Career and Degree Options in Special Education

Career opportunities in special education venture far beyond teaching disabled or learning-impaired students. In fact, many positions within the field special education focus on early intervention and therapy for students with developmental or behavior disabilities. Other positions, like administrators and technology specialists, help develop and create curriculum for students. All of these positions require compassion, patience, and a desire to make a difference in someone’s life.

Click on the links below to jump to helpful sections on special education careers:

What should I look for in a special education graduate program?

A graduate program in special education is designed to prepare students for leadership and administrative positions. Many schools offer a PhD in special education, but each school is unique in its approach to teaching and learning. The degree program you choose should be accreddited, should prepare you for licensure and to pass all required exams, and ought to provide opportunities for specialization in areas that interest you.

The following schools and programs are some of those which meet these requirements:

SchoolPrograms
Northcentral University
Northcentral University

Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA
Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University

Accreditation
  • HLC
Walden University
Walden University

Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA
Capella University
Capella University

Accreditation
  • HLC

See all schools that offer Special Education degrees...

Will I need an instructional license?

Whether or not you need an instructional license for your career largely depends on two factors: the position you desire and your state’s requirements. Not all positions within the special education field require licensure. However, some positions will require continued education or a graduate degree. Each state has different requirements for licensure, but most will require:

  • Passing a state exam
  • Continuing education
  • Professional experience

How do I choose the right degree?

Generally speaking, at least a bachelor’s degree along with a teaching licensure is required for a teaching position in special education. Some teaching positions may require a master’s degree in education or even a doctoral degree. PhD degrees in special education are often required for positions as a specialist, therapist, or administrator.

Some degree programs will lead to a teaching licensure. Other programs are designed specifically for students who have already obtained this credential. Additionally, many careers involved with special education may be focused on research or administrative duties instead of working directly with children. Make sure you are getting the right degree by researching the outcomes of a program you are interested along with the typical requirements for the position you desire.

What careers are available in special education?

Our career guide explores the various opportunities that are opened with a PhD in Special Education as well as the responsibilities of each position. We also answer several questions about getting a degree in special education and even provide some suggestions for schools to help you start your search.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders: These specialists can work as teachers or consultants to students with Autism.
  • Curriculum and Instruction: Curriculum and instruction specialists develop and design the curriculum for special education students and help implement it in a practical way.
  • Exceptional Student: These specialists work with children that can, in many cases, excel in some areas of learning while struggling with others.
  • General Special Education: Students are prepared for several roles within the special education field, including administrators, teachers, consultants, and sometimes researchers.
  • Gifted Education: Gifted education specialists work with children that demonstrate advanced learning capabilities to challenge them and present additional opportunities to learn.
  • High-Incidence Disabilities (M.S.E.): These specialists work with teachers and consultants for students who have behavioral or developmental disabilities that can impede on their learning.
  • Special Education Leadership: Leaders in special education help manage administrative duties and work with teachers, researchers, and specialists towards a common goal.
  • Visual Impairments: Specialists in the area of teaching the visually impaired work with students who are completely or partially blind or have difficulties in how they perceive information.

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