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Best Online Degrees in Special Education (SpEd) for 2024

Best Online Degrees in Special Education (SpEd) for 2024

An online degree in special education can introduce a rich skill set as you champion student learning and develop specialized teaching techniques. This guide prepares you for success by offering a detailed look at the best schools for earning a bachelor’s degree in special education online. Keep reading to learn how to apply, get accepted, and graduate.

Are you a good listener, intuitive, creative, and calm? These are some of the characteristics that make a great special education teacher. And, while personality matters, you’ll also need to learn specific teaching methods to meet the unique needs of students with developmental, learning, or behavioral challenges or disabilities.

This guide can prepare you as you research your special education bachelor’s degree online. Inside you’ll discover colleges that offer standout programs and learn about prospective careers. You’ll also gain insights about the kinds of courses you can expect in your online Special Education (SpED) degree program. Keep reading to prepare yourself for a fulfilling future in this in-demand teaching specialty.

Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Special Education (SpEd) for 2024

We have ranked the top schools below. Our Rankings Data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES.) Click the About the Ranking link below for more information about our methodology.


    Base Methodology for OnlineColleges.me’s 2024 Online College Rankings

    1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

    To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

    • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • At least one program in the subject area offered partially or fully online.
    1. Assign Weightings

    After creating the list of eligible schools, OnlineColleges.me data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

    Online Program Availability

    • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. Because exact numbers change often and can be difficult to verify, we use a range-based scoring system: 0-5 online programs = 1 star; 6-10 = 2 stars; 11-15 = 3 stars; 16-20 = 4 stars; 21+ = 5 stars. In our design, laptop icons = stars.
    • For degree-specific pages, ex: Psychology degrees, we list the current number of online programs available at that school for that degree type, as self-reported by the schools.


    • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
    • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

    Support Services

    • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
    • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

    About Our Data

    OnlineColleges.me’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: January of 2024

  • Tucson, AZ
    Public $$

    The Bachelor of Science in Education, Mild to Moderate Disabilities program from the University of Arizona offers courses that are carefully designed to match the learner’s needs with research-based practice and practical field-based application each semester. At the completion of this program, you’ll be qualified to support students with high-incidence disabilities in various settings. Students have the opportunity to take three semesters of field-based practicum experiences before a student teaching semester; intensive coaching will be provided to you throughout your program. Note: You must be an Arizona resident to take part in this program.

    Program Highlights:

    Bachelor of Science in Education (Mild to Moderate Disabilities)

    • Credits: 120
    • Length: About 4 years
    • Cost: $550/credit
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Concord, NH
    Public $

    University of New Hampshire College of Professional Studies offers a unique online program for individuals interested in initial teaching licensure in special education. Students can earn a Bachelor of Science in English Language Arts and also receive a certification in General Special Education. Even though this is an online program, students will have in-person experiential learning requirements to complete. While 120 credits are needed to graduate, up to 90 transfer credits can count toward the degree.

    Program Highlights:

    Bachelor of Science in English Language Arts (certification in General Special Education)

    • Credits: 120
    • Length: About 4 years
    • Cost: $314/credit (in-state); $379/credit (out-of-state)
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: NECHE
  • Chadron, NE
    Public $

    Chadron State College offers multiple bachelor’s degree programs in education, with various concentrations, including Special Education. Students need 120 credits to graduate, which includes 25-27 professional education credits, 42 credits in special education, and 12 credits in professional year courses, which include an education capstone and internship. Despite having this in-person curriculum requirement, most of the classroom instruction can be completed online. Each class lasts eight weeks, making it easier to arrange a course schedule around personal and professional obligations.

    Program Highlights:

    Bachelor of Science in Education (Special Education Generalist)

    • Credits: 120
    • Length: About 4 years
    • Cost: $309/credit
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: CAEP
  • Mayville, ND
    Public $
  • Pensacola, FL
    Public $
  • Lynchburg, VA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Minot, ND
    Public $
  • Marshall, MN
    Public $
  • Silver City, NM
    Public $
  • Norfolk, VA
    Public $
  • Greenville, NC
    Public $
  • Miami, FL
    Public $
  • Juneau, AK
    Public $
  • Madison, SD
    Public $
  • Livingston, AL
    Public $
  • Menomonie, WI
    Public $
  • Aiken, SC
    Public $$
  • Whitewater, WI
    Public $
  • Athens, GA
    Public $

Spotlight on Special Education Bachelor’s Degrees Online

When researching options for your education, you’ll find several schools that offer the online SpED degree, each with unique courses, goals, and outcomes. However, every program spotlighted below meets the quality standards set forth to receive accreditation, meaning the caliber of education meets stringent academic guidelines. 

Each of these programs is designed to prepare students to take on future roles in special education, most offering practical, hands-on skills as well as theoretical underpinnings.

Let’s take a look at a few of the leading schools that offer a special education bachelor’s degree online.

Liberty University

Program Info: Liberty University offers an online special education degree program featuring 100% online classes with 8-week courses. With the potential to transfer up to 75% of the total degree credits, this program spans 120 credit hours, typically taking around 3.5 years. This special education bachelor’s degree online equips you to support the growth of special needs students and pursue a post-graduation teacher’s license. The courses offer practical training tactics, insight into learning disabilities, essential education theory, and adaptation techniques applicable to classrooms. You can apply for your teaching license in another state through reciprocity upon completion; however, you may have to complete additional requirements.

Nova Southeastern University

Program Info: Nova Southeastern University also has an online degree in special education: A Bachelor’s In Exceptional Student Education (ESOL). This degree requires a total of 120 credit hours, comprising 30 credit hours of general education study, 75 credits of education major courses and 15 credits of electives. This special education bachelor’s degree online also offers a Dean’s scholarship to qualified first-time college students and transfers. The curriculum encompasses a range of subjects — from education basics and classroom management to language development, diversity, ethics, and hands-on applications.

  • Cost of program: $35,880.00 annual tuition (not including scholarships/grants)
  • Location: Online; Campus in Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Grand Canyon University

Program Info: Grand Canyon University provides an online degree in special education through its Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education program. It allows up to 90 transfer credits toward the degree’s 120 total credits, with 15-week on-campus courses or 7-week online courses. The curriculum covers a spectrum of subjects, including assessment, pedagogy suitable for development stages, accommodation and modification tactics, classroom management, collaboration with mainstream teachers, adapting learning environments, and personalized strategies for student success.

  • Cost of program: $455 per credit
  • Location: Online or On-Ground; Campus in Phoenix, AZ
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Inside Coursework for Online Special Education (SpEd) Degrees

While each school and program will offer its own take on special education, you’ll find commonalities among degree offerings. Below, we’ve outlined five courses you’ll typically find in a special education bachelor’s degree online, offering insights into the goals of each class and what you can expect to learn. Most special education coursework will meld practical, hands-on tactics with philosophical approaches, allowing students to learn techniques and strategies to apply in the classroom.

  • Behavior Management and Positive Interventions

    This course is one of the core classes in the pursuit of a degree in special education. It focuses on strategies for managing behavior and creating positive learning environments for students with disabilities. You’ll also learn about behavior analysis, functional assessment, and the development of behavior intervention plans. This class equips future educators with key practical skills to manage behaviors effectively in classroom settings.

  • Assessment and Individualized Instruction

    In this course, students learn about assessment tools and techniques for evaluating the academic and behavioral progress of students with disabilities. You’ll study methods for conducting assessments, interpreting results, and using data to inform instructional decisions. This course is a high priority, as it emphasizes the importance of individualized instruction tailored to students’ unique needs and strengths.

  • Inclusive Education and Collaboration

    Students learn about differentiated instruction, co-teaching models, and strategies for creating an inclusive and supportive classroom environment — all of which are integral to success in the classroom for both educators and students. The curriculum also offers techniques to foster collaboration between special education and general education teachers, parents, and other professionals.

  • Teaching Literacy and Language to Students with Disabilities

    Focused on literacy development, this course covers concepts for teaching reading and writing techniques to students with disabilities. You’ll discover instructional methods, accommodations, and assistive technologies that promote literacy learning. The course equips future educators with the tools they need to adapt literacy instruction to meet the diverse needs of their students.

  • Adaptive and Assistive Technology in Special Education

    To teach effectively, instructors must know how to use technology to support students with disabilities. This course covers a range of adaptive and assistive technologies that enhance communication, access to the curriculum, and independent learning. Students will learn ways to choose, implement, and effectively integrate technological tools to lead the learning process.

Cost of Earning Your Online Degree in Special Education

Understanding the fees involved in pursuing a special education bachelor’s degree online is essential. To provide a clearer picture, here’s a breakdown of specific costs and credits across different institutions. This table outlines the financial investment that you can anticipate during your educational journey in special education:

SchoolCost Per CreditNumber of Credits
Colorado Christian University$494 per credit120
Dakota State University$354.75 per credit120
University of the Cumberlands$220 per credit120
University of New Hampshire$314 120
University of Wisconsin Whitewater$395120

How to Pay for an Online Special Education Bachelor’s Degree

If financial constraints are hindering your pursuit of a college education, don’t worry — you have several ways to help pay for your degree. Institutions often provide financial aid to deserving students based on established criteria. Here are some options available for those unable to cover the costs of an online degree in special education:

  • TEACH Grants

    Students pursuing undergraduate and graduate-level education who have completed the FAFSA and are attending a TEACH-program participating school may qualify for this grant. TEACH grant recipients must commit to a post-graduation teaching service obligation in a high-need field at a low-income elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency. The grant’s highest value is $4,000 annually, with a cap of $16,000 total for undergraduates and $8,000 for graduate students.

  • Teacher.org Scholarships

    Teacher.org is a website dedicated to empowering future teachers to achieve their goals and contribute to the betterment of the education system. One of the resources it offers: scholarships and grants specifically designed for future teachers. These awards can often aid in covering tuition and related educational expenses. You can explore scholarships based on education level, topic, or school, so spend some time researching scholarships for which you may qualify at this resourceful site.

  • State-Specific Grants for Education

    Below are just a few states that often state-specific grants for future teachers. Be sure to check your specific state for any possible grant programs.

    • California: The Golden State Teacher Grant (GSTG) Program awards up to $20,000 to students currently enrolled in a professional preparation program approved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and working toward earning their preliminary teaching or pupil personnel services credential.
    • Minnesota: Minnesota Student Teacher Grants provide postsecondary financial assistance to eligible students enrolled in Minnesota teacher preparation programs. There are two grants available based on eligibility, totaling up to $7,500 per term.
    • Nevada: The Teach Nevada Scholarship (TNVS) awards up to $24,000 to students at participating teacher preparation programs who agree to obtain an endorsement to teach English as a Second Language or an endorsement to teach Special Education.
  • Local and Community Foundations

    Future educators can also research local and community foundations for scholarships specifically tailored to local/regional areas. These funds are offered by donors who establish specific criteria for administering their scholarships. Some are more general, offered to any student serving a specific community — like these scholarships offered through the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts or these through the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley. Others may be specifically offered to future educators or special education teachers.

What Can You Do with an Online Special Education (SpED) Degree?

After completing your special education bachelor’s degree online, you’ll have many career options that make use of your specialized knowledge — some in education and instructional design, others in areas like training and management. Let’s review some of the most popular jobs for those who earn this degree.

  • Special Education Teacher

    Perhaps the most popular career option for SpED degree holders, special education teachers create inclusive classrooms, tailoring teaching methods for students with disabilities. They collaborate with parents and specialists, developing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to meet specific learning goals. These teachers also assess student progress and adjust strategies as needed, offering support and accommodations. 

    Notably, numerous states are experiencing a shortage of qualified special education teachers, making it a great opportunity to pursue a career as a special education teacher. However, to pursue this career, you may require an additional teaching license or certification to accompany your online SpED degree. The average salary of a special education teacher in the United States is $61,400.

  • Inclusion Specialist

    Inclusion specialists — sometimes called diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) specialists — facilitate accessible education that factors in the learning styles of students with diverse skills and aptitudes. They collaborate with educators, develop strategies, and adapt curriculum to ensure students with disabilities can fully participate in classrooms. The responsibilities of an inclusion specialist encompass designing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), providing training to teachers, and facilitating communication among students, parents, and staff. They also monitor progress, adjust interventions, and foster a supportive atmosphere for diverse learners. 

    The qualifications of an inclusion specialist usually include a bachelor’s degree in special education, counseling, or a related field, along with special education experience and strong communication skills. The average salary of an inclusion specialist in the United States is $64,190.

  • Educational Consultant

    Educational consultants are often hired by schools to also contribute to inclusivity, but specifically as it relates to policies and accessibility practices. They often contribute to curriculum design and training school employees on available tools for their roles. They might oversee diversity training and school policy programs, ensuring accessibility for all. 

    Individuals with special education degrees bring expertise in curriculum design, educational tools, and instruction, ensuring training accommodates diverse learning needs. 

    Qualifications for becoming an educational consultant typically include a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in education — often with specialized degrees/areas of emphasis, like special education or social-emotional learning — along with experience in curriculum development, training, and a deep understanding of inclusive teaching methods. Effective communication, adaptability, and empathy are essential qualities for success in this role. The average salary of an educational consultant in the United States is $107,701.

FAQs About Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Special Education

  • Are online bachelor’s degree programs in special education fully online?

     Yes, some programs for online degrees in special education can be completed entirely online. These programs offer courses that are designed to be accessed remotely, allowing students to download/view lectures, assignments, and coursework at a time and place that is convenient for them.

    However, there is also a hybrid option offered through many online SpED programs that mix online and in-person learning. These blended modalities give future teachers the best of both worlds, combining convenient remote learning with hands-on, practical applications through classroom role plays and real-world settings.

  • What accreditation should I look for in an online bachelor’s in special education program?

    When pursuing a special education bachelor’s degree online, you’ll want to look for schools with institutional accreditation — meaning the entire school meets certain academic requirements — as well as programs that are accredited by recognized bodies like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). These programmatic accreditations ensure both quality of education and transferability of credits.

  • What does the admissions process look like for this degree?

    Most programs will require a minimum GPA — often 3 or greater — to be eligible for admission into an online degree in special education program. Admission requirements can vary widely depending on the school, but you’ll find some universal elements like submitting an application, transcripts, and possibly standardized test scores. Additionally, some programs may require letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Once your materials are reviewed, candidates may also be required to complete a one-on-one interview with an admission representative or a school alum.

  • How long does it take to complete a bachelor’s degree in special education online?

    The duration of an online degree in special education varies. On average, it takes about 3 to 4 years to complete, assuming full-time enrollment. However, factors like transfer credits, course load, and program structure can influence the timeline. Some programs offer accelerated options that might allow completion in a shorter period, while part-time enrollment may extend the duration.

  • What academic and career support services are available to online students earning their bachelor’s degree in special education?

    Online learners working toward an online degree in special education typically benefit from an array of academic and professional support services. These encompass: 

    • Virtual tutoring
    • Digital libraries
    • Interactive peer forums
    • Video-conferencing academic advising
    • 24/7 access to course materials
    • Technical assistance

    Additionally, career services often aid in crafting resumes, refining job-search tactics, interview readiness, and facilitating connections with prospective employers.

More Education Degrees to Explore

Are you still undecided which bachelor’s degree in education you are going to choose. Check out these other education degree options: