Special education is a diverse field with many different areas of concentration. A doctoral program in special education may prepare you for a leadership position or an advanced teaching role. After earning your Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Special Education or your Doctor of Education (EdD) in Special Education degree,... you may be qualified to coordinate research studies, oversee district-wide programs, train future special education teachers at a college or university, or manage a human service agency.
Depending on your career goals and your chosen degree, your studies may stress the research aspects of special education or emphasize the practical application of data and theory. Aspiring special education instructors and academics often study a lot of statistical models and experimental designs, as they pioneer strategies for effective teaching. Future special education administrators and department heads may study grant writing, which can help them apply for grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education and other organizations that fund research in this area.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for special educators should be "excellent" during the coming years.* Special education job growth is fueled by larger enrollments of special needs students. Given that more K-12 teachers are needed and that most states require them to complete bachelor and/or graduate degrees, additional college-level educators will need to provide the recommended courses. To prepare for a career as a professor, you would need to demonstrate exceptional knowledge of the material you would be teaching. Beyond completing a doctoral degree, college professors often demonstrate their knowledge by giving presentations at conferences or publishing their research in peer-reviewed academic journals.
Like other doctoral programs, advanced degrees in special education often allow you to create an individualized course of study. Seminars, workshops, and independent studies typically cover themes such as educational leadership, urban education, educational research, research design, proposal development, strategies for effective teaching, and professional development in educational technology. Most doctoral students are required to complete a dissertation or capstone project. Doctoral students who complete an online Doctor of Education in Special Education may be required to visit their college campus periodically, during in-person sessions known as colloquia.
In some schools, doctoral degrees may be offered as dual degrees, such as a dual degree in educational psychology and special education. The advantage of pursuing a dual degree is that you might be able to complete both degrees in less time if you work on them simultaneously. A dual degrees may allow you to pursue executive-level positions within a district or government agency. With multiple advanced degrees, you may also work as an independent consultant for an education-focused agency or corporation.
* The preceding information was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) online resource, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition," available at: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos070.htm
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