Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

by TBS Staff

Updated September 27, 2022

TheBestSchools.org

thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Special Education Degrees

Teachers devoted to making a difference in the lives of children can find fulfilling careers with an online special education degree. Due to increases in student enrollment across the country and earlier detection of learning disabilities in children, schools need qualified special education teachers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in special education to grow by 8% through 2026, with 33,300 more jobs coming to the market. Jobs in special education offer security for new graduates since the federal government must, by law, fund public schools to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities. Special education teachers work with students who have physical, mental, and emotional learning challenges.

Students earning a special education bachelor's degree online learn how to create positive learning environments to improve educational outcomes for students with learning disabilities. Some programs provide internships opportunities so students can gain classroom experience before they graduate, and many online special education degrees allow students to earn a specialization to meet licensure requirements.

The Best Online Bachelor's in Special Education Programs

#1 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

The University of Georgia

  • Athens, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Georgia, a public, four-year college, enables study across 29 online programs. The college offers two fully online bachelor's degrees to undergraduate students. The bachelor of science in education in special education is an attractive option for learners seeking to advance in the special education field. The special education program is a flexible option for working professionals and busy degree-seekers.

Throughout the program, participants attend industry-relevant lectures while completing special education-specific coursework. Enrollees also complete general education requirements, gaining a well-rounded education during their studies. Students can explore electives, minors, and degree consultations with their academic advisor to individualize their degree.

After earning their degree, alumni benefit from greater access to employment opportunities and higher earning potential. Graduates who have completed their degree gain, on average, a median salary of $45,200 after six years. Though degree costs vary, undergraduate students pay an average of $15,961 per year in tuition and fees. Prospective applicants can contact the special education program to learn more about admission requirements and financial aid opportunities.

The University of Georgia at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 5,389

Total Online Programs: 29

Online Bachelor's Programs: 2

Admission Rate: 45%

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,790
Out-of-state
$28,830
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
38,920
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

The University of West Florida

  • Pensacola, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Individuals looking for competitive online learning opportunities should consider the University of West Florida's online bachelor's programs. The public school offers 10 online bachelor's degrees from its main campus in Pensacola. Of these, the bachelor of arts in exceptional student education stands out as a competitive option for degree-seekers interested in the special education field.

The online special education degree prioritizes flexibility. Students complete industry-specific classes, with the option to add electives and modify their coursework. Enrollees can choose electives, minors, and other modifications to individualize their studies.

Typically, undergraduate learners pay $16,004 in tuition. Enrollees can benefit from scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid through the college. The school reports that degree-seekers are awarded an average of $8,789 in financial aid.

The University of West Florida at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 8,296

Total Online Programs: 26

Online Bachelor's Programs: 10

Admission Rate: 31%

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,735
Out-of-state
$16,004
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
31%
Students Enrolled
12,557
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

The University of Wisconsin-Stout

  • Menomonie, WI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Wisconsin-Stout supports 3,907 distance learners across 13 fully online programs. The special education program is one of two online bachelor's degrees available through the college. Students looking to advance in the field will find the school's bachelor of science in special education an attractive option. The program allows for full- or part-time study, making it a flexible choice for working professionals and busy degree-seekers.

Enrollees complete both foundational and advanced coursework, granting them the knowledge and skills needed to advance in the field. These classes incorporate general and advanced knowledge applicable to special education. Learners can customize their studies by working with their academic advisor to choose electives, minors, and degree concentrations.

A bachelor's degree enables alumni to access higher-paying jobs and more employment opportunities. The institution reports a median salary of $41,000 for graduates six years after completing their studies. Students preparing to apply for the program should consider that the average price after aid for tuition and fees is $14,767. Those interested in learning more about admission requirements, application materials, and financial aid opportunities should directly contact the department.

The University of Wisconsin-Stout at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 3,907

Total Online Programs: 13

Online Bachelor's Programs: 2

Admission Rate: 91%

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,014
Out-of-state
$14,981
Retention Rate
72%
Admission Rate
91%
Students Enrolled
8,413
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

East Carolina University

  • Greenville, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking flexible online study should consider East Carolina University. The college boasts 18 fully online bachelor's programs. The bachelor of science in special education is a wise choice for learners hoping to advance in the special education field.

The program prepares degree-seekers for the demands of the special education field. In consultation with their academic advisor, enrollees can modify their course load to suit their needs. Program participants can also choose electives and pursue interdisciplinary study to fit career their goals.

Typically, undergraduates pay $20,729 in tuition. Learners at the accredited institution can pursue funding opportunities, such as scholarships and fellowships, to support their studies. Degree-seekers typically receive a financial aid award package amounting to $7,941, on average.

East Carolina University at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 13,890

Total Online Programs: 69

Online Bachelor's Programs: 18

Admission Rate: 79%

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,452
Out-of-state
$20,729
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
28,651
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

  • Saint Mary of the Woods, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College supports 347 distance learners across 33 fully online programs. Of its virtual degree options, 25 offer an undergraduate-level education. From its main campus in Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana, the school administers an online bachelor of science in education in P-12 mild intervention special education. The special education program accommodates flexible study, so students can learn at their own pace.

During the special education program, participants complete foundational and advanced coursework relevant to the special education field. Enrollees can customize their degree through electives, minors, and concentrations. This individualization ensures that the program meets each student's unique interests and career goals.

The benefits of a bachelor's degree are varied, from increased job opportunities to higher earning potential. According to the college, graduates earn a median salary of $28,300 six years after completing their degree. Degree-seekers interested in learning more about admission requirements, application materials, and financial aid opportunities should directly contact the special education department.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 347

Total Online Programs: 33

Online Bachelor's Programs: 25

Admission Rate: 67%

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,950
Out-of-state
$29,950
Retention Rate
66%
Admission Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
1,094
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

Western Governors University

  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • 4 years
  • Online

Learners seeking competitive online study in special education should consider Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah. degree-seekers interested in distance learning will find the school's 30 fully online bachelor's programs an attractive option for study. The bachelor of arts in special education and elementary education supports flexible, rigorous study.

The rigorous curriculum enables flexible study through an adaptable curriculum. The program curriculum equips enrollees with industry-relevant knowledge. Electives, minors, and other modifications can benefit participants and help them meet career goals.

At present, undergraduates pay $6,380 in tuition. Special education students can access scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities while enrolled. Prospective applicants should contact the financial aid office for more details on financing their education.

Western Governors University at a Glance:

Total Online Programs: 65

Online Bachelor's Programs: 30

Transfer Credits Accepted: Accepted

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,380
Out-of-state
$6,380
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
136,139
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#7 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Honolulu, HI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Chaminade University of Honolulu supports 1,201 distance learners across 21 fully online programs. The special education program is one of 10 online bachelor's degrees available through the college. Students looking for an individualized education relevant to the special education field can enroll in the online bachelor of science in special education. 

Throughout their coursework, enrollees gain industry-relevant knowledge through general and advanced classes. Participants complete classes relevant to the special education field, as well as general education requirements. Learners can customize their degree by choosing electives, minors, and concentrations.

A bachelor's degree connects graduates with numerous job opportunities and a higher earning potential. The college boasts a median salary of $31,800 for alumni six years after completing their studies. Prospective students interested in learning more about admission requirements, application materials, and financial aid opportunities should directly contact the special education department.

Chaminade University of Honolulu at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 1,201

Total Online Programs: 21

Online Bachelor's Programs: 10

Admission Rate: 95%

Average Tuition
In-state
$26,020
Out-of-state
$26,020
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
95%
Students Enrolled
2,167
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#8 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

Central Methodist University

  • Fayette, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Central Methodist University, a private four-year college, enables study across 30 online programs. Undergraduate degree-seekers can choose from 21 online bachelor's degree options. The bachelor of science in education in special education: mild-moderate disabilities K-12 prioritizes flexibility, making it an attractive option for working professionals and busy students. The flexible program helps learners complete a college degree.

Enrollees complete industry-relevant classes throughout their studies, gaining broad and specific knowledge of the special education field. This curriculum, which consists of foundational and advanced coursework, equips participants with the relevant skills needed to succeed in the special education field. In consultation with their academic advisor, learners can customize their studies through electives, minors, and concentration areas.

Graduates greatly benefit from their education, gaining access to more job opportunities and a higher earning potential. The college boasts a median salary of $35,000 for alumni six years after completing their studies. Prospective applicants can meet with the financial aid office to learn more about funding opportunities and eligibility requirements for scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid.

Central Methodist University at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 2,181

Total Online Programs: 30

Online Bachelor's Programs: 21

Admission Rate: 100%

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,070
Out-of-state
$6,070
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
100%
Students Enrolled
3,821
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
57% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

Chadron State College

  • Chadron, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Chadron State College provides flexible study opportunities to distance learners across 15 virtual programs. Undergraduates can choose from eight remote bachelor degree options. Students seeking advanced online study in special education can enroll in the school's online bachelor of science in education. Participants in the special education program can complete classes at their own pace, with the option for part-time study.

Throughout the program, students attend industry-relevant lectures while completing special education-specific coursework. The program curriculum prepares participants for the demands of the special education field. Enrollees can customize their degree through electives, minors, and concentrations.

Graduates easily grow their earning potential with a bachelor's degree. According to the college, alumni earn a median salary of $35,700 six years after completing their degree. Typically, undergraduates pay $14,203 in tuition and fees each year. Students can meet with the special education department directly to inquire about admission requirements, application materials, and more.

Chadron State College at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 1,809

Total Online Programs: 15

Online Bachelor's Programs: 8

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,082
Out-of-state
$5,110
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,407
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
75% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Learners looking to earn a flexible college degree should consider Liberty University. Undergraduates from across the globe can connect with the school through one of its 30 fully online bachelor's programs. The bachelor of education in special education is an attractive option for individuals seeking to advance in the special education field. The special education program is a flexible option for working professionals and busy students.

All enrollees complete foundational and advanced coursework throughout their studies, amounting to 120 course credits. Participants complete general education and advanced coursework, gaining broad and specific skills. In consultation with their academic advisor, learners can customize their studies through electives, minors, and concentration areas.

A bachelor's degree enables graduates to access higher-paying jobs and more employment opportunities. The school reports a median salary of $35,800 for alumni six years after completing a bachelor's degree. Applicants hoping to gain admission to the special education program should connect with the department to discuss admission requirements and application materials.

Liberty University at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 78,511

Total Online Programs: 161

Online Bachelor's Programs: 30

Admission Rate: 51%

Transfer Credits Accepted: Accepted

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,417
Out-of-state
$15,417
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
85,586
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Best Online Programs

Online Bachelor's in Special Education Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Bachelor's in Special Education Programs

Choosing an Online Special Education Degree Program

Take your time when picking out an online degree in special education. Every program differs in cost, transfer policies, size, and duration. Make sure the online special education degree program you pick fits your financial, education, and career goals. And remember: in-state colleges usually provide the most cost-efficient choice. To ensure you pick a school that suits your best interests, consider the following factors:

Accreditation for Online Special Education Degrees

Colleges hold either regional or national accreditation. Two-year and four-year colleges and universities typically receive regional accreditation, which is more prestigious than national accreditation. And vocational and technical schools generally receive national accreditation. The accreditation process serves to validate the quality of education offered at colleges or in programs. Schools undergo the accreditation assessment process on a voluntary basis.

Choosing an online special education degree from a college that holds regional accreditation allows them to receive federal financial aid and transfer credits. Regionally accredited colleges may not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited colleges.

Programs also receive accreditation. Online special education degree programs may receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. The Department of Education (ED) and Council for Higher Educational Accreditation (CHEA) oversee accrediting agencies that grant accreditation to schools and programs. To find a list of accredited schools or accreditors, visit ED's website or CHEA's website.

Special Education Concentrations

Online schools for special education typically offer specialties, such as early childhood, autism, gifted and talented, applied behavior analysis, and visual impairment. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 68 U.S. children have been identified as being on the autism spectrum; many students in special education programs select the autism concentration to learn to teach this population effectively. Some programs prepare students to teach special needs children up to fourth grade; others produce graduates equipped to teach high school students.

Sensory Impairment

This concentration prepares students to work with individuals who live with sensory impairment, including the visually or hearing impaired. The curriculum teaches students about nontraditional learning structures. It also explores ethical responsibilities of teaching sensory impaired students.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

Earning a concentration in sensory impairment prepares graduates to work as teachers, supporting students with visual impairments.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Classes offered in an autism spectrum disorder concentration teach students about innovative teaching approaches, therapies, and techniques. Students enrolled in this specialty take classes on functional analysis and ethics, and social skills development and autism.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

Students who want to work as autism behavioral specialists or special education teachers helping individuals on the spectrum can benefit from earning this concentration.

Early Childhood Studies

A concentration in early childhood studies prepares online special education degree students for a career in teaching young children with special needs. The curriculum focuses on multicultural issues, children's literature, and psychosocial disorders of childhood.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

Students who want to pursue a special education career working with children in elementary or preschool can benefit from this concentration in early childhood studies.

Assistive Technology

Special education teachers use assistive technology such as reading software, text-to-speech technology, sip-and-puff systems, and assistive listening systems. This specialization gives students earning online special education degrees the skills to operate various software and technologies.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

This concentration helps prepare students to work as special education teachers in today's classrooms, which feature various assistive technology systems.

Gifted Education

Classes in a gifted education concentration consider lesson plans and learning environments that challenge and foster positive learning outcomes for gifted students.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

Individuals who want to work with atypical gifted learners can learn different strategies and techniques from taking this concentration.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Special Education?

How long it takes to earn an online special education degree depends on a student's personal situation. The typical bachelor's degree program takes four years to complete and consists of roughly 120 credits.

Several factors can help students finish their degree quicker while other circumstances may delay a student's graduation. First, students who take classes on a part-time schedule almost always complete their degree later than those enrolled full time. Also keep in mind that the price of tuition increases for students attending on a part-time basis. Second, many online special education degrees run on shortened terms, which allow students to finish in fewer than three years. Finally, programs sometimes offer concentrations in autism, assistive technology, and sensory impairment; those who specialize must take additional classes, which could prolong their time in college.

Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Special Education Program

Earning a special education degree online prepares future educators to help children learn and succeed. Core courses provide skills necessary to mentor and guide children with disabilities. Courses common to most bachelor's in special education programs include foundations of assessment and instructional strategies. Students explore teaching practices for children with learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Most students pursuing an online degree in special education complete a practicum, usually student teaching. A practicum provides hands-on teaching experience and an opportunity to observe students. The number of required practicum hours vary by state and program.

Special Education Degree Salary Information

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers primarily work in elementary schools to adapt lesson plans to suit the needs of students with learning disabilities. They also work in high schools, middle schools, and preschools, teaching students in small groups or one-on-one.

Entry Level: $40,000 Mid-Career: $42,000 Experienced: $47,000 Late Career: $52,000

Speech and Language Pathologists

Speech and language pathologists work in educational settings to help children and adults with speech, swallowing, and language difficulties. Their duties include creating treatment plans to help students to improve their oral and written skills.

Entry Level: $69,000 Mid-Career: $74,000 Experienced: $81,000 Late Career: $88,000

Early Intervention Specialist

Early intervention specialists work in schools and for government agencies to create treatment plans for children with developmental delays. They work alongside parents and caregivers to address and document student progress. They also set up goals and recommend ongoing activities for children.

Entry Level: $32,000 Mid-Career: $35,000 Experienced: $41,000 Late Career: $43,000

Educational Consultant

Educational consultants typically design career and educational paths for students to follow after high school. They also develop training curricula and teach groups of individuals. Many educational consultants work on a contract basis. Employers typically require at least a bachelor's degree.

Entry Level: $50,000 Mid-Career: $56,000 Experienced: $62,000 Late Career: $69,000

Source: PayScale

Related Articles

More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office