University of Missouri-Columbia
Master of education in special education
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Master of education

According to 2023 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 36 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by age 8. This shift requires compassionate professionals equipped to conduct evidence-based interventions and guide diverse students’ academic and social development. Designed for education and counseling professionals, the fully online master of education (M Ed) in special education with an emphasis in autism from the University of Missouri (Mizzou) prepares you to serve children and teens with autism, as well as their families.

Through 30 credit hours completed entirely online, you will learn to refine your classroom delivery, oversee interventions and education plans and help students improve their social skills. 

About the online M Ed in autism

As a teacher, school counselor or therapist, you’ve noticed one trend over the past decade: more and more children start school with an ASD diagnosis or receive one a few years into their education. As a result, schools across the country find their teams short staffed or underprepared to address this population’s specific learning, development and social needs.

Mizzou’s online M Ed in autism helps broaden existing professionals’ knowledge through a curriculum developed by the Department of Special Education (DSE) and the Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders. The DSE strives to graduate leaders who help children and adults with disabilities obtain the skills needed to succeed in life and emphasizes a multidisciplinary perspective designed to foster a collaborative, supportive school culture. Through degree programs, clinical services and public policy efforts, the Thompson Center focuses on aiding individuals diagnosed with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders and their families. The Center further extends internship opportunities to students interested in supplementing their studies with hands-on experience.

Students enrolled in the online master’s in autism:

  • Learn to implement evidence-based practices to assist students along the full continuum of autism spectrum disorders from early childhood into adulthood
  • Prepare to assess and establish age-appropriate social competency benchmarks for students with ASD
  • Understand how to advocate for students with autism and support historically underserved groups
  • Explore the history of autism and the diagnostic process, including related assessments and therapies like applied behavior analysis (ABA)
  • Grow their instructional skill set to engage students with ASD and meet the academic needs of those diagnosed with high-functioning autism

Top-ranked programs

Mizzou's online master's in education programs ranked among the nation's finest in U.S. News & World Report 2024.

Quick facts

Official name

Master of education in special education with an emphasis in autism


University of Missouri-Columbia

Program type

Master's degree

Academic home

College of Education & Human Development | Department of Special Education

Delivery mode

100% online


Higher Learning Commission, Teacher Education Accreditation Council

Credit hours


Estimated cost


*This cost is for illustrative purposes only. Your hours and costs will differ, depending on your transfer hours, your course choices and your academic progress. See more about tuition and financial aid.

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Career prospects

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts steady demand for special education teachers through 2032. Schools, community centers and clinical environments specifically seek out professionals who are knowledgeable about autism and ready to guide students’ or clients’ academic and social progress.

The online M Ed in autism boosts the credentials of:

  • Career or technical education teachers
  • Instructional coordinators
  • Occupational therapists
  • Recreational therapists
  • School counselors
  • Special education teachers
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
employment growth
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
median salary

Program structure

For the online M Ed in autism, students complete nine credit hours of core requirements and 21 credit hours of autism courses.

The core sequence highlights the influence of human development on the classroom environment and communication strategies for assisting special education students and their families. At the same time, they review existing special education-focused research and related methodologies to take an evidence-based approach to classroom practices, student outcomes and other issues.

Courses are held on a semester schedule, and no campus visits are required. Students typically take one or two classes each semester and finish in two years.

Course work includes

The sequence of autism courses introduces you to:

  • Characteristics of children with autism, including those who are high functioning
  • Best practice evaluation methods
  • Providing intervention and support in home, community and classroom settings
  • Promoting and enhancing social competence
  • Examining curriculum and approaches based on current research
  • Addressing problems or challenging behaviors using functional assessments and positive behavioral supports

Review all requirements for the online M Ed in autism.


100% online

Calendar system


Typical program length

2 years

Typical course load

1 or 2 classes each semester


The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The College of Education and Human Development is a member of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Learn more about this program

This program is administered by the Department of Special Education