Special Education Careers

The Top 7 Best Professional Development for Special Education Teachers

If you’re interested in taking your special education knowledge to the next level, keep reading. I created this guide to help special education teachers and educators find the perfect professional development program. I’ll cover what the best options are, why each made my list, and which factors are most important when picking a program.

My Top Picks

  1. Vector Training, Special Education
  2. NASET Dispute Resolutions
  3. Dominican University Special Education Discipline
  4. NASET Autism Spectrum Disorder
  5. Phoenix Master of Arts in Education/Special Education
  6. Exceptional Children Special Educator Jumpstart Program
  7. Advancement Courses Using Technology to Support Students with Special Needs

1. Vector Training, Special Education

Vector Training, Special Education is the best program for administrators who want to customize their training program.

Why it’s a Top Pick

The on-demand program lets teachers learn at their own pace and connect with experts in the industry. It’s great for general education teachers, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and administrators. 

Through Vector’s Training Management System, admins can view monthly course completions, see feedback from teachers, keep up with helpful news stories, and track each teacher’s progress. Administrators can also customize courses and even create their own through Vector. 

Courses can be assigned to groups or individual educators, and Vector automatically sends an email notice to teachers once they’re assigned a course. These features aren’t included in your typical special education training. 

This online training covers a wide range of topics including:

To give this program a test run, you can request a free demo from Vector. 

The Verdict

If you’re looking for a course that includes live training and a time-sensitive structure, this isn’t the program for you. 

However, its customization options, flexible curriculum, and large topic range make it stand out as one of the best. If you want an online program that’s easy for your admins to manage, go with Vector.

2. NASET Dispute Resolutions

The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) is a membership site that’s dedicated to helping new and existing special ed teachers by providing courses, resources, and more. 

Its Dispute Resolutions: Resolution Meetings, Mediation and Due Process Hearings Video Lecture Course is perfect if you want to learn how to handle disagreements with parents. 

Why it’s a Top Pick

Sometimes, a child’s placement, evaluation, or identification isn’t in line with what his or her parents had in mind. If you want to learn how to handle these conflicts with parents, this course is for you. It comes with a PDF, PowerPoint Presentation, and two video lectures. 

The course covers the following topics:

  • Dispute resolution
  • Mediation
  • Due process hearings
  • “Impartial” meaning
  • Parent rights
  • Hearing officer decisions
  • Appeals

To get free access to any of NASET’s courses, you need to sign up for a membership. The standard price is $59 for one year or $95 for two years of access. Students studying to become special ed professionals can get a slight discount. 

The Verdict

This isn’t a huge course. It only has two videos, and it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of an advanced course. 

What’s great about it is its specialized content for dispute resolutions. It also benefits from being a part of NASET, giving teachers access to several additional special ed courses. Check it out if parent conflicts are common at your school.

3. Dominican University Special Education Discipline

Special Education Discipline created by Dominican University is the top course for learning how to appropriately use discipline strategies with your students receiving special education services. 

Why it’s a Top Pick

There are different discipline procedures for students with disabilities. To ensure you are using appropriate strategies that are best for your student’s needs, as well as avoid legal trouble, you can take a course like this one to get up to speed on the rules and best practices. 

The program is self-guided, and people who sign up have nine months to complete it. You’ll also be able to interact with the instructor, Mary Lou Varni, who has over three decades of teaching experience. The course is helpful for anyone involved in teaching students receiving special education services. 

During the course, you’ll learn what discipline is, how it applies to students receiving special education services, how to address frequent behavior challenges, and more. You’ll write essays, create behavior and consequence checklists, read articles, and write case studies. 

Students and educators usually sign up to receive graduate-level credits, salary advancements, and credential certifications. This course costs $289, and you can register online. 

The Verdict

This program is very hands-on. If you don’t have time to write essays and create case studies, you should pick a course that’s not as demanding. 

If you prefer a university-style course, this is a great option. By signing up, you can benefit from the expertise of a seasoned professional, engage in-depth with the content and materials of the course, and avoid legal trouble from implementing inappropriate discipline strategies with your students.

4. NASET Autism Spectrum Disorder

If you want the basics of how to teach students with Autism, check out NASET’s Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Overview for Teachers Video Lecture Course

Why it’s a Top Pick

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn differently, so they need teachers who understand different learning styles. This can be confusing for the average teacher, so NASET created this course to help them out. 

The course includes two video lectures, a PDF, and a PowerPoint Presentation. It’s useful for anyone in charge of teaching students with Autism.

After taking the course, you’ll understand content such as:

  • Definition and prevalence of ASD
  • Possible causes of ASD
  • ASD student characteristics
  • Asperger syndrome
  • ASD educational programming
  • How to teach students with ASD

To access this course, you can sign up for a NASET membership. 

The Verdict

Like NASET’s Dispute Resolutions course, this program is short. It won’t turn you into an expert in teaching kids with Autism, and it can’t be customized like Vector’s Special Education course. 

However, signing up for NASET gets you access to all its resources and courses. This course can be completed quickly, and it will give you the basic knowledge to start teaching students with ASD.

5. Phoenix Master of Arts in Education/Special Education

Phoenix Master of Arts in Education/Special Education is the best course for students who want to become special education teachers. While it’s not for established teachers, it’s a noteworthy program to include on this list. 

Why it’s a Top Pick

The course is best for students because it lets them practice real-world skills that prepare them for an actual special education career. Students will practice over 100 hours of student teaching and field experience along with completing the course material. 

It also has program support specialists who help students with teacher certifications, state license requirements, and any roadblocks or questions they may have. 

The program combines 14 different courses into one, and students can take it online or in-person depending on their location. The entire program takes around 21 months to finish, and it includes two clinical practice and student teaching classes. 

Students will learn how to:

  • Partner with general education teachers
  • Use technology in their special education classroom
  • Tailor instructions for each type of special ed student
  • Use professional ethics in their classrooms
  • Evaluate professional special education practices
  • Create instructions for classes ranging from preschool to 12th grade
  • Build individualized education programs (IEPs)

For program access, students need to pay $540 per credit. You can make a one-time payment or separate payments if desired. Speak to a Phoenix representative for your specific pricing details.

If you have transferable credits or previous experience, your course structure may be slightly different than the standard one. 

The Verdict

This program is not meant for everyone. If you’re already teaching special education, you will want to go with a different program. This one is expensive, time consuming, and it requires previous credits to enroll. 

The program is an excellent choice for those who want the most comprehensive training for their special education career. With field experience, student teaching, and helpful support specialists, this program separates itself as the best available for students. Contact Phoenix if you’re ready to make the commitment. 

6. Exceptional Children Special Educator Jumpstart Program

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is a 99-year-old organization dedicated to improving the success of students with disabilities. 

It’s new Special Educator Jumpstart Program is the best professional development opportunity for special educators within the first three years of their career. 

Why it’s a Top Pick

The program is designed for less experienced special educators who need guidance on how to face the challenges of a new school year. 

It’s a fully online course that includes eight on-demand workshops, two live workshops, virtual mentoring, learning resources, and an online community. 

Once you sign up, you’ll receive a Survival Guide for New Special Education Teachers and learn about high leverage special education practices. You’ll also have access to subject matter mentors, a professional network of peers, course materials, and a learning community. 

Those who complete the course can receive up to 11 professional development hours (PDHs). This program costs $250 for non-CEC members and only $150 for CEC members. You can also get a discount if you register as a group of 10 or more. 

The Verdict

The Special Educator Jumpstart Program is not meant for experienced teachers, and you’ll need to already have a basic understanding of special education teaching to enroll. 

The course is great because it includes live workshops and on-demand content with lifetime access. It offers a unique approach through its helpful mentors and professional community. 

If you’re new to special education and want to network with mentors and other teachers, this is the best option for you.

7. Advancement Courses Using Technology to Support Students with Special Needs

Using Technology to Support Students with Special Needs created by Advancement Courses is a continuing education program showing special ed teachers how to use technology in their classrooms. 

Why it’s a Top Pick

The program has a unique focus on helping both teachers and students create a better classroom environment through technology. 

You’ll learn how to use technology for subjects like social studies, science, math, writing, and reading. You’ll also learn how to find funding for your tech needs. 

The course is online, self-paced, and useful for any special educator from kindergarten to 12th grade. It teaches how to use technology to:

  • Differentiate instruction
  • Encourage student independence
  • Make content more accessible
  • Create multiple pathways for students to learn

The course costs $199 if you’re purchasing for continuing education. If you want to buy the program for three graduate credits, it will cost you $449.

The Verdict

Since this course is focused on technology, you won’t learn much about the specifics of special education teaching. 

This program does a great job of teaching you about adding technology to your classroom, and you can complete the course at your own pace. 

How Do I Decide Which Program Is the Best for Me?


Before you pick a professional development program, make sure you factor in its structure. Some programs can be taken in person, while some are fully online. It’s important to consider if a program is live or self-paced and whether it has a strict deadline. 

You should also consider the amount of time it takes to complete. Some courses can be finished in a matter of days, while some span over months and years. 

Who’s it for?

When choosing a program, you’ll first want to determine who it’s meant for. Some courses were created exclusively for students or professionals, while others can be taken by either. 

Some programs are meant for teachers of a certain experience level. For example, Exceptional Children’s Jumpstart Program is only meant for teachers with up to three years of experience. 

Topics Covered

Most courses target a specific area of special education. Pick a course that covers topics relevant to what you want to learn. 

Some courses focus on Autism, some focus on technology, and others focus on interacting with parents of students receiving special education services. Make sure you read the course syllabus to see what’s covered before enrolling. 


Most special education programs can be purchased for a couple hundred bucks or less. If you see a course priced over $500, make sure it has the material and reviews to back it up. 

Some courses are paid for or discounted through a membership subscription. If you plan on taking multiple courses, it may be worth it to sign up for a NASET or CEC membership. 


To recap, Vector Training, Special Education is the best pick if you’re an administrator. It lets you customize the program, create your own courses, and assign them to teachers on your staff. 

NASET Dispute Resolutions teaches you how to handle conflicts with parents, and NASET Autism Spectrum Disorder covers the basics of teaching students with ASD. By signing up for a NASET membership, you’re given access to all its courses. 

Dominican University’s Special Education Discipline explains how discipline is different for students receiving special education services, how to follow legal regulations, and how to appropriately use discipline strategies to support students and their unique needs. 

Phoenix Master of Arts in Education/Special Education is the best program for students who want to become special education teachers. It’s 21 months long, and it gives students the chance to practice their skills in a real classroom setting. 

The Exceptional Children’s Special Educator Jumpstart Program gives teachers a community of peers and mentors to learn from. It’s the best pick for teachers within their first three years on the job. 

Finally, Using Technology to Support Students with Special Needs is perfect if you’re having trouble adding technology to your classroom toolkit. The program teaches how both you and your special ed students can benefit from technology in the classroom.

  1. Vector Training, Special Education
  2. NASET Dispute Resolutions
  3. Dominican University Special Education Discipline
  4. NASET Autism Spectrum Disorder
  5. Phoenix Master of Arts in Education/Special Education
  6. Exceptional Children Special Educator Jumpstart Program
  7. Advancement Courses Using Technology to Support Students with Special Needs

About the author

Emily Cummings

I am a mom of two crazy, amazing, independent, little feminists. They bring so much light to my life and a lot less sleep. Since becoming a mother and increasingly in the last year, I have witnessed parents struggling to connect with their child's special education team with no success. I have become more aware of the gaps in our public school system and how parents may benefit from empowerment and advocacy tools.

My work experiences range from a juvenile detention center to an autism specialist in the Issaquah School District and a special education teacher in a self-contained program in the Lake Washington School District. My master's in teaching focused on special education and behavioral disorders from Seattle Pacific University. I completed my BCBA coursework from Montana State University.

Want to get in touch?

I'm happy to help however I can. Email me at hello at behaviorist .com.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments