Focusing on accessibility design and advancements in the field, certificate program and master's degree programs are designed to prepare caregivers, nurses, and therapists to utilize assistive technology in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities. Aspiring educators must pass a certification or licensing examination according to the laws in their individual states. Other professionals may earn voluntary certifications if they have the requisite educational background and experience and pass a qualifying test. Prior to enrollment into one of these programs students need to have a bachelor's degree. In additions to traditional classes, online courses and programs are available.
Graduate Certificate in Assistive Technology
Graduate certificate programs train students to assess and design solutions to the problems of handicapped individuals. Legal requirements and technological advancements are also taught in these programs. Programs may require the completion of a capstone project. Graduate certificate programs in assistive technology train students to recognize disabilities and find adaptive technology to help disabled individuals. The program explores principles in assessment and teamwork. Classes covered in the programs include:
- Accessible web design
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Designing for adaptability
- Rehabilitation instrumentation
- Sensory impairments
Master of Education in Special Education: Assistive Technology
Master's degree students in special education programs concentrating in assistive technology use technology to help people with disabilities integrate into society, from work life to social settings. Assistive technology includes electric wheelchairs, screen readers, and alternative input systems, like sip-and-puff technology. Training in assistive technology is particularly applicable to occupations that require significant interaction with people with disabilities, like speech pathologists and occupational therapists. Future assistive technology providers study design for accessibility in order to provide dignity and independence to people with physical and cognitive impairments or difficulties. Commonly offered courses include:
- Adaptive environments
- Assistive technology integration
- Research topics
These programs count as continuing education credits towards a variety of recertification requirements. With additional training, students find work as:
- Occupational therapists
- Speech therapists
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of special education teachers is anticipated to grow 6% for the years 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). In 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salaries of special education kindergarten and elementary school teachers were $55,810. The BLS also stated in 2015 that the annual median wages of middle school and secondary school special education teachers were $57,280 and $58,500, respectively.
Licensure and Certification
Licensure requirements vary by state, but prospective teachers must have earned a bachelor's degree, completed a teacher preparation program and passed a certification exam. Commonly, supervised teaching experience is also required.
Voluntary certification is available from the AASEP, or the American Academy of Special Education Professionals (www.aasep.org). Earning the AASEP's Professional Board Certification in Special Education requires candidates to have earned a master's degree in a field relevant to special education and pass an exam. Recertification is required every year, but no continuing education credits are required.
Training for individuals wanting to specialize in assistive technology is offered at both the graduate certificate and master's degree levels. Both programs teach students about the various technologies used to aid individuals with disabilities, as well as how to implement them.