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2020 Best Colleges for Special Education

Approximately 31,128 special education degrees were awarded to students last year in the United States. With so many options it can be a challenge finding the best fit for you. This year's Best Colleges for Special Education ranking analyzed 183 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor's degree in special education. We look at over 20 factors to determine the top 25 schools for Special Education students.

Choosing a Great Special Education School

Best Colleges for Special Education Your choice of special education school matters. Important measures of a quality special ed program can vary widely even among the top schools. To make it into this list a school must excel in the following areas.

Overall Quality is a Must

The overall quality of a school is important to ensure a good education, not just how well they do in a particular major. To take this into account we consider a college's overall Best Colleges ranking which itself looks at a collection of various factors like degree completion, educational resources, student body caliber and post-graduation earnings for the school as a whole.

The lowest ranked school in our list is in the top 33% of our overall quality ranking while the vast majority are in at least the top 19%.

Overall Best Colleges Rank  ( 280 to 1 )
Lowest Ranked Overall
Top Ranked Overall

Better Early and Mid Career Salaries

A special education degree from schools on this list typically results in above average salaries after graduation. While the average special education bachelors degree from U.S. colleges results in an average starting salary of $36,194, graduates of colleges on this list average $38,608.

Starting Salary  ( 35510 to 45089 )
$0
$43,100

Other Factors We Consider

In addition to the above, you should consider some of the following factors:

  • Major Focus - How much a school focuses on Special Education students vs. other majors.
  • Major Popularity - How many other special education students choose this school.
  • Accreditation - Whether a school is regionally accredited and/or a recognized special education related accrediting body.

Our full ranking methodology documents in more detail how we consider these factors to identify the best schools for Special Education students.

Best Schools to Study Special Education in United States

Explore the top ranked colleges and universities for special education majors. Only those schools that rank in the top 15% of all the schools we analyze get awarded with a place on this list. Of the 183 schools analyzed, only 25 earned the distinction of being on this list.

Top 25 Best Special Ed Colleges

#1

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In TN
15.7% Growth in Graduates

It is difficult to beat Vanderbilt University if you wish to study special education. Vanderbilt is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the large city of Nashville. A Best Colleges rank of 18 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means Vanderbilt is a great school overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, Vanderbilt also offers 2 different higher degree levels in special education, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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#2

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
11th Most Popular In NY

Syracuse University is among your top options if you want to study special education. Syracuse is a very large private not-for-profit school located in the medium-sized city of Syracuse. A Best Colleges rank of 107 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means Syracuse is a great school overall.

With 96 undergraduates, Syracuse University is one of most popular colleges to study special ed in United States.

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Certificate Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In NJ

The College of New Jersey is one of the finest schools in the United States for special education. Located in the suburb Ewing, TCNJ is a public school with a moderately-sized student population. This college ranks 159th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of New Jersey.

For those interested in something more advanced, TCNJ also offers 3 different higher degree levels in special education, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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#4

Boston University

Boston, MA
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
11th Most Popular In MA

Boston University is a great choice for individuals interested in a Special Education major. Located in the city Boston, Boston U is a private not-for-profit college with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 56 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Boston U is a great school overall.

A favorite major for special education undergrads, there are roughly 41 individuals studying this degree at Boston U.

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Doctorate Highest Degree Type
8th Most Popular In IL
$42,100 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city Champaign, UIUC is a public college with a fairly large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 85 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means UIUC is a great college overall.

A popular choice for special education undergraduates, there are approximately 49 individuals studying this degree at UIUC. Special Education graduates from University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign receive an earnings boost of around $3,492 over the average earnings of special education majors.

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Doctorate Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In MD

Located in the large suburb College Park, UMCP is a public college with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 103 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means UMCP is a great college overall.

For those interested in something more advanced, UMCP also offers 3 different higher degree levels in special education, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree.

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#7

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
4th Most Popular In FL
1.6% Growth in Graduates

Located in the midsize city Gainesville, U of F is a public school with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 73 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means U of F is a great college overall.

University of Florida is a fairly popular college to study special ed in United States exceeding 62 graduations last year.

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Doctorate Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In IL
$42,600 Median Starting Salary

Illinois State is a fairly large public school located in the medium-sized suburb of Normal. This school ranks 305th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Illinois.

There are approximately 184 special education undergrads studying this program at Illinois State. Illinois State University special education students earn $3,992 more than the standard special ed student.

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#9

Providence College

Providence, RI
Master Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In RI
16.4% Growth in Graduates

Located in the city Providence, Providence is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. A Best Colleges rank of 131 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means Providence is a great school overall.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, Providence offers a Master's Degree in special education. Students who graduate from this degree report average early career earnings of $39,700.

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#10

Saint Joseph's University

Philadelphia, PA
Master Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In PA

Located in the large city Philadelphia, St. Joe's is a private not-for-profit college with a medium-sized student population. This college ranks 196th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Pennsylvania.

There are approximately 152 special education undergraduates studying this program at St. Joe's.

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#11

Auburn University

Auburn, AL
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In AL
12.8% Growth in Graduates

Auburn is a fairly large public school located in the small city of Auburn. This school ranks 195th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Alabama.

There are roughly 133 special education undergrads enrolled in this program at Auburn. Graduates of the special ed program earn about $33,900 in the first couple years of working.

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Doctorate Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In CT
5.1% Growth in Graduates

Located in the large suburb Storrs, UCONN is a public school with a very large student population. A Best Colleges rank of 97 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means UCONN is a great college overall.

There are roughly 79 special education undergrads studying this degree at UCONN.

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Doctorate Highest Degree Type
4th Most Popular In WI
$40,900 Median Starting Salary

Wisconsin is a very large public school located in the large city of Madison. A Best Colleges rank of 80 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Wisconsin is a great college overall.

A favorite major for special education undergraduates, there are roughly 42 individuals enrolled in this degree at Wisconsin. Graduates from the special education major at University of Wisconsin - Madison get $2,292 more than the average graduate in this field shortly after graduation.

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#14

University of Georgia

Athens, GA
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In GA
$38,100 Median Starting Salary

Located in the city Athens, UGA is a public school with a very large student population. This college ranks 137th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Georgia.

For those interested in something more advanced, UGA also offers 3 different higher degree levels in special education, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree. Students who complete this degree report average early career wages of $38,100.

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#15

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In MI

Michigan State is a fairly large public school located in the city of East Lansing. A Best Colleges rank of 120 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means Michigan State is a great college overall.

There are approximately 71 special education undergrads enrolled in this program at Michigan State.

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#16

Manhattan College

Riverdale, NY
Certificate Highest Degree Type
26th Most Popular In NY

Located in the large city Riverdale, Manhattan is a private not-for-profit school with a small student population. This school ranks 274th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of New York.

With 45 undergrads, Manhattan College is one of most popular colleges to study special ed in United States.

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#17

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In AZ
11.5% Growth in Graduates

Located in the large city Tucson, Arizona is a public college with a fairly large student population. This college ranks 325th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Arizona.

For those interested in something more advanced, Arizona also offers 3 different higher degree levels in special education, the most popular of which is a Master's Degree. After graduation, special ed students generally make about $30,400 in the first five years of their career.

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#18

Gonzaga University

Spokane, WA
Master Highest Degree Type
5th Most Popular In WA
$43,100 Median Starting Salary

Gonzaga is a moderately-sized private not-for-profit school located in the city of Spokane. A Best Colleges rank of 113 out of 1,727 colleges nationwide means Gonzaga is a great school overall.

A favorite major for special education undergrads, there are about 24 individuals studying this degree at Gonzaga. Graduates from the special education major at Gonzaga University make $4,492 more than the average graduate in this field when they enter the workforce.

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Doctorate Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In IN
22.5% Growth in Graduates

Located in the small city Bloomington, IU Bloomington is a public college with a fairly large student population. This school ranks 181st out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Indiana.

There are approximately 71 special education undergrads enrolled in this degree at IU Bloomington. Special Education graduates from Indiana University - Bloomington receive an earnings boost of about $2,792 over the average earnings of special education majors.

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Certificate Highest Degree Type
2nd Most Popular In PA
12.5% Growth in Graduates

Located in the suburb West Chester, WCUPA is a public college with a fairly large student population. This college ranks 373rd out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Pennsylvania.

There are roughly 192 special education undergrads studying this program at WCUPA. West Chester University of Pennsylvania special education students receive $3,492 more than the typical special ed graduate.

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#21

Seton Hall University

South Orange, NJ
Master Highest Degree Type
8th Most Popular In NJ

Seton Hall is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the suburb of South Orange. This school ranks 287th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of New Jersey.

For those interested in pursuing a higher degree, Seton Hall also offers a Master's Degree in special education.

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Master Highest Degree Type
3rd Most Popular In UT
$29,300 Median Starting Salary

BYU is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the midsize city of Provo. A Best Colleges rank of 102 out of 1,727 schools nationwide means BYU is a great college overall.

In addition to its bachelor's programs, BYU offers a Master's Degree in special education. Graduates of the special ed program report average early career income of $29,300.

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Doctorate Highest Degree Type
16th Most Popular In PA

Located in the small city University Park, Penn State University Park is a public college with a fairly large student population. This college ranks 170th out of 1,727 colleges for overall quality in the state of Pennsylvania.

A favorite choice for special education undergraduates, there are about 25 learners enrolled in this program at Penn State University Park.

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#24

Ball State University

Muncie, IN
Doctorate Highest Degree Type
1st Most Popular In IN
17.4% Growth in Graduates

Located in the city Muncie, Ball State is a public school with a very large student population. This college ranks 578th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Indiana.

There are about 1163 special education undergrads enrolled in this program at Ball State. Students who complete this program state that they receive average early career wages of $39,700.

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#25

Trinity Christian College

Palos Heights, IL
Master Highest Degree Type
15th Most Popular In IL

Trinity Christian is a small private not-for-profit school located in the large suburb of Palos Heights. This college ranks 549th out of 1,727 schools for overall quality in the state of Illinois.

A popular choice for special education undergrads, there are roughly 27 individuals studying this program at Trinity Christian.

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Rest of the Top Best Colleges for Special Education

Honorable Mentions

These are some additional schools worth mentioning that are also great but just didn't quite make the cut to earn our top Best Colleges for Special Education award.

Rank College Location
28 SUNY Geneseo Geneseo, NY
29 Miami University - Oxford Oxford, OH
30 Elon University Elon, NC
31 Fontbonne University Saint Louis, MO
32 Clemson University Clemson, SC
33 University of Dayton Dayton, OH
34 Bradley University Peoria, IL
35 University of Kentucky Lexington, KY
36 Salve Regina University Newport, RI

Special Education by Region

View the Best Colleges for Special Education for a specific region near you.

Region
Southeast
New England
Rocky Mountains
The Plains States
Middle Atlantic
Far Western US
Southwest
Great Lakes

One of 14 majors within the Education area of study, Special Education has other similar majors worth exploring.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Teacher Education Grade Specific 99,840
Educational Administration 44,405
Teacher Education Subject Specific 43,242
General Education 31,485
Curriculum & Instruction 17,977

View All Special Ed Related Majors >

Notes and References

  • The bars on the spread charts above show the distribution of the schools on this list +/- one standard deviation from the mean.
  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of the rest of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Credit for the banner image above goes to woodleywonderworks.

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