Master of Education (M.Ed): Special Education Degree Overview

Master's degrees in special education can prepare licensed teachers and aspiring teachers to educate children who require special education due to emotional, developmental or physical conditions.

Essential Information

Master of Education programs in special education may be designed for students with bachelor's degrees in non-education fields seeking certification, or they may be designed for current teachers. Topics of study often include teaching methods and special education trends, among others. Students typically participate in classroom instruction, conduct research and gain practical experience. Potential program specializations include deaf education and behavior analysis. Some online programs are available.


Master's Degrees in Special Education

A bachelor's degree and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are common prerequisites for admission into special education master's degree programs. Some institutions require applicants to have special education or teaching certification.

Students in special education master's programs learn the regulations and laws pertaining to education, teaching methods and child development. Many programs allow students to choose concentrations in various aspects of special education, such as autism or visual impairment. Practical training is usually required before graduating from a master's program in special education. Typical courses in a master's degree program include:

  • Education problems
  • Early education assessment
  • Special education research
  • Education philosophy
  • Educational psychology
  • Classroom management

Employment Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teaching positions are expected to grow by 6% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). As new legislation calls for better special education standards, the demand for special education teachers is growing and more states require teachers to have a master's degree in Special Education.

A candidate's location and expertise play a role in the job prospects for special education teachers. In May 2015, the BLS reported that special education teachers at middle schools earned an annual mean income of $60,300. Those in kindergarten and elementary schools earned $58,640 and those working at secondary schools earned $62,180.

Licensure and Continuing Education

Special education teachers are required to attain licensure in all states. Each state sets its own licensure requirements, but typically a minimum of a bachelor's degree and training from an approved teacher preparation program is needed. Master's degrees in special education are required for licensure in some states. Students may wish to further their studies by entering into a doctoral degree program in special education. These programs place emphasis on research and teaching at the university level. Students can often customize their curriculum by choosing a specialty.

Master's programs in special education are designed for both aspiring teachers seeking initial certification and licensed teachers. Students may conduct research and gain first-hand classroom experience. Job opportunities for special education teachers are expected to be about average compared to all other occupations.


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