Best Online Bachelor’s in Special Education Programs of 2021

BestColleges.com 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.

Ready to start your journey?

By The BestColleges Rankings Team

Published on July 27, 2021

Share on Social

As colleges and universities navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we're continuing our efforts to provide you with useful student resources and the latest online program information. Check our coronavirus resources page to learn more.

Special education teachers enjoy working in a personally and professionally rewarding field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth on par with the national average between 2019 and 2029, a result of early disability detection and increasing student enrollment numbers. Government funding mandates also protect existing jobs and defend against budget cuts.

With a bachelor's in special education, graduates can access special education roles at various levels and pursue related teaching and support positions.

This page delves into special education programs and career options. For more information, check out our special education program guide.

What Are the Best Online Bachelor's in Special Education Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

#1 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT
#2 University of Georgia Athens, GA
#3 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS
#4 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Saint Mary of the Woods, IN
#5 University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI
#6 University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, AK
#7 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
#8 Central Methodist University-College of Graduate and Extended Studies Fayette, MO
#9 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
#10 University of South Carolina - Aiken Aiken, SC
How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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

2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Special Education Programs

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

Western Governors University View School Profile Salt Lake City, UT

Founded in 1997, WGU prioritizes accessible education. The university also offers competitive tuition rates that can provide students with a great return on their investment. Learners can access over 60 online, competency-based education programs, including a bachelor's in special education.

WGU prepares graduates to educate students with mild to moderate disabilities. This degree requires 47 courses and can lead to elementary and K-12 special education licenses. Students typically earn their degree in 42 months. Courses include human growth and development across the lifespan, introduction to instructional planning and presentation, and assessment in special education.

This program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. WGU holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

University of Georgia View School Profile Athens, GA

Established in 1785, UGA is the state's flagship institution. The university emphasizes rigorous learning environments, leadership opportunities, and applied learning. Annual enrollment exceeds 38,000 learners, and students benefit from a vast alumni network that includes over 315,000 members.

UGA's College of Education offers an online bachelor's degree in special education. This program serves as a degree completion pathway and leads to certification. Students can graduate in two years. Courses include teaching reading at the secondary level, instruction of individuals with mild disabilities, and behavior management. This program also includes a practicum and student teaching experiences.

Applicants need at least 60 transfer credits from an accredited institution to gain admission. UGA holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Fort Hays State University View School Profile Hays, KS

FHSU was the first public school founded in Kansas and continues to be one of the largest universities in the state. FHSU offers over 200 degree and certificate programs, including some of the best online programs in the nation.

Individuals with an affinity for helping students with distinctive needs can earn an online bachelor's in elementary education with a minor in special education. Participants complete 21 minor-specific credits. Notable courses include principles of instruction in special education and clinical immersion, behavior strategies and support, and technology applications in special education. This degree also requires a special education student teaching experience.

Admission into the program requires a minimum 2.75 GPA. FHSU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College View School Profile Saint Mary of the Woods, IN

SMWC values student-centered learning and innovation. The college offers 50 programs, many of which can be completed online. The school boasts a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, allowing learners to build meaningful relationships with their professors.

SMWC's online bachelor's program in special education prepares graduates to meet the needs of elementary learners. This degree requires 120 credits. Courses include philosophical and ethical foundations of education, special education law and procedures, and education in a global society. This program requires clinical and supervised teaching experiences.

Online coursework includes essays, exams, group projects, and discussion board posts. Professors typically offer virtual office hours. Additionally, SMWC provides online tutoring and technical support. Learners can choose from multiple start dates each year. SMWC holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Wisconsin-Stout View School Profile Menomonie, WI

UW-Stout emphasizes applied learning and research to solve modern problems across multiple fields. The university offers 74 programs, including 49 undergraduate options.

Nontraditional learners can earn an online bachelor's degree in special education that leads to Wisconsin teaching licensure in cross-categorical special education. This degree requires 120 credits. While students take coursework entirely online, they must complete an on-site student teaching experience.

Online courses utilize an asynchronous format. Students engage in weekly modules that include discussion forum posts, group work, essays, and exams. Transfer students with a minimum 2.75 GPA may apply. This special education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. UW-Stout is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Alaska Southeast View School Profile Juneau, AK

Based in Juneau, UAS operates within the University of Alaska System. UAS values innovation and accessible programs, and students can access most coursework online with no in-person attendance. Students also benefit from a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

UAS offers an online bachelor's degree in special education. This program prepares graduates to respond to the needs of students with disabilities and leads to a K-12 teaching license. This degree requires 120 credits, including 35 general education credits, 22 breadth credits, 63 major credits, and three Alaska native knowledge credits.

Courses include artistic expressions and oral narratives of Alaska natives, transition planning for secondary students, and multicultural education. UAS holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

East Carolina University View School Profile Greenville, NC

Located in Greenville, North Carolina, ECU has an enrollment that exceeds 28,000 students. Learners at ECU graduate with about 30% less debt than the national average. Distance learners can access 126 online programs, including a degree completion pathway that leads to a bachelor's in special education.

This cohort-style program begins during the summer. Participants choose from general curriculum and adapted curriculum pathways. Courses include introduction to exceptional children and instructional programming in special education. Students also engage in practicum experiences. Distance learners access coursework through the Blackboard learning management system.

Applicants must have completed certain prerequisite coursework. ECU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Central Methodist University-College of Graduate and Extended Studies View School Profile Fayette, MO

CMU principles include student-centered learning, ethical leadership, and social responsibility. Students can access over 45 undergraduate programs and six graduate programs. Additionally, the university offers distance learning through its College of Graduate and Extended Studies.

Individuals passionate about helping students with disabilities can earn an online bachelor's degree in special education. This degree requires a minimum 124 credits, including general education credits, professional education credits, and special education credits. Courses include diagnostic and prescriptive procedures, counseling in special education, and psychology of the exceptional child.

Admission requires a minimum 2.5 GPA, SAT or ACT scores, and official transcripts. Transfer students with a GPA of at least a 2.0 from an accredited school may apply. CMU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

Liberty delivers coursework from an evangelical Christian perspective. Students can choose from over 600 programs of study, including more than 400 online programs.

Liberty offers an online bachelor's degree in special education. This program features 120 credits, and students typically earn their degree in 3.5 years. Graduates qualify for a state license. Courses include inclusive planning for diverse learnings, special education law and characteristics, and behavior management.

Online courses follow an eight-week format. Liberty utilizes the Blackboard online learning management system. Faculty typically deliver courses asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework as their schedule permits within deadline dates. Liberty holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of South Carolina - Aiken View School Profile Aiken, SC

Located about 20 miles northeast of Augusta, Georgia, USC Aiken boasts a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school offers online degree completion options through its Palmetto College branch, including a bachelor's in special education.

Individuals pursuing an online bachelor's degree in special education complete classes like assessment of people with exceptionalities and foundations in reading in elementary and special education. They also take a senior seminar and engage in a special education internship. Additionally, certified South Carolina teachers can earn add-on special education certifications by completing the appropriate coursework, choosing from certification options like multicategorical special education and emotional disabilities.

To apply, learners must have already completed 45-60 college credits and have a minimum 2.75 GPA. USA Aiken holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its special education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Special Education Program?

Special education students come from various backgrounds with different skill sets, but many learners possess patience, resourcefulness, and strong communication skills.

Special education students come from various backgrounds with different skill sets, but many learners possess patience, resourcefulness, and strong communication skills. A bachelor's in special education hones these abilities while allowing learners to chart their own career course. A bachelor's in special education often requires 120 credits, and full-time students graduate in about four years.

Some programs feature heavy practical components, such as mock classroom setups, projects, and practica. Other programs include more theoretical training and research requirements.

For students looking for specialized training, concentrations provide an effective way to pursue knowledge and skills in a subdiscipline or a related field. Completing a specialization in an area like communication disorders or adapted curriculum development can improve a graduate's chances of finding employment in that field.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Best Online Bachelor's in Child Development Programs Best Online Bachelor's in Child and Adolescent Psychology Programs Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Programs

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Special Education Program?

Courses in an online bachelor's in special education can vary significantly by program. Nevertheless, most programs cover the same core topics. The following section highlights five common courses in an online bachelor's in special education.

Learning Disabilities

In this course, students examine several of the most common learning disabilities, along with their related causes and effects. Students learn how to identify and characterize specific disabilities. Students also gain strategies to support and manage learners with various disabilities and educate students with these conditions.

Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

This course teaches learners how to develop an IEP. Degree-seekers learn to set goals and adapt curricula based on student needs. Learners also study assessment and tracking strategies to ensure that students with disabilities receive appropriate support.

Family Collaboration

This course focuses on communication and classroom management strategies that involve family members in educating students with disabilities. Covered topics include encouragement, assessment, and at-home learning tactics.

Special Education Technology

In this course, students learn about leading technologies in special education. Topics include evaluating assistive technologies, integrating technology in the classroom, and exploring special education-specific software and applications.

Behavioral Concerns and Management

In this course, degree-seekers explore ways to address and manage students with behavioral issues. Students learn to identify behavioral concerns and their leading causes and effects in the classroom. Learners also study proactive and preventative measures to minimize classroom disruptions and support students with behavioral issues.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Online College Students Your Guide to College Loans Your Guide to the FAFSA

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Special Education Degree?

Getting a bachelor's in special education can result in many career opportunities, either directly in special education or in a related field. While the projected growth for special education teachers between 2019 and 2029 is equal to the national average, some positions, such as recreational therapist, boast strong projected growth rates

Discover where an online bachelor's in special education can take you. Learn more about special education careers here.

true Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers educate students with various disabilities, ensuring that lesson plans and assessment strategies properly support each learner. These teachers help develop IEPs, work with families, and assist students in transitioning to the next grade.

Recreational Therapist

Recreational therapists develop and run recreational activities for people with various disabilities and injuries. These programs offer rehabilitation, therapeutic, and social benefits, helping individuals meet goals like improving medical outcomes and self-care levels.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher

These teachers educate students in kindergarten and elementary school classrooms, usually developing an understanding of the primary subjects and social skills. At this level, teachers also help identify and manage personal learning challenges in students.

Childcare Director

Childcare directors manage childcare centers and departments, usually handling finances, major administrative and policy duties, and family and staffing matters. Some directors may also lead curriculum development and staff training.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists help people with various communication disorders by developing treatment plans and teaching coping strategies to families. These pathologists work with individuals with stutters, voice disorders, and trauma-induced problems.

Special Education Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Education Careers Child Development Careers Child and Adolescent Psychology Careers

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Special Education Programs

Is a bachelor's in special education worth it?

Yes. A bachelor's in special education prepares graduates for rewarding careers in education and support. The BLS projects 5% job growth for education and training positions between 2019 and 2029. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $50,790.

What can I do with a bachelor's in special education?

A bachelor's in special education often leads to careers in special education, but graduates can also pursue other careers. Learners that pursue teaching licensure can teach at several levels. Graduates can also pursue a doctoral or master'sdegree in special education.

Is special education in demand?

The BLS projects 3% job growth for special education teachers between 2019 and 2029, which is equal to the national average.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in special education?

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for special education teachers is $61,030. Professionals in the top 10% of the field earn more than $98,530 per year.

What are the highest paying jobs with a bachelor's in special education?

According to the BLS, speech-language pathologists earn some of the highest salaries among special education graduates, with a median annual salary of $79,120. The top 10% of earners make over $121,260.

Many students experience food and housing insecurity. Learn how these insecurities affect students. Get tips for overcoming common barriers. Learn about the financial challenges of AAPI students and find scholarships for Asian American and Pacific Islander college students. Learn how to use personal pronouns to increase inclusivity and create welcoming spaces for trans, nonbinary, and LGBQ+ communities.

BestColleges.com 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.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.