According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of special education teachers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations over the next few years. Because of this, many students are returning to universities and seeking out master’s degree programs to meet the needs and demands of prospective employers. Special education master’s degree programs provide students with the skills they’ll need to assist special education students, as well as positively influence the special education field as a whole. In addition to cultivating various teaching and administrative skills, special education graduate students must learn how to work alongside a diverse range of students with disabilities. These types of disabilities can range from psychological disorders, autisms, developmental disorders, physical disabilities, and numerous others. In a master’s degree program, students are expected to enroll in an array of challenging courses as well as complete dissertation-level research and writing.

Why a Master’s Degree?

According to the BLS, those who teach special education are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued teaching license to teach. There are, however, an increasing number of school districts and that have begun to increase the qualifications of special education teaching, sometimes requiring them to complete a master’s degree, too. Aside from teaching positions, a master’s degree also qualifies students to find employment as administrators and principals in a variety of schools. Those who want to attain the credentials necessary to become special education aides are only required to have associate degree. A master’s degree typically requires students to pursue a dissertation that touches on new and current research in special education topics, such as child psychology, child development, teaching methods, curriculum design, and more.

Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program

Special education master’s degree programs generally expect graduate students to meet the following admission requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in special education or related subject
  • Relevant work experience
  • Current resume
  • Academic and/or professional letters of recommendation
  • Desired GMAT or GRE scores

Inside a Special Education Master’s Degree Program

Students who commit to a special education master’s degree usually finish their program in four to five years. In addition to passing their graduate courses, students are expected to set aside time for thesis research and student-teaching requirements. Certification exams are another integral part of developing a well-rounded master’s program. These state-issued, required exams expect students to be able to identify the needs of numerous emotional, behavioral, development, and physical disorders commonly seen in special education students.

Some graduate students have the opportunity to attain their masters in special education online. This type of program is appealing to those who are unable to enroll in full-time programs, such as working professionals or full-time parents. Although this type of degree is a flexible option, like traditional students, online students are expected to satisfy all course requirements.

What’s Next for Special Education Master Degree Holders?

Jobs in primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions are available to those who complete a masters in special education degree. According to a report from the BLS, special education teachers earn an average of $53,220 a year. Keep in mind, however, that average varies by each institution; for instance, special education high school instructors earn an average of $54,810 a year, while preschool special education teachers make close to $52,300. A master’s degree also qualifies students for administrative/principal positions in special education schools. These positions pay more than teaching positions, with an average salary of $86,970 a year.

Though many students enter the job market after completing a master’s degree, some choose to look into a post-master’s certificate or a Ph.D. program. Students who want to pursue careers in postsecondary teaching are advised to seriously consider a doctorate program.