Online Master’s Degree in Special Education

There is a strong need for special education in this country. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities receive special education and related services through the Individuals with Disabilities Act, a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. Special education encompasses educational programs that help children with mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral disabilities. An online masters degree in special education can benefit those educators looking to work with special needs children, providing them with the necessary tools, skills, and expertise. The length of these programs vary by the school, how many classes a student needs to take, and the student’s background, though they generally are about two years.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Special Education

Online masters degree programs in special education are typically geared toward teaching professionals interested in gaining special education skills, meaning applicants are already in the education field and have basic teaching credentials. A masters degree would provide teachers with the fundamental skills and knowledge to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Areas of further specialization may include autism; technologies for special education; and languages and cultural issues, for those teachers who are seeking to work with linguistically and culturally diverse students. Classes you may encounter during an online masters degree program in special education include:

  • Fundamentals of Special Education
  • Literacy and Content Skill Development
  • Emotional and Behavioral Support
  • High Incident Disabilities
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders

In addition to classes, a masters degree in special education is likely to provide students with the opportunity to observe and practice supervised instruction; design and conduct special education programs; and conduct research. Graduate students also most likely will need to submit a thesis or master’s paper in a specialized subject to successfully complete the program.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Special Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all states require public special education teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and some states require special education teachers to earn a master’s degree in special education. Master’s degrees in special education, therefore, may be a necessary step for those teachers looking to go into special education. If not required, a master’s degree in special education can help teachers gain the most up-to-date skills and expertise in working with special needs children, especially if their undergraduate teaching degree wasn’t in special education.

Employment of special education teachers is expected to grow by 17% through 2010, according to the BLS, buoyed by increasing enrollment overall and continued demand for special education. Enrollment growth is expected to be greater at the kindergarten, elementary, and middle school levels than for high school grades. Because children with special needs are being identified earlier, there also will be a greater need for special education teachers for young children. The BLS also notes that job opportunities may be better in certain specialties, such as early childhood intervention or working with students with multiple disabilities, severe disabilities, or autism spectrum disorders. While most special education master’s degree programs are geared toward teachers, some students may decide to use their degree for a career outside of teaching, such as administrative work, education policy, or education research.


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