Why Study Special Ed?
With the economy slowing down and rapid changes being made to the job market everyday, many people are beginning to see the light on how a new education can help both the pocketbook and the spirit. However family constraints or current job restrictions may seemingly prevent a person from going back to school and getting the degree they wanted. Not anymore, thanks to the digital age. Now classes are offered at an individuals convenience, that is, when family chores and work commitments end a person can finish up their classwork at their own pace. With many degrees available as well the fields are wide open for a number of special education careers. In this article we will take a look at just a few of the many degrees available in the field of special education.
To start out, a degree in special education enables one to teach a diverse group of students. From the developmentally and mentally disabled to the "gifted" or talented students who excel above their class, there is no limit to the types of students one will meet. As opposed to regular teaching methods, a degree in special education allows one to have a more personal one-on-one interaction with the student, with methods being taught tailored to each individual students learning style. Career options in special education are not limited either. Various opportunities include test administration, research, gifted center tutoring and teaching among the most obvious career of individual class instruction.
A career in special education is an immensely rewarding one with job satisfaction being one of the highest of all education careers. Individuals interested in making a direct difference in disadvantaged students or academically orientated students would be a perfect fit for this career. Empathy along with goal setting along with professional characteristics such as timeliness, rigor and character are some characteristics of special education instructors.
According to the 2010 Government Occupational Outlook Handbook this is a career that is rapidly growing along with the expanding population of the United States. With more teachers retiring the need for special education teachers will not level off in the upcoming years. This is one career that will be in high demand for many years to come. Notable markets for this career are the rapidly expanding populations of the South and Western United States, while demand for this job is projected to be stable for the Midwest and Northeast.
Most special education jobs require either a Masters Degree or a teaching certificate, depending on the region. One should check with the area they wish to teach in to find out the exact qualifications for a special education teacher. The most common setting to find special education instructors in is when a part of public or private institutions (about 80%) with others teaching in university or other settings.
Salaries for these careers are in the $25,000 to $50,000 a year range, with many factors attributing to the pay scale. Those with more experience and more qualifications (such as certificates, educational recognitions) will naturally be on a higher pay scale than those without the aforementioned. Location and region also effect salaries with those in a private educational setting making higher than average wages than their public counterparts.
Needless to say however this is one career where job satisfaction is high, salary is decent and the rewards are countless. Many modern schools are integrating special needs care in with normal classroom activities, so that those undergoing the extra attention do not feel isolated or separated from their peers. These modern techniques are help shaping the future of special education and needs.
Teaching Degree Requirments
To teach special education, as mentioned previously, one needs either a Masters Degree in Arts or Education or a teach certificate that certifies them in special education. To obtain these degrees one must receive a bachelors or associates degree (depending on region and pre-requisites) in any subject, although education is preferred. Once a bachelors or associates is obtained a masters degree or certification can be obtained through any number of reputable universities, whether a physical institution or online. For the remainder of this guide we will discuss online options however.
The amount of hours each program requires depends on the university, and one should check before applying. Typically for a Masters degree it is a period of 12-24 months with extensions usually granted for unforeseen circumstances. For solely a teaching certificate in special education the average amount of time spent is 6-12 months, depending on the speed of completion of coursework. For PhD and other doctorate programs in special education the amount of time is usually 24 months or more, depending on the program.
Typical instruction involves extensive use of writing and communication skills and real world scenarios. Many programs require a mentor for the student, or some form of real world experience before an applicant would be considered. Math and science are helpful to have as prerequisites, but is not required for some programs.
Schools Offering Online Degrees & Coursework
In order to teach in special education in some regions, a Bachelors of Arts in Special Education is only required. This is not typical and one should check with the area they wish to teach in before obtaining this degree. Through Western Governors University one can obtain this BA in Special Education. Although pricey, if an individual does not have their Bachelors degree yet this is a viable cost-saving option.
If an individual already has their Bachelors degree, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Education - Exceptional Student Education can be obtained through NorthCentral University Online (http://www.ncu.edu/). This program, designed for those not wanting to obtain a masters degree, offers a teaching certificate for around $11,000 which may be all some need in order to get started teaching.
For certain career paths individuals may only be interested in supervising the education of special needs children. For a career like this one could use a Master of Arts in Education - Supervisor of Special Education degree, obtained from University of Nebraska at Kearney Online (http://www.unk.edu/). With this degree, available for around $17,000, one would be in charge of curriculum planning, keeping up with government standards and conducting discipline. In addition a supervisor would be in charge of community relations and human resource management making sure everything runs smoothly.
Another University of Nebraska at Kearney Online (http://www.unk.edu/) degree that could be obtained is the Master of Arts in Education in Special Education - Advanced Practitioner degree. This degree would further emphasize the course of study in relation to learning disabilities, diabetes care, behavior disorders and other topics. For around $18,000 this degree is available from 12-24 months.
Utah State University has a great bachelors program for Communicative Disoroders and Deaf Education.
Arkansas State University Online (http://www.astate.edu/) offers a Master of Education in Special Education - Instructional Specialist 4-12 degree in addition to other more standard Master's Degrees. This degree program would be for the individual looking to specialize right from the start of their education. This extremely comprehensive degree, with curriculum ranging from exceptional child in the regular classroom classes to special education law, requires a student to obtain a mentor before entering the program. This mentor would serve as a guide and help the student understand in real life situations how their education applies to the working world.
For those already with a Masters of Education of Arts degree in either education or special education, further certifications are available. The University of New England (http://www.une.edu) offers a Certificate of Graduate Study - Education in Inclusion Education for those wishing to focus more on special education in a larger classroom setting. These instructors would be responsible for supervising the special needs students in day to day classroom instruction along with their peers in regular school programs. The focus for this program revolves around curriculum planning and using new technology in the classroom setting and a more indepth look at special education law in the classroom. For a price of $7,000 this certification would be well worth the expense for some instructors.
Lesley University (http://www.lesley.edu) offers degrees focusing mainly on autism with their specialized Advanced Professional Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders for those already with a graduate degree. This degree would enable an individual to obtain special training in practical management for autism disorders in an everyday environment. This course emphasizes the theoretical foundation of teaching a child with autism, and requires extensive letters of recommendation before an applicant would be considered. Total cost for this program ranges around $7,000.
For those looking to obtain a PhD or other doctorate in special education North Central University (http://www.nce.edu) offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education - Exceptional Student Education degree. This degree is extremely comprehensive and includes such coursework as teaching strategies, theories of education, special education law, technology and teaching methods and other coursework. An individual would be easily prepared to teach or lead instructors in a special education setting after obtaining this degree. This degree requires a masters degree and comes in around $30,000. Many careers in academia are offered for those looking to seek this degree.
For those looking to lead fellow instructors in teaching special education Capella University Online offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education - Special Education Leadership degree. This degree would mainly focus on special education on a district-wide or small school system environment. Typical degree candidates are interested in careers in administration or others. The Occupational Outlook Handbook quotes many high-school level administrators salaries at $90,000 on upward.
Overall a career in special education is one that is rewarding, fulfilling, and continually changing. With each year many new advancements and strategies are found effective in the classroom setting, and instructors are expected to maintain the latest practices and standards. To remain a cost effective degree one should study the market they are looking at instructing in to make sure salaries meet their demands.