Online Degrees in Special Education
As knowledge expands about the mental and emotional deficiencies that affect learning and social skills in children, and adults, the field of special education continues to evolve. According to the Council on Exceptional Children (cec.sped.org, 2012), approximately 6.5 million children with disabilities already receive early intervention, special education and other related services in public schools across the nation.
Laws emphasizing the training and employment of those with disabilities may also contribute to increased demand for special education professionals, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). Today, schools must be able to identify the specific disability afflicting a student, how it impairs their learning, and their current level of performance. Educators then build Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student, evaluating the services needed and how often they should be administered (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
Special education degree programs train students in strategies and teaching methods to reach learners with disabilities, as well as assessment and planning for special needs classrooms. Individuals with a degree in special education can be better equipped to help students with severe disabilities find success in regular classrooms. Often, online schools offer the degree in several specializations, including curriculum and instruction, early childhood education, or reading and literacy.
Associate Degree in Special Education: This program usually takes two years of full-time study to complete. Foundational curriculum may cover educational psychology, language development, and strategies for educating exceptional learners. At the associate level, students often fulfill general education requirements, such as math, humanities, and biological and social sciences. Graduates may choose to transfer their credits to a four-year college or university and pursue a bachelor's degree. After meeting state-specific requirements, they also have the option of applying to become a special education instructional aide (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
Bachelor's Degree in Special Education: Typically, bachelor's programs take four years to complete. Studies often include the principals of special education, such as classroom management, effective teaching practices, and assessment procedures. Additionally, there are many areas of concentration that students can study, such as early childhood education, English language learners, visual impairments, and mild/moderate disabilities. Most bachelor-level programs also feature a student teaching component, allowing aspiring instructors to gain experience in a real classroom environment. With proper state licensure, graduates may go on to become preschool or K-12 teachers, classroom aides or childcare workers (bls.gov, 2012).
Master's Degree in Special Education: A master's program in special education usually requires two years of additional coursework to complete. Students may be teachers who wish to expand their current knowledge base, or individuals with bachelors in other disciplines, who want to work with exceptional learners. Master's studies help provide a deeper understanding of the factors that may contribute to learning and behavioral disabilities, as well as strategies to integrate special needs students into mainstream classes. Graduates may pursue careers as special needs educators in a variety of settings, such as public and private schools, hospitals, clinics, residential facilities and children's homes (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
Doctoral Degrees in Special Education: The terminal degree level for special educators, doctoral programs generally take anywhere from three to six years to complete. Colleges typically offer the degree as either a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The Ed.D. is for individuals who want to primarily be practitioners, using the skills they learn to educate, while the Ph.D. is for those interested in conducting research and publishing papers, adding to the academic knowledge of special education.
Coursework tends to immerse students in qualitative and quantitative research methods, statistics, educational administration practices, and educator evaluation and assessment. In addition to core curriculum, students must complete a dissertation. The dissertation may be a study and analysis of original, collected data, or a new interpretation of existing research. Graduates often pursue careers as postsecondary educators, researchers or administrators. In addition, individuals can move into positions in nonprofit organizations, special education resource centers, or government agencies.
An online degree program in special education can help graduates learn how to evaluate, assess and motivate exceptional learners. In addition to the proper certification, these skills may qualify them to become special education teachers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/ooh, 2012), demand for these educators is projected to grow by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020. Graduates may also qualify for roles in nonprofit organizations, as special education consultants, tutors, or mentors to teachers. With a doctoral degree, graduates might conduct research and publish papers on exceptional learners and ways to overhaul programs so they are more successful. To learn more about available programs, request information from one of the online schools below.
"Federal Outlook for Exceptional Children: Fiscal Year 2013," Council for Exceptional Children, April 2012, http://www.cec.sped.org/Policy-and-Advocacy/Current-Sped-Gifted-Issues?sc_lang=en
"Special Education Teachers," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm
"Teacher Assistants," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/childcare-workers.htm
Online Degree Programs in Special Education
Capella courses focus on real-world application, so you’ll gain skills and knowledge you can apply right away.
Why ASU? At ASU, learning online is effective, flexible and smart. Every program delivered online is developed by the same excellent faculty who teach on our campuses, and is designed to engage students and professors in meaningful ways. The result? Our students are an integral part of a New American University.
Online. Accelerated. Affordable. Accredited.
Earn your degree online with Grand Canyon University. We offer approximately 100 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs in a variety of fields that can be completed 100% online.
- Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Special Education
- M.Ed. in Special Education: Certified Special Educators (Does not lead to initial teacher licensure)
- B.S. in Elementary Education / Special Education (Dual Major)
- M.Ed. in Special Education: Cross-Categorical (Does not lead to initial teacher licensure)
Earn a respected bachelor's degree, master's degree, or Ph.D. online at Walden University.
Earn your graduate degree online with Northcentral University.
With more than 160 fully accredited programs of study, Liberty University Online offers degrees from the certificate to the postgraduate level.