Best Associate’s in Special Education Degrees Online 2022

Earning an online associate’s degree in special education is a flexible option that will open doors in this important field of education. Graduates of an associate’s degree in special education can enter the workforce or continue on to a bachelor’s in special education and beyond. Beginning your career journey with an associate’s degree online will open your eyes to the possibilities within this field, and it will likely get you into a classroom to help expand your understanding of what a special education teacher does all day. Read our list of the best online associate’s degrees in special education to find a program that will get you started in this meaningful and fulfilling career. 

1. College of Southern Nevada; Clark County, NV

2. Hagerstown Community College; Hagerstown, MD

3. Lehigh Carbon Community College; Schnecksville, PA

4. Northampton Community College; Bethlehem, PA

5. Portland Community College; Portland, OR

6. Georgia State University; Atlanta, GA

7. Tyler Junior College; Tyler, TX

8. Panola College; Carthage, TX

9. Granite State College; Concord, NH

10. Elms College; Chicopee, MA

Best Online Associate’s in Special Education

Methodology

This ranking of online associate’s degrees in special education is a list of the top 10 programs offered online. The initial pool of 10 includes related programs in speech, communication sciences, and communication disorders, with all 10 online associate’s degree programs listed. Programs were ranked according to tuition cost and unique program traits. All programs are from accredited schools and can be completed online. Tuition costs listed were derived from the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator website. Profile information was gathered through individual school websites that highlight program traits and requirements. Check with your program of interest for the most up-to-date information regarding tuition and program requirements. 

RANKING THE TOP 10 ONLINE ASSOCIATE’S DEGREES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION

10. Elms College; Chicopee, MA

Tuition: $38,391

WEBSITE

This 64-credit, 21-month, fully online associate’s degree program leads to a Speech Language Pathology Assistant (SLPS) degree. Graduates of this online associate’s degree program will be prepared to assist speech language pathologists with improving children’s ability to learn, read, write, and communicate in the classroom setting. This program is taught by experienced Elms College faculty with clinical backgrounds, it includes clinical practicum in a school setting, and it is fully online. Students completing this robust online degree may go on to seamlessly transfer to a Bachelor’s degree program at Elms College. Also, many students receive generous financial aid from Elms College. 

9. Granite State College; Concord, NH

In-State Tuition: $7,791

Out-of-State Tuition: $9,015

WEBSITE

This associate’s degree in communication sciences and disorders can be completed online, and it includes intensive courses and supervised field experiences in a variety of settings. This program meets guidelines of the American Speech Language Pathology Governing Board, and students completing this online associate’s degree can apply for certification as a speech language pathology assistant. Combining this degree with special education may lead to interesting teaching possibilities. Applicants should note that this program is available only to students residing in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, or Vermont. 

8. Panola College; Carthage, TX

In-District Tuition: $2,064

In-State Tuition: $3,576

Out-of-State Tuition: $4,560

WEBSITE

Panola College’s Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT) degree provides the groundwork for transferring to a bachelor’s degree program that leads to teacher certification in Texas. Students take electives to fulfill their interest in special education with a mind to transfer to a special education bachelor’s degree program. Graduates of this online associate’s degree program may qualify to work in education positions requiring an associate’s degree. This associate’s in education may be your ticket to entering the exciting field of education.

7. Tyler Junior College; Tyler, TX

In-District Tuition: $2,962

In-State Tuition: $4,762

Out-of-State Tuition: $5,482

WEBSITE

Tyler Junior College’s online Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT) program requires 60 credits to complete. This program can lay the groundwork for a Bachelor’s in education or special education. This robust Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT) degree is a specialized academic associate’s degree program that is specifically designed to transfer in its entirety to a baccalaureate program leading to teacher certification in Texas. TJC enrolls about 11,000 students each fall, with students pursuing a wide range of subjects from education to the arts. TJC is also known for providing continuing education for professionals in the field. 

6. Georgia State University; Atlanta, GA

In-State Tuition: $9,286

Out-of-State Tuition: $24,517

WEBSITE

This online associate’s in education offers introductory courses in this field, where students learn to think critically about issues affecting learners in pre-K through high school. This education major offers a concentration in special education, with all required courses offered online. With 63.4% of students receiving financial aid, this online associate’s degree in special education may be an affordable way to get you started in this meaningful career. Students may also work with their advisor to map out their pathway to a bachelor’s degree. This 60-credit associate’s degree includes 42 credits in core curriculum and 18 credits that can lead to a bachelor’s degree in education. 

5. Portland Community College; Portland, OR

In-State Tuition: $4,810

Out-of-State Tuition: $9,670

WEBSITE

This robust online associate’s degree in education is a 90-credit program with courses offered in special education, ESL, and more. If you are seeking to make a difference and dedicate your career to education, PCC may be the place to start. Students can work with an advisor to plan their strategy for courses to transfer to a bachelor’s program, or they may complete their  associate’s and begin their career in special education at that level. This program includes both coursework and six credits of practicum experience, solidifying knowledge with practical application. 

4. Northampton Community College; Bethlehem, PA

In-District Tuition: $4,710

In-State Tuition: $10,080

Out-of-State Tuition: $14,880

WEBSITE

Northampton Community College’s online special education associate’s degree program is a 62-credit program. NCC’s online Associate of Arts degree in special education is designed for students wishing to continue their education with the aim to earn a bachelor’s degree and a pre-K to 12th grade special education teaching certification. Graduates of this online special education associate’s degree program may pursue employment as an educator in special education. Students explore evidence-based theory and practice, and they get time for classroom observation and hands-on experience, which gives students the opportunity to gain understanding of effective special education approaches. 

3. Lehigh Carbon Community College; Schnecksville, PA

In-District Tuition: $4,440

In-State Tuition: $8,070

Out-of-State Tuition: $11,700

WEBSITE

This special education online associate’s degree from Lehigh Carbon Community College is a 60-credit online program that promises to provide foundational education for students to continue towards a four-year degree in special education. Students can consult with their academic advisor to plan their electives to fulfill four-year degree requirements. This program incorporates field experience and observation, giving students hands-on experience and knowledge of their chosen field. Graduates of this online special education associate’s degree program will have the knowledge needed to assess, plan, and implement special education strategies, among other important skills and knowledge. 

2. Hagerstown Community College; Hagerstown, MD

In-District Tuition: $4,290

In-State Tuition: $6,360

Out-of-State Tuition: $8,160

WEBSITE

Hagerstown Community College’s special education online associate’s degree is an Associate of Arts in Teaching with a focus in early childhood education/early childhood special education. This online associate’s degree is designed for students wishing to transfer to a four-year degree program. The program is articulated with all transfer programs in elementary education within Maryland, with degree holders eligible to transfer with a junior status. Students in this online associate’s degree program have the opportunity to participate in 45 hours of field experience, giving them experience in a variety of educational settings. This convenient and affordable associate’s degree is for students wishing to earn their baccalaureate degree and state teacher certification in early childhood education (birth to grade three). 

1. College of Southern Nevada; Clark County, NV

In-State Tuition: $3,878

Out-of-State Tuition: $11,355

WEBSITE

This online associate’s in special education from CSN promises to get students on their way to teaching those with special education needs. This degree is designed to provide the first two years of college education for students planning to become special education teachers and/or for those who plan to be paraprofessionals (Instructional Aides) in this challenging field.  Students can expect to be introduced to special education psychology, technology in special education, cultural diversity in special education, curriculum design and implementation, and more. This 60-credit special education associate’s degree online requires 28 credits of special program requirements. Graduates of this online associate’s degree in special education will have the fundamental concepts and primary knowledge needed to continue their training in this exciting field within education. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why study for an online associate’s in special education?

Associate’s degrees offered online provide flexibility for students while helping them advance their career aspirations. An online associate’s in special education is a great step toward a career in special education, and it is typically cost effective. Many include practicum experiences in your locale. 

What is an associate’s degree? 

Associate’s degrees typically are two-year college programs, with many requiring about 60 credits. With careful planning, students can transfer to a four-year college to complete their four-year degree, with all or most of their associate’s degree credits transferring. 

Why not just enroll in a four-year degree program?

Many times, an associate’s degree is a less expensive way into higher education that people find appealing. Students often work while completing an Associate’s degree, which may prove more difficult to do. Students uncertain about what they want to pursue often go the associate’s route, because of the ability to take a variety of classes before committing to a four-year school.

How do I know if special education is for me?

Special education teachers typically possess a combination of traits that make them inspirational role models. In addition to being optimistic and encouraging, special education teachers often are patient, empathetic, resourceful, collaborative, good communicators, and service-oriented. 

What are common traits of an online degree program?

Although class structure may vary, all online students will be required to log into a Learning Management System (LMS) portal on a regular basis. When  logged into their portal, students will find assignments to complete; other students’ posts to respond to; and classes to attend, which may be synchronous or asynchronous.

Is financial aid available for students pursuing an online associate’s in special education?

Students attending an online degree program at an accredited school are eligible for the same financial aid as students attending in-person. Online students can be qualified to apply for grants, scholarships, and loans. When financing your education, the first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be filled out online every year starting October first. Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for need-based aid, filling out the FAFSA may lead to scholarship possibilities. Also, be sure to check in with the financial aid office and ask about local scholarships or financial aid. Also, don’t forget to check with your employer to see if they offer tuition assistance as a benefit. 

How do I know if I’ll like doing classes online? 

Of course, you won’t know for sure if you like this format until you actually take an online class. Many students enjoy the independence and flexibility of online learning. Students in online programs can continue to work, live, and maintain other responsibilities while continuing their education. Advantages of an online degree program may include the freedom to study from anywhere while continuing to work, a faster route to graduating, and a less expensive degree. Disadvantages of online study include: lack of a physical classroom, the necessity of self-motivation to finish assignments on time, less of a community, less routine, and no campus life. These disadvantages may or may not make a difference to you. If you test the waters by taking a class or two, you will see if the online option is a good one for you. 

Why do people complete their degrees online instead of on-campus?

Often, people are engaged in employment that they don’t wish to leave. In addition, many students have family obligations and young children that need to be cared for, so an online associate’s degree program is a great way to improve their future career possibilities. 

How much money can I make with an online associate’s in special education degree?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, special education teachers with a bachelor’s degree make a median income of $61,500 per year. This means that half make more and half make less than $61,500 yearly. 

What is the job outlook for special education? 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of special education teachers is projected to grow eight percent from 2020 to 2030, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 38,600 job openings for special education teachers are projected each year, on average, over the next decade. The growth in this field is driven by disabilities being identified earlier and children with disabilities being enrolled in special education programs. In addition, workers need to be replaced who transfer to another occupation or exit the workforce.

What are the professional organizations for teachers?

In addition to the National Education Association (NEA), the professional organization for all teachers, there are organizations specific to special education. Check out these special education professional organizations:

  • The National Association of Special Education Teachers
  • The Council for Exceptional Children
  • The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps
  • The National Organization on Disability
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities

Why join a professional organization in special education?

Professional organizations support the people working in their profession, and they promote their profession as a whole. Professional organizations often offer job information, certification information, networking opportunities, and ongoing education, among other services, to assist their members in advancing their careers. 

By Carol Dolan BS RN BSN CDCES

September 2021

Carol graduated with her BS in Nutrition from Montclair State University and her BSN in Nursing from Rowan University. She is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) currently working with adults and children living with diabetes in both outpatient and inpatient settings.

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This concludes our ranking of the top associate’s in special education online degree programs.