As the nature of education changes, the need for more innovative and compassionate educators is on the rise, especially in the field of Special Education. In this ranking, we explore the top 12 most affordable online doctorate programs in Special Education. All of the schools listed are under $25,000 in out-of-state tuition and offer either online or blended programs in special education. Because there are so few programs available to evaluate, we’ve simply ranked them in order of tuition, with the 12th spot being the most expensive on the list and the 1st spot being the least expensive spot on the list.
Looking for more information on online doctorates in the field of education? Take a look at our online doctorate in education ranking here .
#11 West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
Online EdD in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 5, 753
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the low-cost online doctorate in special education offering at West Virginia University is a Doctor of Education in Special Education. The goal of the program is to prepare graduates to teach at the university level or to provide professional development opportunities in public schools or disability agencies. It is important to note that applicants must have a Master’s degree in Special or Gifted Education, in addition to two years of documented teaching work in public education and a special education certificate. The program is broken up in 3 sections: courses in the major area, courses in the research core, then courses for exam and dissertation preparation. Specific classes for the program include Personnel Preparation Strategies, Professional Practice in Systems Advocacy, Leadership Career Development, and Designing Single-Case Research. After graduating from WVU’s low cost online doctoral program in Special Education, students will be prepared for careers as Special Education Teachers, Health Educators, Education Administrators, or Postsecondary School Teachers.
Out-of-State Tuition: $26,154
#10 University of Toledo
Online PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 4, 126
In the University of Toledo’s affordable online doctorate in special education program, students will be prepared to take on leadership roles within the special education field. Ultimately, the goal of the program is for students to translate relevant research topics into best practices that will foster a positive and effective education for disabled learners and their families. Among the 70 credits needed for graduation include advanced studies in special education, research courses, a virtual internship, and a dissertation. Students will take two classes at a time, including the summers, and can finish in as little as four years. While the curriculum can be completed fully online, students do have the opportunity to meet with their advisors in person twice a year. Students can expect support from both the faculty and through services like eTutoring, the IT help desk, and the eLibrary. The University of Toledo’s cheap online PhD program in Special Education is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Out-of-State Tuition: $24,649
#9 University of Northern Colorado
Special Education PhD Online
Graduate Enrollment: 3, 120
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the University of Northern Colorado offers an affordable online PhD in Special Education. The curriculum is broken up into 25-credit hours of Doctoral core courses, 9-credit hours of elective credits, 12-credit hours of research core, and research/dissertation courses. Students can also choose a concentration area within the field of special education, a program feature that sets this one apart from others. Cognates are 9-credit hours and areas of interest include gifted and talented curriculum development, special education administration, university teaching or research, transition for kids with exceptionalities, or areas of special education like autism, and visually or hearing impaired, among others. Specific courses include Grant Writing Seminar, Performance Technology for Instructional Environment, Educational Ethnography, and Advanced Issues in Research Methods. All students enrolled in this affordable online Special Education PhD will also participate in a 3-credit hour externship, a hands-on job-related experience.
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,620
#8 Nova Southeastern University
Online Doctor of Education in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 1 4,910
Offered through the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education, the low-cost online doctorate in special education at Nova Southern University is an EdD with a concentration in Special Education. This affordable online EdD in special education will prepare students to become highly skilled practitioners and leaders in the special education field. Within the 54-credit program, students will take courses like Conferencing with Parents and Families of Individuals with Disabilities, Multicultural Issues in Special Education, Issues in Special Education Administration, and Transition, Career Development, and Independent Living. Students will be required to complete a doctoral orientation, a residency, all the required coursework, and a written dissertation. The recommended time-frame for completion is three years. Graduates will be prepared for jobs as professors, administrators, or disability service providers and can work in a variety of settings such as the public education sector, advocacy and policy organizations, research institutions, or direct service agencies. Nova Southeastern University is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and the College of Education’s cheap online EdD in Special Education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,665
#7 Slippery Rock University
Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
EdD in Special Education Online
Graduate Enrollment: 1, 338
The low-cost online doctorate in special education offering at Slippery Rock University is an online EdD in Special Education and is designed to address the need for more highly skilled special education practitioners in the field. It is important to note that while the curriculum is fully online during the fall and spring semesters, students will attend on-campus weekend classes during the summer semesters. One benefit of the program is that students are eligible to apply 12 credit hours of their Master’s program towards their affordable online doctorate in special ed, which could cut down on time and cost of the degree. The coursework is divided into four main sections: the research core, content and leadership core, special education core, and the dissertation core. Sample classes include Instructional Technologies for Exceptional Learners, Positive Classroom Interventions, Transition Planning for Students with Disabilities, and Neuropsychiatric Disorders of Childhood. Slippery Rock University’s affordable EdD in Special Education online is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,932
#6 Northcentral University
La Jolla, California
Online PdD-ED in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 1 1,058
Because Northcentral University is strictly an online graduate university, they have the opportunity to hone in on specific groups of studies and provide a quality, innovative education that prepares passionate professionals to excel in their respective careers. Accredited by the Senior College and University Commission, Northcentral University offers an online, research-based PhD-ED in Special Education that is designed to produce experts in the Special Education field. In this 60-credit program, students can expect to take 20 courses throughout 45 months. Sample courses include Characteristics of Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Law in Special Education, Assessment in Special Education, and Instructing Students with Specific Learning Disabilities. Of all the programs on this list, Northcentral University’s is perhaps the most flexible, as it offers start dates every Monday and a one-to-one learning model that provides support for all online students. Note that there are no GRE or GMAT test requirements for admission to this cheap online doctorate in Special Education.
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,983
#5 Texas Tech University
Online PhD in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 6,617
Through the College of Education and its eLearning sector, Texas Tech University offers a 90-credit hour cheap online Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education. Students will take core classes, a 1-semester internship, residencies, and 12-credit hours of dissertation coursework. Sample special education classes include Decision-Making in Educational & Psychological Assessment; Analyzing, Designing, and Conducting Literacy Research; Advanced Issues in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior; and Special Topics in Research Methods. Graduates of the program will be prepared for careers as educators, researchers, specialists, or consultants in both the academic sphere and service agencies. Your degree from Texas Tech University will be identical to students who attend classes on-campus; it will not say ‘online’ on the degree. Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC). Students enrolled in this affordable online doctorate in Special Education will also have free technical services like access to the eLibrary and 24/7 online support.
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,428
#4 Regent University
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Online EdD with a concentration in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 5,957
The affordable online doctoral program in special education offering at Regent University results in an online EdD with a concentration in Special Education. Students could also opt to go a step beyond the EdD and get their PhD in Education with a specialization in Special Education, a path that will prepare graduates for a career in research and academia. In these 66-credit low-cost online doctoral degrees in special education, students can take the coursework completely online but will be required to participate in a 4-day on-campus residency. Courses are delivered in 8-week formats. Graduates will be prepared for careers in Special Education Administration & Executive Leadership, University Faculty, Education Research, Education Policy, Education Advocacy and Consulting, and Central Office Executive Leadership. Regent University also offers many online resources like and Online Peer Mentoring Program and tutoring services. Regent University’s low-cost doctorate in Special Education online is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Out-of-State Tuition: $15,552
#3 Hampton University
Online PhD in Educational Management with a specialization in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 579
Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Hampton University’s cheap online doctorate in special education results in an online PhD in Educational Management with a specialization in Special Education. This 66-credit hour program is best suited for those seeking leadership positions in various educational settings, as the program is committed to combining the special education specialized coursework with a comprehensive leadership and management skillset. The curriculum, presented as one of the most unique programs on the list, focuses on an alternative doctoral model that utilizes relevant and current strategies, competencies, and research. Classes run in nine-week segments and cost $695 per credit hour. Impressively, this affordable online doctorate in Special Education program can be completed in as little as 2.5 years, the shortest program documented on this list.
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,475
#2 Grand Canyon University
Doctor Of Education In Organizational Leadership With An Emphasis In Special Education Online
Graduate Enrollment: 37,214
Grand Canyon University offers a cheap online Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis Special Education through its College of Doctoral Studies. The program is designed to prepare students for teaching at the university level, or other leadership positions in the special education field. In this 60-credit program, students will take core courses like Special Education Law, Supervision and Administration of Special Education, Strategic Planning and Change, and Leading Across Cultures. Students will also take classes in research, residency, and dissertation. Utilizing the 8-week class model, the coursework at GCU is geared toward the modern, non-traditional online student in efforts to offer a flexible and convenient delivery method. Located in Arizona, Grand Canyon University is a private, Christian university whose goal is to provide a quality and affordable education with biblical roots. Grand Canyon University’s low-cost EdD in Special Education is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Out-of-State Tuition: $10,175
#1 Liberty University
Online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Special Education
Graduate Enrollment: 38,561
As the most affordable graduate tuition on this list, Liberty University offers a low-cost online Doctor of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Special Education. In this 60-credit program, classes will follow an 8-week format, and students can earn their degree in as little as three years. The curriculum will cover four main areas of focus: organization and design of gifted education programs, educational assessment for special needs, behavior management, and learning theory and research. Graduates will be prepared to enter the workforce in careers such as a Gifted-Student Instructor, Researcher, School Administrator, Special Education Instructor, or a University Professor. To help pay for your education, Liberty University offers corporate tuition assistance, financial aid options, and tuition discounts for military personnel. Located in the beautiful Lynchburg, VA, Liberty University is a non-profit Christian institution that desires to impact the world through its dedication to comprehensive, quality education. With an online education being ranked consistently in the top 5, Liberty University provides an affordable, quality cheap online Special Education doctorate you can trust.
Out-of-State Tuition: $7,980
What degrees are available for an affordable online doctorate in Special Education?
There are two main degrees students can get through an affordable online doctoral program in Special Education:
- a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- a Doctor of Education (EdD)
While the degree paths are similar, it is important to think about what you plan to do after graduation because that will determine which degree you should pursue. A PhD will lead you to an academic path, where you will develop new research in the field and possibly pursue a career at universities and colleges. An EdD will utilize existing research and case studies to help you improve the business organization you work for and will lend itself to jobs in the corporate business setting. While nothing is ever finite, deciding if you prefer to research and teach or if you want a more hands-on education career will help you choose the path that will ultimately help you build the career and life you desire.
Are there any concentrations or specializations within the Special Education field?
The short answer is yes. However, most of the degrees we’ve surveyed are online doctorates in Education with a concentration in Special Education itself. The degree will explore the advanced study of educational principles, and also various aspects of the challenges students with disabilities face. However, if you’re looking for further focus areas within the special education field, consider a school like the University of Northern Colorado that offers a 9-credit cognate within the low-cost online doctorate in Special Ed. The concentrations include:
- gifted and talented curriculum development
- special education administration
- university teaching or research
- transition for kids with exceptionalities or areas of special education like autism, visually or hearing impaired, mental retardations
Frequently Asked Questions about Affordable Online Degrees in Special Education:
Q: What is the best affordable online doctorate program in Special Education?
A: There really isn’t a way to tell you which program is best for you since the educational process is extremely personal. Most importantly, you’ll want to consider all the factors of the program and decide which one will fit into your life the best. Program features to consider are course delivery (online, blended, hybrid, or on-campus), class delivery (synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both), degree options, career outcomes, and tuition costs.
Q: Do I need a Master’s degree for admission to an affordable online doctorate in Special Education?
A: Yes, you will. Admission to an affordable online doctoral program in Special Education requires both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in a related education field. Some schools like West Virginia University also require a few years of public teaching experience as well. Make sure to check the details of your program to see what prerequisites you will need before you apply.
Q: What will I study in my online Special Ed Doctoral program?
A: Every program is different and will focus on various aspects of Special Education, but generally, students can expect to take an educational core, a research core, a concentration or cognate if the program has one, and classes that prepare for the dissertation. Other programs will include residencies and hands-on experiential aspects as well.
Q: How long does it take to complete a cheap online doctorate in Special Education?
A: Doctoral degree programs are more intense than Master’s degree programs and for a good reason. By getting the highest degree possible, you become an expert in your field, and that doesn’t happen overnight. You can find some programs, that when taken on a full-time basis, that can be completed in as little as three years. Other programs can take four, five, or even six years to complete, depending on your course load. Some programs allow up to seven or eight years for you to achieve your terminal doctoral degree in special education. It is essential to check the details of your program prior to admission to make sure the parameters work for you.
Q: What do future employers think of online degrees? Are they respected?
A: While some students may be concerned that an online degree may not hold the same weight as a traditional degree, as culture changes, employers are thinking less about the nature of the degree and more about the total package of the applicant. In fact, most online doctoral Special Education programs are geared toward working professionals, so employers 100% understand that students are juggling work and school at the same time, which could most likely say a lot about your ability to manage schedules and work under pressure. And because online education requires a high amount of self-discipline, completing the degree can be a sign of a hard worker that would be an asset to any business’ staff. In addition, most degrees do not reveal that the degree was taken online, and therefore, the only way a potential employer would know if you completed your degree online was if you told them yourself.
Q: Are there any low-cost doctorate programs in Special Education that do not require a dissertation?
A: The dissertation portion of a doctorate is extremely important, as you will research at an advanced level and address valuable issues within the special education framework. It will set you apart as an expert in your field. Most programs require students to research, write and defend a dissertation, but it is possible that you could find a program that will have a capstone project instead. However, it is important to consider the value that a dissertation will bring to your academic footprint as you pursue a high-level career in the field of Special Education.
Q: How much do affordable online doctorate degrees in Special Education cost?
A: In this rankings list, the tuition for the programs range from $12,000-$24,000 per year (out of state tuition). You could potentially find a cheaper online doctorate program, but you’ll want to make sure it fits within your criteria and holds accreditation from a reputable institution. However, there are schools that go all the way up to $40,000 per year.
Q: How can I pay for my cheap online doctorate in Special Education?
A: Making room in your budget for school costs can be daunting. But luckily, there are many scholarships and financial aid options available. Most schools have information on their website to help guide you in that process. For military service members, many schools have tuition discounts or special scholarships available, so make to sure to look for those in your search. Another option is to talk to the institution where you currently work. Some have tuition reimbursement programs, where they will pay for your education, and you can pay them back through working contracts. Some schools have options for students to become Teaching Assistants, which could help with tuition costs. Other schools like North Carolina State University offer Doctoral Assistantships where students will work for 20 hours per week in exchange for lesser tuition costs.
Q: Does the location of the school matter for my affordable online degree in Special Education?
A: If you are taking a 100% online doctorate Special Education program, the location of the school will not matter, as all coursework will be submitted online and any field experiences can be completed in your regional location. However, you might find some degree programs like Regent University’s that offer blended options or have mandatory orientation or seminar requirements, so make sure to check the details of your program before fully committing. Other students might prefer to live geographically close to their chosen school for support in advising or practicum placements. That decision will be completely up to you and what you prefer. Note that many schools do have online advising and student support, as well as video/Skype capabilities with faculty and mentors. But if face-to-face support is important to you, choosing a school near to you might be a wise choice.
Career Questions About Cheap Doctorates in Special Education:
Q: What kind of careers can I pursue with an affordable Special Education doctorate online degree?
A: While many people may assume that a degree in special education will land you in the classroom, there are actually many jobs you can get. For example, you could work in schools, yes, but you could also work in the corporate business world, for the government, at service agencies, or as a freelance consultant, among other options. Some examples include:
- Special Education Teacher
- Special Education Administrator
- Special Education Consultant
- Adjunct Faculty/Professor
- Researcher in Special Needs field
- Instructional Coordinator
Q: What kind of salary will I earn with a low-cost doctorate degree in Special Education?
A: There are many options for careers in this field, but generally, you could work in the public education sector, advocacy and policy organizations, research institutions, or direct service agencies. Your salary will vary based on your chosen career, but one thing is for sure; you will certainly make more money with a doctorate degree than any other degree. Your potential for growth in your career is substantial, too. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, some sample salaries include:
- Special Education Teacher: $58,980 (mean annual wage for 2017)
- Adjunct Faculty/Professor: $76,000 (mean annual wage for 2017)
- Instructional Coordinator: $63,750 (mean annual wage for 2017)
Q: Are there any professional organizations available for professionals in the Special Education field?
A: Yes! Just as careers in this field are widespread, so are the professional organizations. The ones you choose to become a member of will be determined by your specific goals, professional needs, and career aspirations. A few options include:
- The Council for Exceptional Children
- National Association of Special Education Teachers
- National Center for Learning Disabilities
This concludes our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Doctorate in Special Education Programs. Thanks for checking it out!
This ranking was updated in July 2020.
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