Online Degrees to Become a Special Education Teacher: Program Options

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Several schools offer online degree programs in special education at the bachelor's and master's levels. Students can complete many courses through distance education, accessing video lectures and course materials as their schedules permit. There may be a few on-campus requirements. Student teaching and field experiences are also required, and these can usually be completed at a school near the student's home. From a technology standpoint, master's programs require students to have a computer with a headset, an external microphone, and current PowerPoint software. Some live lectures must be attended at the same time that the lecture is held.

A bachelor's degree program in special education includes general education courses such as English composition and mathematics, as well as basic education courses covering topics such as classroom management and education theory. Students may take courses that cover instructional methods for special needs children as well as how to work with the families and the community.

In a master's degree program, students may be allowed to specialize in a certain type of disability, such as autism or early intervention education. Students may learn about curriculum development, student assessment methods and ways to include special education students in a regular classroom.

All states require that public school teachers earn a license or certification. Students should make sure any program they are considering qualifies them to seek licensing in their state.

Bachelor's Degree - Special Education

An online bachelor's degree program in special education prepares students for careers in K-12 education. The program provides the educational requirements needed to take certification exams that lead to special education licensure. The bachelor's degree program combines online study with practical hands-on student teaching experiences.

Information and Requirements

Some schools allow transferable courses from an accredited community college prior to admission while other schools offer a 2+2 degree in conjunction with a community college. While coursework is available fully online, lab work must be completed on-campus. Students also participate in student teaching programs at approved educational facilities.

Common Courses - Bachelor's in Special Education

A bachelor's degree program focuses on basic special education courses for teaching K-12 students. Students complete a practicum or prepare professional portfolios depending on the requirements of the school.


This introductory course teaches students to recognize the characteristics of exceptional children and their educational needs. The program provides students with an overview of the educational services available to exceptional children.

Instructional Methods

This course provides training on how to create individualized lesson plans that meet the needs of students with disabilities. Students learn to set up classrooms for optimal learning and review the basic learning problems of students with disabilities.


This online course examines methods for positive interaction with families and professionals. The course covers the role of the family in meeting the education needs of the child.

Master's Degree - Special Education

Students in an online master's program study teaching and research methods and legal issues related to special education. Topics include methodologies, disability diagnosis and inclusion methods. Online special education programs help students prepare to educate students with special needs, work with their students' families and collaborate with other professionals.

Information and Requirements

Online master's students participate in real time lectures where they interact with their professors and fellow students. Professors offer virtual office hours and students work in small online group sessions. Emails, video conferences and discussion boards are all utilized in the online master's program. All field experience is arranged in the student's area of residence, and students receive online and local supervision. The program can be completed in 3 years.

Technical requirements for attending virtual classes include a headset and external microphone. Students are also required to have current PowerPoint software. Live lectures require attendance at the time the lecture is held.

Common Courses - Master's in Special Education

Depending on the school, students can specialize in several areas, including autism, early intervention and inclusion education. Classes can be taken entirely online or through a combination of online and on-campus studies that enable students to attend weekend or evening courses.


In this class, students examine the methods of formal and informal assessment of students with disabilities. The program covers the assessment skills required to diagnosis learning disabilities. Commonly used assessment evaluations and tests are reviewed in this course.


In this online course, students learn the intervention strategies required for working with students with disabilities. The course reviews various teaching methods for meeting needs of individual students.

Inclusion and Collaboration Methods

This class reviews strategies for including students with disabilities in general education classes. Students understand methods for creating an ideal learning environment for students with disabilities. Instruction on monitoring and managing collaboration efforts with families and other professionals is also covered in this course.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2018 that 437,200 special education teachers were employed by educational institutions ( The BLS predicts that the number of available special education teaching positions is expected to grow by three percent, which is slower than average, between 2018 and 2028. According to the BLS, special education salaries are based on the school level taught. For teachers working in pre-schools, the median salary was $55,840 in May 2018. For all other teachers the median annual salary was $56,680.

Continuing Education Information

According to the BLS, students pursue teacher licenses through their individual state's board of education. Requirements for licensing vary by state and students must obtain a bachelor's degree and complete student teaching programs prior to becoming a licensed teacher. In some states, students must complete master's degree programs prior to obtaining licensure. Online master's degree programs are available for students interested in obtaining advanced knowledge in the field of special education.

Students with master's degrees in special education who are interested in research or leadership positions within the field of special education can pursue PH.D's. Most Ph.D. programs are available only through on-campus study.

There are a number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the field of special education that can largely be studied online, though students will need to complete some teaching and field experiences in an external location. These programs teach students how to respond to the needs of children outside of mainstream learning streams and provide an education suitable for children with particular disabilities.

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