Special education is one of the most rapidly growing careers in the United States, Canada and many other countries. (I had special education teachers myself when I was in high school; I am what you call I high-functioning autistic. It is amazing that such a person can write an article such as this one.) This article will deal specifically with international careers in the field of special education.
Handicapped children live in every nation in the world, so an individual who has a certificate in special education can find a job almost anywhere that he or she searches. According to the State Department, there are two main types of special education jobs open to the international teacher: that of the general teacher, and that of the tutor who works with children living in areas where the special education programs at the schools are not enough to suit their needs.
The Department of State has two teaching programs for those who would like to go into special education abroad. One is the FAST TRAIN (Foreign Affairs Spouses Teacher Training Project) program, which began as a collaboration among three different institutions: the Office of Overseas Schools (part of the State Department), the Virginia State Department of Education and George Mason University. Special education is one of two certificate programs offered by FAST TRAIN (the other being in international business). A training program for tutoring the learning disabled is also available each fall from the Lab School of Washington, a small private school for disabled students in all grades.
At FAST TRAIN, the training program for becoming a special education teacher abroad is one that leads to an M.Ed. (Master of Education) degree. It consists, first, of five core courses with a total of twelve credit hours:
Education and Culture: teaches how to analyze educational contexts and extend strategies to address “puzzlements” in the practices of students
Inquiry into Practice: fosters “systematic and thoughtful inquiry” into the practices of the classroom
How Students Learn: how to increase the ability of students to learn by studying a variety of learning systems and understand each student “in the context of the learning process itself”
Designing and Assessing Teaching and Learning: developing strategies in the curriculum and teaching process in response to what the students both need and in what they are interested; also covers the ways of knowing brought by teachers into the classroom
Educational Change: examines the various factors that influence changes in educational systems on all levels, from federal to classroom; helps students reflect on their own learning experiences
Then there are numerous specialization courses which total eighteen credit hours, divided among the following areas of concentration:
Applied Behavior Analysis: The titles of five of the seven courses in this area include the course name followed by a colon (Principles, Procedures and Philosophy; Empirical Bases; Assessments and Interventions; Applications; and Verbal Behavior).
Assistive Technology (There are two programs in this area, each including a slightly different set of courses.)
Teaching Students with Autism: Students with this condition typically have a limited ability to relate socially to other people but may possess special skills such as an ability to memorize various lists (I memorized all the states, capitals, U. S. presidents and chemical elements when I was eleven!).
Visual Impairments Licensure, PK-12
Students with Disabilities who Access the General Curriculum Concentration
Students with Disabilities who Access the Accepted Curriculum Concentration
Some of the courses are offered only during the spring, summer or fall.
Lab School of Washington
The lab operates under the belief that each student, despite his or her handicap, is capable of achieving great things and gears every aspect of its teaching process towards accomplishing that end. There is a global learning program here in which students discover discover the food, music and customs of other nations and study poets and other writers from around the world. A study program is also included, and students have gone to China, Ecuador, France and other places.
More often than not, special education programs are found in public schools that receive funding directly related to serving students with special needs and learning disabilities. Special education programs in private schools are fewer and further between. In part, this is because of the lack of designated funding, and in part, because most private educational institutions have smaller class sizes and are more readily able to cater to the special needs of any given student. There are, however, private school and private tutorial options at all levels for students with special needs.
According to the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC), there are 6.6 million students being served through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 3.4% of those students are being served by a private schools of some sort. A group like the NAPSEC connects parents and students with private schools and organizations that serve special needs students from preschool to adulthood. Some of these learning centers are more traditional private schools, and some of them are organizations that offer tutorial services from private educators.
Private institutions like The Summit School in Edgewater, Maryland provide a range of educational services to special needs students with dyslexia and other learning differences. Summit educates students in grades one through eight and works to integrate students into traditional high schools. The tuition is $28,472 for the 2013-2014 academic year, which is comparable to many traditional private schools. Also, like most traditional private grade schools, financial aid is available in different forms.
An excellent resource for finding private preschool, elementary, middle, and high schools in any given state is the site Private School Review. This site allows you to narrow your school search to find private special education schools in your home state. An investigation of these institutions will show schools with small student populations – for example, their list of private special needs high schools in Missouri shows a range of student totals from 6 to 194 while elementary school student totals range from 11 to 194 – that allow teachers greater freedom to concentrate their attention on the individual needs of each student. Schools on this list focus on providing education to students with vastly differing special needs, from mild learning disabilities to severe mental handicaps. Many offer individualized learning programs geared towards specific needs students. In addition to fairly traditional classroom settings, many of these schools offer tutoring and other services from education professionals who are trained to help special needs students. The yearly tuition rates at most of these schools range from $10,000 to $30,000 and many have financial aid opportunities.
There are also plenty of options for special needs students preparing for college. Colleges designed exclusively to serve the needs of these students are far more rare than are private preschools, elementary, middle, and high schools. However, many colleges have programs that are designed to meed special educational needs, and some are better than others. The website Best Colleges Online ranks twenty colleges that excel at catering to students with special needs. The University of Iowa, which tops the list, has designated residence halls and community-based internships for students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities. At West Virginia Wesleyan College, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders, and other special needs can make use of the Mentor Advantage Program which offers a wide range of support to help with the college transition. Other colleges have special programs to assist students with autism, Down Syndrome, dyslexia, and physical impairments like blindness of hearing-impairment. The assistance often includes services that help with specialized study skills, job placement, and even self advocacy and social skills. These colleges and universities are all subject to ever increasing tuition costs, and some of these special services are fee-based.
There are many options for private schooling and tutoring from preschool through high school for students with special needs. When college is in view, the specialized options become more limited. However, many college programs work to ensure that their special needs students are equipped study, work, and social skills to help them succeed.
Many people are motivated to work with special-needs students due to their sincere desire to enrich the quality of their lives. When considering a career, however, many believe that in addition to personal fulfillment, there are other factors to consider like salary.
Earning a decent living is especially important in today’s tough economy. Many professionals working in the field of special education spend years getting college degrees and completing licensing requirements, and then continue their studies within specialized certifications and advanced educational/training programs. But ultimately, people do the job because they love it, not for the money. That being said, some jobs pay more than others. And any of these rewarding careers will ensure individuals get to do what they love while still being able to make ends meet, paying back student loans and building a future in education.
Speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, assess, diagnose and treat students with speech and communication disorders. Special education professionals interested in this field must earn a master’s degree in speech and language pathology.
An education typically takes about six years to complete and includes classes in special needs, speech disorders and alternative modes of communication. In most states, speech and language pathologists must obtain a license. In addition, they seek certification through accrediting bodies such as American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in special education, some students decide to spend another four years in college, learning to work with hearing impaired students. Educational audiologists typically hold a doctorate in audiology. Typical coursework includes anatomy, physiology and communication development.
As of 2013, all states required educational audiologists to earn a license. Typically, they also seek certification through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or the American Board of Audiology to add to their credibility and fulfill part of their licensing requirements. Educational audiologists visit students at school and take referrals in their clinics to assess clients’ degree of hearing loss and help manage hearing disabilities in the classroom.
Educational audiologists earned a median annual salary of $77,600 as of May 2019, according to the BLS. Job outlook projections are positive for the next decade as more audiologists will be needed as the Baby Boomer generation ages. BLS projects growth at 13 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Featured Programs To Qualify As Educational Audiologists
Special education teachers work with children with a wide range of disabilities including autism, emotional disorder, behavioral disorder, learning disability or speech disorder. To become a special education teacher, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree in education, special education or a specialized field, such as math or biology. During college, you’ll also complete fieldwork, including student teaching. Every state requires public special education teachers to have a license, which typically requires providing certified evidence you completed your degree and passing an examination.
Adaptive special education teachers enjoy helping people with disabilities overcome their challenges to achieve physical goals. These professionals develop, implement and monitor a special needs student’s physical education program.
Approximately 13 states require adaptive special education teachers to have a separate license in addition to a teaching degree. While requirements vary by state, typically you have to demonstrate taking a certain number of semester hours in adaptive physical education and pass an examination. Once you are hired, adaptive special education teachers must follow the adapted physical education national standards.
If you’re interested in helping small children with disabilities, consider parlaying your special education career into a rewarding career as an early intervention specialist. These special education professionals work with children and young adults to diffuse crises, help problem-solve before a situation escalates and teach new skills. You’ll focus on problems including academic difficulties, teen pregnancy and behavioral issues.
After achieving your certification as a special education teacher, earn your certificate in early intervention by taking a college course, which is typically about 15-20 semester hours. This training typically requires an internship. As of 2021, the median salary for early intervention specialists was $61,172, according to Glassdoor.
Featured Programs To Qualify As Early Intervention Specialists
Inclusion is a term used to describe one option for the placement of special education students in public schools. These inclusive programs are sometimes referred to as mainstreaming, which is the selective placement of students with disabilities in regular education classrooms. This controversial educational concept has its share of advocates on both sides and continues to be a source of contention with educators and parents. They all agree that schools must focus on meeting the needs of students with special needs in the most appropriate setting for each individual.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires students to be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). They must receive an education with supports set forth in their Individual Education Plan (IEP), which is different for each student. The federal laws that govern the education of special needs children do not require that they receive an inclusive education. They only require that all students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment and that their unique needs are met.
What Inclusive Education Programs Provide For Special Needs Students
Inclusive education programs provide educational services for all students including those with special needs. These programs serve all children in the regular classroom on a full-time basis. If a student requires extra services such as speech therapy, these services are brought into the classroom. This program allows the student to remain in the regular education classroom setting at all times. This program is intended to meet the objectives of IDEA by educating students in the regular classroom while still providing for their unique needs.
There are variables in inclusive education programs, which make a standard definition of inclusion misleading. Full inclusion is described as placing all students, regardless of disabilities and severity, in the regular classroom on a full-time basis. These students do not leave the regular classroom for services specified in their IEP, but these services are delivered to them in the regular classroom setting. Inclusion or mainstreaming refers to students being educated with non-disabled peers for most of their school day. A special education teacher collaborates with a general education teacher to provide services for students. The general education teacher is responsible for instructing all children, even those with an IEP. The special education teacher collaborates with the general teacher on strategies.
Another placement option places students with disabilities in the general classroom with the special education teacher providing support and assisting the general education teacher in instructing the students. The special education teacher brings materials into the classroom and works with the special student during math or reading instruction. The special education teacher aids the general education teacher in planning different strategies for students with various abilities.
When the IEP team meets to determine the best placement for a child with disabilities, they must consider which placement constitutes the least restrictive environment for the child based on individual needs. The team must determine which setting will provide the child with the appropriate placement. The primary objective of inclusive education is to educate students who have disabilities in the regular classroom and still meet their individual needs. Inclusive education allows children with special needs to receive a free and appropriate education along with general education students in the regular classroom.
Effectiveness of Inclusive Special Education Programs
Even though several studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of inclusive special education programs, no conclusion has been reached. Many positive signs have been observed with both special education and regular students. Some proponents of inclusive education programs argue that segregated special education programs are more detrimental to students and fail to meet their educational goals.
Those who favor inclusion see some positive evidence that all students can benefit from these inclusive programs when the proper support services are enacted and some changes take place in the traditional classroom. Professional development classes, certifications and graduate degree programs for both special and general education teachers produce a better understanding of the concept of inclusive education. When provided with the proper tools, special needs students have the opportunity to succeed along with their general education peers.
The choice of which college to attend is a major decision for many high school graduates. Choosing the right college can mean the difference between an amazing four years that launches a person into a career they love and a miserable four years that does little to improve the person’s future. The school a person picks will determine his or her friends, living arrangements and future job opportunities. This is why smart high school graduates weigh their options carefully in order to pick the right school. There are several factors high school students should take into consideration when selecting the right college or university for them.
For students planning on attending a traditional college—as in, not an online college—the college they pick will determine where they will live for the next four or more years of their life. Some students cannot imagine being too far from the comforts of home or are simply unable to leave their city or state because of work or family responsibilities. Others see college as the perfect opportunity to venture out and explore the world. Students have many options of where to attend colleges—from big cities to small towns or even foreign countries. If there is a place or type of place a student has always wanted to live, college can be an excellent time to move there.
While most people do not choose a school based on the cost, the cost is most definitely a factor in which schools students will be able to afford to attend. In-state tuition is generally cheaper than out-of-state tuition and community colleges are generally cheaper than private universities, though not always. Grants and scholarships can make even the most expensive schools affordable when a student’s tuition is paid for in part or in whole. When determining the cost of various schools, students should also consider the cost of living in various areas, as everything tends to cost more in big cities. Even if a student is able to comfortably afford tuition, the costs of housing, groceries and transportation may be more than a student can handle.
The size of the college is another factor students should take into consideration when choosing a college, though this factor is more a matter of personal preference than anything. Smaller colleges tend to offer advantages such as small class sizes and personalized instruction. Students and professors can really get to know each other and students can receive the help and direction they need, both academically and personally. On the other hand, larger colleges usually offer more opportunities such as clubs and sororities or fraternities. Larger colleges may be more established, have more resources and offer more connections. Larger colleges also often tend to be more diverse than smaller colleges. Students choosing a college should decide if they value the personalized education of a small school or the expanded opportunities and resources of a larger school.
It only makes sense that students look into a school’s academics when comparing colleges to find the right fit. Not all degree programs are the same. Some colleges require many general education classes on various subjects, while others mostly stick to the core subject matter for the fields students are pursuing. Some schools are challenging and expect students to excel in all areas, while others simply expect students to meet minimum competency requirements.
Students should research which degrees and majors are offered at various colleges. Even students who have already determined their major may want a school that offers other related majors in case they decide to shift their education focus slightly. Students should investigate the particular focus of the majors, as degrees do not match up at all schools. Students should look through course catalogues and see which classes are offered in particular, taking note to see if any classes are missing. This way, students hoping to work in a particular niche find the school that best equips them for it.
Practicums and Internships
While practicums and internships are helpful for all majors, they are absolutely vital to students majoring in special education, for example. Classroom teaching simply cannot be taught solely from textbooks; so much of the knowledge must be gained from hands-on experiences with real children in real special education classrooms. Students hoping to major in special education should inquire as to the number of field experiences offered and required within the major at various schools. They should also research the area around the school to ensure that the internships they receive will actually be beneficial. Students obtaining a special education degree should attend college in areas that actually have special education classes for them to observe and work in.
Lastly, once students have found a few colleges that look promising, students should schedule a few campus visits to determine which college is a good fit for them. “Good fit” is entirely subjective and will vary widely based on individual personalities and preferences, but it is essential to school success. Some students simply do better in some schools than others. While asking others their opinions on various schools and programs can be exceedingly helpful, students must decide for themselves where exactly they best belong.
It is not uncommon for high school graduates to spend months or even years agonizing over the choice of where to attend college. No one can blame them for wanting to make the absolute best decision and sometimes there is no easy way to know what that decision is. Students should keep in mind, however, that while not all colleges are created equal, some are not all that different either. Unless students are going into a very competitive and elite field, there are likely several excellent choices for which college to attend. Making the choice is not so much about avoiding the wrong college as it is choosing the very best one. By carefully considering the above factors, students hoping to make the best choice cannot go wrong.
Raising a child with special needs can be difficult enough, but thanks to the worldwide web, the Internet is full of tons of informational websites that can help you and your little one.
Below are twelve helpful sites that are loaded with useful information for parents with a special-needs child, including information on Autism, deafness, blind-deafness, hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, serious emotional disorders, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, traumatic brain injuries, Down’s Syndrome, and more.
You do not have to feel alone when there are so many other parents out there going through the same thing you are. These twelve amazing sites include information about your child’s condition, stories from parents who have been through it, local help guides, forums, blog entries, and learning tools.
AutismNow.Org is hands down one of the best online resources for information on Autism. It includes latest news, information, an easy to use search engine, upcoming events, and even a local agencies map for finding help in your area. Coming in at a close second is Autism Learn , a site is dedicated to the process of teaching Autistic children how to learn. It is jam-packed with visually stimulating activities geared toward helping develop skills with people, fine motor control, creating a connected hierarchy, learning about the seasons and weather, money, and much more.
Hearing Like Me is a wonderful resource for parents who have deaf children or hearing loss. Their website is clean, easy to browse, and full of helpful information. It also has an amazing forum where you can share your story and talk with other parents. This is an excellent resource for parents who wish to share their story and communicate with other parents who are going through the same thing.
The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children has a lot of information and services for parents of children who are deaf-blind. In addition to their resources, they help parents and their children get involved in activities, as well as provide latest news and updates in the deaf-blind community.
The Hearing Loss Association of America is a great resource for any parent with a hearing-impaired child, as it not only offers support resources, news, recommended reading, personal stories, and articles, it also has a section on laws and how your child with hearing loss has rights.
Language and Speech Delays/Impairments
Created by a practicing speech and language pathologist, SpeechDelay.com is a fantastic site for anyone involved in the life of a child who has language and speech delays or impairments. The site features tips to stimulate language development, a forum to interact directly with other families and speech-language pathologists, a wealth of links to other sites, a comprehensive reading list, and even a sign language section.
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities is an excellent and resourceful website for parents with children who have dyslexia, are ADHD, or have other learning disabilities. The site focuses on empowering parents with knowledge and a strong supportive community. It also has a section on success stories for those that may be feeling overwhelmed.
Support for Families of Children with Disabilities has been around for a long time, since 1982, offering information to parents with multiple disabilities in children. It offers newsletters and resources, as well as upcoming events and services for educating parents and loved ones of children with disabilities.
Orthopedic Impairments is a friendly website project with a comprehensive mission to inform, educate, and help walk through parents, teachers, and students with orthopedic impairments. If you are finding that you are having a difficult time communicating with your child’s school, they have a special section designed to help you through any bumps along the way.
Serious Emotional Disturbance
One of the most prominent mental health websites within the U.S., Healthy Place, offers an interesting and informative blog entry detailing the long and difficult journey parents of mentally ill children travel. Although the entry is short, there are over eighty-five comments from various parents and loved ones of children who have serious emotional disturbances and disorders, each with a story to tell.
Specific Learning Disability
The Guardian has an inspiring article about a mother and her son, who has Autism. It discusses one of the biggest challenges a parent and their disabled child faces: other people. At the end of the article there are over 165 comments from others who have something to say about the issue, including information, stories people want to share, and support for those who are faced with these daily criticisms.
If your child has a specific learning disability, such as trouble reading or communicating, then this site is for you. Not only does it have a section solely for parents, but it has sections for teachers, principals, librarians, and other professions. It is also available in Spanish.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Brainline.org has an impressive guide for parents who have a child with a traumatic brain injury. It covers information on how to help your child adjust, cope, develop, and rehabilitate after an injury. It also helps parents understand cognitive changes in their child and has useful information into peer networks and gaining self-esteem.
Though a controversial site, Lifenews.com offers a highly touching and incredibly heartfelt article about the parents of a child with Down Syndrome and what they need to hear. It discusses how parents can often times slip into depression, but that it is important to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It focuses highly on the positive aspects of taking care of a child with Down Syndrome. While things may seem hopeless from time to time, it is imperative to remember that there really is no limit to what your child can accomplish, and that although he or she may be facing daily struggles that they will persevere.
Although there are many people out there who are still relatively uninformed and unfamiliar with special needs children, it is important not to let hurtful statements deter you from doing the very best you can for your little one. It is entirely okay not to always know the answer, and it is certainly okay for parents of disabled children to find communities, programs, and other forms of support in which they are able to speak with others who share similar experiences. While the above links are not comprehensive and the only ones available, they are a good start.
Special education is considered a specialized career field within the realm of education. Though working as a professional in the field of special education is a demanding career choice, it can be very fulfilling and rewarding. The increasing demand for licensed special education teachers within schools and organizations provides qualified graduates with plenty of employment options. Those who aspire to change the lives of individuals with disabilities combined with the motivation to complete the required education and certification yields a stable career and respectable salary.
Education and Certification
Special education teachers require a degree in education or a similar career field and then a specialization in special education. It is common for teachers to obtain a bachelor’s degree in education and then a master’s degree in special education.
Coursework for special education is similar to that of other teaching fields with special emphasis on behavioral, learning and physical disorders in children. Special education teachers will also take additional classes dealing with legality surrounding special needs students, including the additional responsibilities of services , IEP (individual education plans) and reporting practices.
Teaching degrees commonly end with no less than two semesters of student teaching. Student teaching is similar to an unpaid internship when a student will work in the classroom under the supervision of a licensed teacher. Most special education teachers complete three sets of student teaching experience comprised of two sets in a traditional classroom and one set in a special education classroom.
Special education teachers may also choose to specialize in a specific area of disability, such as speech and language pathology.
Special education teachers are licensed by the department of education in the state where they are employed. State requirements for licensure vary, but generally an appropriate degree with specialization is required in addition to passing state skills tests.
Job Requirements and Work Environment
Special education teachers commonly work in public or private school settings. Their salary is based on regular school hours, but they will do a variety of tasks beyond working with students. These include meeting with parents and other teachers and specialists. They may also do home visits. The amount of paperwork associated with special education should not be underestimated. Each child in a special education environment will have an accompanying IEP which may range from a few dozen pages to hundreds of pages in length. The teacher will be required to read and review each IEP in its entirety. The IEP is a legally binding document that the teacher is expected to follow, report on and update periodically.
Students in a special education situation will require individualized and modified teaching strategies and lessons. Special education teachers may also be called on to support general education teachers in the classroom in cases where students with special needs have been mainstreamed, or placed into general education classrooms on a part time or regular basis. Mainstreaming is a common occurrence in today’s classrooms.
Special education teachers should be prepared to work on teams regularly. They may be paired with other specialized teachers and may be assigned to manage one or multiple classroom aides. They will regularly meet with teams assigned to their student’s cases.
Special education teachers should be extremely organized, detail oriented, patient and flexible. They may manage large caseloads of thirty students or more. They will also be dealing with a variety of behavior issues at once, and will need to be able to carefully and appropriately handle each child.
Salary and Job Outlook
The median annual salary of special education teachers in 2010 was $53,220. This is slightly higher than the salary of general education elementary teachers, which was $51,380. These values are strongly determined by state budgets with some states which pay more, or dramatically less, than the median salary range. Wage is also influenced by the budget of each school district and the teacher’s personal education and experience. Master’s degree teachers will earn more than those with only a bachelor’s degree even if they hold the same position in the same school. Teacher wages commonly increase for each year of experience in a district.
Most teachers are hired on a contractual basis with a goal to achieve tenure with a school district. A tenured teacher has incredible job security and is extremely difficult to legally fire. Tenure requirements vary, but they are usually based on a combination of job performance review and years of experience with a district.
The job outlook for special education teachers is very good compared with that of elementary general education teachers. The legal requirements surrounding special education hold districts to much stricter standards regarding class sizes and the availability of special education services. This ensures that special education teachers are always in high demand, even in districts that may not be hiring general education teachers.
Special education certification is a requirement for teachers working with disabled children. The certification qualifications required for each state vary, and different types of degrees are available. Specifics regarding each state’s legislation on education topics can be found here.
Since the No Child Left Behind act of 2001, U.S. states have had to redefine their special education teaching certification systems. In order to be involved in the teaching of special education, a teacher must acquire certification(s) depending on which state is involved. Different levels of education will result in different possible teaching degrees and specialized areas of certification can be utilized depending on the state in which it will be used.
There are three classifications of certification systems generally recognized, and each state’s system can be categorized accordingly. They are: Generalist States with this classification do not require specialized certification in order for their teachers to work with children that have specially categorized disabilities, but many states that fall into this classification have endorsed programs where additional certification can be utilized. These include, but are not limited to, certificates for early childhood education, blind/visually impaired education and deaf/hard of hearing education.
Mild/Moderate-Severe/Profound This classification applies to states that make a distinction between educators with general certification and those with certifications specialized to help children who are severely disabled.
Categorical States that require specialized certification for all of their special education teachers fall into this classification, though each state determines which certifications are recognized.
One very helpful resource produced by the Education Commission of the States breaks this information down many different ways. It shows each state’s classification, including which specialized certificates are recognized, as well as other pertinent information for anyone interested in teaching special education in the U.S.
The special certifications that states recognize include the following:
General Special Education Certification
Mild / Moderate
Severe / Profound
Blind / Visually Impaired
Deaf / Hard of Hearing
Speech / Language or Communication (not pathologist)
Orthopedic / Physical Disabilities
Specific Learning Disabilities
Cognitive (Mental) Disability
Adaptive Physical Education
Special Education Degrees
Depending on the type of educator one would like to be, there are a number of degrees attainable in the field of special education. Each state has different teaching requirements and each school offers differing courses which help special education students realize their long term goals.
A teaching preparation program is required in addition to a Bachelor’s degree in order for someone to begin teaching prechool, elementary and secondary school students. Often an additional year of specialized studies will be needed depending on the specific state’s regulations.
A master’s degree is usually geared toward specialized certifications for teachers interested in specific areas of the field. Depending on the state in which certification is needed and the particular specialty chosen, either a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Education (MED) degree would be attained.
Comparable to a second master’s degree is an Educational Specialist Degree (EDS). This type of degree greatly benefits those intending to become psychologists, school counselors, and reasearch and development specialists.
For those interested in teaching future special education instructors, doctorate degrees such as a PhD or EdD are available. Holders of these degrees often become leaders in the fields of teacher education and research.
With many degree choices and specialties available for study, working with individuals with special needs can be very fulfilling for teachers in this field.
Just as a parent is typically the first to recognize when their child is in need of special attention, when it comes to education, the parent plays one of the most important roles in determining if the child should be eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Nothing can begin in addressing the special needs of a child without the input of a teacher, physician and parent/s initiating the IEP. This involves a parent requesting that the school evaluate their child. The school must have a parent’s written consent to perform this evaluation as it also sets the 60-day timer or the state’s time-frame constraint.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that guarantees a child’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, within the least restrictive environment, or LRE. What all of that simply means is that funding and protections exist for children of special needs to guarantee an education for children with disabilities age 3 through 21.
Congress amended IDEA through Public Law 114-95, the Every Student Succeeds Act, in 2015. During the 2018-19 school year, more than 64% of children with disabilities are in general education classrooms for 80% or more of the school day, according to IDEA.
What Defines a Child with a Disability
IDEA identifies a “child with a disability” as having intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (referred to as “emotional disturbance”), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments or specific learning disabilities.
The Evaluation Process
In addressing special needs, the child may certainly be able to articulate some level of struggling, but the effort put to discovering the subtle and sophisticated symptoms needs to follow a thorough protocol. These can best be identified through a series of tests, not just a single test. This includes taking a closer look at the child’s overall health, covering vision and hearing as well as general intelligence and performance within the school environment.
Observing how the child communicates within the social environment gives an opportunity to evaluate emotional well-being and the child’s use of his or her body in this process. Determining a child’s disability must be a full and comprehensive process in order to be fair to the individual needs of the child. This includes the parent’s right to appeal the school system’s finding a child is “not eligible.”
Parents must receive this finding in writing along with information regarding how to appeal and the various mechanisms available through which to resolve disagreements, including mediation. In addition, each state’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) center is one of the many resources available to help parents learn what next steps to take. Similarly, a parent may decline services that have been approved at any time.
Suffice it to say, a parent has the right to change their mind about whether their child receives special education and related services. Reestablishing services is possible and may include another evaluation, again, in fairness to ensuring the child is receiving what is needed for them individually.
The Evaluation Team
It is important to have the right input both in evaluating the child and developing his or her IEP. Number one in this effort are the child’s parents. In addition, there must be at least one teacher from the regular education curriculum and one special education teacher. Also on the team is a special education supervisor from the school system familiar with the regular education environment who brings knowledge of the available school resources. There must also be someone capable of interpreting the results of the evaluation and communicating those results to the rest of the team.
When it is appropriate, the child may be able to contribute. Parents may invite other knowledgeable individuals or those of special expertise, a relative or a child care provider. The school can contribute specialists of their own, such as a physical or speech therapist. The school may also invite any other agency representatives that may be responsible for either paying for or providing services and only with the parent’s consent.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Once it has been determined a child is eligible for special education and related services, a meeting to develop an IEP must be held within 30 days. IDEA 2004 clearly allows for parents to contribute as equal partners on the team both in writing and implementing their child’s IEP. This plan will include the child’s present levels of academic and functional performance and in what ways the child’s disability affects this performance. Goals will be established for the upcoming year and what the team agrees upon that the child can reasonably be expected to accomplish. These goals are intended to accommodate the child’s disability while still being able to progress in the general education curriculum including the subjects of math, science, reading, social studies and physical education, among others.
Additional Student Support
The IEP must also include the provision of supplementary aids and services such as a one-on-one tutor, preferential seating or devices that aid in communication. Accessibility makes it easier for a child with a disability to better take part in school activities. The IEP also details any changes to school programs or the school personnel support that will be provided. Further, the IEP must also explain how much of the school day will have the child educated separately from other children without disabilities and whether this interaction includes extracurricular activities such as lunch time or clubs.
Reevaluation of the child’s needs are performed at least once every three years or as determined by the IEP team when there is a need for additional data. Again, there is a time clock started on this reevaluation 90 days from the IEP team meeting. It is helpful to know that IDEA 2004 provisions also apply to private or religious elementary or secondary schools in which the child is placed.
Currently, there are not enough licensed special education teachers to fill all open positions. Technical advances that have made it possible to better diagnose and treat learning disabilities have created a large pool of special education students, but there are not enough qualified educators to teach them. For someone with the desire to make a difference in the life of a child whose disability makes learning a challenge, a career in special education offers many rewards.
A career as a special education teacher requires a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. There are programs that offer training specifically in special education, but there are also programs that offer education degrees and an additional year of training in special education.
Special education is a broad teaching area that encompasses many different areas based on the disabilities of the students. Special education teachers work with students who have learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, physical handicaps, behavioral challenges, and a combination of severe mental and physical handicaps as well as autism spectrum learners. Most state licensing boards will expect those looking to pursue a career in special education to choose an area of specialization, and their training will usually be geared toward that specialization.
Those who already possess a Bachelor’s degree in an area other than education have the additional option of earning a Master’s degree in special education while accepting a temporary teaching position with special education students. All special education training, whether at the Bachelor’s or the Master’s level, will involve some form of in-classroom training. Temporary credentials can be granted to those with Bachelor’s degrees in other areas who are taking special education classes.
For those who are still in high school, local Regional Occupational Programs (ROPs) may offer teacher’s aide classes that provide the opportunity to actually be in the classroom or other courses that would expose the student to a variety of children with different abilities. Another way to gain valuable experience before beginning formal training would be to volunteer either in a special education class or with an organization that provides services to special education students.
Certification and Licensing
All prospective teachers must take and pass the Praxis teaching exam, and special education teachers must take the Praxis II specifically for special education. The score needed to pass the exam varies by state, so it is important for test-takers to know what the passing score is for the state in which they intend to teach. The Praxis II may be taken as many times as needed to pass, and once passed, the new teacher may apply for licensure in that state.
Applying for a Job In Special Education
Licensed educators looking to work in special education will find the field wide open. Due to the high turnover rate and the decline in students entering this field, jobs in special education are readily available. Furthermore, the number of jobs in this area are expected to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of special education jobs is expected to increase by 20% from 2008 to 2018.
Salaries for special education positions are also attractive and expected to increase. While they vary by geographic location and education level, the middle 50% of elementary school special education teachers will earn anywhere from $40,000.00 to $63,000.00 annually. The majority of special education teachers work in elementary schools, but there are positions available at the junior high school and high school levels.
Whatever the age level, degree of ability or part of the country where teaching is desired, a career in special education offers the chance to provide an essential resource to those who need it most.
Special education teachers have a higher rate of burnout than is found in most other professions. The burnout rate is the result of a number of issues that often culminate in these teachers leaving their jobs. It is estimated that 75 percent of those who teach special needs students will leave their job within 10 years of starting. The result of this turnover rate is a shortage of special education teachers and a lack of quality programs for the students they serve. While a special education teacher may start their career with the intention of helping students with disabilities become productive members of society, they face several challenges that make the task extremely difficult. The challenges of the special education teacher include:
1. The Widespread Misperception That Teaching is Easy
Teaching is a uniquely difficult job, one that comes with a set of huge responsibilities; however, many people fail to recognize the teacher’s role. The various disabilities of the students with whom special education teachers work multiplies the job’s difficulty. Special education teachers are largely unrecognized and unsupported by the public.
2. Non-Instructional Responsibilities
Many teachers are trained and willing to teach but find themselves burdened with responsibilities that remove them from the classroom. Special education teachers often find themselves being required to go to meetings, conducting assessments and dealing with loads of paperwork.
3. Lack of Support
At a time when many large school districts are experiencing high levels of growth, special education teachers are being asked to do more with less. Salaries are being cut in many districts, and there is often very little in the way of technical assistance provided by school administrations.
4. Dealing With Multiple Disabilities
A special education teacher’s classes may have students with various disabilities. Since each student is a unique case, the teacher must modify their lessons to suit each student with disabilities by providing individualized education programs.
Among students in a special education classroom, there are often some with severe chronic illnesses that may result in death. Handling this is a challenge to which special education teachers will have to adapt.
6. Handling the Problems of an Inclusive Classroom
The concept of having classrooms that contain both special needs students and students who are developing typically is becoming a popular one. This type of education poses new challenges for a special education teacher. For example, many students who have no disabilities are unaccustomed to dealing with those who do. Teachers in these classes are charged with eliminating cruelty and insensitivity from among their students and ensuring that those with special needs are treated with respect.
7. Professional Isolation
The nature of a special education teacher’s work is very different from that of traditional teachers; the result of this is that standard classroom teachers may not view them as colleagues. There may be a professional stigma attached to the work of teaching “slow” students. Special education teachers often work with smaller groups and may focus on skills rather than content, thereby leading to the perception that their work is easier or less important.
8. Lack of Support From Parents
Some parents of special needs children are disinterested in the welfare of their children and fail to provide them with adequate care. Alternatively, they may be overly protective. Both can be problematic for the child and for their teacher. Disinterested parents may have no involvement with their child’s education or interaction with their teachers, whereas overprotective parents may have unrealistic expectations from the child and the child’s teachers. Both attitudes can shape children in negative ways. Parental disinterest may make special needs students less motivated and parents who are overprotective often diminish their child’s confidence and make it harder for them to learn.
9. The Difficulty of Discipline in a Special Needs Classroom
Children with disabilities may have behavioral issues including restlessness and moodiness. They may also exhibit problems like a short attention span or an inability to understand what is being taught. Special education teachers have to learn how to deal with these problems as well as how to take appropriate disciplinary measures.
10. Budget Problems
Across the nation, special education programs are facing increasing enrollment and decreasing budgets. The result is that there are fewer teacher assistants available, which results in a greater workload for special education teachers. They may also face shortages of essential resources and equipment for delivering effective lessons.
Any one of these challenges would make the work of a special education teacher incredibly difficult; as a group, they turn the job into a set of arduous tasks. Unfortunately, the result of the pressures placed on teachers is that the students suffer. Anyone seeking to go into this area of teaching should be aware of what they will face and have the mental and emotional fortitude to overcome the challenges in order to improve the prospects of their students.
As with any job, there are always challenges. To be better equipped for the challenges that you may face as a special education educator, check out our list of bachelor’s or master’s special education degrees
While children in general need plenty of love and attention from their parents and teachers, children with special needs are most benefited by people whose personality traits enhance the learning process. Both passion and concern for children with special needs are necessary to be a good special education teacher. In addition, a few commendable personality traits of special education teachers have been listed below. If you are considering teaching special needs kids prepare yourself for a challenging, life-changing yet rewarding career.
1. Love and Acceptance
In order to relate to any child, you must be able to love and accept them as they are. This is especially important for special needs children. Regardless of their capabilities or behavior each child is unique and worthy of your notice. Some special needs kids may demand excessive attention or completely disregard common etiquette, but it is important to respect and treat them as unique individuals with unique needs. By attempting to understand and encourage your students learning will be enhanced on all levels.
2. Organizational skills and Intuition
As is the case in any kind of education, students need structure to succeed. But with special needs students, structure is all the more important. The special education teacher must provide the class with a physical and academic structure favorable to learning. Some students may be incapable of expressing their feelings or communicating their needs. The special education teacher will need to be intuitive and involved so that any students’ needs can be foreseen and addressed even when students lack the ability to tell you about them themselves.
3. Creativity and Enthusiasm
The ability to think out of the box and combine both creativity and enthusiasm are signs of the makings of a fine special education teacher. The ability to put difficult concepts in plain and interesting words or display a complexity in simple form is often the most effective trait a special education teacher can possess. The teacher’s creativity and enthusiasm will inspire the students to be creative and enthusiastic as well. By bringing creativity into the classroom the classroom environment will change from monotonous to inspiring.
Many special needs students suffer intellectual disabilities and emotional disturbances and when special education teachers are not calm, kind, confident and helpful, even in difficult situations, students can lose their tempers and become violent. It is important that the teacher keeps his/her wits and deals calmly with the situation. Teachers must be self-assured and take the lead at all times. The confidence displayed by the teacher will eventually calm the antagonized student and peace will be restored in the classroom.
5. Humorous and Easygoing
Special education teachers with a fine sense of humor and easygoing manner will more easily be able to cope with the stress of teaching special needs kids. Regardless of their disabilities, students can sense when teachers enjoy spending time with them and sharing laughter and fun. This is especially so as teaching special education can sometimes be frustrating especially for teachers who are overly sensitive to thoughtless negative comments. Developing ones sense of humor will protect you from becoming overly hurt due to personal quips.
6. Dedication and Optimism
Sometimes even the simplest task can become long and difficult for a student to master. It is at times like this that teachers must offer hope and encouragement by celebrating any and all victories no matter how big or small the accomplishment. It is important to remember how frustrating it would be for you to have to try so hard to master subjects, techniques or actions. This will enable the teacher to see things from the student’s point of view and remain optimistic and dedicated to the cause. The teacher’s dedication to the students serves as a huge confidence builder for them. A teacher’s dedication bridge the gap in meeting the needs of these unique students.
While there is no definite must have list of personality traits for special education teachers, the above traits point in the right direction. To build a rapport with ones students, trust is essential. And trust can only be cultivated by developing the personality traits discussed above. Someone once said every child is gifted; they only open their packages at different times. This is the perspective in which teachers must look at each exceptional student.
Are you are compassionate, patient, caring and kind? Do you believe all children deserve an equal opportunity to succeed? Are you committed to seeing to it that children who have disabilities receive the instruction and individualized support they need to thrive? If you answered “yes” to all three questions, you might have what it takes to become a special education teacher.
Better screening tools for identifying and assessing children, coupled with federal laws (Individuals with Disabilities Act-IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) that ensure the funds are there to help cover the costs have resulted in a comprehensive set of policies and protocols all aimed at delivering the most effective special education services to children with disabilities.
In 2018, Education Week reported that the number of special-education teachers has dropped 17% during the preceding decade. Meanwhile, the number of students enrolled in special-education programs during that same time period only decreased 1%.
Becoming a special education teacher isn’t an easy path, but it’s one that is undoubtedly filled with endless opportunities to feel good about what you do every day while making a difference in the lives of children who are living with disabilities.
How to Turn Your Vision of Becoming a Special Education Teacher into Reality
While career opportunities in special education are favorable, only qualified candidates need apply. In other words, if you want to become a special education teacher, you must come prepared with the qualifications set by your state board of education. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree and Complete an Approved Teacher Preparation Program
First things first: you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university that is recognized by your state board of education as an approved teacher preparation program—a program leading to initial state licensure or certification. Your state board of education likely maintains a list of approved programs (or details which types of programs meet this requirement).
So, what does a bachelor’s degree for the aspiring special education teacher look like? It will be designed as either a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Special Education, which prepares you to work with students in grades K-12 in general education classrooms, resource classrooms and self-contained classrooms.
Some programs require students to choose a specialization, while others offer specialization as an option. You might choose to focus your studies on students with mild/moderate disabilities, students with severe disabilities, or children from birth to age 5.
You may also complete dual bachelor’s degrees in both early childhood/childhood education and special education if you plan to work in the pre-K setting.
Both a B.S. and B.A. provide a foundation in the liberal arts, and both include a fieldwork component. Bachelor’s degrees consist of about 120 credits and four years of study.
Some of the core classes in special education include: Foundations of Assessment, which provides you with the theoretical and practical aspects of treating children who have disabilities; Instructional Strategies, which allows you to develop effective instructional practices; and Curriculum Development, which focuses on the principles of teaching students who have disabilities.
An approved teacher preparation program must include a student teaching experience—a period of classroom training completed under the supervision of a mentor teacher. The student teaching experience provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate their pedagogical skills. Most student teaching experiences last a full academic year.
All teachers in public schools must hold a state licensure/certificate through the state board of education. In some states, you may be issued a general special education license/certificate, while in other states, you may need to be licensed (or receive an endorsement) in a specific category of disability. Many states have various tiers of licenses, although an initial license is generally granted to those who have completed a teacher preparation program leading to state licensure.
Have You Considered a Graduate Degree in Special Education?
Your education as a special education teacher doesn’t need to end at the bachelor’s level. In fact, many states now prefer special education teachers to hold a master’s degree, and a select few even require a master’s degree for obtaining a professional license in special education.
But master’s degrees in special education are also often the path of choice for career changers (those who have a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to become special education teachers), and current educators (licensed educators looking to make the switch to special education).
Even if you live in a state that doesn’t require a master’s degree for teaching special education, you may choose to pursue a master’s degree in order to specialize in a certain area. For example, many programs allow you to focus your graduate study on areas like high-incidence disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and emotional or behavioral disorders. Furthermore, if you want to transition to a career in administration, a master’s degree usually is a requirement.
Your previous education and training will often determine the type of master’s degree you choose:
Master of Education (MEd): The MEd is a professional graduate program designed for licensed/certified special education teachers interested in focusing their career on a specific area of special education.
Master of Arts in Education (MAed)/Master of Science in Education (MSed): Both the MAed and the MSed are flexible programs that allow students to pursue advanced study in a wide array of special education areas. Some programs also lead to initial teacher licensure/certification.
Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT): The MAT is a unique program designed for career changers who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field or practicing educators who want to make the switch to special education.
Master’s degrees consist of between 50 and 60 credits and about two years of full-time study. While admission requirements vary, most programs require a competitive undergraduate GPA (usually 3.0 or above). Depending on the program, you may also need a current teaching license and teaching experience, along with a current resume and professional letters of recommendation.
Many colleges and universities offer master’s degrees in special education partially or fully online to accommodate busy, working professionals who need the flexibility that online study provides. While these programs are completed through distance-based study, many schools offer dynamic, interactive learning platforms that provide students with plenty of opportunities to connect with their professors and peers throughout the program.
Teachers that specialize in working with students with special needs fulfill one of the most vital roles in society. Their devotion helps students that deal with mental, emotional, learning and physical disabilities to lead more productive lives. Parents of special needs children benefit from teachers too. Teachers often partner with parents in assisting not only their students but also their parents in learning critical skills that enrich their lives. Additionally, the feeling that parents have towards seeing their child finish an educational program is immensely rewarding. These teachers help the students and parents in facing and overcoming hardships and difficulties. Through specified special educational coursework, students are able to achieve goals that normally seem impossible. Hence, special education teachers must have determination, patience and knowledge to successfully teach special needs students.
Several universities offer master’s degree programs with concentrations in special education. However, the following list will focus on the Top 10 Special Education Master’s Degree Programs in the United States. What is noteworthy regarding these programs is that each excels in preparing students with the skills, strategies and psychological training necessary to advance professional aspirations. Plus each of the programs on this list offer a dedication to their students by providing stellar academics, a long standing history of reputable accreditation, and an experienced faculty. With the arising need in Special Education, schools have now opened their own programs for diversity and even specifications to provide excellent support for teachers dreaming of being an integral part of the Special Education sector. Each school mentioned has its own unique set of programs. Whether if its diversity that you are aiming for, or specific areas of teaching, any of these colleges can help you in reaching your goal. So it falls to you to select your specification. Visit the school’s website to learn more about their programs.
Each of the following programs and universities on our Top 10 Special Educaiton Masters Degree Programs (On Campus0 have been selected because of the combination of quality academics, sound accreditation from the world’s top education accrediting bodies, reputation, and ranking by authorities like the U.S. News and World Report, Academic Ranking of World Universities, Forbes, Times Higher Education, and more.
1. Penn State
Penn State University take pride in its special education programs. Since the national inception of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, Penn State’s special education curriculum has expanded. The University’s College of Education offers two types of special education master’s degree (M.Ed.) programs. The first is the M.Ed. in Special Education. This master’s focuses mainly on the classroom teaching and professional aspects of the field. The second is the master’s of science in special education. The protocol behind this program gears towards students who wish to focus their careers in research and academic development. Penn State College of Education holds the 10th spot in the top 20 rankings of the U.S News and World Report. This University offers two types of special education master’s programs – the Master of Science in Special Education and the Master of Education in Special Education. Both options are available on campus or online. Tuition and fees per year for non-residents is $16,074 and $9,557 for residents.
The College of Education in the University of Albany offers highly accredited programs and curriculum. The Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) accredits their education-focused programs. Their curriculum’s effectiveness rest upon the statistics that nearly 100% of their students pass of the New York State Exams for special education. The College offers five master’s programs; three lead to a M.S in Special Education and two lead to an M.Ed in Special Education. Each program offers different specifications and literacy education for children. With five special education master’s programs available to master degree candidates, students may concentrate their studies upon that which most interests them. Tuition and fees per year for a non-resident is $18,632.50 and $25,942.50 for a resident.
The Binghamton State University of New York offers its set of Master’s in Special Education degrees for various ages groups. Enrollees may select from programs aimed to educating toddlers, early childhood, and adolescence. This allows teachers to select courses aimed at specific age ranges instead of disability. The courses are open for either Pre-Service Programs (students who do not hold any certification for teaching) or the In-Service Program (specifically for students who already hold a certificate). The pass rate at SUNY Binghamton for the last three years remains at 100 percent, making this an ideal school to choose for many teachers who desire to work immediately. This University offers two degrees in Special Education – the Master of Science in Special Education as well as a Master of Education in Special Education. Tuition and fees per year for a non-resident are $16,074 and $9,557 for resident.
Castleton State College is one of the most populated colleges offering a special education master’s program. They have three master’s programs that features 15 master’s core courses. The college aims to build the basic requirements and key areas in teaching students. This program focuses in allowing graduates to teach children from ages up to 12 years old. Instead of offering separate courses for the ages, the college prepares its graduates to be able to teach at different ages. Castleton offers three special education master’s programs – the Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Special Education with Licensure, the Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Special Education without Licensure, and Special Education – Consulting Teacher/Learning Specialist. Tuition and fees per year for non-residents are $17,424 and $11,616 for residents.
Offering four different master’s programs geared for special education Lemoyne College offers distinct programs and accreditation. There are several programs inclined for special education offered. Students may enroll for Special Education Master’s program for those who are already certified and is looking for a certification in the areas of Special Education or a Master’s of Science course for those who have only completed a baccalaureate degree. Of course, the price of Lemoyne College results in a unique study experience. Opportunities include studying abroad, internship programs and service learning based programs, which often this results in students earning an international level of competitiveness. Leymone offers a Master of Science in Special Education and a dual Master of Science in Education in Childhood Education and Special Education. Tuition and fees are $29,470 per year.
An on-campus opportunity for becoming a specialist for mild/moderate intervention specialist is available at the Notre Dame College. It allows enrollees to be able to teach to individuals who have mild-moderate special needs in an environment of K-12. Students may also enroll for a different program aimed at helping their children with disabilities and reading problems in a K-12 environment. This specialization is accredited by the NCATE. Notre Dame College offers internationally competitive courses and is nationally renowned. Notre Dame’s on-campus and online masters programs offer students the ability to specialize their studies within common core, endorsement, and licensure categories. Tuition and fees are $25,694 annually.
With a goal to prepare and develop teachers and trainers who are capable of using effective practices, strategies, and instructional materials, Columbia University soars in the study of special education. Columbia University offers a number of master’s program all inclined to the Master’s of Arts (M.A/ Ed.M). Enrollees can choose whether to specialize on the hard hearing or deaf, for intellectually challenged individuals suffering from disabilities such as autism, individuals who have severe or multiple disabilities, and even a Master’s of Education in Instructional practice. This goes without saying that the specific areas of teaching will allow teachers to be able to further specialize their careers with the courses offered at Columbia University. Tuition is $16,074 for non-residents per semester and $9,557 for residents per semester.
Clemson University offers effective studies in the field of special education. These disabilities will range from simple learning disabilities to several emotion or behavioral disabilities and other mental disorders. The standards set by Clemson University are acceptable in state and nationwide certifications set by the NCATE. Faculty members of this school are certified ADEPT (Assisting, Developing, Evaluating Professional Teaching) team members. The University continues to adapt by modifying and enhancing their programs to suit the needs of the changing culture of our environment. A Master of Education in Special Education is $6,503 for a non-resident per semester and $3,456 for resident per semester.
The candidates of this school can go through two Master’s of Science in Literacy Degrees. The courses available are aimed to instruct students in being capable to teach in a K-6 environment and another course for grades 5-12. Both courses will lead to initial education. The great deal that one can get in enrolling to this college is that both courses incorporate Special Education in their curriculum. This will allow students to hit a lot of birds with just one stone or in this case, one program. The diverse and well-organized programs and courses will allow students to maximize their time in learning a wide range of specialization. Tuition for a Master of Science in Literacy at Keuka or online is $615 per credit hour.
For licensed teacher who wish to get a specialization on the areas of Special Education, enrolling in the University of Colorado at Denver will be an ideal choice for you. It allows teachers to learn how to support students with disabilities in various forms. The school honors diversity and enrollees should expect different educational programs which will enable them to meet the needs of their students. The courses are quick and one can even complete it in as quickly as 18 months. This makes this school a popular choice for many teachers and even part time teachers. Graduate tuition for a Master of Arts in Special Education is income and family size based beginning at approximately $7,156 per semester for residents and non-residents.
All schools shown here have been contacted and informed of their inclusion on this list. Schools that do not wish to be featured are immediately removed. School names are the registered trademarks of their original owners. The use of any trade name or trademark does not imply any association with the school.
Special education, in its simplest terms, centers on the education of children or adults who have special learning needs, such as low hearing or vision, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities and ADHD.
Teaching occurs in a manner that respects how these physiological, cognitive and/or behavioral differences affect a student’s learning. Special education teachers and other professionals have undergone training programs that prepare them in presenting a uniquely-designed curriculum that they are charged with helping their students master. Special education teachers and professionals make good use of tools such as individual and group lesson plans, modified equipment and materials, user-friendly accessories and equipment and other tools to help students.
Special education students have needs that can include, but are not limited to:
Deficiencies in communication
Behavioral or emotional issues
In practically all of the civilized countries of the world there is an increasing trend of eliminating the barriers associated with special needs students. The goal of integrated and inclusive classrooms is to lessen the barriers between special-needs children and their peers, thereby rendering special education as a normal extension of the educational experience, rather than an separate learning experience.
Many students opt to receive their degrees through online courses. With rising living and educational costs, many graduate students do not have the time nor financial resources attend sometimes costly traditional, on campus courses. Such a luxury is only a real option if you’re going to college straight out of high school, or if you manage to get a scholarship that covers your educational expenses. Online courses are valuable to those willing to hone their graduate training in a flexible, technologically advanced format. Often completing a master’s degree online is a popular option which enables busy individuals and working parents the only chance to get their degree as they juggle family, employment, and educational responsibilities.
Getting a master’s degree in special education is no easy task, but the following schools have excellent programs that also offer online options. The schools included on the following Top 10 Special Education Master’s Degree Programs Online list were chosen based on accreditation, affordability, ranking, and unique features that raise their programs above the rest to help you find the perfect program to meet your professional, personal, and educational needs.
That said, our selection methodology required a lengthly research process. Only schools listed by the most prominent ranking publications (like the U.S. News and World Report, Princeton Review, Times Higher Education, Forbes, and ARWU) were chosen for this list. Additional factors like accreditation by the lead accrediting organizations (NCATE, the Department of Education, NEASC, and others), cost, curriculum, and faculty expertise were considered as well.
1. Adams State University
Adams State University is among the top western regional universities according to the U.S. News and World Report. Their Master of Arts With Special Education program is based firmly in the belief that the best way to gain insight into the challenges faced when teaching special needs children is to get involved. In order to ensure that students going through the special educational program at Adams State really know how to advance research in special education, a Capstone research project is required for the completion of all master’s degrees. This project is an internship where graduate students get to apply everything they learned throughout their two year program in a setting working with special needs clients and children. Graduate students are also allowed the opportunity to conduct research, apply, and analyze the information they have acquired throughout their Adams State experiences to better understand teaching techniques and gain knowledge into the field of special education. Adams State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which is a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Tuition is $320 per credit hour.
Baker University offers graduate students the chance to participate in accelerated classes that enable you to fit graduate studies into your existing schedule and lifestyle. The Master of Science in Special Education program allows participants to take one class at a time and still complete the program in less than two years. This not only leads to licensure in special education, but it meets the Kansas State Department of Education standards for K-6, 5-8 or 6-12 special education licensure. Baker University’s programs rank 33rd overall on the US News Best Colleges Rankings and Reviews list. This and other programs are accredited by the Kansas State Department of Education, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, and is a member of the University Senate of the United Methodist Church.
Boston College prides itself on having the oldest and most established teacher preparation program in deafblindness in the United States. Their renown Master of Education In Special Education Teaching program allows graduate students the ability to concentrate in any of the following fields: Moderate Special Needs; Grades Pre-K-9 and Grades 5-12; Severe Special Needs; Students With Visual Impairments; or Students With Deaf-Blindness and Multiple Disablities. Additionally all graduate students must complete the Sign Language, Braille, Deaf/Blind, or Language acquisition seminars to complete the program. Boston College is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and it has also been accredited by NEASC since 1935. Tuition cost is $1,212 per credit with research funds available to select candidates.
One of the hallmarks of Hunter’s programs is the way they link theory to effective instruction which is why Hunter College has consistently ranked 34th among the Best Regional University’s in the North per U.S. World & News report. The online special education programs are organized into a set of cross-categorical core courses and disability-specific specializations. These core courses deliver knowledge and skills across a variety of disabilities to be applied across a range of education settings. Numerous specializations provide in-depth preparation for working with students within a particular disability area. Both of the core and specialization courses provide historical, theoretical, and clinical perspectives, as well as current research and direct experiences with students of different ages and profiles. Hunter College is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. This organization is recognized by the United States Department of Education as a professional accrediting body for teacher preparation and other professional school personnel. All tuition and fees are determined by the City University of New York Board of Trustees and are subject to change without tuition $245 per credit hour.
The highly ranking graduate programs in special education at California State University provide a solid special education credential backed by a strong liberal arts foundation. Their programs cover the full range of special needs issues deaf and hard of hearing, early childhood special education, mild/moderate disabilities, and moderate/severe disabilities. Their hands on approach in a nationally recognized “model classroom” site offers graduate candidates opportunities to not only complete their necessary field work but also gain the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge in preschool, elementary, and middle school settings. With accrediation offered through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and tuition at $3,906 for up to 6 units or $6,738 for above 6 units, CSU is a great match for many!
Drake University ranks #27 among Forbes Top Colleges of the Midwest. Its Master of Special Education program participants gain an extra edge when first getting jobs upon graduation due to the high degree of specialty their education provides. Students have the option of receiving one of four endorsements while working toward their master’s degree. Graduate students can also complete an endorsement-only Master of Science program to obtain additional licenses from the following options: Consultant Endorsement, Instructional Strategist I, Instructional strategist II, or Work Experience Coordinator. These programs are designed to build upon skills already learned during a student’s time in the major to not only apply them but also better understand them. Since 2000, Drake University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and remains a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Cost to complete a graduate degree through Drake is $450 per credit hour.
Graduate candidates for master’s degree and certificate of advanced study degree programs at Fairfield get to learn from the second top best providers of online degrees in the nation. Students may choose one of several sequences of study by completing the Connecticut Initial Educator Certificate in teaching children and youth with disabilities in grades K through 12, or a cross-endorsement certificate in comprehensive special education when certification in classroom teaching has already been earned. Courses are based in theory, assessment, understanding the differences of children and youth with disabilities, the development and implementation of curriculum and intervention strategies, special education integration, and the improvement of teacher to teacher, teacher to child, and teacher to parent relationships involving special needs students. Fairfield University is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges which accredits schools and colleges in the six New England states. Such an accreditation by one of the six regional accrediting associations in the United States indicates that the school or college has been carefully evaluated and found to meet standards agreed upon by qualified educators. Cost to complete a degree through Fairfield is $675 per credit hour.
Georgia State University’s College of Education not only offers a master’s degree in special education, but they also offer certificate programs to prepare future researchers and university leaders in special education. Their highly personalized programs are designed to match each individual student’s career goals in the fields of Behavior and Learning Disabilities or Multiple and Severe Disabilities. Master and certificate programs cover topics like Autism, Deaf Education, Early Childhood Special Education, Intellectual Disabilities, and Physical Health Disabilities. Georgia State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees.
Loyola University’s Master of Education in Special Education online program offers candidates the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the multiple and unique needs of students with learning, behavioral/emotional, mental, and/or physical disabilities at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels. This non-categorical model better prepares teachers to work with a range of complex and/or multiple special needs. The curriculum is designed to provide a special emphasis on integrating research and practice. The School of Education is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. All degree programs that lead to state certification are approved by the Illinois State Board of Education. Tuition is $930 per credit hour.
The Master of Science in Special Education programs offered online by National University are aligned with the mission to enhance student performance and ability. Graduate candidates learn how to assess, develop, and implement special needs instruction while promoting student independence. Graduate candidates have three options in terms of specializing their studies in the fields of Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Mild/Moderate Disabilities, and Moderate/Severe Disabilities. With three areas of specialization including the Master of Science in Juvenile Justice Special Education, Master of Science in Special Education, and the Master of Science with Nevada Licensure in Special Education and Endorsement for Generalist Resource Room, graduates often incur a significant advantage over their competition when seeking employment. National University has been accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges since 1977. National’s rank as 13th in the Top 20 of the Online Education Database’s annual accredited college online list ensures quality instruction. Tuition is $372 per quarter unit of study.
All schools shown here have been contacted and informed of their inclusion on this list. Schools that do not wish to be featured are immediately removed. School names are the registered trademarks of their original owners. The use of any trade name or trademark does not imply any association with the school.
Special education is increasingly a big priority in our schools. The need for highly qualified teachers proficient in the field of special education is on the rise. Due to the number of college programs available to aspiring special education teachers, the selection process can be incredibly confusing and even daunting for someone just looking for the program which is right fit for them. Whether you’re looking for a prestigious research university or some real-world, hands-on experience to apply immediately in the classroom, there is a school on this list that will meet your needs.
To try to simplify the selection process, we created the Top 10 Special Education Degree Programs list to help students select the undergraduate program which will help them meet their personal, professional, and educational goals. Since students interested in special education have diverse educational backgrounds, we’ve created a list not limited to specific undergraduate or graduate degrees. We did, however, only include schools and programs which were best in terms of affordability, reputation, accreditation, rank, and most importantly, quality of not only education but also instruction.
Peabody College at Vanderbilt University has offered the top special education program in the country for several years in a row. Their main focus is on producing exceptional research; in fact, a full 20% of the literature on special education is produced by Vanderbilt faculty, students, and alumni. The bachelor’s program allows emphasis in mild and moderate disabilities, multiple and severe disabilities, or visual impairment. In addition, they offer a Behavior Analysis Certification program alongside the degree program, which offers several additional programs and eighteen months of internship work to achieve the Behavioral Analyst certificate. The school is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and costs $42,118 per year for all students.
Ranked #46 out of national universities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is consistently listed in the top ten special education programs in the country. The program is heavily field-based, so it involves a lot of hands-on experience with students ranging from kindergarten to 21 years of age with disabilities including learning disabilities, social and emotional disorders, cognitive disabilities, physical impairments, autism, and traumatic brain injury. It strongly advocates parental involvement and inclusion of children with disabilities in mixed groups with typical peers. The school is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and costs $14,428 for in-state students and $28.570 for out-of-state.
Ranked #56 among national universities, Ohio State University offers three different undergraduate specializations in addition to three licensure-only special education degree programs. Students can focus on early childhood special education, mild-to-moderate disabilities, or moderate-to-intensive disabilities. There are also non-degree programs which allow licensing in each of those specializations as well as an endorsement in pre-kindergarten special needs for those who already have a degree in education. The school is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Council for Exceptional Children. Tuition and fees are $10,037 for in-state students and $25,445 for out-of-state students.For more about Ohio State University’s Special Education Degree Programs, go here
4. California State University
California State University has a number of campuses, but the best special education program is found at Northridge, which is ranked #68 among regional universities in the west. Their Integrated Teacher Education Program offers a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies along with the special education credential. Their main draw is their three nationally-recognized model classroom sites which provide field work for students using the most up-to-date methods in preschool, elementary, and middle school settings. Additional concentrations in the field of special education are available at Northridge, including specializations in autism spectrum disorder and emotional disturbance. Additionally, CSU’s program offers focuses on early childhood special education, mild-to-moderate disabilities, mild-to-severe disabilities, and deaf/hard-of-hearing education. All special education programs are accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. At $5,076 for in-state students and $21,312 for out-of-state, it is one of the top “bargains” on this list which maximizes your educational experience while minimizing tuition costs.
Hunter College, a branch of CUNY, is #38 among regional universities in the north. It offers a broad range of specialties, including learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, severe/multiple disabilities (including deaf-blindness), early childhood special education, and education for the blind and visually impaired. The courses are divided into core courses that can be applied across a range of educational settings and more specialized courses that prepare students in-depth for working with specific disabilities. It is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children. Tuition and fees come to $5,529 in-state and $14,199 out-of-state.
The University of Maryland at College Park is ranked #58 among national universities and has the #11 special education program. The program has a focus on special education for all ages and prepares students to teach an age range from infants to young adults. In addition to other programs, they feature a five-year undergraduate program that combines their Bachelor of Science and a Master of Education degrees. This is an extremely intensive program that provides specialized training in language and motor development, social and educational needs, assessment procedures, curriculum development, classroom management, effective communication with families and communities, and laws concerning children and youth with disabilities. It is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and costs $8,908 for in-state students and $27,287 for out-of-state
Michigan State University’s School of Special Education is ranked #72 among national universities and focuses heavily on integrating special needs children into mainstream classrooms. The main focus of the program is on building connections between educational theory and practice in inclusive classroom programs, although there is also hands-on work in self-contained special needs classrooms. The special education program at Michigan State is combined with their elementary education program, so a degree in special education also brings certification as a regular K-5 teacher in addition to the K-12 certification in Learning Disabilities. Individually chosen endorsements in more specialized subject areas are also available. MSU is accredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and costs $12,204 for in-state students and $31,148 out-of-state.
Graceland University is ranked #88 out of regional universities in the Midwest. They offer endorsements in mild and moderate special education, as well as focuses in either K-8 education or 5-12. The chief focus of the program is on collaboration. There is a strong emphasis on working with peers to solve classroom problems. In addition, students shadow master teachers in order to learn effective real-world classroom techniques. The program is accredited by the Iowa Department of Education and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. It costs $22,680 per year.
Ranked #79 among regional universities in the north, the University of Hartford offers a professional preparation program with a focus on the in-depth understanding of disabilities as well as knowledge of developmental, academic, and social needs. There is an emphasis on building skills in a variety of settings, so student teaching placements are done both with general education classrooms and children with disabilities. It is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Tuition and fees total $32,172 per year.
MSU-Denver is classified as a Tier 2 western regional university, which means that it has no public ranking. It is unique because its entire educational program is focused entirely on special education, with that being the only full four-year degree offered. It offers concentrations in early childhood, elementary, linguistically diverse, or secondary special education. Much of the program is hands-on, and due to the urban location, most teaching experiences take place in a culturally diverse population. It is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and costs $4834 for in-state students and $15,690 for out-of-state.
All schools shown here have been contacted and informed of their inclusion on this list. Schools that do not wish to be featured are immediately removed. School names are the registered trademarks of their original owners. The use of any trade name or trademark does not imply any association with the school.