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Online Associate's Degree in Special Education: Program Overview

Get info about online programs in special education at the associate's degree level. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, as well as career and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

An associate's degree program in special education can prepare students to apply for a Child Care Development (CDA) credential, but it does not fulfill teaching licensure requirements for those who wish to teach elementary, middle or secondary school classes. Distance learning is also not very common in this field. If students do find special education programs with remote courses, on-campus attendance is usually required for education seminars and practica. Additional requirements, like submitting to a background check, filling out a health questionnaire and receiving CPR certification, usually need to be fulfilled.

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Associate's Degree in Special Education

The associate's degree program in special education is typically provided for those intending on transferring to a 4-year program in teaching. Technical and community colleges provide a great opportunity for aspiring educators to accomplish various general education requirements, typically at a cheaper per-credit rate than the 4-year equivalents.

Information and Requirements

In addition to three letters of recommendation, admissions packets and a thorough health questionnaire, students entering a special education program will need to submit to a background check. Program length ranges from 64 to 69 credit hours, depending on whether it is an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Arts degree. Students may also be required to enroll in an additional course if CPR certification hasn't already been obtained. The online program generally requires students to contact the professor of each course prior to the start of classes, in order to arrange for access to online material.

List of Common Special Education Courses

The curricula for online programs focus on general education curricula courses, combined with a select few courses on early childhood and special education considerations. Many of the methodologies necessary for early childhood education are interchangeable with the field of special education, thus the curricula are usually similar.

English Composition

English composition provides a baseline for writing at the professional and academic levels. Special education students typically take both an introductory and an advanced version of this class.

Early Childhood Education Seminar

This series of courses covers two semesters totaling four credits. Topics include curriculum planning, activity plans, measuring and developing classroom objectives and more.

Early Childhood Practicum

Giving students hands-on experience in the care of preschool, toddler and special education students, this course is a requirement for completion of the special education program.

Math for Elementary Teachers

This course introduces students to the concepts taught in elementary and special education environments. Topics include rational numbers, integers, exponents and more. Student must have completed either a pre-calculus or college algebra course prior to enrollment.


Career Information for Graduates

Graduates of this program are prepared for only a few careers that involve assisting in child care and development. Some programs prepare students for attainment of the Child Care Development (CDA) credential, a national credential that is designed to certify professionals to work with parents and other adults in the social, emotional and intellectual growth of children. With an associate's degree and the CDA credential, an individual may be qualified for positions as a teacher's aide, child care professional, preschool teacher or more.

Continuing Education Information

Most graduates use the credits from their associate's degree program to transfer to a 4-year program in education with an emphasis on special needs children. Some states, however, require that a student possess a master's degree before they can be licensed to teach in a special education environment.

To summarize, aspiring special education teachers can enroll in an associate's degree program that provides an introduction to special education. These programs are rare and typically combine online coursework with in-person seminars and practica.

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