Top Special Education Degree Specializations to Consider in 2018

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:

Special Education Degree SpecializationsMild/Moderate Disabilities

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.

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.

Click here to find a special education program or use our job finder board to connect with the right opportunity for you.

7 Reasons to Become a Special Education Teacher

Why Become a Special Education Teacher?

Just like any career, being a special education teacher has its challenges, but at the same time, it is an extremely rewarding career. Teachers who choose this profession have the chance to make a life-long impact on a family’s life.

Teaching is a wonderful chance to change the world one moment at a time, and special education is no different.

Here are 7 advantages to choosing this career:


1. Daily impact

Teachers get to see the impact they have on their students every day. When an autistic child who is resistant to personal touch comes up and gently hugs the teacher, the impact is real. Celebrating small victories in a student’s life impacts their overall success.

These victories can also be an encouragement for the student’s families and support system. In a year’s time, a special education teacher can be a necessary part of many milestones.

Considering a master’s degree? View the Top 50 online master’s program here.

2. Higher demand

There is an increasing demand for special education teachers. This demand keeps increasing because the number of disabled students requiring services keeps growing. This means special education teachers who are looking for jobs can more readily find positions nationwide.

Becoming certified to teach special education proves to be a highly versatile career choice, with multiple career path options.

Some states have individual state certification requirements. But even with individual state certification, the demand for jobs is ever present.

George Washington University - Online Master in Special Education

3. More marketable

Having an additional specialization makes a person more marketable for employment. It is helpful to have a specialized background. An employer sees someone that can perform multiple job duties as a better choice and investment.

4. Being an advocate

Teaching special education means getting to step out and advocate for a student. An advocate goes beyond the classroom duties to create the best educational plan for a student.

Teachers can team up with other educators, parents, health professionals, and school psychologists to find resources that meet the educational needs of all students.

5. Educating others

A special education teacher can educate peers. Often students with disabilities lack social opportunities because they can have a harder time socializing and interacting with others. By educating others about disabilities, it removes uncertainty and fear.

When a bridge can be gapped, students can gain a lot from healthy socialization. Interacting with others of differing abilities gives students the chance to learn from one another and create bonds. Education breaks down social barriers, thus changing communities.

6. Rewarding

Being a special education teacher is a rewarding job. When a child makes a breakthrough, the teacher understands the effort required for that breakthrough. Some other rewards are the special bonds that form with the students and their families, being a part of students accomplishing something they never thought they could do, and finally, the love the students give back.

Saint Mary's University Minnesota Online Master of Arts in Special Education

7. Lifelong impact

By impacting a child daily, it can lead to lifelong impact for that child. When a child who has cerebral palsy successfully learns a new way to communicate, this can directly affect their independence later in life. From simple improvements to huge leaps, the impact a special education teacher can have on a student can truly be life-changing.

It is a fact that teaching special education is challenging. But it is also a fact that it has many benefits as well. Poet Robert John Meehan, known as ‘The Voice of the American Teacher,’ summed up the value of helping all children to be successful when he stated, “Every child has a different learning style and pace. Each child is unique, not only capable of learning but also capable of succeeding.”

Considering a master’s degree? View the Top 50 online master’s program here.

Special Education Career Profile: Teacher of the Deaf

Teaching in the field of special education can give you a variety of career options. You can choose age/grade level, type of disability, or even the type of program you teach in. Being a teacher of the deaf can be a very rewarding, yet challenging, career choice.

What Does A Teacher of the Deaf Do?

The role of the teacher of the deaf can vary depending on the setting. According to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED), the teacher’s role is to:

  • Establish a classroom or other learning environment to meet the physical, cognitive, cultural, linguistic, and communicative needs of the child;
  • Plan and utilize strategies, appropriate materials, and resources for implementing educational experiences that support the development of communicative competence;
  • Provide consistent comprehensible language(s) appropriate to the needs of the child regardless of the modality or form;
  • Apply first and second language teaching strategies to teaching English (e.g., through ASL appropriate to the needs of the child and consistent with the program philosophy);
  • Facilitate and support communication among deaf and hard of hearing children and adults, hearing children and adults, including family/caregivers;
  • Monitor and evaluate the child’s communicative competence on a regular basis in academic and nonacademic contexts including the child’s use of signs, cues, speech, and/or assistive technologies;
  • Provide instruction and/or support for effective use of communication supports such as interpreting, transliteration, note-taking, real-time captioning, telecommunications, and computing.

Teacher of the Deaf Responsibilities, Knowledge and Skills

As a teacher of the deaf, you should have a working knowledge of hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM equipment, as well as understand and be able to interpret audiograms. You may have to share this information with school staff members or families. You may also have to and supervise paraprofessionals and sign language interpreters.

As with any special education teacher, you will have to develop and maintain compliant IEP‘s as well as assess students in the areas of academics, language, and communication.

Where Teachers of the Deaf Work

Young elementary school student signing the letter I for the class.There are a few educational options to where a teacher of the deaf can teach. All fifty states have schools for the deaf, as well as District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Students with hearing loss may also attend public schools. In areas where there is a high population of deaf students, there may be center schools for the deaf. Students are bussed in from several areas to one specific school.

A teacher of the deaf may either provide instruction and support in a separate class or as a resource teacher in a general education or special education classroom.

Deaf students may also attend their neighborhood school. If this is the case, the student may be the only deaf student at the school. Here, an itinerant teacher may be utilized. Itinerant teachers generally cover several schools in an area and provide one on one support to the student as well as collaborate with the classroom teacher.

Classroom or resource teachers serve students in a specific age range, where itinerant teachers tend to cover students pre-k through 12th grade.

Salary, Education and Certification

Certification for a teacher of the deaf varies from state to state. There are several colleges that offer bachelor and master degrees in education of the deaf. While you don’t have to have a degree in deaf education, you must be able to pass the state certification test. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is $53,220.

If you are looking for a career where you can support students’ communication needs, as well as their academic, social, and independent functioning needs, work with parents and professionals on understanding hearing loss, and have a variety of classroom settings to work in, then you should consider becoming a teacher of the deaf.