During the course of the 2012-2013 school year, as many as 6.4 million children in the United States' public school system received special education — a number that approaches 15 percent — and an individual with a master's degree in special education offered much of that schooling.
However, not everyone who earns a master's in special education ends up in the special education classroom, because the degree actually prepares the individual who earns it for a variety of jobs that, in general, fall along two different career paths. Namely, one can choose to become either a special education teacher or an educational diagnostician.
Special education teachers work as educators for children of all ages who have learning, developmental, emotional, and physical challenges. Educational diagnosticians, on the other hand, work with children with extraordinary needs to assess what their educational needs are in order to help devise and implement a plan for their schooling. They precede, guide, and define much of the work a special education teacher will do later.
While most jobs for those with a master's in special education fall within these two broad categories —educator or diagnostician — there are other jobs that occupy either categories, or neither, and are less easily defined. Regardless of whether you hope to teach or assess, here are five different jobs someone with a MS SPEC ED, special education masters can do.
1. Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers work in a variety of educational settings with children whose exceptional needs can be so far-reaching, that most require individualized assistance. From public school settings to private ones, whenever a child has a psychological, emotional, developmental, physical, or learning challenge, he or she is almost always assisted by a special education instructor, whether in a traditional classroom or a special education one.
Schools are legally required to develop and deploy an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each special needs student thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, so special education teachers are an essential educational component in America's classrooms. Not only do they ensure school district compliance with IEPs, but they also work with support staff, parents, caregivers, and administrators to bring about each child's IEP goals.
2. Educational Diagnostician
Through the use of diagnostic tests, educational diagnosticians assess students' learning disabilities to guide everyone involved in a child's educational plan toward the best educational goals, practices, and options for him or her.
Beyond just straightforward diagnostics, however, an educational diagnostician may also be involved in designing learning programs and other materials employed by a child's special education teacher. An educational diagnostician might also maintain contact and involvement in students' educations in order to offer suggestions and ensure the student's progress is good.
3. Special Education Specialist
For some students whose learning disabilities are especially challenging, simply occupying a space in a special education classroom is unlikely to yield desired results. In situations like this, special education specialists are called upon to help students with needs that can't be adequately served by a more traditional special educational approach.
Special education specialists often have skills and extensive training that goes far beyond the scope of most educators. Some know American Sign Language or have experience working with special needs populations with visual impairments. All in all, special education specialists' schooling and training exceeds just a master's in special education, which enables them to offer the necessary help to children and adults with the greatest needs.
4. Special Education Tester
Screening for unique challenges is necessary so that early diagnosis can result in early intervention and education that can more effectively benefit affected individuals and their families. With a master’s in special education, you can play a role in aiding students with exceptional needs by creating diagnostic tests designed to identify what a child's needs and challenges may be.
Many companies need people trained in special education to develop and administer diagnostic tests so educators, parents, and physicians can properly assist children with developmental and learning challenges.
5. Rehabilitation Counselor
Rehabilitation counselors work in assisted living facilities, private rehab centers, prisons, school systems, state-run programs, and federally run programs to help people and children with disabilities gain or regain independence. Oftentimes, it's assumed that when a person faces unusual challenges, be they developmental, physical, emotional, or a combination of these and others, that what he or she needs can be handled through education. However, it's common for a special needs person to require assistance that reaches beyond the classroom.
Rehabilitation counselors are vital allies for anyone with extraordinary challenges who is seeking employment or a more independent living situation. This is due to the fact that they specialize in helping unique populations overcome or maneuver the social, professional, and personal effects of what the broader culture would term a disability.
Whether you hope to be a rehabilitation counselor, a special education teacher, or a diagnostician, a master's degree in special education will get you there. For more information about our degree programs, request more information below.