Special education professionals have an affinity for equal education and strive to create innovative techniques or tools for students with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.
Professionals often glean tremendous satisfaction from their work because daily duties allow disadvantaged children to succeed. Additionally, professionals get to positively impact other stakeholders in a child’s life including parents, teachers, or community members. As diagnoses continue to rise, the demand for highly qualified special education professionals has also increased. In fact, according to the BLS, this field should experience an 8% growth rate through 2026, indicating a steady demand for special education graduates.
Due to the sensitive nature of their work, pertinent personal characteristics, and specialized skills, special education majors often qualify for financial assistance through grants and scholarships. By offsetting school costs through assistance, this degree can be a great return on investment. The list below contains some of the best schools for special education degrees.
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What Are the Best Special Education Degrees?
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 23 of the best Bachelor’s of Science in Special Education degrees. Our ranking is based on several factors – we start with standard academic reputation rankings, then we weigh net tuition, early career earnings, and acceptance rates to come up with a composite score that reflects academic excellence and return on investment.
Also, all the schools on our list are regionally accredited, and most programs have additional accreditation from the main educational accrediting bodies: CAEP, TEAC, NCATE.
Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, students who wish to help students struggling with disabilities can earn their bachelor of science from one of the best schools for special education. Vanderbilt offers multiple speciality areas including mild and moderate disabilities, multiple and severe disabilities, and visual impairment. Vanderbilt also allows special education majors to combine the degree with other relevant majors including child development or cognitive studies. This degree leads to K-12 licensure and requires an extensive field internship. The university follows traditional semesters and most students enrolled full-time complete their degree within four years.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aspiring special education professionals can earn their bachelor’s from one of the best schools for special education degrees that has nearly a 100% job placement record for their graduates. This program leads to middle childhood through early adolescence or early adolescence through adolescence level licensures. The University of Wisconsin-Madison also offers a dual major program allowing special education students to become certified elementary teachers. The standard B.S. special education requires 120 credits and 30 credits in field experience. Students considering the dual track may need to complete additional coursework.
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin offers a bachelor of science in applied learning and development through the university’s All-Level Generic Special Education Program, which allows graduates to teach K-12 children with varying disabilities. Students can also work toward certification in special education and early childhood through grade six. This five semester program includes 127 semester hours following traditional, 16-week semesters. Students must complete 1500 hours of field experience, which greatly surpasses the minimum state requirements. Special education students must also engage in a student teaching experience. The University of Texas at Austin also provides career services including cover letter and resume writing, mock interviewing, and job fairs.
University of Maryland-College Park
College Park, MD
Regarded as one of the best schools for special education degrees, the University of Maryland-College Park strives to develop highly qualified teachers who can meet the needs of students struggling with disabilities. The University of Maryland-College Park offers a 121 credit hour B.S. in early childhood special education and a 120 credit hour B.S. in elementary and middle special education. Students can earn their degree within four years or less. Both programs prepare students to pass the Praxis II licensure exam and require field experiences throughout students’ junior and senior year. While graduates can obtain certification in Maryland, they also qualify for reciprocity in 49 states.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
At the Twin Cities campus of The University of Minnesota, students can earn a bachelor of science in special education. This program requires 120 credits, which most students complete within four years. While the university offers a preset graduation path, students can work with a counselor to customize their experience. However, students should note that any alterations may result in a longer program length. Special education graduates from the University of Minnesota qualify for licensure as an academic behavioral strategist, which allows them to work with people from early childhood through 21 years of age.
University of Illinois
The College of Education at the University of Illinois offers one of the best on-campus special education degrees to undergraduate students. The University of Illinois values engaged candidates who can prove their commitment to helping individuals with disabilities. Therefore, students must have at least 50 hours of experiences to be enrolled into the program. This program requires 125 credit hours in addition to field experiences and a culminating student teaching experience. Additionally, this program leads to licensure in the state of Illinois. Semesters follow traditional semester schedules and most students earn their degree within four years.
Ohio State University
The College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University offers one of the best on-campus special education degrees to students interested in serving individuals with disabilities. With a bachelor of science in special education, graduates gain pertinent knowledge and skills to pass their licensure exam. Students may choose to focus in early childhood intervention, mild to moderate intervention, or moderate to intensive intervention. Students focusing in early childhood receive a license to work with students K-3, while the other two focuses lead to K-12 licenses. Special education students must engage in field based and student teaching experiences.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
The College of Education at Michigan State University boast their five-year bachelor of arts in special education, which leads to a K-12 endorsement and an elementary teaching license. Students graduate with more than 1000 hours of field experience. In the fifth year of the program, students engage in a rigorous internship experience, which allows graduates to enter the workforce fully prepared. Additionally, Michigan State University strives to fulfill their land-grant mission. Therefore, many faculty members work with local schools and communities, which provide students with valuable opportunities and mentorship.
University of Georgia
At the University of Georgia, students with an affinity for helping students with special needs can earn their bachelor of science in education (B.S.Ed) from one of the best schools for special education degrees. Student can choose from a B.S.Ed focusing in adapted curriculum and autism, birth through kindergarten, or a general curriculum. Despite the focus, students must complete a minimum of nine practicum hours and 15 student teaching hours. Additionally, students engage in field experiences every semester. Students also benefit from small class sizes and a cohort style format, which creates a supportive and collaborative environment.
Brigham Young University
The McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University strives to shape highly qualified special education professionals who can meet the needs students with disabilities. Students may choose from mild to moderate disability or severe disability emphasis areas. The mild to moderate program includes 63 credit hours, while the severe program requires 66 credit hours. Additionally, students must complete a six-week practicum during the summer and a student teaching internship. Brigham Young University also requires candidates to complete prerequisites. Students must complete multiple foundation courses and acquire at least 10 volunteer hours with mild to moderate disabled individuals and another 10 hours with individuals who have a severe disability.
The School of Education at Indiana University offers two undergraduate programs for students interested in special education. The B.S.E.D. in elementary education and elementary special education provides students with a dual licensure. Furthermore, students gain valuable field experience in urban environments. Most students earn this degree within four years, which requires 124 credits. Indiana University also offers a B.S.E.D. in secondary special education, which includes exceptional needs from early to late adolescence. This degree allows students to choose English, math, or science as a content area specialty. Students who choose this path earn their degree in four years and must complete 120 credit hours.
At Clemson University, students who want to learn how to become highly qualified special education professionals can earn their bachelor of arts in special education. This program exceeds the minimum state requirements for field experience that lead to licensure. In fact, unlike other schools, Clemson students participate in field experiences from the beginning of the program. At the end of the program, students engage in a culminating, two-semester field training in addition to their 12-week student teaching placement. Full-time students can earn their degree in four years. This program includes 123 semester hours.
College of New Jersey
The College of New Jersey boasts their two special education programs that allow students to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degree in just five years. Students interested in working with young children can enroll into the early childhood special education program, which prepares students to serve children from preschool through third grade. Students who would like to work with older children can earn the special education and elementary education degree, which leads to certification in both fields. The five-year programs also require students to complete a liberal arts major.
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA
Pennsylvania State University, also warmly referred to as Penn State, offers one of the best on-campus special education degrees available. This degree strives to shape highly qualified educators who can handle daily responsibilities encountered by working with special needs populations. Therefore students must acquire 80 hours of experience with children who have varying levels of disability. Penn State provides multiple volunteer opportunities. Furthermore, each student gets assigned an SPLED advisor who collaborates with college advisors to guide students through the program. This four-year bachelor of science in special education degree requires 121 credits to graduate.
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
The Department of Special Education at the University of Utah strives to provide students with cutting-edge research and pertinent skills to meet the needs of people living with disabilities. Therefore students can earn a bachelor of science in special education specializing in mild to moderate disabilities, severe disabilities, preschool to early intervention special education, visual impairments, or deaf and hard of hearing. Students should examine course options as some specialization areas offer multiple tracks. These programs includes 135-144 credit hours and students enrolled full-time earn their degree within four years.
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona strives to offer students a quality education by challenging the status quo and exploring innovative approaches. In particular, the special education program at the University of Arizona retains a national reputation for excellence. Students can earn a bachelor of science in special education and rehabilitation with a specialization in the mild to moderate disabilities teacher preparation program, deaf studies and educational interpreting, or general rehabilitation. Specializations vary in length and may offer emphasis areas. However, all specializations require one or more field experiences and lead to licensure.
SUNY College at Geneseo
The special education program at the State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo campus boasts their B.S. in childhood with special education degree. This four-year program certifies graduates to work with students in first grade through sixth grade. Additionally, students can concentrate in a liberal arts discipline or enroll into their liberal arts discipline of choice as a dual major. All students must engage in a minimum 150 of field experience prior to student teaching. SUNY Geneseo offers abroad opportunities that can count toward mandatory field hours.
Boston University offers some of the best on-campus special education degrees available. Students gain access to cutting edge research and innovative approaches for curriculum implementation. This program requires field experience hours and potentially a culminating student teaching experience depending on the license chosen. Successful completion of this program allows graduates to obtain a teacher of students with moderate disabilities license, teacher of students with moderate disabilities combined with elementary education license, teacher of students with moderate disabilities license, or teacher of severe disabilities license. Most student earn this degree in about four years if enrolled full-time. Program credit requirements range from 129-135.
Sioux Falls, MN
Students who wish to advocate for individuals with disabilities should consider a bachelor of arts in special education at Augustana University, located in Minneapolis. Students may choose to double major in special education and elementary education or secondary education. To qualify for graduation, students must have at least 124 credit hours. While most students complete this program in four years, students considering minors should factor in an additional 14 credit hours on average. This degree also includes student teaching experiences that focus on emotional and behavioral problems, cognitive impairments, and learning disabilities.
At Bradley University, students with an affinity for equal education and differentiation in classrooms can earn a bachelor’s in special education. This degree leads to a license that qualifies graduates to teach students from birth to 21 years of age in Illinois. Unlike some programs, students at Bradley University engage in field experiences in their first year. By the end of this program, students should have over 600 hours of field experience, which surpasses the state minimum. Students can also earn endorsements to gain an additional competitive advantage in the job market. In fact, unlike any other university in Illinois, Bradley University offers an endorsement in ESL.
At the Cortland campus of the State University of New York (SUNY) students can earn a bachelor of science in inclusive childhood education. As a dual degree, graduate can teach elementary classrooms and students with disabilities. Students can concentrate in humanities, English language arts, mathematics, social sciences, or environmental studies. If the available concentrations do not fit students’ career goals, students may complete a 30-hour second major. SUNY Cortland also offers an inclusive early childhood education degree. Students may choose from an environmental studies, humanities, or social science concentration. Both degrees require 126 credit hours to graduate.
Located in New York, Syracuse University offers a four-year B.S. in inclusive elementary and special education. This degree leads to a dual teacher certification in elementary education grades 1-6 and special education grades 1-6. Due to small class sizes, students benefit from close relationships with faculty members. Additionally, the program follows a cohort format, which allows students to collaborate and develop meaningful relationships. Throughout the six semesters, students engage in relevant field experiences that prepare them for real-world situations. Syracuse University also provides opportunities for students to study abroad and participate in research studies. This program requires a minimum of 133 credits to graduate.
At Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, students who desire to advocate for students with disabilities can earn a bachelor of science in inclusive special education. This inclusive special education degree leads to licensure for students with mild to moderate disabilities in Ohio. Most students enrolled full-time earn their degree in four years, which includes a student teaching field experience. However, students who enroll into minors may need to recalculate graduation timelines. Miami University in Oxford also recognizes the growing need for quality special education professionals. Therefore, special education students qualify for multiple scholarships to offset costs, making this degree a great return on investment.
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