Colleges with Special Education Degrees and Programs: How to Choose

People interested in working with children with disabilities or gifted students can pursue studies in special education. Keep reading for advice on picking a school with a special education teaching program.

There are numerous schools that offer degrees in special education. A bachelor's degree program typically includes a student teaching internship and can help graduates gain employment, whereas master's and doctorate degree programs are designed for teachers who are already working in the field of special education and wish to pursue advanced studies.

Top 10 Special Education Schools

The schools below are a sample of the most distinguished schools that offer special education degree programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Levels* Tuition (2015-2016)*
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $44,712 (Undergrad)
$43,620 (Graduate)
University of Kansas Lawrence, KS 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Graduate Certificate, Master's, Doctoral $10,825 (Undergrad)
$9,029 (Graduate)
University of Oregon Eugene, OR 4-year, Public Undergraduate Certificate, Master's, Doctoral $10,289 (Undergrad)
$14,256 (Graduate)
University of Texas Austin, TX 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $10,934 (Graduate)
University of Florida Gainesville, FL 4-year, Public Integrated Bachelor's & Master's, Doctoral $6,381 (Undergrad)
$20,661 (Graduate)
University of Wisconsin Madison, WI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,415 (Undergrad)
$10,728 (Graduate)
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $14,518 (Graduate)
University of Illinois Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $15,054 (Undergrad)
$15,023 (Graduate)
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $15,207 (Graduate)
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,790 (Undergrad)
$15,844 (Graduate)

*Sources: NCES, School websites

College Selection Criteria

Students interested in special education schools should keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Special education college programs typically focus on training teachers to work with students who have disabilities, though some are geared toward teaching exceptionally talented students.
  • Some schools offer classes specifically designed to help students pass their state's teacher certification exams.
  • Schools may partner with other schools, institutions and local organizations that allow students to network and build relationships with working professionals.
  • Students should also consider whether they want to receive a more generalized education or have the freedom to specialize their curricula to meet their personal career objectives, such as working specifically with students who have autism, learning disabilities or behavioral disorders.

Bachelor's Degree in Special Education

Bachelor's degree candidates in special education are exposed to the general requirements of all students seeking teaching degrees. They must also complete core requirements within the special education program. Candidates must also complete student teaching requirements and often must pass their teaching certification exam before earning their degree.

Master's Degree & PhD in Special Education

Master's degree and PhD programs in special education prepare graduates for more specialized work within the field. Many require extensive work with gifted or disabled children, and almost all demand an exit project, a comprehensive exam and/or a thesis. Many graduate programs are designed to meet each student's specific needs.

Both undergraduate and graduate special education programs can be found at colleges across the country. When choosing a program, applicants may want to consider whether it prepares them for teacher certification and what grade level or area of special education they want to pursue.

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