In May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the demand for all special education teachers will grow at a rate of four percent annually through 2031. The four percent figure equates to 20,400 new positions every year. While some special education teachers need only a bachelor’s degree and state certification, those who work with children on the autism spectrum typically need a master's degree to obtain an entry-level position.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2018 that one of every 44 children falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. Their symptoms can range from mild with little disruption experienced in daily life to severe, which may require them to receive help with everyday care and activities.

A career as a teacher, therapist, or administrator working with families impacted by autism can be extremely rewarding for people with the right combination of practical skills, patience, and empathy. The first step is finding the best online autism spectrum disorders master's degree program.

What Will I Learn in an Online Autism Spectrum Disorders Master’s Degree Program?

Most colleges and universities offer the choice of obtaining a master’s degree in autism spectrum disorders or a general special education degree with an autism spectrum disorders specialty certificate. Both options are frequently available through online education.

Students enrolled in an online master's degree program in special education learn to work as teachers or other professionals who assist children on the autism spectrum of all ages.

Most online graduate programs feature heavy research courses that students can later apply to their special education teaching, counseling, or administrative careers. Below are several examples of actual courses completed by students in the Applied Behavioral Analysis program with a focus on autism spectrum disorders at Endicott College in Beverley, Massachusetts.

  • Introduction to autism spectrum disorders
  • Effective collaboration across disciplines
  • Setting goals for students with an autism spectrum disorder
  • Understanding communication challenges for people with autism
  • How to manage severe behavioral challenges
  • Evidence-based practice

Schools offering master's degrees in autism spectrum disorders frequently provide adult learners with the option of completing their requirements entirely online or in a hybrid learning environment. The latter requires some visits to campus.

The average duration of this graduate degree program is 12 to 18 months of full-time study. Those who choose to obtain a general special education degree with an autism spectrum disorders specialty certificate should expect to spend up to four months earning their credential.

What To Look For in an Online Autism Spectrum Disorders Master’s Program?

When searching for an online master’s program in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), there are several important factors to consider. Accreditation should be a top priority to ensure the program meets high academic standards and is recognized by reputable accrediting bodies. Look for programs accredited by relevant institutions or organizations specializing in ASD or special education. The curriculum should be comprehensive, covering a range of topics related to ASD, such as assessment and diagnosis, evidence-based interventions, behavior management, communication strategies, and inclusive education. Practical application of knowledge should be emphasized, with opportunities for hands-on learning experiences or field placements in ASD settings. It is also important to evaluate the qualifications and expertise of the faculty members, ensuring they have relevant academic backgrounds and practical experience in working with individuals on the autism spectrum.

Access to resources such as research articles, case studies, and intervention materials is essential for staying updated on the latest developments in the field. Additionally, consider the flexibility of the online learning platform, including options for part-time or full-time study, as well as interactive features that foster engagement and collaboration among students. Finally, look for programs that offer support services, such as mentorship, career guidance, and networking opportunities within the ASD community. By considering these factors, individuals can make informed decisions when selecting an online master’s program in autism spectrum disorders.

Admissions Requirements for a Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorders

All schools offering graduate degree programs require that you already have a bachelor’s degree, preferably related to your area of study. Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, rated as having the best master's degree program in this field by the website Applied Behavioral Analysis Programs Guide, requires applicants to meet the following criteria:

  • You must have earned your bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education.
  • Your grade point average (GPA) in all previous college coursework must be at least 2.75.
  • You must have completed at least nine graduate credit hours with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Submit your most recent college transcript or credential evaluation along with your application.
  • Pay a $60 application fee unless you are eligible for a fee waiver.

With the CDC reporting an increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders each year, you can count on this career remaining in high demand. People with a bachelor’s degree in general special education earn a median salary of $61,000 per year, according to the BLS. However, you can expect to earn higher pay due to your advanced credentials.

List of Autism Spectrum Disorders Master’s Degree Programs

Find an online or campus-based master’s program in autism spectrum disorders today – our state-by-state listings make it easy to find a great program near you.

Jump to Your State Listings


Master's Programs
222 S. Copeland Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1037
(850) 644-2525


225 South 6th Street, 9th Floor
Minneapolis, MN 55402-3389
(866) 808-4080

1282 Concordia Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55104-5494
(651) 641-8278

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Joel Gill
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