Bachelor’s degree in special education program guide

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Bachelor’s degree in special education

Special education is the practice of educating students in a way that addresses their behavioral, health, physical, or academic needs beyond traditional education techniques. A bachelor’s degree in special education can open doors not only in schools, but also in government offices and community programs. If you like to support people with special needs, then a degree in special education might be the perfect match for you. It is important to note that many special education programs and certificates are earned at the master’s level. Check with your university to ensure you meet the academic standards before you apply to a special education program.

What do I need?

To be considered for admission to a special education bachelor’s program, you will need a high school diploma (or equivalent) with a minimum of a 2.5 GPA. To transfer from a post-secondary institution, an official transcript from your previous institution is required. If you are transferring from a high school to a 4-year institution directly, then you may need a personal statement, academic references, and SAT or ACT test scores.

Online bachelor’s degree in special education

Online education can better suit your personal or professional life because it gives you the freedom and flexibility to study when you can. There are many programs that are being offered online due to the current health pandemic, which gives more online options in special education. Some universities also offer hybrid classes, which replace a traditional face-to-face lecture with a video lecture or online discussions. Before applying to an online special education program make sure the program is accredited so your units will transfer to a master’s program, be applicable for a certificate and credential program, or be accepted by a future employer.

What can I do with this degree?

There are a variety of career options for students who want to pursue a career in the special education field. Most students go on to get a teaching credential to work as special education teachers, although this is not the only option for prospective students. Below are a few options showcasing the variety of career options in this field.

Special education teachers work with students who have physical, mental, emotional or learning disabilities. They teach and guide them through their education. They are trained to teach their students, using various methods, by modifying the curriculum to maximize their student’s learning. For example, a special education teacher might break learning into smaller steps, use more pictures to augment what they’re saying, or incorporate music therapy into lessons. Some special education teachers work with students with moderate to severe disabilities to teach them basic life skills.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a special education teacher in 2020 was $61,420.

The World Health Organization predicts by 2030 more than 2 billion people will need at least one assistive product due to problems related to aging and noncommunicable diseases. Assistive technology includes software that “reads” on-screen text out loud for students, or hearing-aids to improve a child’s language skills. There are over 25,000 assistive technology devices currently available for people with various disabilities or impairments. An assistive technology specialist provides assistance with this technology equipment for people with disabilities. They work at schools, government agencies, or medical centers.


According to PayScale, the average salary for an assistive technology specialist is $54,762.

An early intervention specialist helps young children who have developmental delays, such as speech, or are at risk for them. They work closely with therapists, social service providers, and medical personnel to design, implement, and carry out individualized programs that positively affect a child’s needs. They can work in classrooms, center-based, or at-home programs.


The average hourly rate for an early intervention specialist is $20.11 an hour, according to data from PayScale.

Special education compliance officers, or special education compliance specialists, ensure organizations and schools are up-to-date with licensing requirements. This can pertain to company, state, and federal regulations.


According to PayScale, the average salary for a special education compliance officer is $70,550 annually.

Certificate programs

Most certificate programs take between 4 weeks to 18 months to complete, depending on the requirements and the program type. A graduate certificate is an advanced education qualification that focuses on a certain area of special education. There are online options available for certificate programs, just be sure they are taken at an accredited university or program.

Deaf and hard of hearing certification

This certification will strengthen your teaching abilities and help you develop strategies you need to support children with hearing loss. This certification can support professionals who work in communication sciences, education, psychology, social work, or medicine. You will understand developmentally appropriate outcomes, ethical practices, evidence-based knowledge and skills for working with students who are hard of hearing. Most of these programs will require you to know American Sign Language, or have employment related to deaf or hard of hearing people.

Graduate certificate in gifted education

This certificate prepares teachers with comprehensive training to meet the needs of gifted students. It explores theories of gifted education and pedagogy needed to teach gifted children. It will help you gain instructional methods, create gifted education programs, and teach you how to work with administrations and school boards to advocate for gifted students.

Graduate certificate in autism spectrum disorders

This certificate teaches you about the background of Autism Spectrum Disorder. You will also gain an understanding of behavioral analysis, assessment utilization, behavior recognition, and how to implement evidence-based strategies for a class that includes students that are on the spectrum.

What will I learn?

During your 4-year bachelor’s in special education program, you will learn about developmental domains, how to create individualized plans based on a student’s needs, and gain an understanding of behavior and intervention strategies. The following courses are typically incorporated into a bachelor’s in special education program.

Child and adolescent development

It is likely that your program will include several courses on child and adolescent development, which will be the foundation for future coursework. You will learn how children develop cognitively, physically, emotionally, and linguistically. You can expect to understand how development affects behavior, and how atypical development occurs.

Individualized education programs (IEP)

This course will teach you how to create individualized education programs for your students. Someone in the special education field needs to be proficient in understanding and creating IEPs. Individualized Education Programs create a bridge for parents, teachers, administrators, and related service personnel to work together to enhance a student’s academic results.

Mild to moderate disabilities

This course will give you the tools needed to provide support to children and adults with mild to moderate disabilities. This could include emotional, behavioral, learning, or intellectual disabilities. It will give you the training necessary to work with children with attention problems, memory problems, or who have difficulty interacting socially.

Teaching diverse learners

This course will teach you how to encourage active learning, provide alternative testing options, and incorporate adaptive learning tools to better suit your students diverse learning styles and needs. This educated awareness of the needs of different types of learners in your classroom can result in their increased understanding.

Foundations of special education

This course addresses and introduces you to theory and techniques regarding special education. You will learn best practices, challenges, and current research that you can apply to your teaching practice.

Continuing your education

At the graduate level there are more opportunities to advance your education in a specialized area in special education. For example, you can get a master’s degree in special education with concentrations in autism spectrum disorder, early childhood special education, emotional behavior disorders, visual impairment, etc. A master’s program opens up more opportunities for career and academic advancement. Because the academic content is specialized, many universities only offer degrees in special education at the master’s level. Depending on where you are applying, this may be the first academic opportunity you have to start a journey into the field of special education.

Master’s degree in special education

This master’s program offers advanced preparation in mild/moderate disabilities and moderate/severe disabilities. You will gain an understanding of education, political, and psychological issues surrounding the needs of special education. You will learn more about teaching strategies and skills to work with students with disabilities and their families.

Master’s degree in early childhood education with a minor in special education

A master’s in early childhood education with a minor in special education focuses on special education for children from birth to age 8. You will learn about assessment methodologies and the psychological, emotional, and developmental needs of young children with disabilities. Graduates will have an understanding of how to support children with learning differences so they reach their full potential.

Master’s degree in autism and developmental disabilities

This program provides the graduate with advanced training in the implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based practices regarding individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. You will be prepared to take educational positions as teachers, behavior analysts, and clinicians supporting children of all ages and their families.

What’s the cost?

The cost of a bachelor’s in special education depends on where you’d like to study. For example, the cost of an online bachelor’s in special education is between $25,000 to $82,000 in tuition and fees. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that for the 2017-2018 academic year, the price for an on-campus program was $17,797. This figure included room, board, tuition, and fees.

Financial aid

Financial aid options are available to those who qualify. According to Federal Student Aid, graduate students are considered independent, so you do not need to provide parents information on the FASFA application. If you qualify, you should receive student aid within 3 days to 3 weeks. Scholarships, grants, and programs are available to students pursuing a degree in special education. For example, the Special Education Foundation offers assistance to applicants who qualify. The amount offered changes each year.


When selecting a university to study special education it is important to check if your university is accredited. Accredited universities maintain an educational standard set by an accrediting agency. Especially in the special education field where you will be vetted by future employers or credential agencies, an accredited master’s program is essential. This shows you have graduated from a reputable university and are eligible for employment or admission to further your education.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) 

This group advocates for government policies, sets professional standards, and helps provide professionals with resources to further their professional development. The CEC has local units in all 50 states and student chapters in hundreds of colleges and universities.

National Center to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children for Disabilities

This association aims to recruit and prepare highly trained professionals who work with children with disabilities. They provide information on career options, preparation for employment, and workforce development.