Special Education and Teaching

Overview of Special Education and Teaching Postsecondary Programs

Special education and teaching postsecondary programs cover psychology, autism, physical disabilities, speech and language impairments and other mental, emotional and physical disabilities that students have. 

College and University Academic Levels in Special Education and Teaching

To teach special needs students at elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels most states require you to have at least an Associate’s degree.  However, more advanced degrees are preferred.  Associate in Early Childhood Special Education, Bachelor's degree in Special Education, Master's degree of Special Education, Master of Special Education for Certified Special Educators, Master in Special Ed with Behavior Analysis Specialization, Doctorate degree in Special Education and Doctor in Special Education Administration are types of undergraduate and graduate education degrees for special education teachers.

You can also earn a Professional Specialization Certificate (PSC) in Special Education or a Diploma in Special Education.  These concentrated technical certificates and diplomas take approximately six to 12 months to complete.  Some postsecondary schools require you to complete a special education certificate program before you enroll in a diploma program.  Because you must have an undergraduate degree before you start teaching students in the nation’s classrooms, you can use special education diplomas and certificates to enhance your academic training.  You can also use diplomas and certificates to gain advanced intervention strategies and tools that you can use every day to help the students you teach learn basic and advanced educational and life skills.

Special Education and Teaching Curriculum

Regardless of the certifications and traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees that you earn, most accredited colleges and universities require you to complete particular types of courses.  These courses cover electives and technical special education materials.  Typical special education courses include:

  • Introduction to special education
  • Teaching students with disabilities
  • Instruction and curriculum
  • Technology applications
  • Working with families of special needs children
  • Disability reconsidered
  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Communication skills for people with disabilities
  • Linguistics of sign language
  • Language development and rehabilitation
  • Introduction to psychology
  • Student teaching in special education

How to Enroll in Special Education and Training Programs

Special education and teaching is an area that truly allows you to earn your degree from a college online if you have a computer and Internet access.  If you have to conduct one-on-one meetings with your professor you might also need a reliable telephone or you might be able to use an online system like Skype.  On the other hand, classroom special education and teaching programs make it easy for you to ask your professor questions as soon as they arise.  You can also interact with your classmates and get their insights on classroom assignments and projects that you find challenging.

Lifelong Benefits of Special Education and Teaching Programs

Generally people who major in special education and teaching already possess a strong sense of compassion, understanding and appreciation for other people.  They also enjoy working with children and exercise patience when dealing with themselves and others.  As an added benefit, getting a special education and teaching degree, certificate or diploma helps you to gain:

  • Ability to become a National Board Certified teacher (if you get a Master’s degree in special education and teaching)
  • Leadership training and experience
  • Understanding and appreciation of human diversity
  • Effective communication styles and tools
  • Focused student teaching skills
  • Growing respect for others
  • Innovative written and linguistic styles (e.g. sign language)
Job Outlook for Special Education and Teaching

Jobs open to special education and teaching program graduates are expected to increase by 17 percent from 2008 through 2018 according to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.  These teachers also earn attractive salaries.  The middle 50 percent of pre-school and elementary special education teachers earned from $40,480 up to $63,500. Middle school special education teachers earned between $41,720 and $63,480 a year.  Special education teachers who taught at the high school level earned between $41,810 and $65,680 a year.  However, the top 10 percent of special education teachers, regardless of the level they taught at, earned more than $78,000 a year.

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