Special education is an in-demand teaching specialty where curriculum must be adapted to suit the individual learning needs of exceptional children. Public, private, and charter PreK-12 schools hire special education teachers to deliver inclusive education and develop disabled students’ scholastic ability. Their classrooms can include youth with autism, mental retardation, blindness, hearing impairment, emotional disturbance, dyslexia, and other disabilities. Under the IDEA Act, special education teachers must provide quality services to students from preschool through their 21st birthday. Special education is a difficult profession, so teacher attrition and burnout is high. That’s why the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) expects demand for special educators will grow by 35 percent for the next decade. Having at least a bachelor’s degree and state licensure is necessary for these classroom openings. Online technology makes it possible for aspiring teachers to complete their bachelor’s degree more conveniently off-campus. In this article, we’ll recognize the Top 15 Accredited Online Special Education Bachelor’s Degrees. We began by searching the NCES database for online colleges giving special needs teacher training. Schools had to have bachelor’s degrees that were primarily online with applied field experience. Online universities had to fulfill in-state teaching certification requirements. Next, we organized our ranking using the U.S. News and World Report‘s published hierarchy. Preference was given to colleges holding education (NCATE or CAEP) accreditation. Other factors considered were average undergraduate tuition, financial aid, faculty credentials, transferability, class size, teaching placement, and job success rates.
Here are the Top 15 Accredited Online Special Education Bachelor’s Degrees:
1. University of Georgia
Located in Athens just 60 miles from Atlanta, the University of Georgia is a flagship public, sea-grant RU/VH research institution enrolling approximately 35,000 students. Named Kiplinger’s 10th best public value, the University of Georgia is ranked America’s 61st Top National University with the fifth Best Bachelor’s Degrees Online by the U.S. News and World Report. The Online Learning Division offers a Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) accredited Bachelor of Science in Special Education for Georgia PreK-12 teaching certification. Requiring 60 credits for admission, the online degree completion program trains educators to serve children with mild to moderate disabilities. Online students must visit the Athens campus twice and complete full-time student teaching placements in their hometowns.
Tuition: $11,622 (in-state) or $29,832 (out-of-state)
2. East Carolina University
Endowed for $187 million, East Carolina University is a public, doctoral-granting research institution sitting on the Coastal Plain in Greenville to educate 28,200 students. Honored with the 2010 Secretary of Defense Freedom Award, East Carolina University is crowned the 194th Best University and 140th Top Education School Nationwide by the U.S. News and World Report. Through the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) Partnership East, ECU provides an Online B.S. in Special Education program. Virtual consortium courses prepare majors for teaching disabled youth in K-12 classrooms. The three-year, transfer program from NC community colleges includes public school practicum and a senior internship.
Tuition: $6,580 (in-state) or $22,154 (out-of-state)
3. Old Dominion University
Established by the College of William & Mary in 1930, Old Dominion University is an independent, space-grant research institution educating 24,600+ students in the Larchmont neighborhood of Norfolk. Recognized among “America’s 100 Best College Buys,” Old Dominion University is ranked the 107th Best Education School with the 49th Top Online Bachelor’s Degrees by the U.S. News and World Report. Affiliated with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Electronic Campus, the Darden College of Education offers an Online B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Special Education. There’s also a Early Childhood and Adapted Curriculum track online. With Nationcal Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation, the Interdiscplinary Studies: Special Education degree completion program leads to Virginia licensure after 82 credits, including practicum.
Tuition: $9,480 (in-state) or $26,220 (out-of-state)
4. Nova Southeastern University
With over 164,000 alumni, Nova Southeastern University is a private, non-profit research institution split into 18 SACS-accredited colleges in the suburbs of Davie, Florida. Ranked 10th Nationally on the Campus Ethnic Diversity index, Nova is America’s 235th Best Research University and the South’s 171st Top School according to Forbes. With National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) approval, the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education offers its B.S. in Exceptional Student Education program online. The 120-credit curriculum blends online coursework with teaching practicum and a 12-week internship to satisfy Florida K-12 licensing qualifications. Endorsement in ESOL and Reading is included. South Floridians can work with autistic children in NSU’s Mailman Segal Center for Human Development.
5. University of Southern Mississippi
Classified as a public, state-assisted RU/H research institution, the University of Southern Mississippi is located in Hattiesburg just 105 miles northeast of New Orleans to educate over 14,800 campus and online students. Ranked 215th nationally by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), Southern Miss is recognized for the 164th Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in the U.S. News survey. Among the University of Southern Missisippi’s nine online undergraduate options is a Special Education Bachelor of Science Designed for teaching aides, the 63-credit degree completion program fulfills requirements for Mississippi initial certification. Online courses introduce teaching methods for high-incidence disabilities. Two student teaching placements are included for lower and upper grades.
Tuition: $7,334 (in-state) or $16,204 (out-of-state)
6. University of Maine – Augusta
Since 1965, the University of Maine – Augusta has evolved into a premier public, co-educational New England teaching institution with over 6,000 students studying in Maine’s capital and online. Acclaimed for the country’s 30th Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by the U.S. News and World Report, the University of Maine – Augusta was declared a “Best Bang for the Buck” in Washington Monthly. Available online, the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies offers Special Education Teaching Certification (K-12). The program includes 15 credits of student teaching and Praxis exams for initial two-year educator licensure. Online major coursework explores behavior analysis, curriculum adaptation, special education law, learning exceptionality, and teacher collaboration.
Tuition: $7,448 (in-state) or $16,688 (out-of-state)
7. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Nestled between the Wabash River and Illinois border, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is Indiana’s oldest private, Roman Catholic liberal arts institution with 1,700 students. With the 212nd Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees nationally, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is crowned the 21st Best Midwestern College by the U.S. News and World Report. The National Council for the Accrediation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accredited Education Department offers a flexible, online Bachelor of Science in Education with seven concentrations, including Special Education (Mild Intervention). The 118-credit curriculum produces special needs teachers for preschool through 12th grade. Extensive field practicum requires working in urban, rural, elementary, middle, and high school settings. Post-baccalaureate students could also pursue Preschool-3 Mild Intervention or Kindergarten-6 Mild Intervention teacher endorsement online.
8. Mayville State University
Attracting around 1,100 students, Mayville State University is a public, co-educational higher learning institution within the North Dakota University System that’s located in the Red River Valley. Picked 10th for College Choice’s most affordable online universities, Mayville State is ranked the Midwest’s fifth Top Public School according to the U.S. News and World Report. Created in 2013, the online Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Special Education meets Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) guidelines. Students select a dual major in Early Childhood, Elementary, or Mathematics Education for Dakota licensure. The average class size is 15 for engaging virtual classrooms. Each B.S.Ed. major requires completing a special needs internship.
Tuition: $6,380 (in-state) or $8,845 (out-of-state)
9. University of Wisconsin – Stout
Designated as the Badger State’s public, four-year polytechnic institution, the University of Wisconsin-Stout serves around 9,500 students online and on its rural campus in Menomonie. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the University of Wisconsin – Stout is the Midwest’s 16th Top Public School with the 111th Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in the United States. Transfers can pursue the Bachelor of Science in Special Education online after their associate or technical diploma. The 57-credit major prepares graduates for cross-categorical Wisconsin licensure for teaching special needs children ages five to 21. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accredited school also offers an Online Autism Certificate. Graduates achieve an impressive 100 percent employment rate.
Tuition: $9,203 (in-state) or $16,949 (out-of-state)
10. University of Central Missouri
Initially founded as Warrensburg Teachers College in 1871, the University of Central Missouri is a public, state-funded higher education institution enrolling 14,300 students in Warrensburg, Lee’s Summit, and online. As Missouri’s 13th Best Value, the University of Central Missouri is ranked the 75th Best Regional College and 21st Top Public School in the Midwest by the U.S. News and World Report. Through Blackboard, online courses are available for the Bachelor of Science in Special Education. The CAEP-accredited College of Education has four-year tracks for Cross-Categorical Disabilities, Autism/Severe Developmental Disabilities, and Early Childhood Special Education. Online students in the 120-credit program can join one of the nation’s most active CEC chapters.
Tuition: $7,322 (in-state) or $13,767 (out-of-state)
11. Liberty University
Following the motto “Knowledge Aflame,” Liberty University is a private, conservative Christian institution operated by Southern Baptists in Lynchburg, Virginia, to educate over 114,000 online and residential students. With a freshman retention rate of 69 percent, Liberty is named the South’s 80th Best College and America’s 100th Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Provider. The School of Education uses the principles of God’s Word to provide a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. The NCATE-accredited program is available 100 percent online with 120 total credits and one 90-hour field practicum. Graduates can pursue the ASCI Certificate and/or the fifth-year Online MAT in Special Education to teach students with disabilities.
12. Stephen F. Austin State University
Located in East Texas around 140 miles northeast of Houston, Stephen F. Austin State University is one of the state’s four public, independent institutions educating over 12,900 students. Acclaimed for America’s 176th Best Teaching Program, Stephen F. Austin State University is named the 87th Best Midwestern School and 35th Top Public University by the U.S. News and World Report. As winner of the THECB’s Star Award, the Education Department offers an Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies for EC-12 Special Education. Students with 45+ transfer credits can satisfy Texas teaching certificate after the semester-long internship. Online courses build instructional skills for children with learning, behavioral, physical, and intellectual disabilities.
Tuition: $7,560 (in-state) or $16,920 (out-of-state)
13. St. Petersburg College
Partnered with the Florida Army National Guard, St. Petersburg College is a public, state “Military Friendly” institution educating approximately 65,000 students in Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, Pinellas Park, and online. Placing high on Community College Week’s top 100 associate degree producers list, St. Petersburg College recently joined the Tampa Bay Educational Partnership. Aspiring special educators can pursue the Exceptional Student Education (K-12) Bachelor of Science Degree online full-time or part-time. Requiring 125 credits, the curriculum includes a Reading and ESOL endorsement. Math, science, language arts, and social science practicum are integrated with a culminating 15-week internship. SPC also offers Early Childhood and Autism certificates.
Tuition: $3,352 (in-state) or $11,607 (out-of-state)
14. Grand Canyon University
Grounded in Christian values, Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit research institution located in Phoenix, Arizona, to serve around 60,700 online students. Named the nation’s second best e-school by Fortune, Grand Canyon University has undergone $200 million expansions to become the 10th Top Online Christian University. Within the College of Education, the pathway to teaching can include the Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special Education. Available online for initial licensure, the 120-credit program is split into convenient, eight-week terms. Completing two student teaching sessions for elementary and cross-categorical disabilities is required. Online GCU learners can transfer up to 90 credits for acceleration.
15. Northcentral University
Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission – North Central Association (HLC-NCA), Northcentral University is an online private, for-profit research institution based in Prescott, Arizona, to enroll over 10,000 students. Owned by Rockbridge Growth Equity LLC, Northcentral was ranked sixth nationally for education faculty credentials in the U.S. News and World Report survey. The Best Schools also named Northcentral University among the 30 Most Popular Online Universities in America. For Arizona teaching certification, there’s an online Bachelor of Education in Special Education offered. The 3+1 program serves transfers from Rio Salado College with a one-to-one mentoring model. Seasoned, doctoral-trained professors lead interactive lessons for teaching exceptional children.