Individuals who choose to pursue Special Education as a career path deserve our utmost respect. These professionals put in a copious amount of time and attention, all while maintaining an incredible amount of patience, to care for children with disabilities. Becoming a successful special educator requires a specific academic background and rigorous training as part of an undergraduate degree.
To become a teacher in special education, you'll need to get a B.S. or B.A. degree in Education with some type of unique certification or endorsement in Special Education. You might also choose a degree with a focus on a particular age range, such as K-6 or high school or purse a Master's degree in special education. Although you can always choose a traditional brick-and-mortar institution for your education, you can also earn your degree entirely online.
Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
Top 20 Best Online Special Education
If you've already completed some college-level coursework, you'll want to give Pacific Oaks College a look. This Pasadena school offers an accredited online special education bachelor's degree completion program that will give you a pathway to finish your B.A. in just two and a half years (or up to five years if you enroll part-time). Pacific Oaks is a particularly good option for California residents since the program will qualify you to teach both K-12 general and special education in the state. As such, the curriculum incorporates an extensive fieldwork component consisting of a 600-hour supervised practicum and observation in an early childhood education setting.
The University of Georgia's online B.S. in Special Education consists of a degree-completion and certification program all rolled into one. Although anyone can benefit from UGA's tightly-structured curriculum, Georgia residents stand to gain the most by earning this cheap special education degree online. That's because the degree leads to teacher certification in Georgia, and the school designed the curriculum in part to meet the critical shortage of special educators in the state. The program also requires you to visit the Athens campus for orientation, where you'll meet other like-minded students in your cohort. Note that classes begin in the fall semester only, and you'll need to register for full-time study.
Old Dominion University has a top bachelor's in special education online for affordable in-state tuition and a highly rated distance learning experience. Its courses also stand out for the opportunities they provide to translate your skills into specialized professions. For example, you'll take a class and complete a practicum in instructional design, developing expertise in this field along the way. Along with some other hands-on experiences, ODU's program will grant you eligibility for teacher licensure by the time you graduate. The only drawback: Only residents of Virginia and Washington are permitted to enroll.
Ball State was founded in 1918 as a teacher training college, so it's no surprise that it earns a spot on this online special education bachelor's degree ranking. The program's unique format combines an early childhood degree with a minor in early childhood special education baked right into the curriculum. Keep in mind, however, that it is a completion program and therefore requires an associate's degree to apply. And although the program doesn't lead to licensure, it will prepare you for work in Head Start programs and other pre-K environments. It will also give you access to professors who are experts in the field, both as professionals and as active educators and researchers.
Liberty University offers one of the top special education degrees online for Christian students - especially those who plan to homeschool their children. That's because Liberty's B.S. doesn't lead to licensure, but instead prepares you for work as a paraprofessional, tutor, or homeschool instructor. Professors teach all courses from a Christian perspective, including a three-class sequence in "Christian Life and Thought." Aside from this religious focus, the curriculum also incorporates coursework in autism, behavioral problems, and other topical issues. Lastly, a "Survey of Trends in Special Education" class will help you stay up-to-date on the latest research in the field.
University of South Carolina-Aiken
The broad curriculum at USC - Aiken ensures you'll graduate with a strong basis in both the pedagogy of special education and the practical skills you need to reach diverse student groups. To that latter point, this affordable online special education degree program isn't just for teachers: You can also apply what you learn in other settings, such as social service agencies. As for the coursework, you'll learn about all sorts of challenges facing children today, from traumatic brain injuries to autism to emotional and behavioral disorders. And for hands-on learning, you'll complete practica to gain experience working with specific special ed populations, take a senior seminar, and wrap up your studies with a final internship.
North Carolina residents might have the most to gain from ECU's cheap online special education degree program thanks to its extremely competitive in-state rate (under $7,000!). As a completion degree, the program also only admits students who have earned their associate's from a North Carolina community college. Broader benefits include a curriculum that will prepare you for work with K-12 students, comes with a K-12 reading licensure, and is available 100% online. Finally, the degree culminates in a public school internship that will place you in a real classroom to observe experienced educators in action.
University of Alaska Southeast
Considering the vast nature of Alaska's geography, it makes sense that the University of Alaska - Southeast offers its B.A. in Special Education through distance learning. However, due to the unique educational needs of the state, UAS also limits admission to Alaska residents. But for those who live in the 49th state, this degree provides a specialized education that you can apply in urban and - more commonly - rural environments. As you pursue this affordable bachelor's in special education online, you'll learn how to teach both Native and non-Native students in a culturally sensitive manner. And when all is said and done, you'll graduate with your Alaska teaching certificate and an endorsement in K-12 Special Education.
Touro University Worldwide
Los Alamitos, CA
The accredited online special education degree program at Touro University Worldwide is a little different from most others on this list. That is, it's technically a B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Special Education. Predictably, this means you'll focus more heavily on the psychological principles needed to become a strong special educator, but you'll also learn how to apply those theories and models to the real world. If this approach interests you, then you'll also appreciate Touro's affordable tuition, flexible scheduling (including six start dates per year), and generous credit transfer policy.
University of Wisconsin-Stout
By the time you graduate from the University of Wisconsin - Stout, you'll be ready to help students with myriad disabilities, from learning and cognitive to behavioral and developmental. In addition to its comprehensive curriculum, Stout also shines on this special education degree online ranking for its comprehensive worldview. In fact, the required coursework includes classes in racial and ethnic studies and in cultivating a global perspective. On the practical side, the degree incorporates ample-hands on experience (and prepares you for licensure in Wisconsin) through both student and intern teaching opportunities.
University of West Alabama
If you learn best by doing, you might want to consider the University of West Alabama. The hybrid accredited online special education bachelor's degree at this Livingston-based school incorporates plenty of field experiences. You'll start with courses that touch on everything from behavior management to communication skills to assessment and diagnosis. Then, you'll have the chance to observe seasoned educators in a classroom environment and put your burgeoning skills into practice. And not only does the degree lead to licensure in Alabama, but it includes a "Career Explorations in Education" course to help you plan your professional path forward.
Union Institute & University
At Florida's Union Institute and University, you'll find an exceptional teacher education program that you can customize to meet your career goals. As you earn this cheap bachelor's in special education online, you'll use your electives to create a customized course of study. For example, you might focus on pedagogy by choosing a class like "Methods of Teaching Math" or dive into a specific content area with a course like "Children's Literature." Or if you want to pursue something wholly original, opt for independent study and design your own course. Lastly, a graduation capstone helps you bring it all together through a combination of student teaching experiences and lessons in contemporary education perspectives.
University of West Florida
You get a lot of bang for your buck at the University of West Florida. Not only will you graduate ready to pursue licensure as an elementary educator, but you'll be eligible for a certificate in K-12 Exceptional Student Education. Plus, you'll leave with endorsements in both Reading and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). This top online special education bachelor's degree even includes a unique field experience that gives you the opportunity to work with ESOL populations. Another bonus? Stand-out students might qualify for a paid internship at a local high-need school.
University of Southern Mississippi
If you're a special education teacher's assistant looking to earn your bachelor's degree, check out the University of Southern Mississippi. This school offers an accredited special education degree online that is specifically tailored for current teacher's assistants. The program incorporates student teaching with both lower and upper grades, while required courses in oral, interpersonal, business, and small-group communication prepare you to work with parents, students, and fellow teachers in an effective way. What's more, you can further offset the cost of this already affordable program by applying for a TEACH Grant. In exchange for the grant, you'll need to commit to four years of teaching in a high-need location.
Dakota State University's cheap online special education degree program features a distinct emphasis on technology. Degree candidates learn how to use the latest mobile classroom technologies effectively and even graduate with an endorsement in K-12 Technology. This means that in addition to special education, you'll qualify to teach computer classes at all age levels. Another benefit of attending DSU is that it allows you to choose to complete your student teaching requirement in either a K-8 or K-12 setting. On top of all that, the school offers some generous special education scholarships and grants to help reduce their already competitive tuition rate.
Mayville State University
Current teachers looking to enhance their credentials by earning an accredited bachelor's in special education online should consider Mayville State College. Here you'll find a B.S.Ed. that's affordable, transfer-friendly, and specifically tailored to meet the needs of licensed educators. The curriculum incorporates plenty of research and theory as well as student teaching and internship courses to strengthen your practical experience. And if you don't hold a teaching license, you might want to consider Mayville's unique double-major, while allows you to earn the B.S.Ed. alongside a degree in early childhood, elementary, or secondary education.
Earning an accredited online special education bachelor's degree from St. Petersburg College not only readies you for work as an exceptional student educator (ESE), but it also qualifies you to teach in general K-6 classrooms. In fact, the program shares most of its coursework with the general elementary education curriculum. However, you'll also take five targeted ESE classes and rack up endorsements in Reading and ESOL so that you're prepared to work with myriad student populations upon graduation. And if you're local to St. Petersburg, you can opt for a blended program and spend some time on campus, getting face time with instructors and fellow students alike.
Nebraska's Chadron State College offers two versions of its B.S. in Special Education leading to either a K-12 or Birth-Grade 3 Early Childhood endorsement. The latter is a particularly rare option. In fact, CSC is the only school on this special education degree online ranking to offer it! But regardless of the pathway you choose, you'll benefit from CSC's intensive curriculum, which probes important questions like how students learn, how to plan for instruction, and how to collaborate with families and professionals. Of course, you'll also complete a student teaching experience and internship to strengthen your classroom skills, as well as a clinical experience that focuses on assessment techniques.
Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, UT
It's hard to beat Western Governors University in terms of flexibility. Not only does this cheap online special education degree program prepare you for licensure in all 50 states, but its unique assessment model means you can move through the program at your own speed. Each course requires an assessment — such as a paper, test, or project — through which you demonstrate competency, but you don't have to wait until the semester ends to prove your understanding. WGU also boasts highly affordable tuition, ongoing support for alumni, and the chance to pursue dual licensure in special education and K-8 elementary education in some states.
Central Methodist University
The most affordable option on this bachelor's in special education online ranking, Central Methodist University's tuition is just under $5,900 for both in-state and out-of-state students. CMU's program is also one of the most versatile. Its B.S. in Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education will give you both the broad-based knowledge and specialized skills you need to be successful in multiple classroom environments. Plus, the unique curriculum takes a community-minded approach by training you to excel as an ethical leader, model responsible social citizenship for students, and create "learner-centered communities." And of course, ample hands-on student teaching work ensures that you'll qualify for licensure in Missouri by the time you graduate.
At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.
||Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates
||Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid
||Admission and enrollment rates
||Number of program options
|Online Enrollment Score
||Portion of learners taking at least one online course
For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer special education degrees online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $25,000/year or less.
*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.
Unfortunately, there are a limited number of online special education degree programs available. Therefore, we could not compile a pool of options large enough to justify a complex ranking system in which we'd filter out schools based on specific factors.
So instead, we ranked the programs solely according to their affordability. See below for the best cheap bachelor's in special education online degrees, ranked from most to least expensive.
Thanks for reading our ranking of the 20 top cheap special education degrees online!
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