Careers in Special Education
Here we discuss some of the possible careers for graduates of a master's degree program in special education. We also discuss some job duties as well as degree program specializations and course topics.
With a master's degree in special education, graduates are able to work as special education teachers or specialists. They may begin their careers by observing classes and working alongside general education teachers or serving as aides in special education departments. Those who earn a graduate degree in this field may work in elementary, middle, and secondary schools, or non-traditional settings. Graduates can pursue positions that involve duties ranging from classroom teaching to program management.
Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers work with children suffering from language impairments, emotional problems, visual impairments, autism, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder and several other mental problems. While working with these students, often individually, the teacher may create an educational program for each student. This helps him or her understand the educational concepts. Responsibilities include everything from helping students with their daily homework to creating an appropriate curriculum for the individual student's level.
Special education teachers in all states are required to be licensed. Licensure requirements typically include earning a bachelor's degree and completing a teacher preparation program. In some states, special education teachers must earn a master's degree in order to become licensed. Students interested in this career should look into their state's requirements when deciding on a degree program.
Other Job Positions
Other job opportunities to consider for those with a master's degree in special education include resource teachers, behavior analysts, intervention specialists, and directors of special education.
Resource teachers act as teacher leaders and specialists in their particular subject area. They support and coach other staff members, apply instructional intervention strategies, and develop assessments, among other duties.
Behavior analysis looks at environmental factors influencing behavior to then help teach individuals to change their behavior to more closely align with what is socially acceptable. As independent practitioners, certified behavior analysts provide behavior-analytic services, including behavioral assessments, treatment plans, and data analysis. They may also supervise others who implement behavior-analytic interventions.
Intervention specialists work to foster achievement among disabled students through various interventions. Their responsibilities include improving instructional practices and providing teacher training on research-based practices.
Special education directors usually have extensive leadership and classroom experience in the field. They manage special education programs and make the decisions that can further help students with special needs.
Special Education Master's Degrees
Before one can be employed in any of these careers, they must first successfully complete a master's degree program in special education. Many schools offer a student the option to major in special education as an undergraduate and stay for one or two extra years and earn a graduate degree in the field. Special education master's degree programs may require students to specialize in an area such as emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, autism intervention, behavioral management, correctional special education, and traumatic brain injury. Each of these specialties may be geared toward a different level and place of education, like correctional special education, which involves working with juvenile offenders with disabilities.
Classes differ based on the specialty the student chooses. Many master's degree programs in special education feature core courses, including foundations of special education, human relations, special education law, motor skills assessment, and special education leadership.
Students with a master's degree in special education are prepared to work as special education teachers, intervention specialists, behavior analysts, and more. Graduates will have studies in various topics in the field, including human relations and special education law, in preparation for working with students with special needs.