Last Update: March 21, 2017
Special Education teachers wear many hats. They have to think on think on their feet, have the ability to work in a team, exercise massive amounts of patience, and juggle the individual needs of diverse students.
That is a lot to ask of any one person – but by all accounts the rewards of the job are incalculable. Teachers who work with children who have special needs witness first-hand the difference their work makes to their students In fact, in a recent study, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found that Special Education jobs ranked among the top ten most satisfying careers.1
And never has there been such an urgent need for creative, compassionate, and qualified Special Education teachers in the U.S.
There is no lack of evidence for this. The U.S. Department of Education approximated 50,000 individuals practicing special education who are unqualified. 2 And recently, the Journal of Special Education has acknowledged a “chronic and severe shortage” of personnel to deliver special education services.3
So if you think you have what it takes to work with these special kids, then this is a great time to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education. But if doing so in a full-time, campus-based setting is not an option for you, then an online degree can provide a path to a high quality, affordable education that will be taken seriously by employers.4
To help you out, we at College Choice have compiled a list of 15 online Bachelor’s degrees in Special Education for your perusal. Our goal is to find programs that combine academic quality with return on investment, and our ranking methodology takes into account a variety of factors. We start with standard academic reputation rankings and then calculate a composite score by weighing tuition cost, acceptance rates, and early career salaries.
A couple other things to be aware of:
- We only list schools with regional accreditation, and many programs have additional accreditation from major educational accrediting bodies.
- If you are applying to a teaching program in a different state, make sure to look into state certification reciprocity agreements. You want to be sure that your license will be valid in your home state!
We hope this ranking helps you find the right online Special Education program for you!
University of Georgia
College Choice Score: 100.00
Tuition Per Credit: $562.00
Situated in Athens, Georgia, the University of Georgia is a public institution whose history reaches back to 1785 – the first public, state-supported college in America. Currently, the school is home to a renowned College of Education, and its online Bachelor’s programs rank among the best in the country (US News and World Report).
The College of Education Department of Communication Sciences and Special Education offers an online, NCATE accredited Bachelor of Science in Special Education degree completion program. This online program is intended for students who wish to become certified in Special Education General Curriculum for pre-K to grade 12 in the state of Georgia, with a focus on children with mild to moderate disabilities.
- Courses begin in the fall.
- All course content, assignments, and exams are delivered and completed online.
- Students make two campus visits – program orientation and a student teaching workshop.
Students in the Special Education program complete field experiences in Georgia P-12 schools each semester, culminating in a full-time student teaching experience in their final semester. Prospective students must have 60 credits of transfer credit and 30 hours of observation for admission to the program.
Western Governors University
College Choice Score: 97.78
Tuition Per Credit: $241.00
Western Governors University is a private, non-profit, regionally accredited (NWCCU), online university which is located in Salt Lake City, UT. The school aims to make education as accessible as possible, and the National Council of Teacher Quality recently ranked the school’s Teacher’s College as one of the best values in teacher education in the nation.
The Teacher’s College at Western Governors University offers an NCATE-accredited, online Bachelor of Arts in Special Education degree which leads to teacher licensure. In some states, the program will lead to dual licensure in Elementary Education and Special Education. The program is designed to be flexible and students can complete it in 2-2.5 if they already have an Associate degree or equivalent credits.
- Demonstration teaching and the cohort seminar are offered twice each year, in the fall and spring.
- Students should be able to spend at least 15 hours/week on coursework.
- The program includes practice teaching and the completion of a professional portfolio.
WGU developed their online special education program with significant input from experts and educational leaders who serve on their Education Program Council. Additionally, the B.A. in Special Education is nationally recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).
Old Dominion University
College Choice Score: 93.36
Tuition Per Credit: $355.00
Old Dominion University is a public institution located in Norfolk, Virginia. The school has been a pioneer in technology-delivered distance learning since the mid-1980s and has been offering online bachelor’s degree programs since 2003, earning national acclaim for their high-quality programs.
ODU Online offers an online NCATE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Special Education (Early Childhood & Adapted Curriculum) which equips students to provide highly individualized instruction to support a child’s developmental progress. The degree leads to a Virginia teaching license with two endorsements: Early Childhood Special Education (birth to 5), and Special Education Adapted Curriculum K-12 (Severe Disabilities).
- Students attend class online on a regular schedule and access course materials online from any location.
- This program requires a practicum or internship during normal school hours.
- Program requirements include 40-41 credit hours for major content plus 49 credit hours for professional education/practicum.
This is a completion degree program – Old Dominion University offers only upper division (300 and 400 level) courses, but the school has partnered with the Virginia Community College System and select educational institutions to ease the transfer process for students. This program is not available for students in Washington State.
College Choice Score: 91.04
Tuition Per Credit: $390.00
Established by Jerry Falwell in 1971, Liberty University is a private, evangelical, regionally accredited (SACS) Christian university located in Lynchburg, VA. The University has an extensive online program (100,000 students were enrolled in 2016) which has garnered national acclaim – US News and World Report ranks their online Bachelor’s program in the top 100 nationally.
Liberty University’s online Bachelor of Science Special Education Interdisciplinary Studies degree is a NCATE-accredited program which equips students with the knowledge and skills to approach special education from a Christian perspective. The program covers current educational trends, such as differentiated learning and direct instruction, practiced in today’s private and public schools.
- Students complete 120 credit hours total (at least 30 hours must be completed at Liberty).
- One 90 hour practicum is optional.
- The program provides theories and methodology of Christian education that will assist those who work in Christian schools, churches, and the home.
It is important to note that this degree program does not lead to a state teaching license, though that option is open to students who continue for a 5th year in Liberty’s MAT program. However, for those interested in teaching in Christian schools, the Association of Christian Schools International recognizes Liberty’s B.S. in Education for an ACSI Certificate.
University of Southern Mississippi
College Choice Score: 89.39
Tuition Per Credit: $340.00
Colloquially known as Southern Miss, the University of Southern Mississippi is a public university located in Hattiesburg, MS. US News and World Report has ranked the school among the best public schools and national universities in the country and their online bachelor’s program also ranks highly.
The flagship for teacher education in Mississippi, the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education at USM offers an NCATE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Special Education. This licensure track program leads to licensure in mild/moderate disabilities (K-12) in the state of Mississippi. The school’s professional education faculty have extensive expertise in the classroom and are actively engaged in research that informs professional practice.
- Students complete 122 credit hours in total (coursework plus practicum).
- Students spend 30 hours in observation and practicum experiences and 16 weeks in their final field experience in state-accredited schools.
During their junior and senior years, students complete practicum experiences either in the Hattiesburg or Gulf Coast area – however, if you are currently employed in a public school setting as a Special Education teacher’s assistant you may request an exemption to this requirement.
University of Maine System - University College
College Choice Score: 86.14
Tuition Per Credit: $271.00
University College is the distance education branch of the University of Maine system. Since 1989, University College has been providing educational opportunities (at the bachelor’s to post-doctoral level) at off-campus centers and online. The University of Maine at Augusta and The University of Maine at Machias have partnered together to offer this Special Education degree program through University College.
Through this unique partnership, students earn a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with a minor in Special Education. Through the University College online system, students take liberal arts courses from the University of Maine at Augusta while taking special education courses from the University of Maine at Machias.
- Program includes 15 hours of student teaching at a school district near the student’s home.
- It is possible to complete the UMM certification program within three semesters if students have fulfilled all content requirements.
For the Special Education minor, students complete 27 credits of specified Special Education courses from UMM or their equivalent, nine of which must be UMM courses. This NCATE-accredited program prepares students for their two-year initial certification through the Maine Department of Education. And at $271 / credit, this degree program is a very good value.
Mayville State University
College Choice Score: 85.48
Tuition Per Credit: $285.00
Located in Mayville, ND, Mayville State University is a small, public university that is part of the North Dakota University system. Though small in student population, the school has extended the reach of their high-quality programs through a robust online education program which has ranked among the best in the nation (US News and World Report).
Mayville State University offers an online, NCATE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Special Education leading to licensure from the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. The program consists of a double major in professional education (early childhood, elementary or secondary) and special education, resulting in dual certification.
- Degree program includes teaching internship.
- At $285 per credit, this high-quality online program represents great value
This program allows students at other North Dakota University System institutions or other universities to pursue the special education major entirely online, while completing other education majors on another campus. And Mayville State is known to a particularly transfer-friendly school. The school accepts transfer credit from regionally recognized accredited institutions – in particular in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Arizona, and Washington.
Stephen F. Austin State University
College Choice Score: 84.11
Tuition Per Credit: $457.00
Located in the heart of East Texas, Stephen F. Austin University (SFA) is a public university that ranks highly among regional universities (US News and World Report). The school was founded in 1923 and currently has a robust online program that offers more than twenty degree programs to non-traditional learners.
If you are a paraprofessional (instructional aide) working in Texas public schools, then this is a unique opportunity to complete an NCATE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies (BSIS) with a concentration in special education. This program (which is also open to other qualified applicants) leads to EC-12 special education teacher certification.
- Applicants must have completed at least 45 credit hours at a community college.
- Students complete all coursework online.
- Offers a flexible course schedule for working students (3-12 credits/semester).
This online BSIS program is intended to help paraprofessionals earn a Texas teaching certificate while remaining in the schools and classrooms where they work. In addition to the required, online coursework ( which is available during the spring and fall semesters), students spend one semester of full-time student teaching in a classroom. Tuition for Texas residents is $337/credit.
University of Wisconsin - Stout
College Choice Score: 84.03
Tuition Per Credit: $492.00
Founded in 1891, the University of Wisconsin at Stout, is the polytechnic arm of the University of Wisconsin System. The school is one of many rural-based institutions that have extended the reach of their programs by developing a strong online presence – currently, the online bachelor’s program at UW-Stout ranks among the best in the nation (US News and World Report).
The University of Wisconsin at Stout offers an NCATE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Special Education as an online, degree completion program designed for working adults. This flexible, online program offers cross-categorical versatility and prepares students in the areas of assessment, developing individual education and transition plans and working with families and other support services. Features of the program include:
- Early and varied field placements
- Cross-categorical licensure
- Graduates instruct kindergarten through adolescence, including ages 5 through 21
For potential out-of-state students, the program website offers useful information on State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. Online students will find support through the Advisement and Career Centers, the Counseling Center and Career Services. Also, because Special Education is an in-demand field, teaching grants may be available to students in the program.
St. Petersburg College
College Choice Score: 83.83
Tuition Per Credit: $426.00
Located in Pinellas County, Florida, St. Petersburg College is a public, state college that is part of the Florida College System. The school offers a variety of Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees through several campuses throughout Florida as well as through their robust eCampus online learning program – the largest of its kind in the state.
St. Petersburg College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Exceptional Student Education (ESE) degree program which prepares students to teach students with mild to moderate disabilities in grades K-12. In addition to the ESE major, students also earn a Reading and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement through the program – making them eligible to take the general education certification. Other features of the degree include:
- Graduates are exempt from the 300-hour ESOL Pinellas County training requirement
- Flexible delivery, with both full and part-time programs
- Quality school-based experiences every term supervised by experienced educators
Graduates from St. Petersburg College’s ESE program are state-certified to teach ESE classes as well as being prepared to pass the Elementary Education K-6 certification test. And for Florida residents, in-state tuition is much lower ($123/ credit) than the out-of-state tuition listed above.
Grand Canyon University
College Choice Score: 82.83
Tuition Per Credit: $440.00
Located in Phoenix, AZ, Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit, Christian university that is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Arizona Southern Baptists founded the school in 1949 with the goal of integrating Christian faith and practice into all aspects of campus life. However, no statement of faith or religious affiliation is required of prospective students.
The College of Education at Grand Canyon University offers an Arizona State Board of Education-approved Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education program which prepares students for teaching licensure. This online dual degree is directly aligned with national professional teaching standards and focuses on adapting mainstream classroom to students with assorted needs.
- Most online courses are 8 weeks in duration.
- Students can complete the program in 54 months.
- The program may require practicum hours, state exams, student teaching and an institutional recommendation from GCU.
Core courses in this program review pedagogy and classroom management, while teaching students to assess and adapt learning in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities. The program also provides opportunities to apply learning in real classrooms.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
College Choice Score: 79.96
Tuition Per Credit: $496.00
Founded in 1840 in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) is a private, Catholic, liberal arts college which consistently ranks among the best regional colleges in the Midwest (US News and World Report). The school has also invested heavily in their online content, and their online Bachelor’s programs have garnered national acclaim.
SMWC offers an NCATE-accredited online Bachelor of Science in Education with a minor in Special Education (mild intervention). This baccalaureate degree program prepares teacher candidates to obtain an Indiana initial teaching license. To be formally admitted to the Teacher Education Program students must:
- Complete a minimum of 40 hours of college credit
- Complete at least one field experience
- Present an Initial Portfolio presentation during a formal interview.
Of the total 120 credits required for the degree, the Special Education minor includes a total of 16 credit hours of coursework, which includes two field experiences (student teaching). The school offers online academic support and career services specifically tailored to individual student goals. And at $496 / credit, SMWC shows their commitment to keeping education affordable – this is a private school education at a public school price.
College Choice Score: 77.92
Tuition Per Credit: $445.00
Northcentral University is a private, for-profit, regionally accredited (WASC), online university which is located in Prescott Valley, AZ. The school was founded in 1966 with the goal of making a professional education accessible to all learners and their online programs extend this mission beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.
Northcentral University offers an online Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree completion program with a specialization in Special Education. The degree leads to Teacher Certification for the State of Arizona in a flexible, individualized delivery model. Students who enter the program with 90 credits completed can complete the degree program in as little as 20 months. Other features include:
- Weekly starts for online courses
- One-to-one interaction (no group projects) with doctorate-holding professors
- Ability to transfer up to 90 credits (of a total 120 credits)
The special education specialization exposes students to a wide spectrum of issues related to exceptional students. Students learn instructional strategies for a wide variety of learners, as well as knowledge of a range of relevant topics (including student placement, discipline, and appropriate educational decisions). This online degree completion program is the only one of its kind certified by the Arizona Department of Education.
East Carolina University
College Choice Score: 74.11
Tuition Per Credit: $702.00
East Carolina University is a nationally recognized, public university that is located in Greenville, NC. The school was founded in 1907, and today the school offers several online programs from the Bachelor’s through Master’s level. The school is also home to a renowned College of Education which is ranked among the best in the nation (US News and World Report 2017).
The NCATE-accredited, online Bachelor of Education Special Education completion program is a unique opportunity for students transitioning from a North Carolina community college. This completion program prepares teachers to work with children with disabilities who are pursuing a high school diploma and are in the general education curriculum in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
- Graduates also receive licensure to teach reading in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
- Coursework is offered completely online.
- Students study on a part-time basis
Throughout the program, students take part in public school classrooms to observe and practice the teaching methods which they are learning in the courses. Additionally, students participate in a full-time internship in a public school classroom during their senior year. North Carolina residents should note that in-state tuition is $163/credit which is considerably lower than the out-of-state tuition listed above.
Nova Southeastern University
College Choice Score: 64.11
Tuition Per Credit: $933.00
Founded in 1964, Nova Southeastern University is a private institution that ranks highly among national universities. The school is located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and has a commitment to providing flexible, alternative learning contexts for its diverse student body. In 2017, the school’s online Bachelor’s programs ranked among the best in the nation (US News and World Report).
Nova Southeastern’s Fischler College of Education offers an online, NCATE- accredited Bachelor of Science in Exceptional Student Education and ESOL combination degree. This unique program meets all requirements of the Florida Department of Education’s exceptional student education (grades K–12) initial certification and ESOL endorsement. For out-of-state students, Florida participates in the Interstate Agreement on Qualification of Educational Personnel with 38 other states for teacher certification and/or licensure. Features of the program include:
- Flexible delivery format – entire program available online
- 120 credits total (30 credits general education)
- Graduates qualify for ESE, ESOL, and Reading in Florida
Students in the program complete a minimum of 10 field hours total for each education course. The program also requires a clinical practice (internship) as the culminating experience for the degree program. Students are assigned full-time to a school for 12 weeks in which they take part in lesson planning, instruction, and parent/teacher conferences.