Online Bachelor's Degree in Special Education

Special education professionals can offer individualized services to students with mental, emotional, or physical disabilities affecting their learning. This education field offers a stable market with a variety of fulfilling positions available. In August 2000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listed special education among the top five fields affected by impending baby boomer retirements.

Current data continues to support this trend. USA Today recently identified special education as one of the most secure career paths in the United States, while the latest BLS projections indicate that jobs for special education teachers will continue to grow by at least 8% between 2016 and 2026.

USA Today recently identified special education as one of the most secure career paths in the United States

Obtaining an online special education degreemarks the first major step toward entering this reliable job sector and opens up many job opportunities. While special education teaching in secondary schools is the most popular career path, degree holders are fully qualified for other positions including work in education administration, training development, counseling, and curriculum coordination.

A teacher in this field typically holds a master's degree and state licensure, in addition to undergraduate credentials. Typically, other related occupations require a candidate to possess only a bachelor's degree. Either way, earning an online special education degree provides learners with a necessary foundation for employment and continued professional development.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Special Education Program?

Prospective learners should carefully consider each program's requirements, as details tend to vary. However, most schools outline common outcomes and study trajectories as they pertain to the curriculum, timeframes for completion, and the demands of online learning.

Curriculum for an Online Bachelor's in Special Education

Curriculum focus and course offerings may differ depending on the specific school. However, most online special education bachelor's degree programs provide training and instruction through courses similar to those listed below.

Child Development

This course surveys growth and development in children from birth, with a particular emphasis on progress in educational settings. Learners can study cultural, sociological, and psychological aspects of child development with the aid of theories relevant to each stage in the life cycle.

Research and Contemporary Issues in Special Education

Degree seekers in this course can examine several current topics in special education and explore potential areas of interest. The course also provides an overview of relevant research methodologies and pedagogical strategies.

Learning with Technology

Designed to develop learners' knowledge and skill with interactive learning technologies, this course focuses on the use and impact of technology in special education. Topics covered include curriculum development and implementation, assessment and self-evaluation, emerging learning tools, and assistive technologies.

Critical Perspectives on Teaching and Learning

This theory course with an emphasis on pedagogical development provides students with an overview of some of the moral, intellectual, and emotional issues related to special education. Learners can study a variety of pedagogical approaches and work to develop their styles of teaching in conjunction with learning outcomes specific to the field.

Family and Culture

This course explores how families and culture interact to contribute to child development and learning in special education contexts. Degree seekers can explore family structures, parenting styles, sibling relationships, domestic violence, and diversity. Near the end of the course, learners can apply their knowledge and insight to case studies.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Special Education?

Most online special education bachelor's degree programs require 120 credits, which learners can typically finish in four years or less. Nevertheless, prospective degree seekers should familiarize themselves with factors that can affect the length of their degree. These include enrollment status (part-time, full-time, or accelerated) and the possibility of individually paced or cohort classes. Individually paced courses lets students customize their schedule according to their personal needs and pace of learning, while cohort formats require enrollees to move through programs with the same group of peers.

Learners can also enroll under different statuses, depending on individual circumstances. Working professionals, for example, may want to pursue an online special education degree on a part-time basis to accommodate career responsibilities. Traditional learners often enroll full time, while others may opt for an accelerated track. An fast-paced path to completion makes the entire program much shorter but can cost more money in the long run.

Is Online Learning Right for Me?

Distance education offers distinct advantages, but it may not be right for everyone. Self-motivated and independent learners stand to benefit the most from online learning. As the majority of instruction occurs at a self-selected time and place, prospective learners must be able to effectively manage their time to balance assignments, course loads, and study time with personal and professional commitments.

Prospective degree seekers can enjoy the convenience and flexibility of online learning to choose programs that fit their professional interests and meet their individual needs. Most online programs can accommodate part-time learners and working professionals with no obligations to finish their degrees, as well as those interested in more accelerated options.

Special Education Certification

Learners who possess online special education bachelor's degrees already satisfy the first major requirement for teaching in the field. While there is no additional certification in special education, all prospective educators must obtain a teaching license from their state of residence or employment. Requirements on this front vary by state, so learners should consult their state's department of education. Some states and school systems may require a master's degree in addition to undergraduate credentials, but this is not a universal requirement for special education teachers.

Reciprocity agreements, while not guaranteed depending on the state, generally apply to special education teachers. Outlets like the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification offer resources that help working professionals determine their status in a given state. Other agencies and educational outlets also provide special education teachers with professional development and continuing education opportunities that can help with this process.

Special Education Careers

Earning an online special education degree can open up many career paths for graduates in education and similar fields. These career paths -- typically full-time, office-based positions within nonprofit entities and other educational organizations -- require empathetic professionals with applied skills in service orientation, active listening, creative problem-solving, and social perceptiveness. Read on for a list of common special education careers.

Special Education Teacher

Description These educators work with learners who display a range of physical, mental, learning, and emotional disabilities. They often adapt general education curriculums to meet the needs of these learners and teach basic skills in communication and comprehension designed to help their students succeed in their social and professional lives.
Median Annual Salary $59,780
Projected Job Growth Rate 8%

Instructional Coordinator

Description Professionals working in this field administer and oversee teaching standards and curriculums for schools and other educational institutions. They develop instructional material, assess its effectiveness, and work with teachers and other administrators to coordinate its implementation. Most instructional coordinators work year-round within secondary schools and school systems.
Median Annual Salary $64,450
Projected Job Growth Rate 11%

Training and Development Specialist

Description These specialists help plan, conduct, and implement training materials for teachers and other educators on behalf of their employers. They work with staff to develop skills and improve knowledge as it pertains to effective teaching and holistic learning. Training specialists are also responsible for facilitating continuing education seminars for their organizations.
Median Annual Salary $60,870
Projected Job Growth Rate 11%

Recreational Therapist

Description Recreation-focused therapists plan and coordinate treatment programs and educational activities for persons with injuries, disabilities, or illnesses. Many recreational therapists use their areas of expertise to develop these programs, drawing on the arts, music, sports, and gaming. These activities facilitate the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of their learners.
Median Annual Salary $47,860
Projected Job Growth Rate 7%

School and Career Counselor

Description School counselors assist students in developing the social and academic skills necessary to succeed, both in school and in their future professional lives. They help learners select appropriate careers and work to build attainable goals within the parameters of those careers. Most school counselors work in public or private institutions and carry state-level licensure.
Median Annual Salary $56,310
Projected Job Growth Rate 13%
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