A bachelor’s degree in special education prepares future teachers of students with mild to moderate disabilities. Those who pursue an undergraduate degree in this discipline will learn how to recognize disabilities, develop class plans for special needs students, teach and supervise special needs students, and abide by the laws and policies regarding special education. Students will develop an understanding of abnormal psychology, autism spectrum disorders, personality development, special education approaches, emotional and behavioral disorders, and more. These programs may also involve hands-on experience working in real classrooms. Success as a special education teacher requires a passion for the educational success of special needs children, a knack for encouragement, and excellent leadership skills.

Why a Bachelor’s Degree?

Teaching special education in private and public schools requires students to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued license to teach. Those who want to work as teacher’s aides in special education classrooms can start with an associate degree in special education. Most programs will largely focus on special education topics, such as educational psychology, child development, and legal issues. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teachers must learn about various types of disabilities and how to present lessons to special needs students. To do this, undergraduate students usually take on student teaching prior to graduation.

Getting Into a Bachelor’s Degree Program

Every bachelor’s degree program in special education is unique. There may, however, be some commonalities in application requirements:

  • High school transcripts of documentation GED completion
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Application essay

Inside a Special Education Bachelor’s Degree Program

Full-time students can usually complete a bachelor’s degree in special education in four to five years. Student teaching engagements may also require a large amount of time spent outside of regular coursework. Hands-on experience can be very important for teachers, especially those working in special education. Certification exams are also often part of an undergraduate program. To pass certifications, students must identify and address a number of learning disabilities, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, development disorders, and physical disorders. The knowledge gained from a bachelor’s degree in special education will help students pass their certification exams and attain full-time teaching positions in special education classrooms.

Many online colleges and universities offer special education teaching programs. Courses are usually self-paced, and students are able to participate in class on their own time, as long as they meet required deadlines for assignments and tests. Discussion takes place online within course forums or over live chat. Students are able to work together online by emailing, chatting, or setting up virtual meeting spaces. The online option can be great for those seeking flexibility, but it’s important to remain self-disciplined, as the responsibility of course participation is in the students’ hands.

What’s Next for Special Education Bachelor Degree Holders?

Students are typically qualified to accept positions as special education teachers in primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions upon graduation. According to the BLS, special education teachers earn an average of $53,220 a year. Keep in mind that averages vary by institutions; for instance, special education high school instructors earn an estimated $54,810 a year, while preschool special education teachers make an average of $52,250 a year. BLS research further indicates that special education teaching positions are expected to increase by 17% over 2010-2020.

Students who complete a bachelor’s degree in special education commonly look into a certificate in special education or a master’s degree in special education. A master’s degree allows students to pursue a topic in special education on which to focus research. Those who want to pursue careers in academia and postsecondary teaching may want to enroll in a PhD in special education program. Students with additional degrees and certifications are not only competitive candidates in the job market, they also qualify for higher-paying, higher-level positions in special education schools.