According to the National Education Association, the number of students enrolled in special education classes has risen by 30 percent. Because of this spike in enrollment, school districts are in need of well-qualified special education teachers. As schools continue to improve in diagnosing learning disabilities, the demand for special education teachers is expected to grow.
Special Education Courses of Study
A special education degree program prepares students to become certified special education teachers. In order to serve students with special needs, an educator must have an understanding of different mental, emotional, and physical disabilities that students might have. They must also be equipped with different techniques for instructing special needs students. The following courses will prepare educators to meet the diverse needs of their students:
- Assessment Methods for Severe Disabilities
- Emotional Development and Disorders
- Foundations of Literacy Instruction
- Language Acquisition
- Literacy Instruction for Students with Disabilities
- Mathematics Instructions for Students with Disabilities
The courses in a special education degree program will prepare educators to help students with learning disabilities achieve proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics.
Types of Special Education Degrees
There are three main types of special education degrees that students can pursue:
- Bachelor’s Degree:
A bachelor’s degree in special education is awarded after four years of study. Students who possess a bachelor’s are qualified for certification and to pursue entry-level teaching positions.
- Master’s Degree:
Students who already hold a bachelor’s degree can opt to obtain a master’s degree in special education. A master’s degree can qualify teachers for promotion or for administrative positions.
At many colleges, students can complete a concentration where they take core special education courses. Students can major in general education while focusing on special education through a concentration.
Special Education Certification
Students must obtain certification in order to become a special education teacher. Completing a special education training program is often the first step to certification. However, some states allow students with general teaching credentials to work with special need students. Before enrolling in a special education degree program, students should determine what the specific certification requirements are in their state.
Benefits of Studying Special Education Online
Students looking for a special education degree program can be limited by their location. The colleges and universities in their area might not have a special education major that suits their needs. By enrolling in a distance learning program, students can select a top-notch program from any location.
Studying online is also beneficial for working adults. Students who are seeking their master’s degree are often already employed as teachers. Studying online can decrease the burden of going to school while working full-time.
Also, many online programs offer an accelerated option that allows students to complete their degree in a shorter period of time. Enrolling in an accelerated program can speed the process of obtaining your certification and qualifying for a job or promotion.
Careers in Special Education
Special education is a focused field of study that prepares students for the following careers:
- Special Education Teacher
Median Pay: $53K Special education teachers use their expertise to assist students with learning disabilities. Special education teachers work with students and parents to develop an Individualized Education Plan to help students gain proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics. Openings for special education positions are projected to grow by 17 percent.
- Instructional Coordinators
Median Pay: $58K Instructional coordinators are professionals who review the teaching standards and curriculum of a school district. Typically, candidates for this position must possess a master’s degree. The experience that special education teachers have in evaluating curriculum and assessing the progress of their students prepares them well for this position. Openings for instructional coordinators are expected to grow by 20 percent.
The instruction that educators receive in a special education degree program will allow them to help students with unique challenges overcome barriers to learning. Special education is an excellent field for aspiring teachers who have the desire to help all students reach their full potential.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Instructional Coordinator.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Special Education Teacher.
National Education Association. (2013). IDEA/Special Education.