You may begin working as a special education teacher once you have the necessary license. In some states, a bachelor degree is the minimum educational requirement. In others however, you will need to earn a Masters Degree in Special Education to qualify for (or to maintain) a special education teacher... license. If you're not already a licensed classroom teacher, you should contact your state's department of education to establish what you'll need to study and which schools or programs are eligible preparation routes.
Earning a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Education (MEd) in Special Education may put you at the forefront of an expanding field. 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. Educational leaders are still studying how best to accommodate and instruct students with a variety of special needs. Advanced education in this area may mean you can shape future policies and teaching practices related to special education.
Master Degree programs in Special Education often allow you to pick a concentration for your degree. If you choose early childhood special education, you might prepare to instruct students with disabilities, from birth through second grade. When specializing in inclusive special education, you might teach all grade levels of special needs students, by helping them to thrive in general classroom settings. If your concentration focuses on teaching children with emotional impairments, you might learn to identify behavioral characteristics associated with emotional disorders, and how to meet the instructional needs of these students. Teaching children with learning disabilities is another common concentration for master-level studies in special education.
In each track, you might concentrate on specific medical or physical disabilities. You might study learning or behavioral disorders, and learn how they impact students' educational needs. You might also study effective approaches for creating an Individualized Education Program (IEP), including how to establish goals and objectives, conduct assessments, facilitate inclusion, and guide behavioral changes.
Your master degree studies may include extensive fieldwork that could provide firsthand experience working with students. If you choose to earn an online Master of Science in Special Education, your online school may be able to facilitate your student teaching placement within a local school. This can be a helpful design for online students whose colleges are based in other states.
Research into effective teaching methods for students with specific needs is also a significant part of most masters in special education degree programs. Many graduate students are expected to produce a thesis, based on their original research. Upon graduation, you may be ready to succeed in a field that presents professional challenges, but includes many personal rewards, as you make an impact on the lives of individual students.
*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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