Master’s in Special Education Degree Programs in Iowa

Iowa is located in “America’s Heartland” in the Midwestern region of the United States. Hailed as the only state totally bordered on the east and west by rivers, this “Corn Belt” state was founded on an agriculturally-based economy. With advancements made during the Industrial Age, Iowa progressed toward a thriving, diversified economy.

Iowa has a large number of public and private colleges and universities offering Master of Arts degrees in a variety of specializations. Listed as one of the safest states in the U.S., families can take comfort that their college-aged children will not only receive a quality education while attending an Iowa university, but do so in a secure environment.

Note: Those interested in distance learning programs should consult our recommendations for Online Master’s in Special Education.

Iowa State University

School of Education

The School of Education at Iowa State University has a vision of premier leadership in education-based programs. As an advocate for educational opportunities, the School of Education strives to prepare excellent educators, researchers and administrators. Graduates of advanced degree programs are prepared for leadership roles in classrooms, colleges and other educational learning environments.

Online and campus-based educational graduate programs are available in such areas as: Master of Education, Master of Science, Special Education, Curriculum and Instructional Technology and graduate certificates in various specializations.

Instructional Strategist II: Behavior Disorders/Learning Disorders

The Instructional Strategist II with concentration in Behavior Disorders/Learning Disorders is a teacher preparation program designed for candidates who hold a current general education license. Graduates are eligible to teach children and young adults (ages 5 to 21) with behavior, learning or mental health challenges.

The majority of the program can be completed online utilizing video streaming and digital portfolios for real-time interactions. The Strategist II credentials are in high-demand due to a significant increase in diagnosed disorders. With a shortage of teachers with the BD/LD endorsement, many are encouraged to complete the program with the possibility of forgivable loans status at state and federal levels.

A 26-credit hour coursework program includes core competencies such as: Assessment skills for disable children and youth, behavior and learning disorder evidence-based program design, career education and transition methods, classroom management, collaboration and consultation with families and professionals. A supervised field experience must be completed in an environment related to behavior disorders/learning disabilities.


Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association
of Colleges and Schools

Contact Information

Enrollment Services Center
Ames, IA 50011–2011
(800) 262-3810

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University of Iowa

College of Education

The University of Iowa’s College of Education was Iowa’s first institution of higher education. Graduates become educational leaders in the areas of administration, psychology, counseling, higher education, and measurement and testing. The College of Education offers state-of-the-art distance learning programs in addition to their traditional campus-based programs.

U.S. News & World Report ranked among the top of “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2014” and top-ranking specialty programs in the areas of Rehabilitation Counseling, Higher Education Administration, Counseling/Personnel Services and Secondary Teacher Education.

The College boasts an extraordinary 10:1 student to faculty ratio and offers Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Arts in Teaching programs plus special endorsements and licensure programs.

Master of Arts in Special Education: Instructional Strategist I: Mild/Moderate (M.A.) (K-8)

The Special Education Master of Arts program with a specialization of Instructional Strategist I is designed for students with a regular education endorsement. The Mild/Moderate concentration prepares students for a teaching position with elementary and secondary-level children (grades K-8) with mild to moderate disabilities.

Learning outcomes include: Fundamental understanding of special needs children, parent-teacher communication skills, assessment techniques, intervention methods for behavioral and socially-challenged children, curriculum development and implementation for exceptionalities. A supervised practicum in a special education classroom and student teaching experience are required for graduation. Career opportunities include positions in schools, education agencies, colleges and universities, and clinical settings.

Master of Arts in Special Education: Instructional Strategist I: Mild/Moderate (M.A.) (5-12)

The Master of Arts in Special Education with concentration as Instructional Strategist I prepares teachers to assist children and youth (grades 5-12) with mild/moderate disabilities. Licensure prepares candidates to teach students with exceptionalities such as learning disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, intellectual disabilities, high-functioning autism or traumatic brain injuries. Many students participate in regular and remedial classroom settings.

Core competencies in the Instructional Strategist I program include: Special education foundations, transition techniques for children and youth with disabilities, communication skills with parents/families, assessment methods, disability characteristics, interventions for behaviorally and socially challenged children, curriculum design and instruction. A field experience and student teaching assignment must be completed in the special education setting. Licensure endorsement is available upon completion of the program.

Master of Arts in Special Education: Instructional Strategist II: Behavior Disorders/Learning Disabilities (M.A.) (K-12)

The Instructional Strategist II master’s degree with specialization in Behavior Disorders/Learning Disabilities prepares students to teach children and adolescents (grades K-12) with behavior and learning challenges. Program requirements include 32 credit hours of coursework and field experience.

Skills learned for this high-demand field include: Technology skills for the special education classroom, basic foundations of special needs, transition methods for children and youth with behavior disorders and learning disabilities, communication between parents and teachers, assessment of learning problems, social and behavior interventions, decision-making/problem-solving techniques in education and strategies for children with exceptionalities. A field practicum and student teaching assignment must be completed prior to licensure.


Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association
of Colleges and Schools

Contact Information

459 Lindquist Center
Iowa City, IA 52242-1529
(319) 335-6111
[email protected]

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University of Northern Iowa

College of Education

The College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa has top-rated, innovative teacher education programs that prepare students for real-world experiences to launch successful careers in education. The College of Education is served by seven departments, each specializing in leading educational fields of study and offering graduate level programs:

-Curriculum & Instruction.
-Educational Leadership & Postsecondary Education.
-Educational Psychology & Foundations.
-School of Health, Physical Education & Leisure Services.
-Department of Teaching.
-Special Education.
-Educational Opportunity Programs & Special Community Services.

Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Education and Master of Science degree programs are available to prepare graduates to become leaders in education for careers such as: teachers, school psychologists, early childhood education providers, principals, athletic trainers, superintendents and university faculty members.

Master of Arts in Special Education: Field Specialization Emphasis

The Master of Arts in Special Education with Field Specialization Emphasis requires 30-34 credit hours of coursework and academic experiences to complete the Iowa teaching endorsement. This program is designed to enhance special needs student access to general education through inclusion. The program focuses on educational research, instructional psychology, the philosophy of education, special education inclusion practices, and special education law and policy.

The program can be completed with a thesis option or non-thesis, comprehensive exam option.

Master of Arts in Special Education: Consultant Emphasis

The Master of Arts in Special Education degree with Consultant Emphasis provides training as a teaching consultant in a special needs setting. Students must hold a Special Education teaching certificate prior to completing this program.

Professional core competencies for this emphasis include: Educational research, instructional psychology foundations, educational philosophy, curriculum design and analysis for special needs children, current trends in special education and collaborative consultation methods. A field practicum in consultation is also required for graduation.

Master of Arts in Special Education: Career/Vocational Emphasis

The Master of Arts in Special Education with Career/Vocational Emphasis prepares students with transition skills necessary for advancing high school special needs youth into a career or college education. Professional skills acquired through this emphasis include: Educational research, psychology foundations, special education philosophy, and vocational and transition assessment for disabled individuals.

A field experience is necessary in a special education setting with supervised career/vocational instruction prior to completion of the endorsement.

Master of Arts in Special Education: Visual Impairments

The Master of Arts in Special Education with Visual Impairments emphasis is designed to prepare teachers for a career assisting children and youth with visual disabilities. Areas of study focus on: Educational research, instructional psychology of the visually impaired, special education research, current issues concerning visual impairment, Braille and tactile communication skills, orientation and mobility, teaching methods for students with visual impairments, anatomy of the eye, assistive technology instruction, and a special education field experience.


Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association
of Colleges and Schools

Contact Information

University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614
(319) 273-2717