Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Special Education

An online special education degree can lead to a career as a teacher, advocate, or program director. Explore the costs, courses, and requirements.
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Updated September 13, 2023

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Earning an online bachelor's degree in special education enables you to improve the educational outcomes and lives of students with learning disabilities. These conditions may relate to physical, mental, or emotional challenges.

The demand for these teachers and special education services is expected to rise due to earlier detection and federal laws. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4% job growth in special education from 2021-2031, just about keeping pace with the average for all occupations.

Explore what an online special education degree offers and the career opportunities it provides.

Why Should You Earn Your Special Education Degree Online?

Obtaining a special education degree can propel you into a field where your creativity and compassion make a significant difference in the lives of students who need extra support. This rewarding career continues to grow in demand.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), schools in the 2022-2023 academic year reported special education teaching positions as one of the most difficult to fill. About 78% of schools found it very difficult to hire certified teachers in this area.

Pursuing an online special education degree allows you to work at your current job, care for your family, and gain experience in your community without having to commute or relocate. The following list covers some of the top benefits of attending a special education bachelor's program online.

  • Flexible Scheduling: An online format offers maximum flexibility in scheduling courses and completing assignments, enabling you to pursue your education from home or anywhere with a WiFi connection.
  • Reduced Costs: Depending on the school, you can save money in many ways. Some schools provide electronic textbooks at no cost. Others charge in-state rates to all students, regardless of their location. If you continue working, you also save significantly in lost wages.
  • Local Student Teaching: Earning certification as a special education teacher requires hands-on student teaching experience. Many programs help online students find placements in local schools.

Popular Special Education Online Bachelor's Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Top 10 Online Bachelor's Degrees in Special Education

Read About Our Methodology Here

#1 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

University of West Alabama

  • Livingston, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $325
Out-of-State | $325

Credits to Graduate: 127

UWA's BS in collaborative teacher special education program prepares students to pursue teaching roles in elementary, middle, or high school special education positions. Graduates receive certification with endorsement as a collaborative special education teacher K-6 and/or K-12. This co-teaching method incorporates collaboration between a special education and a general education teacher.

You must complete an internship and field experience in an Alabama-approved school. By the program's end, you'll be certified to teach in Alabama or states with a reciprocity agreement. UWA notes high job placement rates for graduates. The program incorporates about 42 hours of teaching field experience. It also matches you with an alumni mentor.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$9,100
Out-of-state
$18,200
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,678
Out-of-state
$13,356
Retention Rate
63%
Acceptance Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
5,734
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
82% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Honolulu, HI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $585
Out-of-State | $585

Credits to Graduate: 120

Chaminade's BS in special education 3 + 1 program only accepts students transferring from Leeward Community College. Admission requirements include completing specific courses with a grade of C or higher. Of the 33 upper-division credits completed at Chaminade, 12 cover a student teaching seminar. 

This Catholic-based university prepares you to teach special education in diverse, multicultural schools. Graduates may be licensed to teach special education in grades preK-3, K-6, 6-12, or K-12. As with most teaching programs, if you plan to teach in a state other than Hawaii, check with your state's department of education for requirements.

Active and non-active duty military receive significant reductions in tuition costs.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$26,800
Out-of-state
$26,800
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$24,720
Out-of-state
$24,720
Retention Rate
81%
Acceptance Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
2,208
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

The University of West Florida

  • Pensacola, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $219
Out-of-State | $648

Credits to Graduate: 132

UWF's BA in special education can lead to state certification in exceptional student education K-12 and elementary education K-6, along with endorsements in English for speakers of other languages and reading. The program includes two 100-hour field experiences of instruction and observation. Enrollees complete the program with a semester-long student teaching experience, gradually taking full responsibility for the class.

This program is ideal for students who want to teach special education at the elementary or secondary levels, along with general education at the elementary or middle school levels.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$3,735
Out-of-state
$16,004
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,088
Out-of-state
$22,166
Retention Rate
84%
Acceptance Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
13,061
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Mayville State University

  • Mayville, ND
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $337
Out-of-State | $337

Credits to Graduate: 125

MSU's BS in special education offers two pathways: a standalone degree or a double major in early childhood, elementary, or secondary education. Licensed teachers looking to pursue special education licensure can complete the standalone track in as little as 2.5 years.

Admission requirements include passing the Praxis exam and possessing a minimum GPA of 2.75. These programs prepare you for North Dakota licensure exams. Non-residents must meet with advisors to discuss licensure requirements in their states.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,025
Out-of-state
$9,038
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$5,795
Out-of-state
$5,795
Retention Rate
63%
Acceptance Rate
53%
Students Enrolled
1,168
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

St. Andrews University

  • Laurinburg, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $474
Out-of-State | $474

St. Andrews' BA in special education prepares pre-service teachers to teach students with mild disabilities through the general K-12 curriculum. Enrollees participate in field experiences and community events involving children with disabilities, such as the Special Olympics.

In professional studies, enrollees take math, technology, and integrating movement courses. They must pass the Praxis core academic skills for educators test before proceeding to pedagogical studies. This section comprises 36 credits with courses like assessments, IEP planning, and math for special learners. The program culminates with a practicum experience and a student teaching senior seminar.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$28,680
Out-of-state
$28,680
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$25,800
Out-of-state
$25,800
Retention Rate
53%
Acceptance Rate
61%
Students Enrolled
887
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

University of Georgia

  • Athens, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $629
Out-of-State | $629

Credits to Graduate: 120

UGA's BS special education degree requires a minimum of 60 transferable college credits from an accredited school with a minimum GPA of 2.80. The program follows a cohort model, enabling you to complete courses with your peers. 

Learners must complete practicum experiences each semester in Georgia preK-12 schools. The final semester requires a full-time student teaching experience, and full-time enrollees can graduate in two years. The school also offers an alternative three-year program for those unable to commit to full-time enrollment.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$9,790
Out-of-state
$28,830
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,878
Out-of-state
$25,186
Retention Rate
94%
Acceptance Rate
48%
Students Enrolled
39,147
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Central Methodist University

  • Fayette, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $270
Out-of-State | $270

Credits to Graduate: 124

CMU's BS in special education prepares you to pursue roles teaching students with mild-to-moderate disabilities in grades K-12. The special education certification requirements comprise 51 credits with coursework like special education processes and counseling in special education. The program includes a series of fieldwork experiences and a full semester of student teaching experience.

Candidates may apply for admission after earning 60 credits with a GPA of 2.0. Additional requirements include a composite ACT of 22 or passing all the sections of the Missouri General Education Assessment.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,950
Out-of-state
$5,950
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,075
Out-of-state
$6,075
Retention Rate
67%
Acceptance Rate
100%
Students Enrolled
3,429
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Western New Mexico University

  • Silver City, NM
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $323
Out-of-State | $415

Credits to Graduate: 127

WNMU's BS in special education for grades preK-12 incorporates online and hybrid courses. The program focuses on practical hands-on skills and includes 31 credits in general education. Students must also pass the Praxis core content knowledge tests, special education core knowledge, and principles of learning and teaching grades K-6 or 7-12. 

Hands-on experience includes field experience labs, special education practice teaching, and a practice teaching seminar. You must have a minimum GPA of 2.75 to apply for the practice teaching field experience.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,417
Out-of-state
$11,400
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$3,558
Out-of-state
$8,730
Retention Rate
64%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,896
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
88% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

East Carolina University

  • Greenville, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Avg. Cost per Credit:
In-State | $205
Out-of-State | $883

Credits to Graduate: 120

ECU's Partnership Teach online degree-completion program suits students transferring from any North Carolina partnering community college after completing two years. During the program, your hands-on learning opportunities occur in public schools near your home. The senior year consists of a full-time internship.

The part-time special education cohort has flexible schedules for working adults. You can choose between a BS in special education general curriculum or an adapted curriculum. The general curriculum prepares you to work with children with disabilities who are pursuing high school diplomas. The adapted curriculum enables you to work with children experiencing more significant cognitive disabilities. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,452
Out-of-state
$20,729
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$4,749
Out-of-state
$17,898
Retention Rate
83%
Acceptance Rate
88%
Students Enrolled
28,798
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#10 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education

Western Governors University

  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • 4 years
  • Online

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Association of Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation

Avg. Cost per Term:
In-State | $3,825
Out-of-State | $3,825

Credits to Graduate: N/A

WGU's BA in special education prepares you to meet teacher certification requirements in all states that offer a K-12 special education license. This program, focused on students with mild-to-moderate disabilities, also lets you gain licensure in elementary education. WGU's competency-based approach does not require a certain number of credits. Instead, you earn a degree by demonstrating your knowledge and skills.

According to WGU, 62% of students finish the program in 29 months. Video-based classroom observations help prepare you for teaching experiences. Clinical experiences culminate with a teaching experience in an elementary special education setting and one in a secondary school.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,380
Out-of-state
$6,380
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,500
Out-of-state
$7,500
Retention Rate
75%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
147,866
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Did You Know…

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 45% of schools report vacancies in special education teaching positions.

What Do You Learn in an Online Special Education Degree Program?

An online special education program prepares you to work with students who experience behavior disorders, learning disabilities, and other challenges. In addition to general education requirements, you'll take courses in effective learning environments, methods of inclusion, and instructional strategies for those with disabilities. You'll also learn how to assess and determine a student's eligibility for special education services.

Programs that prepare you to teach in public schools require student teaching experiences, which typically involve full-time teaching in special education settings. All states require supervised clinical practice. However, states vary on the amount of practical experience required, so check with your state's board of education before selecting a program.

Some schools also offer non-certification tracks. These pathways do not lead to teacher certification. If you're interested in a career outside teaching, such as an early intervention specialist or special education advocate, this track may offer a viable option.

Common Courses in Bachelor's in Special Education Programs


  • Curricula for Teaching Students with Severe Disabilities
  • Teaching Students with Language and Communication Disorders
  • Classroom and Behavior Management for Individuals with Disabilities
  • Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
  • Field Experience

Does Accreditation Matter for Special Education Bachelor's Programs?

Institutional accreditation ensures that colleges and universities meet high educational standards. By attending an accredited institution, you gain access to federal financial aid and can more easily transfer credits between schools. Make sure the accrediting organization is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).

Programs and departments within schools can also gain programmatic accreditation. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits most educational programs. Some states require graduation from a CAEP-accredited teacher preparation program to gain licensure.

What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education?

Many graduates pursue roles as special education teachers in public schools. However, there are other career paths in education. You may teach in private schools or work in hospitals, residential facilities, and even students' homes. State agencies and nonprofits hire candidates for case management positions and advocacy programs.

You can also advance to senior management positions in residential or vocational programs for individuals with disabilities. A director of special education provides staff support and ensures the program meets the needs of the students. Payscale reports that these directors earn an average salary of $80,190 as of Aug. 2023. This position may require a master's in special education or educational administration.

If you've set your sights on a career as a special education teacher in public schools, you'll need to obtain your degree from a state-approved teacher preparation program. Additional requirements may include passing a basic math, reading, and writing skills test. You may also need to take the Praxis special education test to get your teacher's license.

Salary and Job Outlook for Special Education Teachers
Grade Level Median Annual Salary (May 2022) Projected Job Growth Rate (2021-2031)
Preschool $62,240 8%
Kindergarten and Elementary School $62,390 4%
Secondary School $63,560 4%

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Special Education Degrees

What are the admission requirements for a bachelor's program in special education?

Admission into a bachelor's program in special education requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. The minimum GPA requirement is usually 2.0. Some schools also require SAT or ACT scores. Many schools offer degree-completion programs, which typically require 60 transfer credits from undergraduate studies with GPAs ranging from 2.0-2.75.

How much does an online bachelor's in special education cost?

NCES data indicates that the average in-state tuition and fees for public universities was $9,375 in the 2020-2021 academic year. For non-residents, that figure rose to $27,091. Remember that some colleges do not charge out-of-state fees for online programs. Private colleges cost the most, averaging $32,825 annually in tuition and fees.

How long does an online bachelor's in special education take?

Most online bachelor's in special education programs require 120-132 credits. If you attend school full time, you can complete the program in about four years. Some programs offer year-round accelerated options, allowing you to reduce completion time. If you enroll part time, it may take 5-6 years to complete.

Is an online special education degree worth it?

Yes. If you're interested in helping students with disabilities through teaching, advocating, or managing resources, an online special education degree is worth it. You also experience high demand and higher-than-average wages. BLS data reveals that, as of May 2021, special education teachers earn a median wage of $61,820, which is $16,060 more than the median salary for all workers.

Where do special education teachers make the most money?

Special education teachers in secondary schools make the most money compared to other grade levels. These teachers earn a median wage of $63,560. Where you live also affects the money you make. For instance, in California, the top-paying state, these teachers earn an average wage of $97,690, according to BLS data from May 2022.

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Page last reviewed August 21, 2023. All rankings and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by the ASO Rankings Team.

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