Special education focuses on the design and effective delivery of teaching and other educational services to children or adults with special learning needs or disabilities. The core curriculum offers instruction in diagnosing learning disabilities, developing individual education plans, teaching and supervising special education students, special education counseling, and applicable laws and policies. Educators completing this program often assume a leadership role in special education curriculum and instruction.
Masters of Special Education Degrees Online
Working in special education can be among the most personally rewarding areas of the field of education. If you want to help children learn, and have patience, empathy, and strong compassion for helping our most vulnerable kids overcome challenges, this could be a great path for you. There are many levels and careers within the area, and many types of children you can focus on helping. Whether you want to work in pre-K, elementary or secondary education, or want to help kids with autism, physical disabilities, dyslexia, or other health issues, finding the right degree program is the first step in your success.
Many special educators start their careers working in daycares or elementary schools. Although you may not work specifically with special needs children, employment in these settings can give you experience working in the presence of teachers and kids who give you insight into what you can expect in your desired role.
You can start focusing on special education at the associate's and bachelor's degree level simply by taking courses that focus on childhood education and special needs topics. By the time you earn your teacher certification and start working, you may begin thinking about master's and doctoral programs to obtain administrative roles and higher salary levels.
The following information is meant to help you determine if a career in special education is right for you. But nothing can take the place of speaking directly with schools and comparing their programs. Be sure to look at online and brick and mortar programs as you start your search. Both avenues can lead to the same learning and professional outcomes. Especially as online learning has become integrated into about every traditional college and university. Your degree options and flexibility for continuing your education has never been more suitable to every student’s lifestyle and career goals.
What it Takes to Work in Special Education
The personal qualities of a special education teacher are best assessed by the needs of the students they help. Every child, whether they fall into the special needs category or not, needs emotional support and steady guidance to succeed. Children with extra challenges require an extra degree of patience and empathy from their teachers. Since most teachers cannot personally relate to the situation of the children they work with, in-depth training is required to be most effective in the classroom.
It is important to learn from your fellow teachers and lean on them for support in your career. This is especially true for instructors who have more experience than you with the type of kids you want to teach. The day in the life of a special education teacher can be less predictable than other teaching roles. The ability to be flexible and learn from the challenges other teachers have faced will help make you more adaptable in your own role.
Types of Special Education Teachers
There are several types of special education teachers, since there are countless physical and mental health challenges that children of all ages face. You should consider what type of child you want to help as part of your degree planning process. In a nutshell, here are some common types of special education teachers:
- Autistic. This widespread developmental disability has a wide spectrum affects a significant percentage of the special needs population.
- Learning disabilities. These can be a wide range of issues, from dyslexia, auditory and visual challenges.
- Physical disabilities. Children who have a variety of physical disabilities require work with their bodies as much as their minds. If you want to add a physical component to your teaching methods, this could be the right area of focus for you.
Special Education Teacher Certification
If you want to work as a special education teacher, plan on earning your bachelor’s degree and passing your state’s mandated exam. Whether you want to work in public or private settings, this is an important step in your career. Many degree programs, traditional and online, help students earn their certifications as they learn.
Depending on the type of children you want to work with, a general certification or specialized certifications may be required. This is why it is critical to speak with school counselors about your career path, requirements, and timeline for completion. You should make anticipated salary part of the conversation too. Every state varies in what they pay teachers and the makeup of the hiring landscape.
Organizations and Support for Special Educators
Special education teachers should seek a strong network of peers and professional mentors for support and guidance in their careers. Here are a few associations that you should reach out to, even in the consideration phase of choosing your degree.
- National Association for Special Education Teachers.
This association specializes in supporting all types of teachers, and houses information you can find useful for the classroom. They also offer courses and job postings for teachers to use as career resources.
- Council for Exceptional Children.
This council acts as an advocate for teachers and children through information, resources and shaping public policy.
- Child Development Institute.
Although this organization is geared towards parents, it can be a useful resource for teachers to understand the role parents play in their child’s disability. This can learn to a greater understanding of your place in the classroom, and how you can be supportive to their parents as well.
Career Outlook for Special Education Teachers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median national salary for special education teachers is $55,980 per year. Of course you will want to look into your state for more specific salary data. This average pertains to those with their bachelor’s level of education, so earning your master’s degree can qualify you for higher roles and salary ranges. The grade level and type of student you teach can also determine your salary Source.
If you are interested in shaping your personal career path in special education, learn more about online and traditional special education programs today. All you have to do now is reach out to schools and speak with trained counselors who can help you make the best decision, no matter where you are in your career or training.