Special Education: Overview of Adult Education for Special Ed Teachers

Jan 02, 2019

A directed path in special education comes at the graduate level. Many colleges offer evening and weekend courses since most educators are teaching and cannot attend day classes. Learn more about special education programs and opportunities for special education teachers.

Continuing education for special education is available at the graduate level in several different formats from many institutions. Here we discuss the program, common courses and important career information for the field.

Program Information

Special education teachers may continue their education with a master's degree in special education. These programs are available as Master of Education, Master of Science and Master of Arts degrees. Some programs help students get licensed as teachers, and accelerated study options are available. It's common for schools to offer areas of focus, such as autism, early childhood special education, deaf education, intellectual disabilities, visual impairment or gifted education. Completing a specialization can lead to an endorsement on the graduate's teaching license. In addition to doing coursework in education and the specialty area, students participate in field experiences. Program formats include on-campus, online and hybrid programs to provide flexibility and accommodate full-time professionals.

Program At a Glance

Master in Special Education

  • These programs generally take 18-24 months to complete and require a bachelor's degree in any field.
  • These programs are offered on-campus, online and in hybrid formats.


A master's program includes field experience, and a practicum or internship is also common. Field experiences typically take place in a school setting. Projects and research experiences are also included. Some programs may allow students to add a graduate certificate to enhance their master's degree. Graduate certificate topics may include response to intervention or applied behavior analysis. Though coursework will vary depending on the college and type of specialization you choose, common areas of study in a master's program include:

  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Behavior disorders
  • Mild and severe interventions
  • Physical disabilities
  • Exceptional children
  • Behavioral consultation
  • Special education research
  • Special education administration
  • Autism
  • Educational assessment
  • Special education legal aspects
  • Teaching reading and mathematics
  • Language acquisition

Career Options

Working in the field of special education will be rewarding and challenging. You may choose to specialize in working with children or adults. Special education encompasses working with people who have physical handicaps and mental retardation, as well as those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries or the gifted. Possible employment opportunities for graduates may include working within the following areas:

  • Gifted
  • Severely handicapped
  • Physically handicapped
  • Communicatively handicapped
  • Learning handicapped

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects average growth of six percent for special education teachers between 2014 and 2024. Preschool special education teachers will have the best prospects, with 9 percent growth expected between 2014 and 2024. The emotional demands of this career lead to job openings as teachers leave the occupation, and you can improve your job prospects by selecting a specialization, like autism or severe disabilities.

In May 2015, the BLS reported median wages for special education teachers of various grade levels. Preschool teachers made a median wage of $52,460, while kindergarten and elementary teachers made a median wage of $57,040. Special education teachers in secondary school earned a median wage of $59,700.

Master's degree programs in special education are available on-campus, online and in hybrid formats for adult learners, and still include valuable hands-on learning experiences. Graduates of these programs are fully trained in their area of specialization and prepared to work with special needs students at various grade levels.

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