Special education teachers are truly remarkable people. They deal every day with children who have physical and mental disabilities and behavior problems. As the education system changes to provide better services for all children, the need for talented special education teachers is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an additional 77,000 jobs in this field are expected to open up by 2020.
Special education teachers provide many services for children with a wide range of disabilities. They assist with diagnosis and develop individual education programs for special education students, as well as work directly with their families. For some students, special education teachers provide specific learning support only during the early years of school, while other students receive support services until they are 21. Depending on the disability, special education teachers may help children adapt to regular classrooms or they may focus on basic literacy and life skills. These professionals work closely with a team that includes parents, other teachers, school psychologists, and learning specialists.
Special education teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and be licensed by the state. In some states, special education teachers must have a master’s degree. Teachers can be certified to work with children who have a particular disability, such as Down syndrome or autism, or they may work with children who have a range of disabilities.
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education are offered by many online colleges. Bachelor-level coursework includes classes in common disabilities, behavior management, human rights, psychological assessment, and working with families, as well as general courses in education and instruction for special populations. Just like teaching programs require a period of student teaching, all online special education programs also require a practicum or internship, where students work in classrooms alongside licensed special education professionals.
Online master’s degree programs in special education allow students to choose among several specializations, depending on their goals for the future. For example, master’s level programs are available with concentrations in learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and special education research. Technologies for special education is a concentration that is becoming increasingly popular. Master’s degree programs are also available for students who want to pursue more administrative roles, such as teacher educators and department heads.
It takes a unique and caring person to become a special education teacher, and the need for qualified professionals in this area is projected to grow. If you believe that all children are capable of learning and want to make a difference in the lives of special needs students, this may be the perfect career path for you. The requirements for special education teachers differ, so check with your state before enrolling in an online special education degree program.