With a bachelor of science in special education, you’ll learn how to provide instruction to students with special needs and learning disabilities. Available programs may include an education degree component—providing the education needed to become licensed as a K-12 educator—or may offer a focus only on special education for students who want to work in daycares or pursue graduate degrees.
What is a Degree in Special Education?
Students in special education degree programs aspire to provide educational opportunities to students with learning disabilities or special needs. Students taught by special education teachers may have autism-spectrum disorders, attention-deficit disorders, or other behavioral, learning, or emotional disabilities. The curriculum in a special education degree program is designed to teach students how to recognize learning disorders and develop teaching plans that cater to and advance the knowledge of students.
Bachelor’s degree graduates may choose one of two career paths: they can work in daycares or hospitals—caring for special needs children—or they can earn teaching credentials to teach special needs classes in elementary, middle, and high schools. Others who want to continue their educations can earn master’s and Ph.D. degrees to gain the qualifications needed to teach college special education courses—educating the special needs educators of the future in college special education courses.
What Courses Would I Take For a Major in Special Education?
- Characteristics of High Incidence Disabilities
- Assessing Individuals with Disabilities
- Special Education Practicum
- Typical and Atypical Language Development
- Teaching Individuals with Mild Disabilities
- Assistive Learning Technologies
- Classroom and Behavior Management
- Collaboration Among Families and Professionals
What Jobs Can You Get with a Degree in Special Education?
Demand for special education teachers is expected to be consistent with the standard job growth for all jobs in the coming decade. Working as a special education teacher can be taxing, so jobs open frequently for new teachers as the current teachers fatigue and move on to new positions. Additionally, by law each state must provide educational opportunities to disabled students, so there are always jobs available for experiences, patient, and talented teachers and caregivers for disabled children and teens.
How Long does it take?
A bachelors in Special Education will have a typical length of 4 years in a full time schedule. That said, there are many ways to speed up the timeframe by either taking more units via online coursework, community college, or taking free classes at OnlineDegree.com that could transfer to universities in the US.
Online Special Education Degree
Special education can be more difficult to study compared to regular education, but it remains the choice for many students who are passionate about helping disabled children. Special education programs have gained more attention and popularity recently. There are several special education programs that are offered completely online, however, students need to complete a practicum before graduation. This practicum usually involves actual teaching activities. It is also common to study an associate or master’s degree for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in education.
*All salary and growth data is based on the recent Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at BLS.gov for a Special Education Professor
What Can You Do With a Special Education Degree?
Special education is also called special needs education, aided education or shortly SPED. The focus of this type of education is to assist students with special needs and address the individual differences between students. The ultimate goal is to help achieve self-sufficiency in the school and community. Students who need special education include those who have learning disabilities, communication disorders, ADHD, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida in addition to developmental disorders as autism, Asperger syndrome and intellectual disability. Gifted education can also be considered as a sub-type of special education, however, practically it is usually handled separately. Special education is a heartwarming career as you will deal with the children’s innocence and help the most vulnerable group of the community. Students from special education may be able to integrate into the general education based on the progress.
What does a special education student learn?
Special education is similar to general education regarding the basics of the field. Additionally, graduates should have detailed knowledge about the disabilities that students commonly have. They should also know how to deal with the different disabilities to help the students achieve the best possible learning outcomes. The following list shows examples for courses commonly offered in special education programs:
- Learning environments: this course introduces the approaches to develop and maintain a learning environment that supports learning for children with disabilities. It includes the use of methods that enhance non-disruptive behaviors, promote social skills and advance learning.
- Understanding disability: this course introduces the definition of a disability and how it affects the life of individuals. It also introduces the laws and policies related to offering support, education and other services to people with disabilities.
- Assessment: this course focuses on the different methods for assessment of children. This is not limited to the learning progress, but it also includes assessment of child’s degree of disability and capabilities.
- Multiple disabilities: the course helps the students develop the skills needed to deal with more complicated cases when multiple disabilities exist.
- Instructional strategies: this course introduces the approaches to offer a positive learning environment which includes interpretation of performance data and evaluation of curriculum objectives.
Now I have the special education degree…where can I work after graduating?
Special education is a vital service that should be available to all children with disabilities to help them integrate into the society. Financially, this discipline gets similar pay scale compared to normal education. There are several settings where special education graduates can work:
- Special education teachers: this is the main career for special education graduates. They work in schools dedicated to students with special needs. The role of the teacher in this schools is to help the students not only with learning but also with developing skills and accommodating tools to overcome the disability barriers.
- School counselor: the role of this job is to provide occasional counseling to normal schools regarding students who may have certain degree of disability. They also assess the student’s ability to continue in normal education and the appropriate support that should be provided.
- Occupational therapist: the role of this job is to help people maintain their work and daily activities using planned interventions to overcome the effects of health conditions or disabilities.
- Assistive technology specialist: he/she evaluates the student needs to determine the appropriate hardware and software support. The job includes suggesting specific products and providing data and training to the use of these products.
- Director of special education institutes
- Curriculum development for special education
Should I choose a special education degree?
Special education is highly rewarding on the personal level as you provide support on daily basis to the most vulnerable group in the society. Your role helps students overcome the barriers caused by their disabilities, improve their quality of life and integrate in the community. Your study and work in this field will also help you develop a group of useful skills:
- Patience: making a change in the lives of children with special needs is a challenge that requires dedication and hard work. Progress is usually slow with these children and you should have the patience to keep your enthusiasm and continue offering them support.
- Making the best use of everything available: supporting children of special needs will help you appreciate whatever is available and make use of it to reach the best possible results.
- Communication skills: teachers working in special education should have exceptional communication skills to deal effectively with the children who may suffer from cognitive or behavioral disorders. They must also work with their families to provide the proper support at home and school.
Best Jobs for Special Education Degrees
Most graduates of special education bachelor’s degree programs find work as special education teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools, and others choose to teach aspiring college professors how to become special education teachers. Some also work in daycares, hospitals, and nonprofit agencies, helping to care for and educate special needs and disabled children, adolescents, and teenagers.
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Enroll in a Program that Leads to a Teaching Credential
Some special education degree programs are designed for individuals who want to go into caregiving or to teach special education as college professors. These programs do not qualify students to earn a teaching certification for teaching in elementary, middle, or high schools. Students who think they may want to teach in public or private schools in the future should make sure to choose a program that leads to teaching certification to avoid having to take an additional year of school to earn your license.