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Special Education Bachelor's Degree

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Special education teachers instruct students with mild to severe disabilities. If you feel the call to teach, a bachelor's degree in special education can get you started.

What Will I Learn in a Special Education Bachelor's Degree?

Students in the special education program learn about the physical and psychological aspects of disability, teaching practices, and ways to modify lessons for the needs of different students. About half of the bachelor's program focuses on general education topics, while the other half focuses on teaching and education. The following are common courses required in the special education major:

  • Educational Psychology: Teachers learn about the social and emotional issues that may be present in the special education classroom.
  • Foundations of Special Education: Future special education teachers learn about different models of disability, assessment of special needs students, individual education plans, and more.
  • Instructional Technology: Special education teachers learn how to employ assistive and instructional technologies in an inclusive learning environment.
  • Language Development: Future teachers learn about the different aspects of language development, such as word finding and sociolinguistic skills.
  • Special Education Literacy: This course covers teaching reading and writing, as well as various aspects of literacy, such as phonetics, fluency, and comprehension.

What Should I Know About Teaching Practicums?

One important part of special education teacher training is getting hands-on teaching skills in a real classroom environment. Practicums place students in classrooms with different levels of responsibility as they progress through the degree. For example, a beginning practicum will have students observing the role of the special education teacher in different classroom environments. In later practicums, student-teachers instruct classrooms of special needs students under the supervision of experienced teachers.

How Can I Earn a Teaching License?

All US states require public school teachers to possess a license, also called a certification, before they can begin teaching. In most states, special education teachers need at least a bachelor's degree and training with special needs students before they can earn a license.[1] Candidates also have to pass an exam. The Council for Exceptional Children and the Personnel Improvement Center have more information about professional development for special education teachers.

What Characteristics Do I Need to Be a Great Special Education Teacher?

  • Empathy: Special education teachers work with children facing a variety of obstacles to learning. Being able to understand the child's situation is important for being a great teacher.
  • Patience: Being a special education teacher can be emotionally and mentally demanding. Special education students require special attention and teachers who are willing to modify the curriculum for their particular needs.
  • Speaking and Listening Skills: Communication is important for all teachers. In addition to communicating with students, special education teachers also work closely with regular classroom teachers to modify lesson plans.

Can I Earn a Special Education Bachelor's Degree Online?

Yes, many accredited universities now offer special education bachelor's programs through online learning. Online special education students take online courses to learn about teaching theory and practices. The online program helps students find a school in their local community where they can complete on-site teaching practicums.

What Job Opportunities Can I Expect as a Special Education Teacher?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 17 percent increase is predicted for the special education teacher job market between 2010 and 2020. This is about as fast as the national rate of job growth. More special education students will be enrolling in kindergarten, elementary, and middle school grades in the coming years. This will be due to the increasing US population, as well as a greater awareness of disability that allows more students to be diagnosed at a younger age.

Along with these new special education jobs, many current special education teachers are expected to retire in the coming years. As a result, special education teachers should have great job opportunities.[2]


  1. ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published March 29, 2012.
  2. ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published March 29, 2012.
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35 Degrees from 13 Schools

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