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Special Education Degree Online

What is Special Education? "Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. Through techniques ...

What is Special Education? "Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. Through techniques possibly learned from an online special education degree they adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities."i Earning a Special Education Degree Online allows you the flexibility of online learning, with all the possibilities of earning your undergraduate, graduate or even doctorate level degree.

Online Special Education Degree

If you want to pursue a career in which you can give back to young people and help out the disadvantaged, you may be interested in earning a special education teaching degree online.i Special education teachers may generally instruct, assist and work with students that have mental, emotional, developmental or physical disabilities.i They may work with students from a wide range of ages, and might teach a number of subjects, plus basic skills like reading and communication.i Typically, special education teachers may be good communicators and critical thinkers, with qualities such as patience and resourcefulness.ii If that sounds like you, keep reading to learn more about trying a special education major!

Guide to Earning Your Degree Online in Special Education

Educational Requirements to Become a Special Education Teacher

Degrees in special education are available at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level. Special education teachers often undergo longer periods of training than general education teachers, and many schools are now requiring special education teachers to have a graduate degree. All fifty states require special education teachers to be licensed, and they all require a bachelor degree with the completion of a teacher preparation program. Some states carry an additional requirement that special education teachers have a master’s degree in special education.

Essentials of Online Special Education Degree Programs

The entry-level education needed to be able to pursue a special education career may typically be a bachelor’s degree, although some states or employers may require a master’s degree.ii As such, these may be the degree types you may usually find when researching online degree programs in special education. Feel free to read on for more information about these degree levels.

The bachelor’s degree is the degree that most students first earn in higher education in the United States.iii Typically requiring about four to five years of coursework, bachelor’s degree programs may offer instruction that is both general and specialized.iii Bachelor’s degree programs may be fairly flexible, as they might allow some students to pursue careers after graduation, while others may go on to higher studies.iii

One example of further studies bachelor’s degree-holders might pursue is a master’s degree program.iv Requiring about one to two years of study to earn,iv master’s degrees might generally be available in one of two types.v Research master’s degrees might usually be academically focused, and centered on a master’s thesis.v Professional master’s degrees might instead be aimed at preparing students to pursue a specific career after graduation.v Be sure to reach out to schools directly to ask if they might offer research or professional masters degrees in special education.

Coursework for an Online Special Education Degree

Depending on the degree level, the school, and even the individual student, different programs to earn your special education degree online might feature a wide range of coursework. While it’s impossible to say exactly what each curriculum might look like, some potential topics covered could include:

  • Ethics of special education
  • Communications
  • Assessment
  • Learning environments
  • Language development
  • Behavior analysis
  • Managing physical disabilities

If there are any subjects you’d like to cover during your course of study to earn a special education degree online, be sure to check the curriculum of each school you’re considering.

Offline Requirements for Special Education Degrees Online

One thing to keep in mind when researching different special education degree online programs is that not every online program might be entirely online. While virtual coursework may often make up the majority of the course of study, schools may also require students to complete certain requirements in person. These could include student teaching assignments or residency requirements. If these might affect your choice of program, make sure to reach out to each school before applying to see what they might require.

Special Education Career Pursuits

Special education teachers typically work in public schools, but may also pursue employment in charter or private schools, plus childcare centers, hospitals and private homes.vi In 2015, they earned a median annual salary of $56,800.vii The profession was projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow at an average rate, with about 28,100 new jobs between 2014 and 2024.i

The Life of a Special Education Teacher

A Special education teacher tends to work in a school setting like any other educator. As such, much of the working environment mirrors that of a standard K-12 teacher. Perhaps the main difference is that while classroom teachers tend to focus on a specific subject, a special education teacher can often accompany their students throughout their school day, including non-classroom activities such as physical education and art classes. Some special education teachers may work not in a public school setting, but on a one-on-one basis with their students as private educators or tutors. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that many a special education teacher may work the standard 10-month school year, though there are those who work year-round.viii

Special education teachers work with a number of students with a variety of disabilities, altering the general education curriculum to meet the students’ individual needs. Like most other teachers, special education teachers design curricula and grade papers and homework assignments. They also work to prepare students for life after graduation and outside of a school environment. Schools are becoming more inclusive and integrating special education students into classes with students without disabilities. As a result, special education teachers are spending more time working with general education teachers, helping them to adapt the curriculum and teaching environment to accommodate the students with disabilities.

Some special education teachers work in their own classrooms and teach only special education students, while others offer individualized help to special education students in a general classroom setting.

While working with special education students can be deeply rewarding, it can also be emotionally and physically demanding. Special education teachers are under a considerable amount of stress as they work to meet the needs of their students while balancing heavy workloads and administrative tasks.

Begin Your Special Education Degree Online Now

If you’re done reading and ready to look at your options, you can get started right here on eLearners.com. Check out our sponsored listings and reach out to any schools you want to know more about


[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [iii] www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/bachelor.doc | [iv] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2008/fall/art01.pdf | [v] www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/master.doc | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-3 | [vii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-1 | [viii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-3