What Can I Do with a Master's Degree in Special Education?

A master's degree program in special education can prepare graduates for a career teaching exceptional students. This article will tell you what you can do with a master's degree in special education and about the curriculum of these programs. Schools offering Emotional & Behavioral Disorders degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

A master's degree in special education can prepare you to work as a special education teacher in schools, hospitals, juvenile correctional institutions and other facilities, as well as in non-teaching administrative and research positions with various agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, the majority of special education professionals are teachers in public schools.

Special education teachers work with students with a variety of mild and serious disabilities. They may teach in specific special education classrooms or assist disabled students in inclusive classrooms. Special education teachers design and teach individual learning plans and assist students with assignments. They may also teach students practical life skills, such as buying groceries or balancing a checkbook. Special education teachers also assist with students' social and behavioral growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teachers prepare students for social situations and instruct them in socially appropriate behavior.

Important Facts About Special Education Teachers

On-the-Job Training Internship/residency program
Professional Certification Mandatory; requirements vary by state
Key Skills Patience, clear written and spoken communication, ingenuity, critical thinking
Similar Occupations Career and technical education teachers, childcare workers, elementary, middle, and high school principals, occupational therapists, social workers

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the BLS, employment of special education teachers was expected to grow by just 6% from 2014-24, slower than average for all occupations. The BLS said the most job opportunities may be in working with children at the preschool and kindergarten levels. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for special education teachers was $55,980 in May 2014.

Degree and Licensing Information

In general, applicants seeking master's degrees in special education are already licensed teachers who need additional training in order to be certified in special education. However, some programs are open to individuals with bachelor's degrees in areas other than education who seek initial certification. Online classes are available, although field experiences are required in all programs. Most master's degree programs in special education require around 18-24 months of study.

Many states offer general licenses in special education that allow teachers to work with many types of disabilities, while other states have specialized licenses in areas such as autism education. All states require that teachers have at least a bachelor's degree and have completed a teacher education program that includes student teaching.


Many schools offer specialized master's degrees in special education. For instance, the University of Kansas offers special education degrees in six areas of emphasis, including high-incidence disabilities, like dyslexia and attention deficit disorder; and low-incidence disabilities, such as blindness. Master's degree programs in special education include a thesis project and many hours of practical training working with students in real schools. Courses in special education master's degree programs cover:

  • Disabled student instruction
  • Behavior support
  • Communication strategies
  • Life skills instruction

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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