Best Online Special Education Degree Programs

Special education is a diverse and passion-fueled career field that truly makes a difference in the lives of special needs children. The job outlook for special education teachers is growing at 17% and teachers enjoy a median pay of $53,220. Most entry-level positions, such as teacher’s assistant, require only a bachelor’s degree, but head teaching and specialists positions will require further education such as a state-issued teaching certificate, master’s degree, or higher. For people who are interested in becoming a special education professional, they can consider returning to school online. The flexibility offered by online education allows students to continue working full-time, living in a smaller town without its own university or being a stay at home parent while they study. People who are interested in online schooling should look closely at the different programs and find the best one to suit their financial situation, time, and their career goals. Here’s what to look for in an online special education degree program.


There are three major degrees perspective students must pick from to be on track to becoming a special education teacher. For students with no higher education, a bachelor’s of special education is the first step. For students who already have a bachelor’s degree, they will need to either sign up for an online teacher certification course or master’s program. For those who are interested in being a special education specialist, a master’s degree will be required. This brings us too…


Special education professionals often specialize in teaching a certain group of students. “Focuses” include teaching students who are learning disabled, speech impaired, visual or hearing impaired, autistic, orthopedically impaired, emotionally disturbed, mentally retarded, have a traumatic brain injury, or other. Some teachers who specialize are able to find work as consultants, bumping up their salary sometimes into the six figures.


Classroom hours are required for all the best special education programs. Online classes are great for regular classes, but in-classroom time is viewed by employers and professionals as essential for success as a teacher. Putting theories and textbook advice into practice in the real world – or watching experienced and skilled teacher’s manage a classroom or group of students – is a critical step in becoming a special education teacher.

Below is a list of the best online special education degree programs in the country. These programs were vetted based on faculty and student surveys and the opinions of experts in the education industry. Additionally, the success of graduates – such as their ease of finding employment and salary post- graduation – were taken into consideration as well.



The University of Florida prepares teachers with advanced masters and graduate level modules under their special needs programs. Teacher can pursue higher educational employment that involves helping students with special needs to establish social contexts, real-world skill sets and higher scholastic achievement.

Western Kentucky University offers advanced education instruction within the field of special education. Choice programs at WKU includes a 30 to 37 hour master of arts in education in special education that includes a learning and behavior disorders focus or a moderate and severe disabilities focused degree.

Randolph Community College offers a pre-major associate of arts degree in special education. Randolph Community College works closely with Pfeiffer University and other institutions through the University Center of Randolph County for convenient transfers that are ideal for those that are serious about acquiring a full degree in special education. Students can pursue day, evening and classes that are available online.

Indiana University offers a special education masters degree option that focuses on graduate curriculum for students with special needs within kindergarten through 12th grade. Students will study research fundamentals, management and assessment practicum and instructional design that involves students with mild disabilities to students with cross-categorical challenges and disabilities.

The 18-month credited program for a Master of Education in Adaptive Special Needs from MidAmerica Nazarene University is designed for busy teachers. Graduate students are offered a mix of close-up education and online degree formats that cover subject matter involving mild through severe students with disabilities.

The University of West Alabama delivers exception educational certificate programs and masters programs. Under the master of education heading, students can select a special education collaborative focus for either K-6 or 6-12 teaching levels. Students will find the above collaborative under the certification programs along with non-certified counseling, school counseling and teacher leaders certificates.

Special Education Masters in Teaching program at Liberty University is ideal for graduates who do not have prior teaching experience, but they want to gain their initial license. It includes core courses with special attention to inclusive classroom instruction, educational assessments, collaboration and intervention study and behavioral management.

Franklin Pierce University has created an accelerated program for graduate students that want to gain a special education credentialing within 12 to 18 months. Students also have the option to pursue a Masters of Education that includes a general studies curriculum that covers students with disabilities and challenges from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Michigan State University is ideal for working professionals and graduates that want to pursue a career involving teaching children with special needs. The masters degree in special education is offered all online, and it can be followed with a teaching credential. Study emphasis can be tailored to learning disabilities or the study of autism spectrum disorders.

Students at Fontbonne University are offered a 32-credit hour program in special education that includes 12-credit hours in special education concentration. The program is extensive and it’s designed to prepare students for research and applied practices. Students will study exceptionality and disability, counseling techniques and technology integration for special needs students.

The Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas online ranks among America’s top schools. Students of KU can discover graduate and advanced skills sets within the school’s program, including transition-secondary special education, low and high incident disabilities, early childhood unified and autism spectrum disorders. A special education doctoral program is also offered at the university.

Caring students can earn a masters of science degree in special education from the University of North Dakota that can include a selected emphasis of their choice. For instance, designer classes include online and distance learning coursework in visual impairment, intellectual disabilities, gifted-talented, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities and many more.

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University offers a serious scope of learning for those that want to pursue an education specialist degree or doctor of education within the field of special education. From social difficulties and language acquirement to neuroscience and cognitive development, student will acquire a strong scope of learning at GWU.

Azusa Pacific University provides a specialized program for those that desire a master’s degree that includes training in bilingual special education, strategies for classroom intervention and behavioral analysis. Although the program is created for those seeking a teaching credential, graduate students may pursue online classes within the school’s other special education programs.

Eastern New Mexico University is ideal for those that want advanced training in special education, while they already hold a degree as a licensed teacher in special education. Students will undergo 15 hours of intense special education curriculum that includes a 30-hour thesis option and a 36-hour non-thesis option.

Ball State University delivers impressive programs of study that involve immersed learning and online study for graduate-level special education. Graduate students can pursue a BSU master’s of arts program in special education, a master degree in education with a special education focus or a master degree with autism specialty.

The University of the Southwest delivers a diverse level of programs for the pursuit of careers in special education. Through online scholastics, students can earn their choice of several distinguished master of education degrees, including curriculum and instruction study, mental health counseling, gifted education and a 36-hour non-licensed masters of science in education that includes a special education core.

Fresno Pacific University offers a mix of online learning and campus study programs within the education field. FPU offers multi-subject credentialing within the field of special education, including autism spectrum disorders, resource specialist, Level II education specialist credentialing and masters of arts in special education.

The college of education at the University of Georgia offers many selective masters level programs in special education. Students may choose from ECE/special education curriculum, a general masters or arts or a masters of education in special education or an adaptive curriculum masters degree with an autism studies focus.

Students that pursue special education degrees at the University of North Carolina will find an interesting selection of online courses and degree possibilities. The UNC offers licensure in adapted curriculum that includes a project requirement, while students may also choose a graduate certificate, masters of education degree or a masters of arts degree program.

The graduate level program at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania provides a diverse set of programs within the field of special education. The online programs are also pursuant of endorsements and certifications that cover leadership and supervising in special education, autism spectrum disorders and special education teaching standard credentialing.

The special education program at Saint Joseph’s University is special indeed. It has already received a commendation from the International Dyslexia Foundation for their online and off-line masters of science degree coursework. SJU students are offered specialization programs including the Wilson Reading System specialization and the Autism specialization.

University of Maine offers a full list of courses in special needs graduate online classes. Their masters of education degree in education includes the option for an individually designed emphasis, or students can choose the pre-designed low or high incidence-disabilities programs. The university also provides a certificate of advanced study that is fully customizable.

The special education program at Valdosta State University is designed with online classes and small programs of 25 students or less. Students have a choice to pursue a master of education with special education in early childhood, or graduate students can pursue the university’s master of education in special education with degree emphasis in deaf education, deaf and hard of hearing education, general curriculum or adapted curriculum.

Brandman University allows graduate students to pursue both credentialing and master’s level degree programs. Their credential programs are designed to allow students to work with children with mild, moderate and severe educational needs. Studies also include an MAT with credentialing as a preliminary education specialist and a MA in special education.

Beaufort County Community College provides a 17-credit certificate program that is ideal for both graduate-level students and undergraduates. The certificate is designed to put students into employment positions with public and private schools, Head Start Centers, local recreational centers school-aged programs, preschools and other programs that offer special education.

Graduate level students at Florida State University can claim an exceptional education offer within their special education teaching program that is fully online. As one of the nation’s top 20 universities, FSU students undergo 33-hours of learning that covers high incidence disabilities, early childhood learning education and knowledge of severe disabilities.

Nova Southeastern University provides two online scopes for graduate level study that includes a master of science degree and a doctorate in education that helps teachers and professionals engage in a career with special needs students. The NSU program is ideal for administrators, teachers, human services professionals and mental health services providers.

Online studies at California State University includes a Level II credentialing program and a master of arts degree within the field of special education. Degree holders that receive the degree or certificate may work with students with mild through moderate disability levels, and graduates may select a student-teaching option.

The college of education at Pennsylvania State University offers graduate special education coursework that includes online and distance learning courses and conferences. Certificates at PennState include applied behavioral analysis, Autism spectrum disorder and special education reading instruction coursework.

Oakland University delivers a broader scope of study that is pursuant of a masters in education degree in special education. OU includes an Autism Spectrum Disorder certificate with the masters program with a required 180-hour practicum for student teaching that covers subjects such as emotional impairment, special learning disabilities and integrative teaching.

Georgetown College has provided graduate students with a full spectrum of online special education study programs. Their initial graduate program includes the Learning Behavior Disorders and Combined Learning Behavior Disorder program. However, students may also pursue a myriad of tag-on credentialing, including MSD certification, autism cognate and a reaching all students cognate.

The K-12 program in special education at Rio Salado College provides the perfect setting for those that want to pursue educational goals and work at the same time. Students will enroll within the Teacher-In-Residence program and undertake both classroom responsibility and learning modules.

Arkansas State University provides three distinctive graduate level programs for those seeking an online masters degree in special education. The programs includes a gifted, talented and creative program, a 4-12 grade level instructional specialist degree and an instructional specialist degree for children within the pre-kindergarten through fourth grade level.

The special education certificate program at the University of Central Florida is designed for teachers that are already grounded within the special education field. The course was created to offer advanced knowledge and skill sets within an 18-hour course load, including second level programming, teaching oral and written language and instructional strategies.

The University of Southern Mississippi provides a great graduate level programs in special education. The masters of education degree in special education requires a 3-hour course practicum and 15 hours of electives in special education and 15 hours in core classes including online study. USM also provides students with special education learning and discovery though their 33-hour specialist program that can be customized.

The University of Nebraska delivers state regulated degree programs through their Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders. Although they provide a mid-moderate disabilities program, their masters of science degree with an emphasis in behavioral disorders is designed for completed online access.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College provides an online program in early childhood education that includes studies in mild behavioral intervention. The degree requires 125 hours of coursework, and it’s designed to prepare students to work with inclusive programs with children from birth to third grade.

Virginia Commonwealth University optimizes student education by providing a master of education in special education with several optional emphasis. Students may pursue an emphasis in general special education, or they can select special education focuses in early childhood special education or severe disabilities. Post master degree certificates in educational leadership and reading specialist are also available.

The Special Education Endorsement at Greenville Technical College allows students to pursue both face-to-face education and online classroom study. The 12-credit Learning Behavior Specialist endorsement includes the special study of materials and methods in special education, the general character of students with disabilities, special education practicum and much more.

The University of Hawaii offers online distance learning programs for undergraduate, graduate and advanced graduate level studies in special education. Those who are seeking graduate level study can undertake the 30-credit hour masters of education degree in special education, the 15-credit disabilities and diversities certificate or they can pursue a 60-month doctorate in education exceptionalities.

Marshalltown Community College is a distinctive college within the Iowa Valley Community College District. The college offers professionals a chance to earn a special education associates degree online with subjects of study that include shorthand sign language, behavioral observation and management skills, psychology and more.

Ellsworth Community College offers a dynamic program for a special education program that is pursuant of an Associate of Arts degree. The programs covers 64 transferable hours that includes observation and management skills. Graduate students can utilize the degree to move into the field, while undergraduates can transfer their credits.

Rowan University and Rowan Online offers an 18-credit course that is a special education certificate for graduate students. The program was designed with six courses, and it offers pedagogical skill set studies and the study of psychology for exceptional learners, positive behavior strategies implementation, inclusive classroom collaborative instruction and teaching reading to children with special needs.

The University of the Cumberlands offers a 36-hour education administration certification that utilized both face-to-face meetings and online course work. The certification can lead graduate students to a rewarding place of employment, including supervisor of instruction, school principal or a career as a director of special education.

Missouri State University delivers a cross-categorical education in special education studies that includes both teacher credentialing and masters-level work. This foundational program has seen formal approval by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and it includes special education focuses within the areas of low vision and blindness, orientation and mobility, autism spectrum disorder and a track for special education alternative certification.

The 36-hour masters degree special-needs study program at Texas A & M University is designed for researchers, teachers and practitioners. It prepares students on a comprehensive level for work with autistic disabilities or challenging behavioral disabilities. Students at Texas A & M have four distinct specialty areas to pursue for online study.

The Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College offers graduate students a comprehensive Jewish special education certificate program that covers many scholastic modules. The program is designed for both busy professionals and continuing grad students that want to work within the Jewish education system. Learning credits may be added to a masters program.