Special education master's programs provide students with the skills they'll need to assist special education students and to positively shape the field as a whole. In addition to cultivating various teaching and administrative skills, special education graduate students must learn how to work alongside a diverse range of students with disabilities. These types of disabilities range from psychological disorders, autism, developmental disorders, and physical disabilities, to only name a few. In a master's program, students enroll in an array of challenging courses and are typically required to complete dissertation-level research and writing.
Why a Master’s Degree?
According to the BLS, those who teach special education are required to have a bachelor’s and a state-issued teaching license to teach. There are, however, a growing number of school districts that have begun to increase the qualifications of special education teaching, sometimes requiring them to complete a master’s as well. Aside from teaching positions, a master’s also qualifies students to find employment as administrators and principals in a variety of schools. Those who want to attain the credentials necessary to become special education aides are only required to have an associate degree.
A master’s typically requires students to pursue a dissertation that touches on new and current research in special education topics, such as child psychology, child development, teaching methods, curriculum design, and more.
Inside a Special Education Master’s Degree Program
Students who commit to a special education master’s usually finish their program in four to five years. In addition to passing their graduate courses, students are expected to set aside time for thesis research and student-teaching requirements. Certification exams are another integral part of developing a well-rounded master’s program. These state-issued, required exams expect students to be able to identify the needs of numerous emotional, behavioral, developmental, and physical disorders commonly seen in special education students.
Some graduate students have the opportunity to attain their master’s in special education online. This type of program is appealing to those who are unable to enroll in full-time programs, such as working professionals or full-time parents. Although this type of degree is a flexible option, like traditional students, online students are expected to proficiently satisfy all course requirements.
What’s Next for Special Education Master's Degree Holders?
Jobs in primary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions are available to those who complete a master’s in special education. According to a report from the BLS, special education teachers earn an average of $61,350 annually. Keep in mind, salaries vary by institution ― high school instructors are likely to make more than elementary instructors, for instance. A master’s also qualifies students for administrative and principal positions in special education schools. These positions pay more than teaching positions, with an average annual salary of $91,780.
Though many students enter the job market after completing a master’s, some choose to look into a post-master’s certificate or Ph.D. program. Students who want to pursue careers in postsecondary teaching are advised to seriously consider a doctorate program.