College students who want to impact the lives of special needs children and their families should explore special education programs. Graduates can become educators who help special needs children develop skills so they may live confident and independent lives. While many degree seekers focus on early childhood, elementary, middle, or secondary education, they may also explore some healthcare and technology positions that assist special needs children.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% growth in positions for special education teachers from 2016 to 2026, with a median salary of $58,980 per year. This page addresses skills gained, potential careers, and available program formats for students pursuing online special education degrees.
Online learning allows students to pursue a special education degree without attending in-person classes. This feature of distance learning lowers students' costs, since degree seekers do not pay commuting expenses or room and board fees. Candidates interested in an affordable education should consider online schools for special education.
Distance learners may complete coursework from anywhere and at any time with a computer and an internet connection. A department may feature a synchronous format, where learners attend classes at set times. Other programs may offer asynchronous classes, in which students can view presentations, complete assignments, and watch lectures when it's convenient for them.
In an online bachelor's in special education program, students may also choose more efficient degree paths. For example, a learner who wants to graduate quickly can pursue an online program at an accelerated or full-time pace. Conversely, a student with less time for coursework can study on a part-time basis. However, these choices typically impact program cost; a part-time learner needs more semesters than a full-time student to finish the degree and often pays more tuition overall.
Students pursuing online special education degrees study child development, behavior management, and technology. After graduation, they can help special needs children through positions in healthcare and software development. Programs also prepare students for teaching careers by emphasizing compassion and communication, examining how family and culture impact learning, and exploring teaching strategies for math and literacy.
Learners can also use this bachelor's degree to pursue a master's. Advanced degrees can include specializations, such as curriculum and instruction, and may lead to other positions detailed below.
While an online special education degree generally prepares candidates to teach special needs children, programs can emphasize different areas. For instance, some curricula focus on elementary, middle, or high school children, while others explore specific disorders in depth. Some programs lead to teaching certification and others cater to learners who are pursuing nonteaching careers.
Special education students generally suffer from physical, mental, cognitive, behavioral, or emotional difficulties, with each category consisting of multiple disorders and severity levels. Special education teachers may also educate students in several grades. That said, the best online schools for special education prioritize adaptability so that a single educator can work with diverse groups of students.
Generally, programs also emphasize communication since special education teachers must clearly convey concepts and gauge students' understanding. This process involves considering students' disabilities, interpreting nonverbal reactions, and actively listening.
In addition, graduates boast the analytical skills required to assess student needs and determine the best teaching strategy for each child, which requires extensive knowledge of disorders.
Special education teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree. Students can also use this degree to enter master's programs. As examples, school counselors, instructional coordinators, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists typically need a master's degree; these professionals generally assist special needs children outside of classrooms.
Graduates from online schools for special education may work with different age groups and organizations and may encounter a variety of disorders. For instance, one elementary educator may help students with autism, dyslexia, hearing impairment, or ADHD. Another candidate may work in healthcare to assist students with emotional needs.
Students should choose programs that relate to their prospective career paths. Someone who wants to help autistic children, for example, should select an affordable program with relevant coursework. Overall, special education majors should possess strong communication skills, a keen eye for detail, and a significant amount of patience.
Check out the lists of industries and potential careers for special education graduates below.
Early Childhood Education: Students who earn an accredited bachelor's in special education assist young children, such as preschool students, who have special needs. Early childhood concepts include counting, color differentiation, and shape identification. Students who pursue careers as elementary educators or preschool directors typically need a bachelor's.
Public K-12 Education: This field involves elementary, middle, and secondary schools. For these settings, teachers need a bachelor's and certification. Candidates who earn a special education degree online can teach in K-12 classrooms or assist teachers in modifying coursework for special needs students.
Healthcare Services: In clinics, at home, or in schools, individuals may assist children with disorders like hearing or speech impairments. Students may need to pursue advanced degrees, certifications, or licenses for these positions, and the bachelor's degree serves as a stepping stone.
Software Development: Special education experts may build or advise others on software for teaching special needs children. Candidates can use learning strategies explored in bachelor's programs to offer such advice, but they may need a computer science degree for software development positions.
Autism Therapy: This field focuses on autistic children through careers such as behavior technicians and applied behavior analyst therapists. These workers help with speech and physical functions. Organizations and schools may require a bachelor's for these positions.
Annual Median Salary: $58,600
Special education teachers evaluate students' needs to decide on effective teaching strategies. This process involves creating individualized education programs (IEPs) and communicating with parents and faculty about students' needs. These educators may teach several subjects common to elementary schools, including reading, social studies, and math.
Annual Median Salary: $59,510
These educators create IEPs, communicate with parents, and determine students' needs. They also prepare learners to enter high school by teaching more advanced coursework. For instance, middle school teachers may teach history instead of social studies. Candidates may also assist other middle school teachers in altering lesson plans for special education students.
Annual Median Salary: $60,180
These special education teachers prepare learners for life after graduation by teaching concepts that students will need after leaving high school. Specifically, educators may guide students on managing time, creating budgets, and understanding instructions. If necessary, special education teachers can assist special needs students until they turn 21.
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