Doctorate degree programs in special education are commonly available online; however, most programs have several residency requirements of a few days in duration. Some programs require internships in a school or other facility. Depending on the school and the number of courses taken each quarter, the online program takes a minimum of two and a half years to complete. Many students take longer to complete the 120-122 credit hours.
Courses in a doctorate degree program may cover educational leadership, supervision of teachers and laws that relate to special education. Students look at theories of learning, motivation and intelligence and examine their implications for persons with special needs. A dissertation is usually required.
Applicants usually need a master's degree with a 3.0 GPA from an accredited university, as well as related work experience and certification or licensure as a special education teacher. Students must also have a computer equipped with a CD/DVD drive, a printer, 40 GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM. They also need specific software, including Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player or Apple QuickTime, Windows Media Player and sufficient antivirus software.
Doctorate in Special Education
Students pursuing online Ph.D. degrees in education with a concentration in special education or special education leadership are exceptionally well-prepared to address the difficult situations facing the educationally challenged. Graduates often work in leadership roles, working on the financial, legal and ethical ends of special education. They may end up teaching, directing or administering special education programs in individual schools, school districts or at colleges. A graduate may also work as an independent or government consultant, developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Prerequisites often include a master's degree with a 3.0 GPA from an accredited university, a number of years of related work experience and certification or licensure as a special education teacher. Professional references are also commonly required.
Information and Requirements
Courses are delivered via online classrooms and discussion boards, but in-person components are commonly required as well. Generally lasting 3-6 days each, the three or four residency requirements are spaced out over the length of the program and typically consist of seminars, research sessions and colloquia.
Technical requirements include a computer with Internet access and a current operating system. The computer should be equipped with a CD/DVD drive, a printer, 40 GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM. An up-to-date browser must be used, and the computer should also have Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player or Apple QuickTime, Windows Media Player and sufficient antivirus software.
List of Common Special Education Courses
In addition to core courses, specialization courses and electives, students must also prepare, present and publish a dissertation based on individual research. Courses cover the management principles of special education programs, as well as highlighting topics related to curriculum development and the legal issues concerning special education.
In this overview of special education administration services, students learn how different factors affect the integration of special needs students to the educational system. The responsibilities of the administrator in relation to students, their families and the school staff are examined.
Students develop the skills necessary to understand the theory and design of doctoral-level research programs. Quantitative and qualitative reasoning are examined as students develop research plans. The questions of the implications of research with regard to social and ethical change are addressed.
Students learn to plan, assess and implement special education curricula and programs as different needs are addressed. Modern programs are analyzed in order to examine how standards for educational services are provided in different environments.
Law and Finance
Legal and financial aspects of special education programs are emphasized in this course. Focus is placed on historical precedent and current case law, with an emphasis on state and federal regulations. Political and ethical questions regarding the implementation and operation of programs are surveyed.
Collaboration with staff, families, concerned personnel and individual students is the emphasis of this course. How to achieve successful and respectful cooperation of all parties in the development of a quality special needs program is the desired outcome.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for all special education teachers are expected to increase by 6% from 2014-2024. The BLS also notes that as of May 2015, the average annual salary for special education teachers in pre-school was $58,210. All other special education teachers earned an average annual salary of $57,670. (www.bls.gov).
Membership in organizations such as the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, is recommended. Such associations offer educators information on careers, state and federal programs and grant money for special education projects.
In online doctoral programs in special education, students take advanced courses in the practical and logistical aspects of the field, and they conduct independent research leading to a final dissertation in a particular area of interest. Once they graduate, they are well-qualified to work with special needs students or to hold executive positions in schools, the government or as an independent consultant.