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Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Special Education

Majors Overview July 23, 2015

This article talks about master’s degree programs in special education and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education and licensure choices.

Master’s Programs in Special Education

Special education teachers often work with administrators, parents and other teachers to create coursework customized for the specific disabilities of students. Special education master’s degree programs are devised to impart expertise to individuals in teaching special needs students at all school levels.

Courses cover psychological factors that affect special needs students and specific principles that can overcome these barriers. Additionally, students can develop management and assessment skills. Programs have a capstone requirement including a thesis, teaching experience or comprehensive exam.

Concentration areas are available in many master’s programs, these include working with visually impaired or deaf students. Schools commonly offer degrees as a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Education (M.Ed.). Licensure is mandatory to those seeking careers in this field.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree. Eligibility for a teacher’s license is a criterion for application for admission to some master’s programs in special education.


The special education master’s program includes foundational coursework in classroom management and teaching methods. Students are taught about specific learning disorders and about assessing a child’s performance. Coursework may also include some technology-based courses. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Disability Law
•Educational psychology
•Special education technology
•Behavioral management
•Classroom management
•Special education assessment
•Inclusive teaching

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, a job growth of six percent has been predicted for special education teachers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The growth projection owes itself to increased enrollment, especially for preschool-aged students. High school level teachers in special education are expected to see only a 5% growth in jobs. In May 2012, secondary teachers in special education brought in an average annual wage of $56,830 with the highest 10% bringing in over $89,770. The average annual wage for every other type of teacher in special education was $51,980.

Continuing Education and Licensure Choices

Licensure is compulsory in all states for special education teachers. Each state has its licensing norms, but common requirements include a bachelor’s degree, completion of a teacher preparation program, passage of an exam and student-teaching experience. Some states issue a general license or one specifying a specialty in special education. Continuing education standards may have to be met by licensed individuals.

Schools also offer doctorate programs in special education. Apart from advanced coursework, the focus of these programs is typically on research on a particular part of special education. Graduates may seek careers or administrative positions in academia or research.

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