Your Guide To A Career In Special Education...

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special-education-teacherWhether you are a parent, student, teacher, administrator, assistant, educational consultant or are interested in special education, chances are, you are seeking to gain a better understanding of the field, learn new skills or expand your educational foundation. Our goal is to help our readers find the information they need, whether it’s answers to general questions or the kind of information it takes to make informed decisions about degree options for those considering a career in special education.

We honor the individuals who work hard raising, teaching and assisting those with special needs and believe they deserve our gratitude. Without their dedication, the world would be a much different place for people who live with disabilities.

If you are a student or educator, chances are great that you are busy with classes, working or seeking employment, which poses a challenge when seeking to learn new skills and acquire information. That’s why it is our mission to offer you a number of professional, educational and personal resources in Special Education to not only advance your goals, but also advance the field.

Here, you will learn:

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Fundamentals of Online Special Education Degree Programs

Special education is a teaching discipline focused on supporting the academic, social, and vocational development of exceptional children with disabilities. Under the IDEA Act, all disabled youth must receive apt education services in the least restrictive environment possible. According to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports for the 2019-20 school year, the 7 million students living with disabilities in the U.S. account for 14% of total enrollment in America’s public schools. That means special education accommodations and programs are a fundamental and significant part of what schools in America do. Special education is consistently recognized as a high-needs area and is an excellent option for dedicated individuals interested in classroom careers. NCES reports that there are 864 special education degrees in the United States, 181 of which are online. Here’s what you need to know about online special education degree programs.

Types of Online Special Education Degrees

At the undergraduate level, online associates degrees in special education are available at junior colleges and vocational schools. The two-year program lays the groundwork for studying child development and inclusive teaching methods. An associates degree won’t get you the license you need to become a teacher at the K-12 level, but, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teacher assistants and even early childhood educators in pre-K settings often get their start with a two-year degree. However, public school systems require that K-12 special education teachers hold at least a bachelor’s degree and state licensing. Online bachelor’s degrees (B.A. or B.S.) require four to five years of full-time education to develop lesson planning and classroom management strategies. Accredited bachelor’s programs in special education will include field practicum and student teaching to satisfy licensure requirements.

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Online special education degrees also are granted at the graduate level. Individuals who aren’t already licensed educators can pursue initial credentials with an online Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.).  The alternative, a Master of Education (M.Ed.), is granted online to teachers who carry valid state certification and seek advancement. Online master’s programs typically offer areas of specialization, such as gifted education, autism spectrum disorder, blindness/visual impairment, learning disabilities and literacy. Master’s degrees in teaching and education can be designed as either ITP (initial teacher prep) programs that meet the requirements for state licensure, or as non-licensure pathways for enrichment and advancement. It’s even possible to pursue an online doctoral degree (Ed.D. or Ph.D.), which is something you often see with those considering professorships and research positions in higher education.

Factors for Choosing Online Special Education Programs

Picking the right online degree is tough because your choice can greatly affect your special education career long-term. Location isn’t a factor for online learning, so hundreds of schools are at your fingertips. Using your favorite search engine, hunt for online colleges offering a special education degree in your concentration area. For each prospective school, double check the accreditation status. Regional accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education is essential for degree transfer, licensing and financial aid. Top online special education programs will also feature professional accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Reputation is another big consideration in your decision. Gauge the online college’s quality by searching for rankings and student reviews. The U.S. News and World Report is an excellent resource for finding the best online education schools. Published rankings often consider key data like retention, job placement, student engagement and faculty-to-student ratio. Pay close attention to the field opportunities offered by online special education programs. Ask your state licensing board whether the online degree will qualify you for certification or not. Potential online students should also inquire about technology, flexibility, Praxis exam rates and curricula.

Typical Online Curriculum

Whether at the bachelor’s or doctoral level, online special education degrees share a common goal in helping vulnerable youths overcome challenges. Aspiring teachers will generally progress through a well-rounded education core before focusing on special education. Major courses will cover subjects like child assessment, developmental psychology, behavior analysis, language development, assistive technology, instructional planning and diversity. Many are aligned with standards established by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Elementary special education programs could specifically blend online courses in English, math, science and history for subject proficiency. School-based practicum before the student teaching semester should also be expected.

Affording Tuition for Online Special Education Degrees

The College Board reports that the average bachelor’s degree tuition is $10,560 at public, in-state and $37,650 at private, nonprofit universities. Graduate education also breaks the bank with an average cost of $20,368 per year. Costs for online special education degrees can vary tremendously. Expected tuition cost is an important factor to consider when narrowing down your degree options. Note that online colleges sometimes add technology and service fees, too.

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No matter the price, you shouldn’t be discouraged from pursuing an online special education degree. According to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 86 percent of undergraduates received federal assistance for the 2017-18 school year. Beyond Pell Grants and subsidized FAFSA loans that might be available to college students who are able to prove financial need, those going into high needs areas like special education and teaching in low income communities might even be considered for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. Some nonprofits and other organizations even offer scholarships to a select group of qualified applicants each year.