Why Earn a Master’s Degree in Special Education?

According to Dr. K. Lynn Boyer, director of the National Clearinghouse for Professions in Special Education at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), “The demand for special educators is expected to grow at about a 35 percent rate over the next 10 years.” In light of such a statistic, earning an advanced degree in special education might be a wise plan for experienced teachers seeking professional development and career-change possibilities.

What Is Included in a Master’s Degree in Special Education?

Coursework for a special education master’s degree includes topics such as psychological testing procedures, characteristics of students with learning problems and procedural requirements for teachers. At Mississippi College, students pursuing a Master of Education in Special Education degree will complete coursework that enables them to effectively identify and teach students who have been diagnosed with autism, have communication problems, have mild or moderate cognitive or behavior problems, or have other developmental difficulties.

What Career Opportunities Are Available With This Degree?

Some teachers earn a degree in special education to better equip themselves for the general education classroom setting, where they can provide better services and accommodations to those students who are lagging behind academically or who exhibit inappropriate behaviors.

However, many experienced teachers enter a master’s degree program in special education to expand their career possibilities. Here are some of the careers available to these graduate students.

Special Education Teacher. As a special education teacher, you will work with a team to develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students with cognitive or behavior problems. You may work collaboratively as an inclusion teacher, side-by-side in the general education classroom with a classroom teacher. You may also pull students out of class for short, more intensive and targeted work on specific skills. Some special education teachers work in a self-contained classroom, teaching most or all content areas to students whose disabilities prevent them from succeeding in the general setting.

Intervention Specialist. Prior to being identified as a student who requires a special education identification and placement, some students benefit from intervention programs. As an interventionist, you will be qualified to work with students who function well in the general education setting, but exhibit delays in distinct areas of reading or math. You will assist in administering assessments and identifying students who would benefit from these services. After completing the assessment process, you will design the appropriate curriculum and work with small groups or one-on-one until students have mastered the skill or concept.

Director or Administrator for Special Education Programs. Teachers seeking a position of leadership may consider applying for positions in administration. Special education programs require knowledge not only of special education services but also of the school district’s legal responsibilities. As a director for exceptional student programs, you will oversee compliance monitoring, technology needs and professional development. You will also work with teachers, families and legal advocates.

College and University Faculty in Special Education. Teachers with training and experience in the field of special education may find various teaching and research opportunities at the post-secondary level.

Author and former teacher Stacey Zeiger created a list of qualities required of all special education teachers: student acceptance, patience and understanding, creativity and flexibility, attention to detail, and organization. An experienced teacher with these qualities and a Master of Education in Special Education will find that working with special needs students is a rewarding career. According to the College Foundation of North Carolina, “The demand is real and will continue to increase. If special education appeals to you, all you need is the right training and a big heart.”

Learn more about the Mississippi College online M.Ed. in Special Education program.


College Foundation of North Carolina: The Need Grows for Special Education Teachers in the U.S.

Council for Exceptional Children: Selected Job Profiles in Special Education

Houston Chronicle: Characteristics of a Special Education Teacher

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