Master's degree programs in special education prepare individuals to teach special needs students at all levels of schooling. Prerequisites for enrollment include a bachelor's degree, and some programs require a teacher's license. Program requirements may include a capstone project (which may include a thesis), a comprehensive exam, or teaching experience. Licensing requirements apply to those seeking to work in this field.
Master's Degree in Special Education
Foundational coursework in teaching methods and classroom management is included in the special education master's program. Students learn about specific learning disorders, as well as how to assess a child's performance. These programs cover psychological factors affecting special needs students and specific principles used to overcome these barriers. Some technology-based courses may be included. The following list displays possible course topics:
- Behavioral and classroom management
- Technology in special education
- Assessment in special education
- Educational psychology
- Inclusive teaching
- Disability law
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Special education teachers at the K-12 levels should see a 6% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Driving this growth rate is the increase in enrollment, especially for preschool-aged students. At these grade levels, the employment growth rate is expected to be 9% between 2014 and 2024. BLS data for May 2015 showed that secondary special education teachers earned a median salary of $58,500, while preschool special education teachers earned $53,990, and those at the kindergarten and elementary school levels made $55,810.
Licensure and Continuing Education
The BLS reported that all states have licensing standards for special education teachers. While these standards vary by state, typical requirements include having at least a bachelor's degree, completing a teacher preparation program, gaining student-teaching experience and passing an exam. Depending on their state, individuals may receive a general license or one that specifies a special education specialty. Licensed individuals may need to meet continuing education standards.
Doctoral programs are also available in special education. Students in these programs typically focus on research in a specific aspect of special education as well as take advanced coursework. Graduates may qualify for administrative positions or for those in research or university settings.
Though special education licensure varies state by state, a master's program in this field will provide students with a firm groundwork in the various theories, strategies and goals of special needs education. Graduates can consider teaching careers at various grade levels.