A bachelor's in special education prepares future teachers of students with mild to moderate disabilities. Those who pursue an undergraduate degree will learn to recognize disabilities, develop class plans for special needs students, teach and supervise special needs students, and abide by the laws and policies regarding special education. Students will develop an understanding of abnormal psychology, autism spectrum disorders, personality development, special education approaches, and emotional and behavioral disorders. These programs may also involve hands-on experience working in real classrooms. Success as a special education teacher requires a passion for the educational success of special needs children, a knack for encouragement, and excellent leadership skills.
Why a Bachelor’s Degree?
Teaching special education in private and public schools requires students to have a bachelor’s and a state-issued license to teach. Those who want to work as teacher’s aides in special education classrooms can start with an associate in special education. Most programs will largely focus on special education topics, such as educational psychology, child development, and legal issues. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teachers must study the various types of disabilities and learn how to present lessons to special needs students. To do this, undergraduate students typically participate in a student teaching internship or temp position prior to graduation.
Inside a Special Education Bachelor’s Degree Program
Full-time students can usually complete a bachelor’s in special education in four to five years. Student teaching engagements may also require a large amount of time spent outside regular coursework. Hands-on experience can be very important for teachers, especially those working in special education. Certification exams also tend to be part of an undergraduate program. To pass such an exam, students must identify and address a number of learning disabilities, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, developmental disorders, and physical disorders. The knowledge gained from a bachelor’s in special education will help students pass their certification exams and attain full-time teaching positions in special education classrooms.
Many online colleges and universities offer special education teaching programs. Courses are usually self-paced, and students are able to participate in class on their own time, as long as they meet required deadlines for assignments and tests. Discussion takes place online within course forums or over live chat. Students are able to work together online by emailing, chatting, or setting up virtual meetings. The online option can be great for those seeking flexibility, but it’s important to remain self-disciplined, as keeping up on your course responsibilities is a key part of student autonomy.
What’s Next for Special Education Bachelor Degree Holders?
Students are typically qualified to accept positions as special education teachers in primary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions upon graduation. According to the BLS, as of May 2014, special education teachers earned an average of $61,350 annually, of course where you work will greatly determine your wage; for instance, special education teachers at elementary and secondary schools earn more than $10,000, on average, than equivalent professionals working in mental health and substance abuse facilities. Overall, the BLS also indicates that special education teaching positions are projected to grow by 6% from 2014 to 2024.
Students who complete a bachelor’s degree in special education commonly look into a certificate or master’s in special education. A master’s allows students to pursue a topic in special education on which to focus research. Those who want to pursue careers in academia and postsecondary teaching may want to enroll in a PhD in special education program. Students with additional degrees and certifications are not only competitive candidates in the job market, they also qualify for higher-paying, higher-level positions in special education schools.