What Are the Top Schools for Special Education Teachers?

Read about three schools with top programs in special education, based on their national rankings. Explore the special education program offerings at each school. Get info on selecting a school with a good program in this field. Schools offering Emotional & Behavioral Disorders degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Characteristics of Top Schools for Special Education Teachers?

Your choice may be influenced by programs for a specific disability, like autism or Down syndrome. You might want to attend a school that prepares you for teaching licensure at the elementary or secondary levels. Good schools could offer research and hands-on lab opportunities as well as strong networks with like-minded academic organizations and funding sources. You might want opportunities to showcase your graduate research.

What Are Three Top Schools for Special Education Teachers?

University of Kansas (KU) in Lawrence

U.S. News & World Report ranked KU #2 in the graduate special education category in 2019. KU also ranked 18th in graduate education programs in 2019 (www.usnews.com).

The School of Education's Advising Center will help you navigate degree program requirements. As an undergraduate, you can prepare for a career in special education by pursuing the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Education with a specialization in Unified Early Childhood available through the Curriculum and Teaching Department.

As a graduate student, you could select from among six concentrations, including autism spectrum disorders or secondary special education. Your master's degree curriculum could prepare you for an adaptive or functional endorsement in special education. Affiliated institutes include the Interactive Collaborative Autism Network and the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities. The Beach Center on Disability promotes research on assistive technology, family issues related to disability and self-determination for the disabled. Available degrees include:

  • M.S.E. Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Online Graduate Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • M.S.E. Early Childhood Unified (Birth-K)
  • M.S.E. High-Incidence Disabilities
  • Online M.S.E. High-Incidence Disabilities
  • M.S.E. Low-Incidence Disabilities
  • Online M.S.E. Secondary Special Ed Transition
  • B.S.E. Unified Early Childhood (Birth-3rd)
  • Ph.D. Special Education

University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene

UO was ranked third by U.S. News & World Report in the graduate special education category in 2019. Degree programs are available through UO's Department of Special Education and Clinical Sciences. Areas of specialization in a master's program include early intervention and alternative education behavior supports. Master's program applicants may select a special education licensure or non-licensure study track. Doctoral specializations include positive behavior support, low-incidence disabilities, early intervention, prevention and academic interventions or secondary and transition services.

UO's Center on Human Development is part of a national network of university programs focused on research and support for individuals with developmental disabilities. The HEDCO Clinic hosts the Speech-Language-Hearing Center. Other specialized research units include the Early Intervention Program and the Secondary Special Education and Transition Programs. You could earn the following degrees:

  • B.A. in Communication Disorders and Sciences
  • B.S. in Communication Disorders and Sciences
  • M.A. in Special Education
  • M.S. in Special Education
  • Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Special Education
  • Ph.D. in Communication Disorders and Sciences
  • Ed.D. in Special Education
  • Ph.D. in Special Education

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN

Vanderbilt University ranked 6th among best education programs and was ranked first for its graduate special education program by U.S. News & World Report in 2019. According to the Peabody College's Department of Special Education, students are often fully funded and frequently receive multiple employment offers upon graduation.

Students in the exceptional learning undergraduate program may choose from one of three specialties, including visual impairment or multiple and severe disabilities. An honors program offers mentored research options. The master's program offers four concentration areas, including high-incidence disabilities, visual disabilities and behavioral analysis certification. Doctoral program students may select an early childhood, high incidence, severe disabilities or visual impairments specialization, among others. Master's and doctoral students can also enroll in the behavior analysis certification program; completion of this program could prepare graduates for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board exam.

The IRIS Center for Training Enhancements provides interactive disability resources. The Kennedy Center for Developmental Disabilities and Human Development coordinates research, services and training related to a broad range of developmental disabilities. It supports research projects and offers clinics for the study of disorders like Down syndrome and Fragile X. Graduate students are encouraged to participate in Kennedy Center programs and events like Science Day in order to present significant research findings. The following degrees are available:

  • B.S. in Special Education
  • M.Ed. in Special Education
  • Ph.D. in Special Education

Ten Top Special Education Schools

College/University Institution Type LocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition*
Universty of Texas--Austin 4-year, Public Austin, TX$12,000
University of Florida 4-year, Public Gainsville, FL$13,000
University of Wisconsin-Madison 4-year, Public Madison, WI$12,000
University of Virginia (Curry) 4-year, Public Charlottesville, VA$19,000
University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign 4-year, Public Champaign, IL$18,000
University of Washington 4-year, Public Seattle, WA$16,500
University of Minnesota--Twin Cities 4-year, Public Minneapolis, MN$18,500
University of Maryland--College Park 4-year, Public College Park, MD$15,000
Michigan State University 4-year, Public East Lansing, MI$18,000
University of North Carolina--Charlotte 4-year, Public Charlotte, NC$12,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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