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Degree Overview: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree in Special Education

Majors Overview November 5, 2014

Students in special education undergraduate degree programs will be prepared for graduate study in states that require a master’s degree to teach or to become licensed teachers. Coursework focuses on education and psychology.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree Programs in Special Education

Prospective school paraprofessionals, substitute teachers, and undergraduate students, among others interested in a career in the field, would benefit by earning a bachelor’s degree in special education.

Students enrolled in the program gain a strong grasp of liberal arts before they are equipped with the pedagogical, practical, and theoretical knowledge they would need to teach students with special needs. Students will not only become adept at evaluating and assessing special needs students, but also at managing a special needs classroom.
The primary focus of most programs is on instructing students about general types of learning disabilities and mental illness, in addition to the disciplinary and psychological techniques necessary for handling troubled or misbehaving students. In-class training culminates most classes, which often include a teaching practicum, assistant teaching, or student teaching.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Many schools also insist on the submission of a letter of recommendation and SAT or ACT scores, in addition to a personal statement.


Hands-on training and theoretical instruction are combined in coursework that is often delivered within special education classrooms and usually comprised of classes in psychology and pedagogy. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Behavioral problems in special education
•Special education curriculum development
•Classroom management
•Ethics and teaching
•Developmental and social abnormalities
•Common learning disabilities
•Psychological disorders
•Special education teaching techniques

Job and Wage Outlook

A slower than average job growth rate of 6% has been predicted for special education teachers over the 2012 – 2022 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, the average annual wage packets earned by teachers working in primary schools, middle schools, and secondary schools were $53,820, $55,780, and $56,830 respectively (BLS).
slower than average job growth rate
Continuing Education Choices

Licensure, which is granted by either licensing committees or state education boards, is mandatory for special education teachers. Each state may have its own licensure requirements. In some states, only a bachelor’s degree may be required for these professionals to obtain licensure, while, in others, a master’s degree may be mandatory.
More advanced pedagogical training can be obtained through master’s degrees in special education, in addition to specific instruction related to common disorders. There is also a greater focus on research in master’s degree programs.

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