Online Degree Programs in Special Education with Career Education

Oct 25, 2019

Essential Information

Online bachelor's degree programs in special education are typically designed for teachers seeking initial certification in order to transition out of substituting or working as part-time instructors. These programs typically combine online lecture sessions with in-class training opportunities. At the graduate level, distance-learning master's degree programs are designed for currently certified teachers seeking additional skills. A student teaching practicum is often required for master's degrees at the school of employment.

Bachelor's Degree Information

In addition to field-specific studies, online special education programs at the bachelor's level offer courses in all general education subject areas, including humanities, sciences and mathematics. Students also complete extensive student teaching, gaining hands-on classroom experience. However, not all online programs are designed to lead to licensure; students should research program information before enrolling.

Course Topics

Examples of common online courses for a bachelor's degree in special education include the following:

  • Foundations of Language and Communication
  • Classroom Management
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Literacy and Elementary Reading
  • Reasoning and Problem Solving

Master's Degree Information

Online master's degree programs in special education typically include highly specialized study in teaching methods, instructional design and research processes. Master's-level students may be required to complete a practicum, which can often be completed at the school where the teacher is currently employed. Some programs lead to special education teaching endorsement.

Course Topics

Examples of common master's-level online courses in special education include the following:

  • Introduction to Special Education Laws and Legal Issues
  • Behavioral Management and Intervention
  • Instructional Design Analysis
  • Issues in Educational Research
  • Implementation of Individualized Education Plans


Online master's degree programs may allow students to specialize in one of the following areas:

  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Autism
  • Severe interventions
  • Gifted education
  • Early intervention
  • Blindness and low vision

About Online Learning

Distance learning education programs may combine synchronous instruction, requiring real-time virtual class attendance, with asynchronous participation, allowing students to complete studies at their pace. Some courses may be completely asynchronous and participation is noted through responses to discussion boards. Courses may utilize webinars (web cam required), file sharing and instructional videos.

Students are able to communicate with instructors and peers through email, chat sessions and discussion boards. Students participating in fieldwork may need to video record their experiences and submit the recording to their instructor for review.

Career Information

Graduates of online degree programs in special education generally work in K-12 education. Bachelor's degree programs help students transition into full-time careers in education. Master's degree programs prepare licensed teachers for the transition to special education or for advancement into leadership positions in their schools. Public school educators in every U.S. state are required to be licensed or certified.

Online programs in special education can be found at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Students can typically complete the required coursework online, though in-person student teaching experiences or practica are common at both program levels.

Expert Contributor: Mark Mangum Mark has an MDiv and MBA in Leadership. He has several years' experience in service and operations management in the hospitality industry.

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