7 Online Bachelor Degree Programs Available in Special & Gifted Education

Career Paths With an Online Bachelors Degree in Special Education

As expanding research allows professionals to diagnose special needs students earlier and with greater accuracy, many public schools are seeing an increase in the number of students who have special needs. There are also many new regulations that require schools to accommodate students with disabilities. Both factors contribute to the... need for special education teachers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for special educators should be "excellent" during the coming years.*

All states require special education teachers to be licensed, but depending on where you live, you might need to earn a general K-12 educator's license, a general special education teacher license, or a license that covers specific fields within special education. In many cases, earning an online bachelors degree in special education may qualify you to receive the appropriate license — at least on an initial basis. However, you will need to check with your state's department of education, since some states require you to hold a master degree or earn one within several years of being hired.

In some states, you can pursue a license through an alternative route. Alternative teacher certification is often designed for professionals who already hold a bachelor degree in an unrelated subject. Via post-baccalaureate programs or full-length master degrees, these students complete education course requirements, participate in supervised teaching practicum, and pass assessment tests. Some alternative certification programs focus on recruiting men and minority teacher candidates, since public schools are eager to have a more diverse workforce of role models.

Special education majors may take classes such as teaching students with special needs in an inclusive setting, acquisition of speech and language skills, instructional and assistive technology in special education, behavioral approaches to learning and classroom management, and literacy instruction in special education. As with general education degree programs, your online bachelors degree in special education will likely include a year of supervised student teaching. If you choose to earn an online Bachelor of Arts in Special Education, you may be able to complete your student teaching requirement at a school in your area — even if your online college is not local.

Through coursework and hands-on fieldwork, you might learn very specialized techniques for student engagement. As a special education teacher, you must be able to evaluate and identify a student who needs early intervention or special services in later grades. You might also need to learn how to properly create an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which involves setting personalized goals for a student. Your studies could prepare you to design curriculum materials as needed, and to differentiate your teaching strategies based on a student's needs and abilities. Some options for special education certification include mild to moderate disabilities, moderate to severe disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing, and early childhood education. Again, you'll need to check your state's guidelines.

* 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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