Students in special education master's degree programs gain skills in research, leadership and analytical writing, and they're often required to complete supervised fieldwork, along with integrative projects, a thesis assignment and a comprehensive exam. Some potential specializations include early childhood, physical impairments, mild or moderate disabilities, hearing impairment, and sensory or intellectual disabilities. Several programs offer some classes online.
An undergraduate teaching degree or a certificate in teaching combined with a bachelor's degree in another major may be required for admission. Applicants usually are required to submit official transcripts and GRE scores.
Master of Arts in Special Education
These professional degree programs offer pedagogic practice in the fundamentals of special education, including behavioral theories, cognitive structures and development philosophies. In general, students acquire experience in service delivery systems, rehabilitation methods and accessible technologies. Students study areas like intervention strategies, aspects of emotional disturbance and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder. Students may engage in topics that address:
- Instructional planning, assessment and evaluation
- Diversity and bilingual education
- Family services
- Language development
- Pedagogical foundations
- Disabilities and behavior disorders
Popular Career Options
Graduates who obtain a Master of Arts in Special Education are good candidates for career advancement. Individuals may pursue positions as:
- Disability advocates
- Special education teachers
- Community college instructors
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies disability advocates as social and human service assistants. The job growth for these professionals is expected to be 11% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov), and their median annual wage was $30,830 as of May 2015. Postsecondary education teachers are expected to have a job growth rate of 9% from 2014-2024, while special education teachers will see an employment growth rate of 6%, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for postsecondary education teachers as of May 2015 was $61,560; special education teachers earned $56,800.
An individual may choose to continue their education in this field by pursuing a relevant doctoral degree. Doctorate programs can prepare individuals for careers in research, education or administration.
A master's degree in special education can help current teachers and social service worker advance their careers. Most of these programs offer students a variety of specialized areas of research to pursue during the course of their studies.