Career and Salary Guide for a PhD in Special Education

PhD in Special Ed

A PhD is the highest degree you can acquire to become a special education teacher. The ways you can become involved with the profession with a PhD are countless and often enable one to get closely associated with developing lasting change in this field. Special education is a field that often has people fighting on both sides of issues pertaining to special needs individuals, so having more well educated advocates for them is a great career to pursue. With most careers, this degree will help you receive a higher salary for your work. Even so, the salary will depend on the location and type of school in which you choose to make your living. For example, public school positions will often offer you both paid summer vacations, a retirement pension, and health insurance. Other private or inner-city schools may not offer the same kind of package, but will try to incentivize being employed with them nonetheless.

However, with a PhD, you can pursue a variety of careers, many more than one might have realized. It’s going to allow individuals to go after jobs that may have not been available to one who has a masters degree. You might also qualify for research positions or high-level administrative jobs, which is very likely based on the wealth of experience you’ll bring into a profession. While pursuing your PhD, you’ll have the opportunity to explore your career options and decide what industry best suits your experience and interests. Special education is a broad field that encompasses more than just time in the classroom. Many times with a PhD, you’ll be a crucial element in developing district or state-wide special needs programs. The degree will also position you to help work in policy work in a variety of federal positions that can create breakthrough work for special needs students.

Special Education PhD Specializations

Getting a PhD in special education usually means specializing in a certain area of special ed. Typically a graduate of a PhD program will go on to advanced jobs, including leadership, administrative, and teaching positions. Additionally, PhD students may focus in research and end up teaching at colleges and universities around the country. Some may also become a director of special education programs, or perhaps the director of a disability service.

Remember that not all schools offer the same programs. It’s important to research each school and its programs carefully, some may specialize in particular areas of the field, especially when you get to a PhD level and may be delving into fairly specialized areas. If you want to focus on teaching, you’ll want to look for programs that offer the training in this area, but many times a PhD will over-qualify one for teaching positions. If you want to pursue a research position, search for programs that focus heavily on theory and philosophy. You’ll also be heavily involved in policy research (such as the No Child Left Behind Act), but there are many areas you can become involved in. Since the profession has such a wide array of jobs you can get involved in, it’s important to find the specialization you prefer.

Special Education PhD Salaries

As mentioned before, the more advanced your education is, the higher you can expect your salary, generally. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of special ed teachers in May 2010 was $53,220. The top 10 percent, which were the most advanced teachers with the highest education, earned more than $83,410. The position proves to be fairly lucrative and gets individuals involved in a number of different professions.

The median annual wages for special education teachers by grade level in May 2010 were as follows:

  • $54,810 for high school special education teachers
  • $53,440 for middle school special education teachers
  • $52,250 for preschool, kindergarten and elementary school special education teachers

The highest-paying states for special education salaries are the following:

  • Connecticut – $71,670
  • New York – $70,010
  • Rhode Island – $68,930
  • California – $67,390
  • New Jersey – $66,790
  • Virginia – $66,250
  • Alaska – $65,940
  • Maryland – $62,370
  • Illinois – $60,320
  • Massachusetts – $59,000

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