If you are looking for a career that is designed to carve out a brighter future, special education might be the perfect landing place. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of great personal reckoning. Many are asking big questions about new academic and career paths. Are you? No matter what it was that led you here, we want to support you to find a bachelor’s degree program that meets all of your needs. Studying online might be the perfect fit for the times, but also in terms of juggling your other life commitments. The projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that the field of special education is not going anywhere, and in fact only increasing up to 8% by 2026. Many people choose to achieve an associate’s degree in this field first, for the sake of affordability and practice. Therefore, many online bachelor’s programs take into account previous academic credits and act as degree completion programs. An online bachelor’s in special education can also offer the necessary flexibility to enable you to continue working in the classroom if you were already doing so, and if not maintaining other work and family commitments. You will learn all of the important skills and resources available to special education teachers.
Below you will find our list of best 25 online bachelor’s degrees in special education, all of which have been ranked according to three metrics:
- Alumni Success Rate
This well-rounded list offers program options that support the needs of a variety of learners. We also touch upon the various roles of professionals in the field of special education. Take a good look and see if there is something that speaks to you and your goals. Best of luck.
University of Washington-Seattle CampusSeattle, WA
The University of Washington offers an online bachelors in special education that is expressly a degree completion program. This is an excellent option for someone in search of a comprehensive program option that tackles early childhood education. Applicants must already have 70 hours of coursework under their belt to qualify for the program. They believe in striking a balance between theory and practice, which includes an extensive fieldwork component. All of the classes are designed to be flexible while also engaging a community pedagogy that supports learning in community with a cohort model. New cohorts can begin the program together each fall and remain together until graduation. The online learning utilizes asynchronous learning, meaning students can log in to their coursework whenever is convenient for them, rather than having class times. Their Department of Education includes a Developmental Disabilities arm that supports the program.
Degree Title: BA Early Childhood and Family Studies
University of GeorgiaAthens, GA
The University of Georgia offers a Bachelors of Science in Special Education that can be completed online. This online bachelor’s in special education program takes place within the Mary Frances College of Education. Not only is this a pathway for degree completion, but it also offers a certification. Every fall, a new cohort begins in this program, and though the class convenes virtually, they remain together through completion. The entire course of study is made up of 121 credit hours. Some of the specialized courses include: behavioral management, contemporary issues, instruction of individuals with mild disabilities, as well as three practicums and supervised student teaching. Many students in the program are currently working in classrooms as paraprofessionals and are able to use their current employment to support their coursework. The program is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Degree Title: BS in Special Education
University of Wisconsin-StoutMenomonie, WI
The University of Wisconsin-Stout offers an online bachelors in special education degree program. This particular course of study emphasizes some key features including: an intimate virtual learning environment that offers students comprehensive advising and support for faculty members, cross categorical licensure, field placements early on that are varied, and the opportunity to work with students in kindergarten through adolescence, as well as ages 5-21. Additional certifications that the program offers include: post bachelor’s certification and autism certificate. They pride themselves on the fact that literally 100 percent of their graduates are either continuing their education or employed. They offer many online virtual resources including support distance librarians to adult student services coordinators. Some of the top-notch skills that students can expect from this program include: assessment, working with families and support services, as well as collaborating with families to create education and transition plans for students.
Degree Title: BS in Special Education
University of Southern MississippiHattiesburg, MS
The University of Southern Mississippi offers a fully online bachelors of science in special education programspecifically for students interested in working in the field of elementary education/ special education. This is a unique opportunity to achieve a dual degree. This unique program is fully accredited by the National Council for Accreditation and of Teacher Education. This program offering is designed for students who have an associate’s degree in a similar field, or the equivalent in coursework, as it is a degree completion program. This course of study features many opportunities for field experience. Students will gain skills to effectively work with students of all abilities including special needs in a one-on-one or classroom environment, provide instruction that is research and evidence based, including reading intervention, and engage students in small group activities.
Degree Title: BS in Special Education — Elementary Education/Special Education
Eastern Carolina University
Eastern Carolina University offers a Bachelors of Science in Special Education Programthat is delivered online. Students will learn how to create relevant and well researched curricula for general students as well as adapted learning for those who have special needs and/ or learning differences. Every summer, a new special education cohort enters the program, and they work together throughout their course of study. The senior year requires students to engage in an internship on a full-time basis that is conducted in a public-school classroom. There are part-time study options for students who work full time while completing the program. This online bachelor in special education prepares students to work with young people who have varying degrees of cognitive disabilities. Students will also learn the core skills of any beginning teacher. Many students also complete the necessary coursework to become reading specialists.
Degree Title: BS in Special Education – General or Adapted
University of Alaska SoutheastJuneau, AK
The University of Alaska Southeast offers an online bachelors in special education degree programthat prepares students for a successful career in the field. Students will learn how to create culturally competent and responsive curriculum to be delivered in special education classrooms. Students will gain increased awareness about the unique and complex needs of adults and youth with special needs and learning disabilities, the diverse non-native and native communities indigenous to Alaska, as well as the rural and urban communities that reside in the state. This program is only for students in the state of Alaska, even though it is delivered through remote learning. This is a result of the supervision requirements After being granted admission to the program prospective students can apply for the TEACH grant, which would offer exceptional scholarship benefits. The program is fully accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Degree Title: BA in Special Education
Old Dominion UniversityNorfolk, VA
Old Dominion University offers a bachelor’s of science degree program in special educationthat is delivered entirely online. This was designed expressly for students who already have some credits accomplished, and want to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours at ODU to accomplish their degree. Students will learn to work with students from Kindergarten to 12th grade, not only through theoretical coursework, but experiential field work as well. An extensive internship is a program requirement. Only students in Virginia and Washington are eligible for the program. Graduates will be eligible and equipped to achieve a licensure for the state of Virginia. ODU offers a guaranteed admission agreement in partnership with the community college system in Virginia. The completion of the degree requires a total of 120 credit hours. Prospective students are encouraged to speak to an enrollment team to better understand the transfer process.
Degree Title: BS in Special Education
Grand Canyon UniversityPhoenix, AZ
Grand Canyon University offers a bachelor’s of science degree program in elementary education and special educationthat is delivered entirely online. This online bachelor in special education teaches students to create and deliver instruction that is customized and geared towards students with learning differences and disabilities. Some of the subjects that will be covered in depth include developmentally appropriate pedagogy, classroom management, personalized learning strategies for students’ achievement, collaboration with general education teachers (also known as mainstreaming support), adapting learning for the least restrictive environment. Students that participate in this program might be interested in one of the following careers: curriculum coach, classroom teacher, education advocate, resource room or special day class teacher, school program director, child development specialist. Some of the core courses include social justice for educators and professional, ethical and legal practices and policies in special education.
Degree Title: BS in Elementary Education and Special Education
University of Cincinnati-Main CampusCincinnati, OH
The University of Cincinnati offers a bachelor’s of science program in special education that is delivered entirely online. This course of study is geared towards students interested in working with either adults or children with special needs or both. There are a number of specializations within the special education program including within the disciplines of language arts and math, as well as natural sciences. One of the objectives linked to this particular program is the ability to create a teaching practice that is inclusive and geared towards students from kindergarten to 12th grade, and also perform as an intervention specialist. The coursework and extensive fieldwork opportunities will prepare students to work with students who have moderate and severe disabilities and learning differences. The program is fully accredited by the higher learning commission. They pride themselves on service delivery that is ecologically based.
Degree Title: BS in Special Ed
The University of West FloridaPensacola, FL
The University of West Florida offers a bachelor’s of arts in exceptional student education. This program is designed to support prospective teachers to work with both exceptionally gifted students and those with disabilities. This is one of the unique online special education bachelor degree programs that is designed to be flexible. One of the perks is that the programming is taught exclusively by full time faculty members. Graduates of the program are eligible to achieve a department of education certification in the state of Florida. Graduates can also walk away with an exceptional student education and elementary education with reading and ESOL endorsements. Another aspect of the curriculum is collaboration as it relates to working with colleagues, community members and families. Financial aid can be accessed even by part time students. Two field experiences that are 100 hours in length are required for program completion.
Degree Title: BA in Exceptional Student Education
Fort Hays State UniversityHays, KS
Fort Hays State University offers a bachelor’s of science in education program with a minor in special education. This course of study is offered entirely online. This minor itself requires the completion of 21 credit hours. A 16-week teaching experience is required for program completion, and students will walk away with marketable skills. Once students finish the program they will be able to achieve a special education endorsement. Some of the courses include: assessment in special education, behavior strategies and support, principles of instruction in special education and clinical immersion from birth to grade 12, among others. In order to graduate, students must receive a C grade or better on all of their classes. Graduates have seen a great deal of employment success upon program completion. Many have gone on to work in classroom environments and others in technology centers, disability resource centers, among other places.
Degree Title: BS in Education – Special Education Minor
University of West AlabamaLivingston, AL
The University of West Alabama offers a bachelor’s of science program in special education, with the specific emphasis on collaborative teaching. Students will learn to work with youth ages K-6 and 6-12. This course of study was expressly designed for working professionals who already spend their days in the classroom, but want to build their skills and qualify for career advancement. All of the classes offered are completed in eight weeks. Graduates will be eligible for a teaching license in the state of Alabama. The professional education component of the program is made up of 67 credit hours, and the general education basic requirements make up 57 credit hours. Most people are able to accomplish the program in 3-4 years. The entire course of study is 128 credit hours. Though all of the classes take place online, students will need to attend on campus seminars and a few other on-site requirements.
Degree Title: BS Special Education: Collaborative Teacher
Fontbonne UniversitySaint Louis, MO
Fontbonne University offers a bachelor’s of science degree program in special education. This is one of the interesting online special education bachelor degree programs as it collaborates extensively with other departments like liberal arts. Students will learn the best practices for working with students K-12 with moderate to mild disabilities. This program has an addition of certification in elementary education and trains students to work with first through sixth graders. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of practicum experiences that give them many chances to skill build in many different classroom environments. They pride themselves on offering an intimate learning community with a student to teacher ratio of 10:1. Even though much of the learning can be done in a virtual classroom, there are no shortages of opportunities to connect. The program aligns with national industry standards.
Degree Title: Bachelor’s in Special Education
Dakota State UniversityMadison, SD
Dakota State University offers a bachelor’s of science in elementary education program that can be completed entirely online. They support students to build all of the necessary skills to be well prepared and competent special education teachers in a variety of settings. Students will learn the underpinnings of principles for instructional design, innovative ways to fold technology into their curriculum, and creative ways to build a nurturing and safe learning environment for students who have diverse learning needs. This also includes creating lessons that are experiential and effective for students who have different styles. Technology is an important aspect of this program, and something they believe is integral to successfully engaging special education classrooms. In fact, all graduates will earn a special education technology endorsement to work with ages K-12. Many graduates use this degree to become a K-12 technology teacher, among other disciplines including: special education teacher, title I teacher, and elementary teacher.
Degree Title: BSE in Elementary/Special Education
University of South Carolina-AikenAiken, SC
The University of South Carolina Aiken offers an online bachelors in special education program.This was designed to prepare prospective teachers with children grades kindergarten through 12 who have special needs. The curriculum is vast and well rounded, and offers classes such as responsible citizenship, cross cultural understanding, diversity, among many others. Students will learn all aspects of effective teaching including how to plan efficiently, instruct, manage, grow personally and professionally, as well as communicate interpersonally. This program will enable students in South Carolina to add on to the appropriate special education certifications in the following categories: learning disabilities, multicategorical special education, emotional disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. This is a degree completion program, which means that incoming students must already have 45-60 credit hours under their belts to qualify. The total credit hours to graduate from this program are 126-129.
Degree Title: BA in Special Education
Mayville State UniversityMayville, ND
Mayville State University offers a bachelor’s of science of education program in special education that is delivered entirely online. Some of the features of the program include the fact that it is affordable, easy to transfer into, and also known for being flexible. This program is relatively new and offers prospective teachers in the State of North Dakota to gain complex skills and contribute to their communities. They are responding to the Council for Exceptional Children’s declaration of a severe shortage of qualified teachers in the region, especially in terms of special education. The program, however, is not limited to students from the state; in fact, out of state students receive the same tuition if they are studying virtually. The online classes are delivered in a synchronous format, meaning there are specific login times that must be adhered to. This also means there are many opportunities for group learning and live class discussions.
Degree Title: BSEd in Special Education
Western Governors UniversitySalt Lake City, UT
Western Governors University offers a bachelors of arts in special education program that is delivered entirely online. This is a unique course of study, as it offers a dual licensure in both elementary education, which includes students k-12, and a special education certification. Students will learn well researched techniques to work with students with disabilities from mild to moderate. On top of coursework, there are many assessments that students will undergo and perform as well as an extensive preclinical experience. This will include observation hours. Sixty-two percent of the students that undergo this program complete the coursework in 42 months. This is a degree completion program, and 28 credits is the average amount that students enter with. The team of faculty members make themselves available to holistically support students and their needs, even in the virtual learning format. The program has multiple accreditations.
Degree Title: BA in Special Education
University of West GeorgiaCarrollton, GA
TheUniversity of West Georgia offers a bachelor’s of sciencein education with a distinct major in special education and teaching. Two tracks are available, including general or adapted. All students who complete all of the course work successfully will be qualified for a Georgia Level 4 certification. This certification will enable achievement of a career teaching students with disabilities grades pre-K-12. Though students can opt to primarily complete this program online, there are some face-to-face requirements. The total semester hours required to complete this program is 123. The University of West Georgia is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Students will gain an in-depth overview of special education best practices and the foundations of professional and ethical practices for special educators. Collaboration is highly stressed in this course of study, and will be practiced throughout the program.
Degree Title: BS in Education – Special Education
St Petersburg CollegeClearwater, FL
St Petersburg College offers an online bachelors of science degree in exceptional student education. This course of study trains students to be effective special education teachers in a variety of settings. The emphasis is working with students Kindergarten through 12th grade with mild to moderate disabilities. Some of the classes include: cultural diversity, nature and needs of exceptional students, diagnosis and intervention in reading for diverse students k-12, early and emergent literacy, among many others. The entire program is 125 credit hours in length. Students who complete this program will be eligible for a Florida teaching license. Academic advisors are on hand to speak to prospective students about transfers and answer any questions about their particular circumstance. This program also enables students to achieve an endorsement for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). The state of Florida is particularly short of qualified teachers in this field, so this program is answering a call.
Degree Title: BS in Exceptional Student Education
Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA
Liberty University offers an online bachelors in special education program. This is actually a bachelor’s of science program in special education interdisciplinary studies. There are no requirements for campus visits for the entire course of the program. Each class is completed in an eight-week cycle. Students are able to transfer up to 75 percent of their credit hours into the program, and the transfer process is quite seamless. The program will provide all of the necessary skill foundations for prospective special education teachers including: learning and behavioral problems, an understanding of autism spectrum disorder, educational and theoretical approaches to autism, and interventions for students who have intellectual disabilities. The entire course of study can be completed in 3.5 years. Liberty has an evangelical Christian backbone that supports all of their programming, and is present in coursework themes.
Degree Title: BS in Special Education Interdisciplinary Studies
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods CollegeSaint Mary of the Woods, IN
Saint Mary of the Woods College offers two very credible online bachelor’s of science in special education programs. One is primarily geared towards teaching Kindergarten through 6th grade for students who need mild intervention. This is a dual licensure program that offers complex coursework for a complex world. Students will take classes such as growth and development, social, emotional development and behavioral intervention, and participate in an eLearning and technology in education capstone. They also offer a bachelor’s of science program in mild intervention for grades preschool to third. This is also a flexible online program that focuses on learning early interventions for young children with disabilities and who have special needs. This program offers an intimate learning environment where students can collaborate more effectively and not fall through the cracks. Saint Mary of the Woods has ample financial aid opportunities for students who study online as well as those on campus.
Degree Title: BS mild intervention K-6th/ BS mild intervention pre-K-3rd
Central Methodist UniversityFayette, MO
Central Methodist University offers a bachelor’s of science in education degree program in special educationthat was designed for students who are passionate about working with students who have disabilities and/ or special needs in relation to learning. There are many critical subjects pertinent to the discipline that are covered in the coursework and focus on methodology of teaching, instruction for special needs students, and mind development. Some of the classes include: general methods of teaching, intro to special education, counseling in special education, and exceptional children. Hands on learning is also featured in this program, as students will embark on several projects, field experiences, observations, and internships. The online classes are either delivered in 8 or 16 week increments. Students can choose if they want to work at a more accelerated pace, in which case they will opt for the 8-week class cycle.
Degree Title: BS in Education – Special Education
Colorado Christian UniversityLakewood, CO
Colorado Christian University offers a bachelor’s of arts in special educationthat is delivered entirely online. This degree is situated in their special education generalist undergraduate degree programs. This course of study trains prospective special education teachers with multiple tiers of interventions and instruction. Generalists are the problem solvers who play key support roles for students. Because of the level of need for special education, students in the program will be eligible to apply for the TEACH grant. This program features a Christian worldview that runs through the practice and theory of all of the coursework. This program can be accomplished by students all over the globe, though some state exclusions apply, and should be discussed with an advisor. There are many financial aid offerings for which most students qualify, as well as discount offerings for the application fee. The program is made up of 120 credit hours.
Degree Title: BA in Special Education
Notre Dame CollegeCleveland, OH
Notre Dame College offers a bachelor’s of education program that is delivered entirely online. The degree is called mild to moderate intervention specialist for grades k-12. Those who complete the program will be thoroughly prepared to sit for the Ohio Assessments for Educators (OAE) Exam. One of the features of the program is the extensive amount of field work opportunities that add up to over 1,000 hours. Students can take classes on a full or part time basis, which will be the difference of 8 or 16 week cycles. Students can transfer up to 90 credit hours. The entire program length is 4 years. To complete the program, students must undergo 120 credit hours of coursework. Some of the embedded topics are: integrated technology, curriculum principles, educational psychology, collaborative teaming, developmental reading instruction, classroom management, and assessment techniques for special education.
Degree Title: Mild/Moderate Intervention Specialist (K–12)
City University of SeattleSeattle, WA
The City University of Seattle offers a bachelors of arts program with a special education concentration. This online bachelor in special education program equips prospective special education teachers with state of the art classroom skills and foundations to be well prepared and effective teachers. The program offers many endorsement options including: elementary education, middle level mathematics, reading, English language learners (ELL), and special education. The entire course of study requires the completion of 180 credit hours. Students will gain awareness regarding the theories and practical applications of classroom management, quality instructional design and delivery, health and fitness and the empowering or limiting impact, inquiry based approach to teaching STEM, along with many others. Students must enroll in the program in the summer. The program is fully accredited by the Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board, and has an excellent reputation in the region.
Degree Title: BA in education with special education concentration
How Much Can I Make as a Special Education Teacher?
According to payscale, a special needs teacher salary varies, depending on the level of degree the educator has achieved. An undergraduate degree in special education can offer an average salary of $52,000 per year. Preschool or kindergarten special education teachers can make an average of $40,000s. There are many ways to approach this path, but clearly a bachelor and above makes all of the difference as far as salary is concerned. Clearly, this is variable depending on where the educator lives and if they have a specialization. This does not, however, account for the perks of having job security and the benefits associated with working for a school system. The salary potential is even higher if one chooses a special education career as an executive director or program leader. This can be upwards of $77,000. It is projected that a chief executive officer is well into six figures with a $153,000 median income range.
How Can I Get a Bachelor’s in Special Education Online?
There are many versions of online special education bachelor degree programs. Some can enable you to achieve all 120 credit hours (or in some cases more) online. However, most of the programs out there are degree completion programs. These opportunities, however, are mostly completion programs. What this means is they are catering to students who already have an associate’s degree in a similar discipline and want to complete a bachelors in a flexible format. Colleges that offer special education degrees might have an online arm in order to offer students a chance to work in the field while pursuing their degree, and utilize their current employment as fieldwork. Just like any program, special education degrees come in all shapes and the online learning opportunities are also not one size fits all. Some programs are more demanding and fast paced, others allow students to work within their own time frame.
What Will I Learn in a Special Education Degree Program?
Special education degree programs offer a myriad of theoretical and practical skills with the intention of preparing students to work in the classroom following graduation. You will also learn how to navigate the world of IEPs and 504s. The skillset is vast and dependent on the institution. Special education degree requirements are often fairly ubiquitous and are made up of something close to 120 credit hours. I would say the majority of programs have an embedded field work, internship, and practicum component, ensuring that graduates have enough experience to be effective. Many programs offer coursework in classroom management, understanding interventions for students with mild to moderate disabilities, creative classroom activities, and often coursework related to communication with students and families. Many programs have explicit technology inclusion aspects that play a role in facilitating all of the coursework. Some even have a STEM inclusion aspect. Many programs have a focus on intervention strategies or a generalist approach, in which case the classes reflect some of those concepts. Some of the programs have additional endorsement opportunities like reading specialists. Some of these options make graduates more marketable in the workforce, so it’s certainly something to consider.