track is ideal for:

  • Registered Behavior Technicians
  • Teachers, Psychologists and Other Providers Who Work With:
    • Children and Adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities
    • Children in General and Special Education
    • People with Psychiatric Conditions and Disabilities
    • Families
  • People who Work in the Following Settings:
    • Community Programs
    • Hospitals and Clinics
    • Schools

If you are unable to find the answers to your questions, submit a Request Information form or contact our admissions representative via the contact information below.

Phone: 703-348-5006

How do I apply?
All admission applications for the special education degree program are handled online. If you have more questions, please see FAQs below.

Admissions FAQs

What is ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a discipline devoted to understanding all human behavior and making behavioral improvements through the application of empirically validated, scientific methodology to real-world problems and solutions. Mason’s Applied Behavior Analysis online graduate certificate is markedly different from the Autism Spectrum Disorders program; its application isn’t limited to special education or for people who have disabilities.

What is the workload like?
The MEd in Special Education online program with the supporting ABA graduate certificate involves video lectures and YouTube videos, guest speakers, discussion boards, attendance at workshops, Behavior Development Solutions (BDS) Modules, and interactive educational games (e.g., Quizlet, Inter-teaching, Class Dojo for engagement). Extension resources are available and clarifying lectures help to answer questions from students.

The MEd in Special Education online program with the supporting Autism Spectrum Disorders graduate certificate involves lectures, video-based case studies, guest speakers, discussion boards, interactive educational activities (e.g., Popplet, Padlet, collaborative case studies). Extension resources are available and clarifying lectures help to answer questions from students.

What are the requirements for admission?
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. institution or equivalent and a GPA of 3.0 GPA or higher is required for admission. No testing is required for admission, but test score equivalencies from SAT, ACT, Praxis, etc. may be used to compensate for a slightly lower GPA. All prospective students must adhere to university standards for English proficiency and degree equivalency.

Field experience (internship or practicum) is not required; simulations and application activities are built into coursework.

What accreditation does George Mason have?
George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

How long does it take to complete the program?
The online MEd in Special Education is 30 credit hours and can be completed in as little as 24 months (including graduate certificate tracks). Online special education graduate certificates are offered at a rate of two courses per semester. Both the 15-credit and 18-credit certificates can be completed in one year.

Can I transfer credits from another University?
Transfer of similar courses from an accredited U.S. college or university may be possible on a case-by-case basis for the online MEd in Special Education. Transfer credit policies are included in the University Catalog.

When are classes offered?
Classes are offered entirely online in asynchronous and synchronous (i.e. real time virtual participation) formats.

Where can I find course descriptions?
Course descriptions for the MEd in Special Education are available in the University Catalog.

What tuition assistance is available?
Mason’s Office of Student Financial Aid provides information on potential scholarships and aid packages for the online MEd in special education program.

How do I receive additional Information?
Prospective students can complete an online request for information form.

How much does it cost to apply?
While there is a $75 application fee, there are multiple times throughout the year that the fee may be waived.