Best Online Special Education Degrees

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According to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roles for special education teachers should grow by 8% between 2016-2026, creating the need for 33,300 new SPED educators. In addition to providing higher salaries than standard teachers (SPED teachers earn an average of $2,080 more than teachers without this endorsement), educators in this field have the opportunity to help students with disabilities reach their full potential. As the number of special education students has risen in the previous couple years, the need for these qualified educators will continue to exist. Learners who decide to pursue graduate studies also stand to earn even higher salaries and take on leadership roles in their schools. If you're passionate about serving exceptional students, the following ranking of online special education degree paths can help you find the perfect college or university for taking the next step.

Top 10 Best Online Special Education Degrees

#1 University of Georgia Athens, GA
#2 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT
#3 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA
#4 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
#5 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS
#6 University of Maine System-University College Orono, ME
#7 Mayville State University Mayville, ND
#8 Stephen F. Austin State University Nacogdoches, TX
#9 University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI
#10 Saint Petersburg College Clearwater, FL


See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Georgia

    Athens, GA



    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.

  2. Western Governors University

    Salt Lake City, UT



    A regionally accredited online institution, Western Governors University serves learners throughout the U.S. — including those seeking an online special education degree. The B.A. in special education (K-12) at WGU offers the opportunity to gain dual licensure in both elementary education and K-12 special education. After completing all course requirements — which usually takes students between 18 and 48 months depending on how many credits they transfer in — graduates meet the licensure requirements of all 50 states. Rather than charging on a per-credit model, WGU students pay a flat rate of $3,190 every six months and can take an unlimited number of classes.

  3. Old Dominion University

    Norfolk, VA



    Designed for learners with existing college credits, Old Dominion University’s online B.S. in special education with an emphasis in early childhood and adapted curriculum exists as a degree completion program. Housed within the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, this bachelor’s program graduates students with two endorsements: early childhood special education and special education adapted curriculum (K-12). After enrolling, students complete 40-41 credits in core major topics and an additional 49 credits in required practical and professional education courses. While the program is intended for Virginian degree seekers, it is open to those in all states except for Washington.

  4. Liberty University

    Lynchburg, VA



    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.

  5. University of Southern Mississippi

    Hattiesburg, MS



    From its main campus in Hattiesburg, the University of Southern Mississippi offers degrees to approximately 15,000 students each year through campus-based and distance learning degrees. The special education online courses at Southern Miss include a pre-professional core set of classes to introduce learners to the field of education. From there, they move through a series of upper-level, specialized courses to prepare them for special education licensure. Approximately 50% of all coursework exists online, meaning students must plan to visit the campus multiple times while enrolled. Degree seekers must maintain GPAs of 3.25 or higher to qualify for graduation. Regardless of location, all online students pay in-state tuition rates.

  6. University of Maine System-University College

    Orono, ME



    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.

  7. Mayville State University

    Mayville, ND



    A public school located in North Dakota, Mayville State University offers a B.S.Ed. in special education for currently licensed teachers who want to expand their teaching area and serve this population of students. Courses are taught synchronously at MSU, meaning learners may need to reconfigure their schedules at the start of the program. To graduate, degree seekers must possess at least 120 hours of credits. While at MSU, they must also maintain GPAs of 2.75 or higher. Some of the courses required include behavior modification and management, remedial reading, and an emotional disturbance practicum. MSU charges just $295 per credit regardless of residency.

  8. Stephen F. Austin State University

    Nacogdoches, TX



    Stephen F. Austin State University maintains headquarters in Texas but serves students further afield through distance education. A unique offering, the school’s bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in special education exists as a degree completion program. Upon finishing all course requirements, students qualify to sit for the EC-12 special education teacher certification. Learners who transfer from a community college win an educational award of $1,000 if their GPA is above 3.0. Those with GPAs of 3.5 or higher receive $2,000. Some of the topics students explore include educational appraisals of exceptional children, educational programming for students with autism, and assistive technologies in special education.

  9. University of Wisconsin-Stout

    Menomonie, WI



    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.

  10. Saint Petersburg College

    Clearwater, FL



    St. Petersburg College in Florida makes available a fully online bachelor’s degree in exceptional student education for educators-in-training who want to work with K-12 pupils with mild to moderate learning disabilities. After completing all program requirements, graduates receive endorsements in both reading and ESOL. To receive consideration, applicants need an associate degree or 60 credits from a regionally accredited institution, a 2.5 GPA, and satisfactory scores on the FL General Knowledge exam. While enrolled, they must maintain a 2.5 GPA. Topics covered in this program include diagnosis and intervention in reading, early and emergent literacy, and curriculum and instruction for exceptional students.

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