What a PhD in Special Education Can Mean for Your Career

A career in special education is a challenging career that requires specialized training, but this isn’t to overshadow the immense rewards of a career that often equips one to instill large amounts of change on individuals that are often the most in needs. There are so many unique personalities and special needs under the umbrella of special education that proper education and experience are paramount to preparing to head into any situation.

Special education teachers work with children from all kinds of backgrounds: children with autism, anxiety, depression, Down Syndrome, reading disabilities, and other special needs and requirements. Children rely on these teachers to be their allies and mediators, their counselors and their assistants. From reading and writing to sensory and fine motor skills, special education teachers are the most valued resources in a student’s life as they navigate their education. The job can change from day to day, just as with any children, so it’s important to have patience and a renewed commitment to help them.

What Special Education Teachers Do

A special education teacher’s responsibilities will vary by class and by students, but usually involves some of the following:

  • Evaluate all students’ skills to determine their needs and to develop teaching and lesson plans
  • Make changes to lessons to meet the needs of students
  • Write Individualized Education Programs that set goals for each student, as well as outline how students and teachers will work to meet those educational goals
  • Plan assignments and activities specific to each student’s aptitudes, interests, and skills
  • Work one on one with students, as well as in group settings
  • Assess students’ skills and progress against IEP and make any necessary adjustments coursework
  • Discuss progress with parents, other teachers, and school administrators
  • Work with and assist any classroom aides or helpers who work with students with disabilities
  • Not only prepare students to transition from grade to grade and after graduation, but also, for some students, even from class to class or place to place

There is an extensive amount of preparatory and hands-on work in special education. There is also a need for a great deal of patience as well as an ability to reevaluate, rework, and change the plan when necessary.

How a PhD Program Works

Earning a PhD in special education continues to open doors for teachers looking to expand or solidify their careers. Special education teachers make, on average, $55,000 a year, but can earn far more in positions with a PhD.

A PhD program can be tailored to build onto current career experience, or highlight a special area of research and interest like early intervention, reading specialist or early childhood learning. A sampling of PhD coursework in special education might include classes like:

  • Current issues in special education
  • Cognitive psychology in special education
  • Trends in multicultural education
  • Teaching in American society

What a PhD Means for the Special Education Professional

Ultimately, graduates of these PhD programs will go on to advanced jobs, including leading or directing special education programs at the school or district level, writing curriculum and coming up with innovative plans for learning, as well as administrative and teaching positions. Additionally, PhD students can also focus on research, teaching methods, and work with counselors, school supervisors and psychologists to find the most successful methods of instruction. Some end up teaching at colleges and universities to educate future special education teachers.

Education continues to be one of the most important pursuits. While secondary education is certainly one of the ways most people are able to secure for themselves more career opportunities, a solid primary education is crucial for learning logic, literacy, and other fundamental and important skills. A PhD in special education means that the necessary attention is being paid and value is given towards this distinct branch of education – every PhD student, and every special education teacher, helps to ensure a successful education for every special education student.

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