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What Is an Online Special Education Certificate?

A special education certificate prepares you to teach children with learning disabilities, physical handicaps and emotional or behavioral challenges. Earning your special education certificate online means that you can take courses and turn in assignments over the Internet rather than attending classes at a college or university campus.

Program Overview

Licensed teachers can qualify to teach special education students through online certificate programs offered by many colleges and universities. These programs take about a year to complete. Some are totally online, with students logging on to view recorded lectures and turn in assignments as their schedules permit. Others are hybrid programs that have online and on-campus components.

Important Facts About Online Special Education Certificates

Concentrations Autism, applied behavior analysis, higher education disabilities services, generalist
Possible Careers Special education teachers, teachers, instructional coordinators, assistant principal
Continuing Education May be required to complete annual courses to maintain license
Common Courses Teaching students with high incident and low incident disabilities, educational research, inclusive classroom methods
Median Salary (2018)$59,780 (Special Education Teachers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)8% growth (Special Education Teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Typical Curriculum

Online special education certificate programs improve candidates' understanding of students with exceptional educational needs, including autism, behavioral and emotional disorders. They also introduce applicants to special needs students and explore the best methods to use when teaching them.

Career Options

Most special education teachers work in public schools. Some teach children with special needs who visit the resource room for part of the school day. Others teach in general education classrooms, working closely with the lead teachers to help include exceptional students in the mainstream class work. Some schools have special education classrooms serving only these students. Some special education teachers work in other settings. Your online special education certificate may lead you to work in the following:

  • Private schools
  • Residential facilities
  • Hospitals, clinics or rehabilitation programs
  • Homes of students with special needs

Schools with Online Special Education Certificate Programs

These special education certificate programs may help you earn a state teaching credential. Some states issue provisional credentials until you have special education teaching experience.

St. Joseph's University

Saint Joseph's University is a Jesuit school offering a post-bachelor's certificate and a master's degree in special education online. In 2013, the school earned the 11th ranking spot in the northern region for its master's degree programs from U.S. News & World Report.

Waynesburg University

This 30 credit hour special education certification program has a blended format. Some of the courses are available completely online; others require attendance at evening classes. Applicants need a bachelor's degree. Another 36 credit hour program results in the Master of Education in Special Education.

Penn State World Campus

Pennsylvania State University's Supervisory Certificate program is specifically for those who wish to pursue leadership roles in special education. This Pennsylvania Department of Education approved online program can help students meet the requirements for certification in Pennsylvania.