Special Education Degree: Bachelor of Science (BS) in Elementary Education
Shape the Lives of Your Students with an Elementary and Special Education Degree
The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Elementary Education and Special Education degree offered by Grand Canyon University is designed for future teachers interested in working with children in both the general education elementary and special education classroom setting. This dual degree program includes coursework that prepares future educators to teach in elementary settings, as well as coursework that is required of special education teachers working with mild to moderate disabilities in the K-12 setting.
Both pedagogical knowledge and special education-specific content make up the curriculum for the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education degree. The program will prepare you to work with students in an elementary setting, as well as students with mild to moderate disabilities in K-12 settings, through implementing individualized educational plans to accommodate students’ various learning, behavioral and social needs. Through this robust licensure program, you will gain a well-rounded elementary education background.
Earn a Dual Bachelor’s in Elementary and Special Education Degree from GCU
Qualified elementary and special education teachers are in high demand, especially at the K-12 level where diagnosis and identification for students with exceptionalities may be ongoing. As a future teacher enrolled in this bachelor’s program at GCU, you will also gain the ability to navigate the changing landscape of special education laws and procedures.
Support given by the highly qualified and experienced GCU teaching staff within the elementary education and special education degree program make this bachelor’s degree stand apart from others. The GCU staff has years of cumulative experience. Special education-specific courses are taught by experts in the areas of learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disabilities and other physical and cognitive impairments.
Skills You’ll Develop During an Elementary Education and Special Education Degree Program
Both elementary and special education teachers need a high level of knowledge when it comes to supporting their students. During this elementary education and special education degree program, you will learn about implementing best practices, including specialized instruction, modification and accommodations needed to advocate for and teach your students.
As a future educator in the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education degree program at GCU, you will study everything you need to know about elementary and special education to be the most effective teacher possible.
Elementary and special education degree areas of study include:
- Developmentally appropriate pedagogy
- Accommodation and modification strategies
- Classroom management
- Collaboration with general elementary education teachers (mainstreaming support)
- Adapting learning for the least restrictive environment
- Personalized learning strategies for student achievement
You will complete a full-time, 16-week student teaching component at the end of the elementary education and special education degree program. The first eight weeks of student teaching take place in a general education setting. The second eight weeks are completed in an inclusion classroom, resource room or self-contained classroom, serving students with mild to moderate disabilities. That student teaching experience must be done under the supervision of a certified special educator.
Upon graduation, you may qualify for a teaching certificate. Additional testing, practicum hours or experience may be required to attain elementary or special education teaching licensure.
Career Paths for Elementary and Special Education Teachers
Most elementary, middle and high schools are constantly looking for highly qualified elementary and special education teachers. With a bachelor’s in elementary education and special education, you may be able to find work as a:
- Special education teacher (preschool)
- Special education teacher (kindergarten)
- Special education teacher (elementary school)
- Special education teacher (middle school)
- Special education teacher (secondary school)
- Teaching assistant (special education)
Work Environments Where Elementary and Special Education Teachers Can Apply Their Skills
Elementary and special educators work in a variety of educational settings. These include school settings as well as in private educational programs. With this on-campus or online elementary and special education degree from GCU, you might work within:
- Elementary classrooms
- Middle or high school classrooms designated for students with exceptionalities
- Private education centers
- Social service agencies
- District offices
- Educational technology companies
Elementary students and students with exceptionalities deserve teachers with excellent pedagogical backgrounds to teach and advocate for them. If you are up for all the challenges and rewards that come along with being an elementary or special education teacher, then sign up for the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education Degree at GCU today. Your future students are waiting.
Elementary Education and Special Education Degree FAQs
You will typically need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with an education or special education focus to become a special education teacher. Along with a degree, you will also need to gain experience hours in the classroom. This may be included as part of your bachelor’s program and is required for certification. Lastly, you will need to review your specific state’s certification or licensure requirements needed to obtain licensure before you begin teaching. Requirements will vary by state and institution.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, special education teachers have a median annual wage of $61,820 as of May 2021.1 While the number of months may vary depending on the type of organization you’re working in, a special education teacher typically will work a 10-month school year and have a two-month vacation in the summer.2 This can be appealing for those looking to stray away from a traditional year-round work schedule.
In an online program, you will still gain high-quality knowledge and teaching skills needed to excel as a special education teacher through a format that is flexible for adult learners. Online bachelor’s programs are designed for those who may not be able to attend in-person classes but want to dedicate themselves to advancing their career.
An online bachelor’s in special education degree can deliver the same high-quality curriculum as a traditional on-campus program. Accreditation is a key indicator of online program quality. GCU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), so you can feel confident that your program delivers the highest standard of education. You can learn more about the College of Education accreditation by visiting its Accreditation page.
Aside from having an appropriate bachelor’s degree in special education, you will need valid licensure and credentials to become an SDC teacher. Requirements of SDC teacher positions may vary by state and may be reserved for more moderate to severe settings.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of special education teachers at the kindergarten and elementary school level across the U.S. is highest in West Virginia, Louisiana, New Jersey and Kentucky, while states including California, Indiana, Wisconsin, Alabama and Florida rank at the lowest levels of special education teacher employment.3
1 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Special Education Teachers as of May 2021. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as special education teachers. It does not reflect workers’ earnings in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. The median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path.
2 Retrieved from IResearchNet, Career Research, Special Education Teacher Career, in September 2022
3 Retrieved from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, 25- 2052 Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School, in September 2022
If seeking licensure or certification, applicants to the program are responsible for contacting their state department of education for licensure requirements and program approval. In addition, fingerprint/background clearance is required.
General Education Requirements
General Education coursework prepares Grand Canyon University graduates to think critically, communicate clearly, live responsibly in a diverse world, and thoughtfully integrate their faith and ethical convictions into all dimensions of life. These competencies, essential to an effective and satisfying life, are outlined in the General Education Learner Outcomes. General Education courses embody the breadth of human understanding and creativity contained in the liberal arts and sciences tradition. Students take an array of foundational knowledge courses that promote expanded knowledge, insight, and the outcomes identified in the University's General Education Competencies. The knowledge and skills students acquire through these courses serve as a foundation for successful careers and lifelong journeys of growing understanding and wisdom.
Upon completion of the Grand Canyon University's University Foundation experience, students will be able to demonstrate competency in the areas of academic skills and self-leadership. They will be able to articulate the range of resources available to assist them, explore career options related to their area of study, and have knowledge of Grand Canyon's community. Students will be able to demonstrate foundational academic success skills, explore GCU resources (CLA, Library, Career Center, ADA office, etc), articulate strategies of self-leadership and management and recognize opportunities to engage in the GCU community.
- UNV-112, Success in Science, Engineering and Technology & Lab: 4
- UNV-103, University Success: 4
- UNV-303, University Success: 4
- UNV-108, University Success in the College of Education: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to construct rhetorically effective communications appropriate to diverse audiences, purposes, and occasions (English composition, communication, critical reading, foreign language, sign language, etc.). Students are required to take 3 credits of English grammar or composition.
- UNV-104, 21st Century Skills: Communication and Information Literacy: 4
- ENG-105, English Composition I: 4
- ENG-106, English Composition II: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to express aspects of Christian heritage and worldview. Students are required to take CWV-101/CWV-301.
- CWV-101, Christian Worldview: 4
- CWV-301, Christian Worldview: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to use various analytic and problem-solving skills to examine, evaluate, and/or challenge ideas and arguments (mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, physical geography, ecology, economics, theology, logic, philosophy, technology, statistics, accounting, etc.). Students are required to take 3 credits of intermediate algebra or higher.
- MAT-154, Applications of College Algebra: 4
- MAT-144, College Mathematics: 4
- PHI-105, 21st Century Skills: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: 4
- BIO-220, Environmental Science: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to demonstrate awareness and appreciation of and empathy for differences in arts and culture, values, experiences, historical perspectives, and other aspects of life (psychology, sociology, government, Christian studies, Bible, geography, anthropology, economics, political science, child and family studies, law, ethics, cross-cultural studies, history, art, music, dance, theater, applied arts, literature, health, etc.). If the predefined course is a part of the major, students need to take an additional course.
- HIS-144, U.S. History Themes: 4
- PSY-102, General Psychology: 4
- SOC-100, Everyday Sociology: 4
Required General Education Courses
This course provides an overview of the principal political, economic, and cultural themes and constitutional developments that shaped the United States from the Colonial period into the 20th Century.
Teacher candidates survey how children and early adolescents grow and develop, recognizing that patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical areas while understanding the implications for designing and implementing developmentally appropriate and challenging learning experiences. This survey of the seminal concepts, principles, theories, and research related to development of children and young adolescents allows teacher candidates to build foundational knowledge for constructing learning opportunities that support individual student's development, acquisition of knowledge, and motivation. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required.
Teacher candidates build foundational knowledge on planning instruction and formal and informal assessment strategies. Teacher candidates will examine instructional planning based on knowledge of students, learning theory, connection across the curriculum, curricular goals, and community. Formal and informal assessment strategies for planning, evaluating, and strengthening instruction for elementary students are also examined. Practicum/field experience hours: 5. Fingerprint clearance required.
This is the first in a two-course sequence designed for prospective elementary school teachers. Concepts include set theory, functions, numeration systems, number theory and properties of the natural numbers, integers, rational numbers, ratios, proportions, decimals, and percents, with an emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking.
Teacher candidates are introduced to the educational needs of students with mild to moderate disabilities and their families, including the definitions, characteristics, prevalence, causes and educational approaches to these disabilities and disorders. Teacher candidates will identify cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional patterns of learning and development for students with mild to moderate disabilities. Teacher candidates also survey the special education process involving the application of various laws and regulations. Practicum/field experience hours: 5. Fingerprint clearance not required.
This is the second in a two-course sequence designed for prospective elementary school teachers. Concepts include elementary probability, data analysis, descriptive statistics, geometry of shapes in two and three dimensions, congruence and similarity, measurement, and geometric transformations, with an emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking. Prerequisite: MAT-150.
In this writing intensive course, teacher candidates examine how to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, and encourage students' positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation. Teacher candidates build foundational knowledge regarding the importance of establishing and maintaining positive collaborative relationships with families, school colleagues, and agencies in the larger community to promote the intellectual, social, emotional, physical growth, and well-being of children. Practicum/field experience hours: 5. Fingerprint clearance required.
Teacher candidates examine how to teach foundational skills to develop proficient readers with the capacity to comprehend texts across a range of texts and disciplines. Teacher candidates build additional knowledge regarding print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, and fluency to promote early literacy and independent readers. The science surrounding reading instruction is explored and put into practice with this foundational knowledge. Practicum/field experience hours: 20. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: ELM-210 or ECS-125.
In this writing intensive course, teacher candidates study how to teach a diverse population of students by examining the foundations and dimensions of social justice in education, social constructs, privilege, prejudice, and oppression with the goal of becoming culturally competent educators. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required.
Teacher candidates survey professional ethical principles, professional practice standards, law and regulations that guide special educators. Teacher candidates build upon the foundational knowledge to understand the multiple roles and complex situations of professional practice that require attention to a variety of legal, professional and ethical issues. Practicum/field experience hours: 5. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-200.
Teacher candidates will examine a variety of instructional strategies to encourage individuals with mild to moderate disabilities to develop understandings and connections within the major concepts and procedures that define number and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability and to build skills to apply knowledge in meaningful ways. From this foundational knowledge, teacher candidates select, adapt and use research-based methodologies and interventions in academic and specialized curricula to advance the learning of students with mild to moderate disabilities with focused attention upon mathematics. Practicum/field experience hours: 15. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: ELM-210.
This course is a survey of the Arizona constitution and government. It meets the teacher certification requirement for Arizona government.
In this course, teacher candidates examine the fundamentals of the legal, historical, and educational foundations of Structured English Immersion (SEI) and other instructional programs for English language learners. Theoretical principles of language acquisition and the role of culture in learning are examined. Methods of assessment are identified and analyzed. Teacher candidates identify strategies to promote English language development and improve student achievement. Through Universal Design for Learning they plan, deliver, and evaluate standards-based instruction for English language learners. Practicum/field experience hours: 15. Fingerprint clearance required.
Teacher candidates survey theories and models for effective collaborations and communications with students with exceptionalities, colleagues, other school professionals, families and community members. In addition, teacher candidates apply collaboration and communication theories and models, incorporating technology, across a wide range of contexts to ensure active involvement in the education process for students with exceptionalities. Practicum/field experience hours: 5. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-200.
Teacher candidates will investigate diagnostic and assessment tools. Teacher candidates will build foundational knowledge regarding the use of multiple methods of assessment and data-sources for diagnostic and educational decisions for individuals with mild to moderate disabilities. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint Clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-200.
Teacher candidates will examine fundamental concepts of physical, life, earth and space sciences, and health education. Teacher candidates will build foundational knowledge on a variety of age-appropriate inquiry-based instructional strategies to teach science, to build student understanding of personal and social applications, to convey the nature of science, and student development for the practice of skills that contribute to good health. Practicum/field experience hours: 15. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: ELM-210.
Teacher candidates examine typical and atypical language development, and associated disabilities and disorders. Teacher candidates investigate the use of augmentative and alternative assistive technology, modifications and accommodations to enhance the communication skills of students with mild to moderate disabilities. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-200.
Teacher candidates examine how to create safe, inclusive, culturally responsive learning environments through collaboration with colleagues so that individuals with exceptionalities become active and effective learners and develop emotional well-being, positive social interactions, and self-determination. Teacher candidates focus on behavior management, functional behavior assessments, adaptive behaviors, positive behavior interventions and supports, and behavior improvement plans. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint Clearance required. Prerequisite: SPD-320.
Teacher candidates will examine a variety of instructional strategies to encourage students to develop deep understanding of the major concepts and modes of inquiry from the integrated study of social studies and other related areas. Teacher candidates will build foundational knowledge on promoting elementary students' abilities to make informed decisions as citizens of a culturally diverse democratic society and interdependent world. Teacher candidates will integrate the content, functions and achievements of the performing and visual arts as primary media for communication, inquiry and engagement among elementary students. Practicum/field experience hours: 15. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: ELM-210.
Teacher candidates explore the language processing requirements of proficient reading and writing, including explicit, systematic, cumulative, and multisensory instruction that integrates listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In addition, disabilities, such as dyslexia, are reviewed to understand how they affect the acquisition of reading skills and how they vary in presentation and degree. Teacher candidates select, adapt, and use research-based instructional strategies and interventions in academic and specialized curricula to advance the learning for all students, including those with mild to moderate disabilities, with attention focused on reading. Practicum/field experience hours: 15. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: ELM-305 or ELM-315.
Session A is the first of two 8-week sessions of the student teaching experience that includes practical classroom experiences, research, analysis, and teaching to support the creation of a Student Teaching Performance of Evaluation (STEP). Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisites: Successful completion of all courses in POS and content area; a 2.8 GPA; successful completion of state-mandated NES content area exams; and approval and placement by the College of Education Office of Field Experience. All paperwork for student teaching must be submitted by the due date the semester prior to student teaching.
This course supports the special education clinical field experience through an eight (8)-week full-time student teaching experience. Candidates select a K-Grade 12 special education mild to moderate classroom to engage in the student teaching experience that includes practical classroom experiences, research, analysis, and teaching to support the creation of a teacher work sample related to special education services. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisites: Successful completion of all courses in POS and content area; a 2.8 GPA; successful completion of state mandated basic skills and content area exams; and approval and placement by the Office of Field Experience. Arizona residents will be required to take the Arizona professional knowledge and subject knowledge exams for mild to moderate K-12 grade special education. All paperwork for student teaching must be submitted by the due date the semester prior to student teaching.
Join Grand Canyon University’s vibrant and growing campus community, with daytime classes designed for traditional students. Immerse yourself in a full undergraduate experience, complete with curriculum designed within the context of our Christian worldview.
Pursue a next-generation education with an online degree from Grand Canyon University. Earn your degree with convenience and flexibility with online courses that let you study anytime, anywhere.
* Please note that this list may contain programs and courses not presently offered, as availability may vary depending on class size, enrollment and other contributing factors. If you are interested in a program or course listed herein please first contact your University Counselor for the most current information regarding availability.
* Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more information. Programs or courses subject to change.