Why This Matters


    Counselors and advisors in special education require an advanced degree, such as a master’s or Ph.D., and more than five years of experience.

  • 3% JOB INCREASE BY 2029

    From 2019 to 2029, the need for special education teachers is expected to rise by 3%. In preschools, jobs are expected to rise by 8%.


    Top-tier educators in special education earned as much as $100,160 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, educators with a doctorate degree earned approximately $600 more per week than those with a bachelor’s.

Our Research

Our list focused on doctorate degrees in special education from top universities throughout the country. We reviewed programs that are offered both online and in hybrid formats.

The organization that provides accreditation to these programs varies depending on the location of the university. In the south, many programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, while further north, the Higher Learning Commission provides accreditation to those studying special education. Other organizations that offer accreditation for an online doctorate in special education include the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  • 71 hours to write this article
  • 48 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 49 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Doctorate in Special Education Programs

Best Online Doctorate in Special Education Programs Badge
Intelligent Pick
Slippery Rock University
Best Research-Based Program
Southern Nazarene University
Best in the Southeast
Liberty University
Best Faculty Mentors
University Of Northern Colorado
Best Ed.D. Program
Nova Southeastern University
Best Accelerated Program
Gwynedd Mercy University
Best in the West
Texas Tech University
Best Leadership Focus
Grand Canyon University
Best Public Institution
University Of Toledo
Best Hybrid Program
Ball State University
Most Interdisciplinary Program
University Of Pittsburgh
Best Residency Options
Capella University
Most Affordable
University Of West Georgia
Best for Transfers
University of Florida
Best for Autism Research
University Of Idaho

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Similar occupations to those with a degree in special education include childcare workers and instructional coordinators who both oversee school curriculum and teaching standards. Occupational therapists also work with children with special disabilities and illnesses both in schools and in private instruction.

The National Commission on Accreditation of Special Education Services (NCASES) is the most popular accreditation for those in this degree program. The Board of Directors with NCASES approves the standards for all programs.

Federal standards require that all institutions provide for children with special disabilities, so the need for educators in this field will continue to rise, especially as senior educators retire. The overall growth outlook from 2019 to 2029 for those in special education is 3%.

One of the most popular certifications for those in the special education field is the AASEP Professional Board Certification in Special Education (BCSE). This certification demonstrates a commitment to excellence to employers, peers and administrators.

What’s Next?

When searching for an online doctorate in special education degree program, here are a couple of questions to ask.

  • Am I eligible for the program? A master’s degree is required for admissions into a doctorate program in special education. Some colleges also will only accept students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to 3.25.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? An online doctorate degree in special education requires approximately 60 hours of coursework. Full-time students may graduate in two years or less while part-time students typically graduate in three years.

When researching programs to apply for, be sure to note cutoff dates for applications and know exactly what you need to submit for consideration into the program. This information can be found by reviewing a college’s admissions page or contacting an admissions specialist.

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