What You Should Know About This Degree
Despite the urgent need for more special education teachers, there are a few important points to consider before pursuing this degree.
You will likely need daytime availability at some point during the program. Although each state sets its own requirements, some type of fieldwork, such as student teaching, is common in special education programs. Individuals who are already teachers may be able to use their regular work hours to fulfill these requirements. However, if you have no prior teaching experience, you will likely need to spend at least one semester in a classroom during daytime hours, so it’s important to consider how this time commitment will fit into your schedule and lifestyle.
Working with and advocating for special needs students can be very rewarding, but special education teachers should also be prepared for responsibilities that go beyond common classroom duties. Special education teachers develop and implement Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for each student in their classroom, and meet regularly with students, parents and other staff to discuss progress and make adjustments. Additionally, working with students with physical disabilities or emotional/behavioral disorders can be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. Compassion, calmness, organization and the ability to juggle multiple tasks are key qualities for special education teachers.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Masters Special Education programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? Some master’s programs in special education require students to have an undergraduate degree in education, and/or professional teaching experience. When researching programs, be sure to look at their eligibility requirements to confirm that you have the necessary educational and professional background.
- Will I be eligible for licensure after completing this program? As mentioned above, the requirements and procedures for teaching licensure vary by state. If you are planning to obtain a teaching license after completing your master’s program, it’s important to select a program that will make you eligible for licensure in the state in which you plan to teach.
You should also research the application requirements and deadlines for the programs to which you plan to apply. This can make your admissions process easier and less stressful. This information is typically available on the school’s website, or you can contact the admissions department directly.
Financing your graduate education is another important consideration. Some employers provide tuition assistance for employees who are going back to school. You should also look into loans, scholarships, and assistantships.