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Many educators who want to make a big difference in the lives of children decide to earn their master’s degree in special education. Special education is dedicated to providing as much support as possible for students who have various physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral disabilities.
A master’s in special education will empower you to assist your special education students to overcome many obstacles to education. This advanced degree attracts education professionals who have a strong desire to improve the lives of children who have special needs.
A special education career will offer some of the most beneficial and rewarding opportunities in the entire field. Whether you are teaching K-12 students, adolescents or adults, you will be in a strong position to help others.
With a master’s in special education, you will be well educated to work in these areas:
- Special education teacher: Work with students of all ages who have a variety of learning, emotional and physical disabilities. You will be adapting general lesson plans in education in reading, math, writing, history and others so that your special students can still receive a quality education. You also may be teaching basic literacy and communication techniques to your students. These teachers often most work with regular teachers and administrators and parents so that the educational needs of special students are fully met.
- Recreational therapist: Plan, direct and coordinate various recreation based treatment programs for those who have a variety of disabilities, illnesses and injuries. You may use arts and crafts, music, drama, dance, drawing and much more to help to improve the skills and overall well being of your students or patients. These professionals often have a special education background and work with those with physical and mental problems, using recreation to help them to recover.
- Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teacher: Instruct regular adults as well as those with special needs in basic education skills, including reading, writing and speaking English. The main goal of this profession is to help these adults to get their high school equivalency diploma so that they can get a job and possibly attend college.
Why Earn a Master’s in Special Education?
In 2014-15, at least 6.6 million students across the US received some type of special education services in public schools. This is nearly 13% of the total US population of public school students. This number is expected to grow in the next decade as more students are diagnosed with special needs; there is more advanced testing today than decades ago. This means that more students will be diagnosed as special education students in the future.
This need also will be driven by federal law: Schools today are legally mandated to both develop and deploy an individualized education program for all special needs students; this is required to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Special education teachers are a vital component of classrooms today.
Professionals with a special education background may also work in other fields, including in rehabilitation, special education testing, special education specialists who focus on one student at a time, and educational diagnostician. Jump to all Masters in Education Programs or see an entire list of graduate degree programs online.
To be admitted into a master’s in special education program, you will need to meet strict requirements, such as:
- 3.0 GPA
- GRE scores may be required if GPA is below 3.0
- Three academic and/or professional recommendations
- Writing samples
- Official transcripts
- Bachelor’s in education or related field
Curriculum and Courses
St. Joseph’s University offers a Master of Science in Special Education that is founded upon the well-known Response to Intervention or RTI program. This is a research based strategy for special education student achievement that has been implemented with great success in many school districts in the US.
Most graduates of this two year MS program also may receive a Special Education Certification in the state of Pennsylvania. This certification is of great value as it is often recognized by other states. With advanced training and professional special education certification from this university, you will have a major leg up in your career in special education.
This university offers two concentrations that have been specially designed to serve the needs of modern special education students:
- Autism endorsement concentration: Focuses on the proper diagnosis and also with ongoing delivery of lessons across the entire spectrum of autism disorders. The emphasis is on both skill development and behavioral modification.
- Wilson Reading System concentration: One of the online online training programs available for this very successful and popular reading system for special needs students.
Core courses include:
- Foundations and Current Issues in Special Education
- Families, Schools, and Communities: Communication and Collaboration
- Diagnostic Assessment and Progress Monitoring
- Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with High Incidence Disabilities
- Research-based Models and Procedures: Literacy, Written and Oral Language, and Reading in the Content Areas
- Research-based Models and Procedures: Mathematics and Science Procedures
- Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with Emotional/Social and Behavioral Disorders
- Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with Low Incidence Disabilities
Career Outcomes and Job Titles
Your possible job titles with a special education master’s degree include:
- Special education teacher
- Director of special education
- Teacher supervisor
- Adult education teacher
- Special education consultant
Job and Salary Outlook
- Special Education Teacher — Employment for these teachers is expected to rise by 6% by 2024, which is about as fast as other occupations. Depending upon the city in which you live, you could find that demand could be higher or lower. However, in the faster growing parts of the country, you could see much faster growth; there are many more children today diagnosed with special needs, including autism. There also is a stronger focus today on ensuring that all students receive a good education. The median income is $56,800.
- Recreational Therapist — This field will experience 12% growth by 2024 as the US population is aging and more people will need therapy for various conditions that come with aging. For example, older Americans are more likely to have strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, so you could have more clients or patients with these type of conditions that come with aging. The median income is $45,800.
- Adult Education Teacher — Workers in this occupation will experience 7% job growth by 2024; it is believed that increased immigration to the US will create more need for adult literacy and high school equivalency students. There are many immigrants who do not speak English and must learn so that they can get good jobs. There are many special needs adults as well coming into the country who will need special education classes. The median salary is $50,200.
Scholarships and Grants
- Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver: If you are going to be a special education teacher in Illinois, you can get a tuition waiver if you attend an in state school.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant: This federal grant program will provide you with $4000 per year in grants if you are going to teach special needs students.
- Association of American Educators: This is the largest nonunion professional educators organization in the US. It advances the teaching profession by providing a more modern approach to representing teachers’ interests.
- National Association of Special Education Teachers: The only national membership group that is dedicated to the needs of special education teachers.