Online Bachelor’s in Special Education Programs 2021

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Special education teachers educate K-12 students with one or more physical or mental disabilities. Their work ensures that these learners receive a modified educational experience aligning with their unique needs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these professionals earn a median $61,030 annual salary. The BLS projects the field to grow 3% from 2019-2029.

Special education teachers working in a public school need a state-issued license to practice. Attaining a license involves earning a bachelor’s in special education. Many reputable institutions offer online special education programs providing degree-seekers the same academic experience as on-campus learners.

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Top 10 Online Bachelor’s In Special Education Programs

? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
Rank School Avg Net Price ? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
1 Liberty University $15105
2 Minot State University $5192
3 University of Wisconsin-Stout $7014
4 Chaminade University of Honolulu $23180
5 Dakota State University $6984
6 Fontbonne University $2450
7 Chadron State College $4480
8 University of Southern Mississippi $7549
9 The University of West Florida $3735
10 Western Governors University $5780

FAQ


  • What kind of jobs can you get with a special education degree?

    A special education bachelor’s degree qualifies graduates for licensure in their home state. Licensed educators pursue jobs at K-12 public schools. Other potential job sites include preschools and private schools.


  • How long does it take to get a special education degree?

    Like other bachelor’s degrees, a special education program takes approximately four years to complete. Incoming students with an associate degree or significant transfer credit may only need two years.


  • What certification do you need for special education?

    States regulate K-12 education by requiring all public school educators to possess a teaching license. Earning a license involves completing a state-approved program and student teaching under a licensed educator.


  • Are special education teachers in demand?

    Although the BLS projects only 3% growth in the special education field from 2019-2029, many states report significant teacher shortages. Employers value highly qualified applicants more than those with only a provisional teaching license.


Why Get a Degree in Special Education?

Potential benefits of working in special education include personal and professional satisfaction. A teaching license provides career flexibility, as teachers can obtain additional endorsements by just passing an exam or earning a certificate. These endorsements allow educators to teach different subjects or qualify for an administrative position.

Online special education programs may offer learners advantages on-campus programs do not provide, such as an asynchronous curriculum. Asynchronous classes do not convene at set times, allowing students to continue working while in school. Online degree-seekers hone technological and time-management skills.

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How Much Does a Special Education Degree Cost?



A bachelor’s in special education’s total cost depends on numerous factors, including whether students attend a private or public school. The latter offers the most affordable tuition rate to in-state learners. However, some online public institutions waive out-of-state tuition. Typically, private schools cost more, but charge all degree-seekers the same tuition rate.

Online special education programs may offer additional cost savings, such as a facilities fee waiver. Many top schools include textbooks in the tuition price, saving students hundreds of dollars per semester. Other discounts may apply to select groups, such as veterans and their dependents.

Fees unique to bachelor’s in special education programs may include a criminal background check, a requirement to teach. Degree-seekers pay a fee when submitting their teaching license application. Please consult a special education program’s admissions or academic advisor to learn more about fees and waivers.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree



Although students save money with an online bachelor’s in special education, they should still calculate their ability to pay out of pocket. A calculation tool helps individuals determine how much they can afford each month by reviewing a users’ income, costs of living, and expected financial aid.

Open Cost Calculator

How Much Do Special Education Majors Make?

Special education majors’ annual salaries depend on where they work. Secondary special education teachers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Maryland earn approximately $20,000 over the national median salary for special education teachers. California and Oregon school districts also use a high median salary to attract highly qualified educators. However, teachers in these states may encounter a high cost of living.

Students should consider top-paying employers. Public schools offer approximately $7,000 more annually than private schools. Special education teachers working in high schools earn slightly more than their peers at elementary or middle schools.

Special education teachers increase their salary potential by gaining on-the-job experience. Public school systems offer an annual salary increase and grant raises to educators with National Board Certification. Other ways to increase salary potential include earning a master’s in special education or one or more graduate certificates.

Courses in Special Education



Top bachelor’s in special education programs convey the knowledge and skills educators need while qualifying graduates for a teaching license. In class, students learn to work with children with mild to moderate physical or intellectual disabilities. Some programs emphasize elementary or secondary education, as children and adolescents in both groups face different challenges.

Typical bachelor’s in special education programs offer some if not all of the following courses. Curricula vary by program, and not all schools provide students with the same academic experience and learning outcomes. Please consult a program’s website or contact an admissions advisor for additional information and guidance.


  • Standards-Based Planning

    Public school educators develop lessons by following their district or state’s curriculum standards. Students in standards-based planning observe and work alongside licensed educators at a local school. These teachers also mentor degree-seekers, explaining how they turn standards into engaging lessons. This course’s hands-on experiences prepare learners for student teaching.


  • Introduction to Special Education Generalist

    A special education generalist possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to work in K-12 special education. The class emphasizes instructional techniques applicable to different age groups and disabilities. Coursework includes examining relevant federal, state, and local laws. Professionals use what they learn in this course to create positive learning environments.


  • Intervention for Emotional/Behavioral Needs

    Children and adolescents with disabilities have unique emotional and behavioral needs, making learning in a general education classroom difficult at times. Special education teachers apply intervention strategies aimed at modifying behavior and encouraging learning. Coursework involves examining how educators prevent students with a disability from causing physical harm to themselves or others.


Certifications and Licensure for Special Education



Special education bachelor’s degree-holders may need more than a college degree to attain an entry-level position. Professionals must possess a state-issued license to apply to open positions at a public school. Other pathways to increase employability include professional certifications. Private organizations award certifications to educators demonstrating mastery of special education best practices.

Board Certification in Special Education


Special education teachers with a master’s degree may qualify for the credential. Candidates earn five certifications by taking courses and passing examinations with a minimum 80% score. National Association of Special Education Teachers members receive a discount on the certification process. Educators maintain their certification by paying an annual fee.

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Initial Teaching License


A teaching license qualifies professionals to educate K-12 public school students. Eligibility criteria include graduating from an approved teacher-preparation program involving student teaching at one or more schools. Candidates also submit to a criminal background check. Educators maintain their license by completing continuing education courses.

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Special Education Endorsement


Licensed educators planning to transition to special education need an endorsement. This process involves enrolling in a college or university program lasting approximately one year. Learners complete graduate-level coursework in different disabilities and education best practices. After graduation, educators receive the endorsement by filing forms with their state’s board of teacher licensure.

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Scholarships for Special Education



Learners avoid student debt in multiple ways, such as attending an affordable college or university. Another option involves applying for private scholarship opportunities. Scholarships like those below award funding to online learners and undergraduates pursuing a special education bachelor’s degree. Please use the embedded links to learn more about each scholarship’s application requirements.


  • Alma Exley Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: Connecticut upperclassmen part of a minority group apply to the Alma Exley Scholarship Program. Applicants submit recommendation letters, two brief essays, and a resume by October 31.

    Amount: $5,000

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  • Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Kansas Board of Regents awards this scholarship to in-state undergraduates preparing to teach a hard-to-fill subject, including special education. Interested students submit one recommendation letter, official transcripts, and a personal essay by May 1.

    Amount: Up to $5,536 annually

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  • National American Sign Language Honor Society National College ASL Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Undergraduates preparing for a career educating deaf children and adolescents may qualify. NASLHS considers student members in good standing and requires two essays and two recommendation letters by April 16.

    Amount: $1,750-$2,500

    Explore Here


Online Bachelor’s In Special Education Programs 2021



See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1971, Liberty University is a private, non-profit institution with an online bachelor's degree in special education interdisciplinary studies. Most full-time distance learners complete this degree in 4 years after completing 120 fully online credit hours. Graduates may pursue positions in either elementary or secondary schools, working with students affected by mental or physical disabilities. Transfer students may transfer up to 75% of their degree requirements to Liberty, as long as the credits satisfy general education requirements or are directly relevant to the major curriculum.

  2. Minot State University
    Location

    Minot, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Minot State University offers a human services bachelor's degree program in intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a partner with the United States Developmental Disabilities Division of the Department of Human Services, Minot State produces human service professionals capable of handling careers in leadership, program planning and service coordination for children and adults. To graduate, students must earn a "C"average or higher on all required courses, complete an externship, and submit a formal application for graduation at the end of the program. This 143-credit program is accredited by the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals and takes about 4 years to complete.

  3. University of Wisconsin-Stout
    Location

    Menomonie, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At the University of Wisconsin-Stout, the online special education bachelor's degree program can be completed in a hybrid format or entirely online. Full-time students can finish the degree in 4 years, and should be prepared to teach students aged 5 through 21. You can also complete a post-baccalaureate certification or autism specialty certificate. Graduates are eligible to receive a Wisconsin teaching license in cross-categorical special education upon completion of a 3-part benchmark teaching sequence at the end of the program. Most incoming transfer students may apply previously earned credits toward their bachelor's degree if they were earned at an accredited institution and meet core or major requirements.

  4. Chaminade University of Honolulu
    Location

    Honolulu, HI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Chaminade University of Honolulu offers an elementary education program that can be completed entirely online. Each semester is 15 weeks in duration, and, for most full-time students, this 120-credit degree takes 4 years to complete, which may include taking summer courses. You must maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA on all coursework and participate in Chaminade's service learning, observation and participation program. Per guidelines set by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, upon completion of the program, graduates are licensed to teach kindergarten through 6th grade; qualifications translate to most other states, as well.

  5. Dakota State University
    Location

    Madison, SD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online elementary education/special education bachelor's degree at Dakota State University prepares its graduates to teach students with autism and behavior, cognitive and learning disabilities in K-12 learning environments. Full-time students usually complete this degree in 10 semesters, including a yearlong residency of supervised student teaching. This field experience takes place in public schools and serves as the capstone course. After graduation, DSU distance learners often go on to earn teaching certifications in their respective states. Prospective students who already have 24 or more college credits may be able to earn credit toward this special education degree if their GPA is 2.0 or higher.

  6. Fontbonne University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Fontbonne University's Special Education program, Paraprofessional Pathways, is an accredited online BS degree for those who are paraprofessionals or a teacher's assistant and want to learn while they work. Students may learn faster with summer classes in addition to the traditional semester schedule. Graduates will receive certification in K-12 mild/moderate cross-categorical upon completion of this program. Student teaching and field work may be completed at the student's local school, depending on their school district's policy.

  7. Chadron State College
    Location

    Chadron, NE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Chadron State College offers special education degrees in 2 categories: endorsement in K-12 and Early Childhood Inclusive endorsement for birth through grade 3, depending on a students specific interests. The program is available online, with some required classes to be completed in-person. This program covers a large scope to prepare students for whatever teaching environment they choose to pursue post-graduation, including recognition of learning differences, implementation of developmentally appropriate learning, instructional strategies and leadership.

  8. University of Southern Mississippi
    Location

    Hattiesburg, MS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At the University of Southern Mississippi, students working towards a BS degree in Special Education can complete coursework online and take advantage of the lower, resident student rate. Many students may be eligible for the TEACH grant or financial aide, and all students will be qualified to teach Special Education in K-12 classrooms after completing this program. After completing the required class credits and student teaching requirements at their current, local school, students will be able to pursue their passion to teach special education either as a teacher, resource teacher or inclusion facilitator.

  9. The University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students who want to pursue a career in special education can do so at the University of West Florida. The B.A. in Exceptional Student and Elementary Education Program is fully accredited, available online and prepares students for a Professional Florida Educator's Certificate in either Exceptional Student Learning or Elementary Education. Students outside of Florida who graduate from this program will need to have their home state educator's license processed as out-of-state. In addition to online coursework, students must complete 2 100-hour field experiences in K-12 classrooms before they begin student teaching. The program will help them gain experience in classroom organization, instruction and teaching ESOL students.

  10. Western Governors University
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Bachelors of Arts in Special Education program at Western Governors University prepares students for a career in Special Education of K-12, for children with mild to moderate learning needs. Graduates will be able to pursue a career in self-contained classrooms, resource rooms and inclusionary K-12 classrooms. Along with online coursework, students will get in-classroom experience through a Demonstration Teaching component. Students can move through courses at their own pace, and 71% of graduates finish in 4 years or less. Learners also pay per 6-month term rather than per credit, allowing them to control how quickly they finish their degree and how much they pay overall.

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