Here’s some guidelines to help you figure out exactly what it takes to earn your special education degree and explore some of the possible special education degree specializations that you should consider in 2018.
In Demand Special Education Degree Specializations
While most master’s program do not require students to select an area of specialization, there are significant benefits to doing so. Specializing your education not only makes you more valuable — it also makes the education you provide to students and clients more valuable.
Here are several specializations that have especially gained popularity for students beginning their degrees in 2017 & 2018:
This area will allow you to serve children with specific learning disabilities. These include things such as ADHD/ADD, Dyslexia, and other more common learning differences.
You will also be taught how to help children with moderate to serious mental health issues. You’ll be able to help students from kindergarten through 12th grade, up to the age of 22.
You’ll likely take courses in:
- Linguistic diversity
- Academic assessment
- Language development
- Methods of education
- Collaboration within special education
Typical curriculum includes classroom control and design, data analysis, how to properly assess student performance, and practicing ethics in teaching special needs students.
The core curriculum of the online MSEd in Special Education from Purdue University focuses on mild intervention for high-incidence conditions to intense intervention. The program offers several options to meet your career needs.
- Master’s only: Intended for those seeking knowledge in the area of special education. No practicum is required; an additional elective course is taken in its place.
- Master’s with initial special education licensure: Intended for those seeking a master’s degree as well as an initial license in special education in mild intervention or mild and intense intervention. This track requires practicum and student teaching field experiences.
- Master’s with advanced special education licensure: Intended for those who already have initial (teaching) licensure and are looking to add an advanced licensure in mild intervention or mild and intense intervention. This track requires practicum experiences.
- Master’s with advanced special education licensure – intense intervention only: Intended for those who already have a special education teaching license in mild intervention and looking for advanced licensure in intense intervention. This track requires practicum experiences.
Students That Are Deaf/Hard Of Hearing
In this specialization, you will focus on learning sign language, lip reading, and other forms of communication with children who are hard of hearing or deaf.
Typical certificate and degree programs cover:
- how to operate hearing aids
- study the impact of cochlear implants
- understand apps and other tech tools you can use to better reach your students
- how to use visual techniques to reach students
- how to use FM systems and telecommunications devices for the deaf
Additional focus often covers techniques to improve the classroom learning environment such as how to light your room, the distance you should keep from your students so that they can be certain to read your lips/signing, and even how the acoustics of your classroom will impact your students.
The curriculum of Saint Joseph’s University’s Online Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing PK-12 certification program is specifically designed to strengthen and expand your teaching capabilities, prepare you for certification, and to develop the competencies specifically needed to support learning and development in children with hearing loss.
Early Childhood Special Education
You’ll assist children with both mild/moderate and severe emotional or learning difficulties. You’ll also learn how to teach children who have suffered brain injuries/damage.
However, unlike the other areas, you’ll only be able to teach children from birth to pre-kindergarten.
Throughout your coursework, you’ll study several forms of developmental psychology, learn how to assess different needs and disorders, and even learn how to arrange your classroom so that it can best benefit your students.
You’ll likely also spend a lot of time learning the basics of child psychology, and undergo on-the-job training so that you can handle emergency health situations and behavioral issues in the classroom.
The online Master’s Degree in Special Education from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota focuses on developing the ability of students to:
- Create an inclusive environment in a mainstream classroom, allowing each student to learn to their full potential
- Reach students across all levels and types of disabilities by developing understanding of various student backgrounds and disabilities
- Every course touches upon intercultural competence
Children With Blindness/Visual Impairments
Here, you’ll learn how to read braille and teach children suffering from blindness or near blindness. As in the deafness specialization, you’ll learn how to teach children who suffer from deaf-blindness.
You can also expect to study the anatomy of specific visual impairments, as well as which forms of assistive technology you can make use of to better teach your students.
Applied Behavior Analysis
In this final specialization option, you’ll learn about how to better help children with Autism and other behavioral challenges.
You’ll understand how Autism and other behavioral disorders are diagnosed, take courses in retention theory, and study up on methods to increase impulse control in your students.
You’ll also learn how to properly administer punishment/consequences to your students, and study up-and-coming teaching methods.
Finally, you’ll be required to study the ethics behind applied behavior analysis, so that you can be sure to give your students as much autonomy as is possible.
Saint Joseph’s University offers an online Applied Behavior Analysis Concentration that prepares individuals to address the demands of challenging behaviors seen in Special Education settings. The courses are intended to prepare students for the BCBA certification exam.
How Much Can You Expect To Earn?
While salaries vary county-to-county and state-to-state, here is a quick breakdown of the (national) median annual special education salaries across different tracks now:
- Preschool Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $50,000
- Elementary Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $50,000
- Middle School Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $53,000
- High School Special Ed Teachers: Roughly $55,000
Ready To Become A Special Education Teacher?
More than 6.6 million children in the United States alone rely on special education teachers to give them the tools they need to succeed.
Special educators tend get into the field because it’s incredibly emotionally rewarding — but also choose to get a special education degree because they want to help students that are often underserved by the traditional educational system feel empowered.