Choosing special education as your undergrad major is smart because the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages (NCPS) found that 49 U.S. states have shortages. Special educators are in above-average demand for grades K-12, but Pre-K is experiencing the highest job growth at 7 percent because of an increased focus on early intervention. Special education degrees are ideal for flexible, even-tempered bachelor’s students who find enjoyment mentoring students with mild to severe disabilities. Majors in special education train undergraduates for pedagogical mastery tailoring curricula to each pupil’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). If you’re interested in joining America’s 28,100 teachers of exceptional children, the following undergrad special education programs represent the best of the best.
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Affiliated with 21 Nobel laureates as a public, land-grant AAU member that’s enrolling 43,338 Badgers along Lake Monona, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is declared America’s third best education school on the U.S. News and World Report. Located atop Bascom Hill, the School of Education at UW-Madison confers a Bachelor of Science in Education for Special Education or Dual Elementary/Special Education. Approved by the Wisconsin DPI and CAEP, the 120-credit degrees provide cross-categorical certification for learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disabilities, and intellectual/developmental disabilities. Other opportunities include working in the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, studying abroad in Argentina, and joining Best Buddies Club.
New York University
Founded in 1831 by Albert Gallatin as a private, nonsectarian League of World Universities member that’s now endowed for $3.4 billion to enroll 50,027 Violets in Lower Manhattan, New York University is ranked America’s 13th best education school by the U.S. News and World Report. The CAEP-accredited Steinhardt School offers two 122-credit Bachelor of Science options for Childhood Special Education (1-6) or Early Childhood Special Education (Birth-2). The NYS Certification degree is directed by Dr. Audrey A. Trainor with courses like classroom assessment atop the liberal arts core. Known for its ASD Nest Support Project and Literacy Clinic, the field-based program immerses undergrads in New York City schools beginning the freshman year.
Michigan State University
Ranked 21st among the best education schools by the U.S. News and World Report, Michigan State University is located in East Lansing with 50,543 Spartans studying in 17 research-intensive colleges. Reaffirmed by the CAEP in 2015, the MSU College of Education in Erickson Hall offers a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education that leads to K-12 endorsement in learning disabilities. Participating in the Teachers for a New Era (TNE) initiative, the 59-credit major integrates courses like behavior management, child psychology, and language development. Special education students also gain 1,000 hours of inclusive or self-contained classroom experience in internships and the Global Educators Cohort Program (GECP).
University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign
Recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for America’s 24th top education school, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign operates a $2 billion annual budget as a public, Big Ten RU/VH powerhouse directed by Chancellor Robert J. Jones with 44,087 Fighting Illini. Boasting 100 percent job placement in 2014, the UIUC College of Education grants a Bachelor of Science in Special Education for Learning & Behavior Specialist (LBS I) credentialing. The 125-credit curriculum maps out concentrated coursework like assistive technology and weekly practicum in Chicago Public Schools with disabled youth aged 3-21. Students can also add Bilingual/ESL Endorsement at this CAEP-accredited university.
University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Endowed for $1.475 billion under Chancellor Ronnie Green as a land-grant RU/VH hub with 25,260 Cornhuskers in “Star City,” the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is named America’s 43rd best education school by the USNWR. At the Barkley Memorial Center, the UNL College of Education & Human Services awards a CAEP-accredited Special Education Major (B.S.) for K-6 or 7-12 endorsement. Requiring a 2.5 GPA, the 120-credit degree also offers specializations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Visual Impairments, or Early Childhood Special Education. Skills are practiced on-site in the Schmoker Reading Center and during semester-long student teaching assignments.
University of Utah
Named the 66th top teacher education school by the USNWR, the University of Utah is organized by President David W. Pershing with 3,421 academic staff and 31,860 Utes on its public, space-grant RU/VH campus in Salt Lake City. Holding CAEP accreditation, the College of Education has a 122-credit B.S. Degree in Special Education for undergrads who pass the PPST Praxis. Five state licensure tracks are offered: Mild/Moderate Disabilities, Severe Disabilities, Early Childhood, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, or Blind and Visually Impaired. Majors are immersed in teaching with 100+ practicum hours and senior internships at partnering schools like Valley View Elementary.
Teacher preparation programs across the U.S. award 99,202 education degrees each year according to Niche. Picking the right one is important to avoid having to transfer later and perhaps sacrifice hard-earned credits. Bachelor’s degrees in special education should be earned at CAEP-accredited providers to ensure state certification. Other factors to consider for a good fit are affordability, academic quality, location, school size, special education practica, and class diversity. More top undergrad special education programs include Syracuse University, Vanderbilt University, University of Maryland-College Park, Ohio State University, and Boston College.