Salary Outlook + Things to Do with a Masters in Special Education

Millions of children enter special education classrooms each year in the United States – and that is in public schools alone. Private schools, clinic settings and other locations also offer opportunities for children with special needs and hire individuals holding Master’s degrees in Special Education.

When you earn your master’s degree in special education, you have several career options to choose from. Most involve teaching in a school or clinic setting or helping to diagnose and place kids with special needs into programs. Learning more about your options can help you choose the job that is right for you and allow you to put your skills to work in the perfect setting.

#1 Special Education Teacher

By far the most popular career choice for those with a Master’s degree in Special Education, teachers work in a variety of settings to help students with special needs in the classroom. Public schools, private schools and clinics hire special education teachers to work with students with a variety of needs. Kids with cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities and developmental disabilities require individualized education plans and special help at school. A special education teacher can work in a classroom with many children or one on one to assist a specific child. Some responsibilities of a special education teacher include:

  • Running a preschool, elementary school or upper school classroom for kids with special needs
  • Creating targeted strategies for individual students to help them meet stated goals
  • Facilitating learning in the classroom setting
  • Working with school therapists, counselors and administrators to evaluate students for placement in the special needs program
  • Work with other professionals to create individualized education plans for specific students each year
  • Use IEPs in the classroom setting to ensure that student needs are met

A special education teacher needs to be aware of the various disabilities a child may face and be able to come up with creative ways to include each child and support their unique abilities.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for special education teachers in 2016 was $57,910 per year.

#2 College Adjunct Professor

Once you have your Master’s degree in Special Education, you are qualified to work at the college level as a professor. Community colleges, private and public universities all hire adjunct professors to teach courses; your degree in special education will help you prepare others to become teachers and to cope with students with special needs.

If you also have classroom experience, it can enhance your ability to teach other educators and allows you to teach classes, give lectures or even host special training sessions. A position as a college professor can be full or part time and allows you to not only train the next generation but add new skills to your own resume as well. Common teaching duties include:

  • Planning coursework and creating a synopsis for one or more classes
  • Teaching students the fundamentals of special education
  • Conveying key strategies and elements for success in the special needs classroom
  • Using real world examples to share your own experience and knowledge with the next generation of teachers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an adjunct college professor can expect to earn a median salary of $75,430 per year when working full time. Many adjunct positions are contract based or part time, so this figure will vary.

#3 Clinical Services Provider

Once you obtain a master’s degree in special education, you can teach or provide assistance in a variety of settings that are not traditional schools. Autism clinics, group homes, special needs daycares and even hospital settings need special education providers to help kids, teens and adults with special needs.

While your degree is in teaching, in the clinic setting, you might become a developmental specialist, supervise specific children or patients or even support and oversee other special needs providers. As the number of children diagnosed with developmental disabilities like Autism continues to grow, the opportunities to work in a clinical setting grow as well. Depending on where you work, your clinical services provider role could include:

  • Working with clients one on one to help them learn and achieve goals
  • Planning activities, outings and events for children and adults with special needs
  • Creating community awareness events and promotions to help parents and others identify and empathize with special needs kids
  • Manage other providers ranging from speech therapists to behavioral therapists and assistants as they work with special needs kids.

A clinical services provider functions like a special education teacher in many ways, but in a healthcare based setting. The median salary for someone providing clinical services is $59,540, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

#4. Guidance Counselor

Guidance counselors for elementary, middle and high school come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from psychology to education; your Master’s degree can help you secure a position in this field. Since guidance counselors need to work with kids with social, developmental and communication issues, a special needs teacher is well equipped to work in this field. Typical responsibilities for a guidance counselor include:

  • Working with other faculty to identify kids with special needs and develop IEPs
  • Provide school and career advice for students
  • Help integrate special needs students into the general population
  • Communicate and interface with parents of special needs children; these parents spend more time in the school than the parents of typically developing kids and will consume more of your time and attention.

According to the Unites States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, school guidance counselors are experiencing average growth and have a median salary of $54,560 per year.

#5 Resource Team Member

Even if a child has a specific diagnosis, in the public-school setting, they need to be evaluated to see if they qualify to enter the special needs classroom. As a special needs educator, you can help screen students and identify those that require additional assistance. You’ll work with other professionals, including speech therapists, occupational therapists and the school psychologist to identify and categorize students with special needs. As part of this team, you’ll also develop IEP programs and help structure and supervise the special needs teaching team.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a resource team member in special education is $52,160 and this field is experiencing faster than average growth.