Special Education: Overview of Adult Education for Special Ed Teachers

A directed path in special education comes at the graduate level. Many colleges offer evening and weekend courses since most educators are teaching and cannot attend day classes. Learn more about special education programs and opportunities for special education teachers.

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Program Options

Special education teachers may continue their education with a master's degree in special education. These programs are available as Master of Education, Master of Science and Master of Arts degrees in on-campus, online and hybrid formats. Some programs help students get licensed as teachers, and accelerated study options are available. It's common for schools to offer areas of focus, such as autism, early childhood special education, deaf education, intellectual disabilities, visual impairment or gifted education. Completing a specialization can lead to an endorsement on the graduate's teaching license. In addition to doing coursework in education and the specialty area, students participate in field experiences.

Coursework

A master's program includes field experience, and a practicum or internship is also common. Though coursework will vary depending on the college and type of specialization you choose, common areas of study in a master's program include:

  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Behavior disorders
  • Mild and severe interventions
  • Physical disabilities
  • Exceptional children
  • Behavioral consultation
  • Special education research
  • Special education administration
  • Autism
  • Educational assessment
  • Special education legal aspects
  • Teaching reading and mathematics
  • Language acquisition

Career Options

Working in the field of special education will be rewarding and challenging. You may choose to specialize in working with children or adults. Special education encompasses working with people who have physical handicaps and mental retardation, as well as those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries or the gifted. Possible employment opportunities for graduates may include working within the following areas:

  • Gifted
  • Severely handicapped
  • Physically handicapped
  • Communicatively handicapped
  • Learning handicapped

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects slower-than-average growth of six percent for special education teachers between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Job prospects vary by grade level. Preschool special education teachers will have the best prospects, with 16 percent growth expected between 2012 and 2022. While middle school and secondary school special education teachers will experience slow five percent growth, kindergarten and elementary school special education teachers will have six percent growth. The emotional demands of this career lead to job openings as teachers leave the occupation, and you can improve your job prospects by selecting a specialization, like autism or severe disabilities.

In May 2013, the BLS reported median wages for special education teachers of various grade levels. Preschool teachers made a median wage of $52,070, while kindergarten and elementary teachers made a median wage of $53,910. Middle school special education teachers were paid a median wage of $56,300, while high school teachers made a median wage of $56,920.

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