An online special education degree may open doors to rewarding careers. If you have a knack for understanding and helping others, you may be well-suited for a career as a special educator.
Some students face obstacles due to learning disabilities or mental, emotional, or physical challenges. Special educators may assess these students’ needs and provide accommodations to help them succeed as learners.
Best Online Special Education Degrees
A Bachelor of Arts in Special Education or a Bachelor of Science in Special Education is the entry-level degree for a professional career as a special educator. You may qualify to teach grades K-12 or specialized adult education programs.
In addition to coursework, degree programs that prepare students for teaching in public schools usually require field experience and internships in public schools. Completion of an internship may make you eligible for licensure or certification to teach in the public schools in your state.
A bachelor’s degree in special education is an education degree with special education as the chosen track or area of concentration. So, special education bachelor’s degree programs feature many of the same classes as education degree programs.
Like other bachelors programs, earning an online degree in special education requires taking core courses to create a broad educational foundation. Core units include courses in math, English, social sciences, and physical sciences.
Courses specific to special education aim to help you develop the skills and expertise to become a special educator. They focus on building knowledge and skills to teach students with learning challenges and disabilities.
Special education courses cover topics such as instructional planning and assessment, social justice for educators, and ethical and legal issues in special education.
Some courses investigate effective teaching methods for teaching math and language skills to students with special needs. You may also cover strategies for behavior management and maintenance of safe learning environments for exceptional students.
Special Education Careers & Salaries
Special education teachers are needed in preschools and at all levels in K-12 education. You might also work in residential facilities for people with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities.
The average annual salary for training and development specialists at residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities is $46,980. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates with bachelor’s degrees in special education might pursue the following careers.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|High School Special Education Teachers||$61,710|
|Middle School Special Education Teachers||$61,440|
|Training and Development Specialists||$61,210|
|Kindergarten and Elementary Special Education Teachers||$60,460|
|Preschool Special Education Teachers||$60,000|
|Career and Technical Education Teachers||$58,110|
|Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers||$54,350|
|Preschool and Childcare Center Directors||$48,210|
In addition to teaching, special educators often take on extensive administrative responsibilities for managing students’ individualized education plans (IEPs). They are responsible for tracking data related to students’ diagnostic and achievement tests.
Special education teachers must also collaborate and communicate with other teachers, administrators, and parents. Other career paths you can take as a special educator include tutoring and homeschool consulting.
You may teach adults in sheltered workshops, prisons, or adult learning programs. You may even work for nonprofit agencies that serve as advocates for populations with special needs.
Choosing an Online Special Education Degree
Many colleges and universities offer programs to complete your special education degree online.
While you’re shopping around for the school that’s right for you, you may want to keep these considerations in mind:
- Accreditation status: Regional accreditation is the gold academic standard for an institution. An education degree that is accredited by an organization such as NCATE or CAEP is respected and recognized by employers and other institutions.
- Cost: Tuition costs and related fees may vary from school to school. Opportunities for financial assistance, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs may also vary.
- Online track record: You may consider if a school has a successful track record for delivering instruction online. This may also include tech support for online coursework.
- Online platform accessibility: It can be helpful for learning platforms to be easy to navigate. You may also want to ensure that a platform has easy access to communication with faculty and peers.
- Course types: Some online courses are conducted live at set times while others are made up of prerecorded materials that can be completed at any time. Your preference may depend on your schedule as well as your personal learning style.
You might also investigate the success of the school’s alumni who work in the field of education. This may include the program’s graduation rates as well as the rate of employment for alumni in the field of education. Program reviews may also be available from students and alumni.
Bachelor’s in Special Education Curriculum & Courses
After completing courses in the core curriculum, you may progress into the specialized courses for your special education major. Here are examples of a few upper level courses that you might take:
- Instructional Planning and Assessment: You’ll learn to plan effective instruction and to assess student learning outcomes.
- Survey of Special Education: This course explores the definitions and characteristics of mild to moderate disabilities as well as the educational approaches to help students and their families.
- Social Justice for Educators: This course examines the foundations and dimensions of social justice in education to help you become a culturally competent educator.
- Ethical and Legal Issues in Special Education: This course is a survey of the laws and ethical practices by which special educators must abide.
- Teaching Math to Exceptional Students: You’ll learn research-based methodologies for teaching math to students with mild to moderate disabilities.
- Collaboration and Communication in Special Education: This course is a survey of models for effective collaboration with parents, other teachers, administrators, and community members on behalf of students with exceptionalities.
- Assessment and Eligibility in Special Education: You’ll learn to analyze data from diagnostic and assessment tools to determine a student’s eligibility to receive special education services.
- Language Development for Disabilities and Disorders: This course explores the use of technology and other tools to modify language instruction for students who require accommodations.
- Creating and Managing Learning Environments: You’ll investigate best practices for creating safe and inclusive classrooms, including strategies for behavior management and behavior interventions.
- Student Teaching (Internship): Student teaching often entails full-time teaching in a special education setting (approximately 8 weeks to 16 weeks).
Every online degree in special education will feature its own individual differences. The basic structure, though, of accredited degree programs is similar. This uniformity is built in so that students can fulfill requirements to become licensed or certified teachers in public schools.
Once you’ve selected your top special education degree programs, you’ll be ready to begin the admissions process. The following is a general list of requirements for many bachelors degree programs:
- High school diploma or equivalency (GED)
- Minimum GPA of 2.0 or above, depending on the school
- SAT or ACT test scores, if required
- Letters of recommendation
- Written essay
Some colleges and universities have eliminated the requirement for minimum standardized test scores (SAT and ACT). Even if your high school GPA or test scores are low, you may still be eligible for admission. In some cases, colleges will admit students on a provisional basis.
For provisionally admitted students, colleges often provide remedial classes to elevate students’ academic skills to a level where they can be successful in college-level courses.
In order for your special education degree to be widely respected and accepted, it should be accredited by a national organization that specifically accredits degree programs in the field of education.
Two well-known organizations are the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
It can also be helpful for your college or university to hold regional accreditation from one of the seven organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Financial Aid and Scholarships
You may qualify to receive financial assistance to help with the cost of college tuition and related fees. To see if you qualify for need-based aid, you may start by completing and submitting your FAFSA form on the Federal Student Aid website.
Another type of financial aid is scholarships, which may be merit-based or need-based. They are often offered from federal agencies, state agencies, community organizations, alumni associations, churches, and employers.
You may see if you are eligible for grants as well. You might qualify for a Pell Grant, a TEACH Grant, or other financial aid options that are specifically available for future teachers. If you’re active military, a military veteran, or a family member of military, you may qualify for federal assistance.
What Can You Do with a Special Education Bachelor’s Degree?
The majority of teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree in special education work in grades K-12 in public or private schools. You may work in other settings as well, though.
Residential facilities for people with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities and disorders also employ special education graduates as training and development specialists. Prisons and specialized adult education programs need special educators as well.
You may pursue a job as an advocate or consultant who represents the population of people with special needs. With your degree, you might launch a career as a homeschool consultant or tutor for students with special needs.
You may even become a director of a camp or of a childcare center that serves children with exceptionalities.
How Much Does a Bachelor’s in Special Education Cost?
The cost of tuition and fees varies for each college or university. In-state tuition for residents can sometimes be less expensive than out-of-state tuition for non-residents.
Most bachelor’s degrees in special education require about 120 to 130 credit hours for completion. A typical full-time course load for a semester is 12 to 15 credit hours.
A survey of university websites reveals a range of tuition costs from as low as $166.41 per credit hour for in-state residents to as high as $1,424.83 per credit hour for out-of-state residents.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Special Education Degree
The time it takes for you to complete a special education bachelors degree online may depend on your schedule and your ability to enroll full-time or part-time.
If you go to school full-time and attend a university that offers traditional 16 week semesters, you may complete your program in about 4 years. Some colleges offer online programs that run on 8 week semesters. With full-time enrollment year-round, you may complete your degree in less time.
If you are balancing work or family responsibilities while completing your degree, you may decide to enroll on a part-time basis. This route may take you longer to complete the program.
Is a Special Education Degree Worth It?
Yes, a bachelor’s degree in special education is worth it for many students. With an average salary from $48,000 to $61,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a bachelor’s degree in special education can help you launch a career in this rewarding field.
Common special education careers include special education teacher in preschool or grades K-12, adult literacy teacher, camp director, preschool and childcare director, and training and development specialist in a residential facility.
As a special education teacher, you may have a chance to make a positive difference in the lives of your students.
Universities Offering Online Bachelor’s in Special Education Degree Programs
Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer special education bachelor’s degree online.
Appalachian State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Central Methodist University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The City University of Seattle is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Colorado Christian University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
East Carolina University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Fontbonne University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
FHSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Mayville State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Notre Dame College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Pacific Oaks College is accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and Universities Commission.
Post University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
SPC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Stephen F. Austin State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Alaska – Southeast is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The University of South Carolina Columbia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Southern Mississippi is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of West Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Getting Your Bachelors in Special Education Online
A bachelor’s in special education may be a good fit for you if you have a heart for helping people who face special challenges.
If your goal is to become a special educator, you may want to begin researching accredited colleges or universities to find the program that is best for you. While it often takes time, effort, and determination to complete a degree program, your hard work may lead you to a rewarding career as a special educator.