Why This Matters


    Most special education teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree. O*NET reports that 41% of middle school special ed teachers have bachelor’s degrees, and 12% have post-baccalaureate certificates.


    Overall, the demand for special education teachers is expected to grow by about 3% over the coming years. As disabilities are screened for and recognized earlier, it’s expected that more children will be enrolled in special education programs.


    Special education teachers make about $61,000 per year, depending on the grade level and environment they teach in. This is consistent with the national average salary for those with bachelor’s degrees.

Our Research

The following list features high-ranking schools with programs for obtaining a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Special Education. In a handful of cases, a school gives you the option of obtaining a degree in elementary education with a concentration in special education. Alternatively, a school’s special education program may be offered within its undergraduate psychology program.

Many schools on our list are accredited through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, a governing body recognized through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This organization sets a high standard of ethical and academic excellence. In some cases, schools are accredited through smaller organizations such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board.

  • 55 hours to write this article
  • 76 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 141 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Bachelor’s in Special Education Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Special education programs are comparable to elementary, middle, and high school education programs. All of these programs prepare you to work with students in a classroom setting, but a special education degree is unique in that it helps you develop the knowledge and skills you need to teach children with different considerations.

Whether you need a degree in special education or a general teaching degree depends on the state you intend to teach in. Regardless of the degree options for your school or state, it’s important to seek out a school accredited through a CHEA-recognized organization to ensure high academic standards.

Between 2019 and 2029, there’s a projected 3% growth rate among special education teachers, which is on par with the average across all occupations. Because federal laws require funding for special education programs, teachers are less likely to experience lay-offs. The most significant growth is expected for special education in kindergarten and elementary schools, followed by high schools and then middle schools.

If you intend to teach in a public school setting, you’re required to obtain licensing through your state’s Department of Education. Licensing fees, procedures, and renewal requirements vary by state.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online bachelor’s in special education programs:

  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Depending on the degree program you choose, coursework may be entirely self-paced (asynchronous), or your class may meet virtually at set times (synchronous). If you’re opting for an online degree program, finding out whether a course is offered synchronously or asynchronously can help you manage your schedule and choose the format that fits your needs.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? As a full-time student, it takes between three to five years to complete a special education degree program, depending on the number of credits you take per semester.

As you’re researching special education degree programs, it’s important to pay attention to deadlines, including application, course selection, and financial aid application deadlines. Submitting a FAFSA is the first step toward earning your degree.