Top 10 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education Degree Programs for 2020

A career as a special education teacher requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialized field of education. By focusing on colleges that offer special education degrees through an online program, you can obtain your degree and start working in your field of interest. An online bachelor’s degree completion program in special education can help someone working as an assistant in a special ed classroom prepare to become a full teacher, or help a working adult make a career change into teaching. 

Special education degree programs focus on teaching students the relevant skills they need to handle the needs of children with disabilities. You will learn to adapt to the needs of children who have physical, mental, emotional, or learning disabilities and may need help with certain lessons or tasks. Special education degree programs also focus on developing your teaching skills. Educators must have relevant skills to keep students motivated and engaged during their time in school, and in inclusive special education classrooms, must help student interact. Colleges and universities will also offer classes that focus on developing the skills teachers need to keep students engaged in their coursework, even when they are adapting to specific disabilities or challenges.

How We Ranked the Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

Value Colleges editors begin the process by checking out accredited, reputable colleges and universities offering fully online or hybrid bachelor’s and bachelor’s completion programs in special education. With a preliminary list, we rank programs with three equally-weighted factors: Tuition Price, Student Satisfaction, and Alumni Salary. That combination helps Value Colleges readers know they’ll get the best return on their investment.

1. University of Georgia

The University of Georgia offers a unique BS in Special Education that can be completed entirely online. The most notable feature of this program is that it is only two years long. It is targeted at students who have already completed basic prerequisites, perhaps through an A.A. in General Studies or the like.  The two year length of this online bachelors in special education makes it one of the best online special education bachelor degree programs for transfer students.

The University of Georgia is considered to be one of the top public universities in the United States. It is especially known for is comprehensive offerings of online degree programs, making it one of the leaders among large public universities in this respect. These online degree programs are also quite prestigious, in keeping with the university’s overall reputation. The special education program at the University of Georgia was created specifically to meet a serious shortage of special education teachers in Georgia. 

Degree: BS in Special Education

2. University of Wisconsin-Stout

The University of Wisconsin-Stout offers a BS in Special Education that can be completed over the Internet. This degree program is unique because it gives student teachers the opportunity to learn how to instruct and mentor pupils of up to 21 years of age. Most programs do not instruct students in teaching to 19-21 year old students with special needs, who may have different requirements than younger students. This online bachelors in special education is good for students who are looking for online special education bachelor degree programs that will prepare them to teach the widest range of students. 

UW Stout is known for being an extremely affordable school, even by the standards of public universities. The tuition fees at UW Stout are quite low, especially for in-state students. There are also many different grants and scholarships available to students from all demographics. UW Stout’s special education program also offers an Autism Certificate.

Degree: BS in Special Education

3. East Carolina University

Eastern Carolina University has a unique online BS in Special Education program that offers either General or Adapted curriculum tracks. The general curriculum track prepares students to teach the standard curriculum to pupils with moderate disabilities. The Adapted curriculum track prepares students to teach pupils with more significant disabilities who cannot take the classes that their peers without disabilities are taking. This track makes the online bachelors in special education at ECU good for prospective teachers who are interested in online special education bachelor degree programs with the intention of instructing pupils with serious disabilities. 

ECU is frequently found on lists of institutions that offer great value for money. The tuition rates are low, but the quality of the education is high. ECU is considered to be one of the best public universities in the Carolinas. The online special education program at ECU is part-time and designed to meet the needs of working adults.

Degree: BS in Special Education – General or Adapted

4. University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi offers a BS in Special Education degree that can be completed entirely over the Internet. One of the things that sets the program at USM apart is the opportunity to do either a program in Special Education or a dual program in Elementary Education/Special Education. Doing a dual degree may qualify graduates for more career opportunities than the Special Education program alone. Prospective teachers who want to get an online bachelors in special education but also keep other teaching opportunities a possibility may want to put USM on their list of online special education bachelor degree programs.  

USM has many highly ranked programs, including their education program. The graduate education program is especially well-known, but the undergraduate program is also excellent. Many undergraduate education students at USM end up doing a graduate degree there, as well. USM is classified as a “high research activity” university, and this research is applied to the education curriculum and the curriculum for other programs.

Degree: BS in Special Education

5. Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University has an Internet-based BS in Special Education that is a little different from similar programs. For one thing, this degree program is designed specifically to qualify students in Virginia and Washington State for licensure. Students in other states need to look for their online bachelors in special education at other online special education bachelor degree programs.

Old Dominion is well known for its online degree programs. The university has online degree programs in many different fields, from the arts and sciences to education. Prospective online students can rest assured that the faculty and staff at Old Dominion are well-versed in running online programs. Old Dominion’s undergraduate special education program will convert from a two-year program to a four-year program in Fall 2019.

Degree: BS in Special Education

6. University of Alaska Southeast

The University of Alaska Southeast offers an online BA in Special Education. Students do not need to be located in Alaska to enroll in this program. This program is popular among Alaskan students. however. One of the most unique aspects of this program is the instruction and experience in teaching Native Alaskan children with special needs. The online bachelors in special education program at UAS is one of the only online special education bachelors degree programs that will prepare teachers to enter this challenging field.

UAS is known for training many of the teachers who serve in rural Native communities. Whether education students major in special education or in another degree path, they will be prepared to take on these unique challenges. Of course, many education students at UAS do go on to teach in more traditional settings. UAS’ special education program results in the reception of an Alaska Teaching Certificate, which has reciprocity in many other states.

Degree: BA in Special Education

7. University of West Florida

The University of West Florida offers an online BA in Exceptional Student Education. This program is different than other special education programs because it prepares teachers to instruct gifted pupils. Most special education programs prepare teachers to instruct students with disabilities. Prospective teachers looking for an online bachelors in special education that will prepare them to teach gifted students should look past other online special education bachelors degree programs to UWF.

UWF is one of the most affordable universities for students in the state of Florida. It has very low tuition rates which are even more affordable than the rates found at other Florida public universities. UWF also offers its students a great deal of financial aid. UWF has more than 100,000 alumni, and the UWF alumni network is known to be very helpful to recent grads.

Degree: BA in Exceptional Student Education

8. Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University has an online BS in Education with a Special Education Minor. This program is unique among the other programs on this list because it is a more general degree in education, with a reduced focus on special education. This means that the program at FHSU is good for prospective teachers who want the widest range of career opportunities possible. Students who are looking for a highly specialized online bachelors in special education may want to look at the other online special education bachelors degree programs on this list.

FHSU is one of the most affordable institutions featured in this article. Kansas’ public universities generally have tuition that is below the national average for public university tuition, and FHSU is no exception. Of course, prospective students should keep in mind that students from outside Kansas have to pay more than Kansan students. FHSU is known for its online programs, and actually has more online students than in-person students.

Degree: BS in Education – Special Education Minor

9. Fontbonne University

Fontbonne University has an Internet-based Bachelor’s in Special Education available to prospective teachers. This program sets itself apart from similar programs by offering both general education and special education certifications. Fontbonne is another good online bachelors in special education program for students who are looking for more generalized online special education bachelors degree programs.

Fontbonne University is well-known for its various special education programs. In fact, this may be the educational field that Fontbonne is best known for. Many employers in Missouri and throughout the country recognize Fontbonne as a leader in this area. The special education program at Fontbonne was established in the 1950s, making it one of the oldest in the country.

Degree: Bachelor’s in Special Education

10. University of West Alabama

The University of West Alabama has a BS Special Education: Collaborative Teacher program that is a little different than most special education programs. For one thing, the program at UWA is designed for working teachers who want to transition to special education, while many programs are designed for full-time students.

Working teachers who want to move into the special education field should consider the online bachelors in special education at UWA over other online special education bachelor degree programs. UWA’s special education program helps students get practical experience at approved schools.

Degree: BS Special Education: Collaborative Teacher

How Much Can I Make as a Special Education Teacher?

When you are looking into the income potential of a special education teacher, you want to recognize the variations that may arise. A special needs teacher salary may range from roughly $40,000 per year to $97,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When you get an undergraduate degree in special education, you can expect to start out with a lower income level and build up to a higher income level with experience.

The median salary for special education teachers is around $60,000 per year. Keep in mind that your location and the cost of living may impact your income level. In some localities, you will make a higher salary than average due to the higher cost of living. 

How Can I Get a Bachelor’s in Special Education Online?

When you are evaluating different online education degree programs, you want to look into degree completion options. A degree completion program means you are able to transfer credits from your associate’s degree or previous college education into the online program and finish a bachelor’s degree. It helps you save time and reduces the cost of an undergraduate degree program, getting you to your goal of becoming a teacher

You can also look for colleges that offer special education degrees that do not require an associate’s degree or previous coursework in other programs. Keep in mind that some schools with an online program for special education may provide partially online programs. A partially online program means that you may need to complete some course work in general studies at the school’s campus before starting specialized studies into special education after you finish the general studies classes. The program is fully online for students who have an associate’s degree or transfer into the program for their specialized education, but students who are starting from the beginning may spend some time at the school. Verify the details of an online program before you determine that it is appropriate for your goals and situation.

What Will I Learn in a Special Education Degree Program?

Special education degree requirements depend on the college or university, but you can expect a few similarities based on the standards set for teachers. When you are working on your bachelor’s degree, you will learn to assess and identify learning disabilities or other concerns that may contribute to challenges when a child is trying to learn a subject in school. The degree program also teaches students to discuss concerns with parents and bring the parents into the process of learning by evaluating potential factors that may impact a child’s ability to learn at home.

The lessons also teach students to adapt course material to fit the needs of children in the classroom. It focuses on clarifying the specific needs of the child and then working to ensure that he or she is able to grasp the concepts discussed in the classroom. You may need to slow down for some children to help them with specific skills or you may need to work on relevant skills designed to help students who have specific physical disabilities.

The specific skills you learn depend on the program; however, you can expect to gain a basic understanding of skills that apply to most special education classrooms. For example, you may learn sign language as part of a degree program to help students who have disabilities related to their hearing. As a special education teacher, you are expected to handle the needs of your students and address their concerns.

Students focusing on special education programs may also learn a variety of subjects to better understand and assist children in the classroom. You may study psychology or human growth and development to help with your student’s growth in learning. Special education degree requirements may also focus on general studies like mathematics, science, and English reading and writing skills. As an educator, you are expected to provide students with the strong foundation they need to understand subjects that advance as they go through the school system.

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