The United States desperately needs special education teachers and we’re not being dramatic. Out of fifty states, forty-nine of them report not having enough teachers to fit their needs.
In schools that do have special education professionals, eighty percent of them need more help. Creating a different lesson plan for each student isn’t easy and we need more hands on the ground.
But you know that. You’re willing to help solve this issue, and you’re looking into online special education programs. First of all, thank you and second of all, we’re here to help.
We want to do our part in solving the shortage and educating those who are willing to take on the special education challenge. You’re up for a highly-rewarding career with long days filled with warm fuzzies.
Ready to get started? Check out our guide to the best programs below.
Online Special Education Programs: The Criteria
When you search for a program, there are a few things you need to look for. The first and most important one is accreditation.
Imagine that you went through the years of education and work, just to find out your degree isn’t recognized by the state. That would be devastating.
Making sure you do your research before you apply will keep that from happening.
Second, figure out if you want to start a special education program that’s general or very specific. Many people don’t know what specification or specialization they want to pursue until they finish their general education courses.
If you don’t know what part of special education you’re most interested in yet, don’t worry. That’s completely normal.
Choosing Your (Special) Education Path
There are a few different kinds of masters degrees you can get in special education. They differ from school to school.
For Example, you could get a:
- Masters of Art in Special Education
- Masters of Science in Special Education
- Masters in Special Education with an Autism Concentration
- Masters in Special Education Licensure
- Masters in Special Education Leadership and Training
The degree you choose depends on your dream workspace and what you want to do when you graduate. If you’re looking to run your own classroom, then a general Master of Special Education is the right degree.
But if you’d like to work in a more specialized setting, or be a helping professional, like an art therapist, pursue the Master of Art. You know yourself best and you should direct your studies towards where your strengths lie.
Finally, what kind of students do you want to work with? As we get more familiar with autism disorders, we’re seeing more autism focus tracks.
But you can also focus on early childhood education for those with disabilities, or preparing people for society.
Jobs You Can Get with a Degree in Special Education
The first job everyone thinks of is a special education teacher. As we already discussed, we desperately need those in America and all over the world.
There aren’t nearly enough teachers for these students who need extra help.
But teaching isn’t the only thing you can do with a masters or bachelors degree in Special Education. Learn more about teaching and other careers below.
Special Education Teacher
If you do choose to go down the common track and become a Special Education teacher, great! We really need you. The job description of a special ed teacher involves helping make a different learning plan for each student.
In some cases, these are called IEP’s or Individual education plans. They’re a collaborative effort between a school psychologist, the teacher and the child’s parents.
They detail the child’s difficulties and the agreed upon strategies to address them.
As a trained teacher you’ll have the choice between working in the public and private sector. If you live in an area with large populations, you may be able to work in a residential or even medical setting.
The salary isn’t much more than a regular teacher, though one could argue that special education teachers do much more.
The average salary is around $58,000 a year.
Language or Speech Pathologist
You’ll have to pursue some extra training than just bachelors if you’d like to be a pathologist, but the special education degree is a good start.
Pathologists specialize in identifying and fixing speech issues and language patterns. They’ll work with a full range of students or clients, including those without learning or developmental disabilities.
They do make more than a special education teacher, but it takes more training to be one. They can expect to make around $76,000 a year starting out.
As a pathologist, you can work in a range of settings. Schools, hospitals, and even rehabilitation clinics. A lot of pathologists find their work immediately rewarding, as you can automatically hear the difference in a child’s voice.
Early Intervention Specialist
If you like working with young children but don’t have the long-term patience of teaching, you can become an early intervention specialist. You’ll still interact with and help children with disabilities, but you’ll work with a wider range than a teacher in one classroom.
As it sounds, early intervention specialists are the people who help identify learning and developmental disorders right as they start. Or before they start, if steps can be taken to prevent it.
Most intervention specialists work on a team at a specialized tutoring center or hospital, though larger schools or school boards may employ their own.
How to Choose Online Special Education Programs
With an idea of the available degree programs and jobs, they lead to, hopefully, you can approach the idea of Special Education programs with more confidence.
You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do and specialize in before you start a program. You can begin many online Special Education programs on a general track and get more specific as you figure things out.
Want to learn more? We’ve done the research and laid out information on the schools we trust. Find our picks here.