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Master Online Special Education Degree - for Teachers Who Want to Make a Difference

Aug 17, 2007
How will the master online special education degree equip those teachers who want to make a difference? The answer is straightforward - in the USA, currently there are over 6 million students who have enrolled in these special programs.

While schools - public and private, preschool to secondary - struggle to identify and deploy qualified teachers to address these 6 million students, nobody knows for sure how many million students more need to be identified for special classes, so that they can better cope with their learning disabilities, or physical and mental handicaps.

At the same time, successive Federal and State Administrations since 1975 have sharpened their focus on creating complex systems for identifying, formulating, and delivering a highly-individualized education program to each eligible student. The cornerstone of these legislations, programs, and licensures is the highly qualified teacher.

A Master's degree in has thus become a must for aspiring teachers, and with many of them already employed as regular teachers, master online special education degree has become the most convenient route to this profession.

What It Involves

Master online special education degree involves distance or online learning that leads to graduate degrees like Master of Education (MEd), Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), or any of the specialized master's degrees in various sub-domains, such as dyslexia, attention-deficit, etc.

Master online special education degree courses will last upwards of one year, and might involve significant on-the-job training under an experienced special educator. Most states also require that aspiring teachers pass a licensure test, before starting their career.

Why Special Education?

On an average, teachers in this field don't earn much more than regular teachers. On the other hand, the job responsibilities of these teachers are more demanding - they can even include defending oneself and the school's program in court, if dissatisfied parents of challenged students opt for litigation, as has happened numerous times in various states!

Still, about 450,000 educators have opted for and currently work as special education teachers in the country. What must be the attraction?

Teachers in this field are very unlikely to encounter unemployment in the short-term or long-term. But that alone can't be the lure to enter this profession, where sheer hard work, difficult coordination between many, and uncertain outcomes from the part of students, make life stressful.

The answer can, hence, be only that there are hundreds of thousands of teachers out there who want to make a genuine difference to the lives of these challenged students. And it is indeed a huge difference. According to estimates, four in five challenged students used to be excluded from the US education system, as near as three decades back. Official figures, tabulated around 1975, put this at 1 million students, who missed the bus.

Why Master Special Education Degree?

Teachers in this specialty are still in significant short supply. Because of this, some states have still not made it mandatory for them to have a master's degree. In such states, bachelor's degree holders appear for professional licensure exams and work as special education teachers.

However, more and more states are opting for a master's degree as the minimum qualification, for a simple reason. A special ed. teacher should be capable of interacting effectively with professionals like psychologists, disability therapists, educational evaluators, educational lawyers, supervisors from the school district, regular teachers, and, of course parents of disabled students. It takes a master's degree holder with significant on-the-job training to confidently undertake this.

Master's degree holders in this field have also another booming avenue - they can work as instructors in colleges and universities that deliver specialized programs, and these institutions are rapidly increasing in number. They are also eligible to work as supervisors or administrators in the school districts.

A small but significant proportion of educators go for ' degree, so as to progress to doctoral degrees, which are also offered by more and more universities, these days.

Lastly, though special education teachers don't earn much more than regular teachers on an average, the highest salaries drawn by special educators exceed the highest salaries drawn by regular teachers by $3,000 to $8,000. It goes without saying that almost all of those highest paid special educators are master's degree holders.

Why Master Online Special Education Degree?

Those planning to take a master's degree in this field are almost always regular teachers who have developed a fascination for this field. Others include psychologists, counselors, learning disability therapists, etc. Since both teachers and these professionals already hold full time jobs, it is a master online special education degree that is more suitable to them.

Secondly, only an exceptionally good regular teacher can hope to be an effective teacher of special students. Because of this, aspirants enter the regular teaching profession to garner some years of experience before attempting to study special ed. Master online special education degree perfectly fits this scheme.

Thirdly, a significant component of any education master's degree is on-the-job training in a special school or a regular school's special education department. Those working teachers who opt for a master online degree can thus modify their school work itself for the on-the-job training part.

Where to Study Master Online Special Education Degree?

Hundreds of universities and colleges across the country offer master online degrees in special ed. They include state or public universities, and private or independent universities. Some of the courses have small components that require occasional campus visits, while almost all require on-the-job training at a school.

Working teachers who opt for master online special education degree generally prefer studying in their own state, if not their city. Another reason for local preference is that some universities incorporate that state's licensure requirements as part of the course. Due to strict licensure requirements, it is also important to go for an accredited course.

State or Public Universities Offering Master Online Special Education Degree

At least 12 state university systems offer master online degree in special ed. They include Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Aspirants in states like Alabama, Florida, and Kansas, are especially fortunate, with multiple public universities offering the course. Florida perhaps tops the nation with its three public universities offering this degree. Some of the prestigious state universities offering the course across the nation are:

ALABAMA: Auburn University, Auburn, University of South Alabama, Mobile
FLORIDA: Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of West Florida
INDIANA: Ball State University
KANSAS: Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University
KENTUCKY: University of Louisville, Louisville
MICHIGAN: University of Michigan, Dearborn
MISSOURI: University of Missouri, Columbia
NEBRASKA: University of Nebraska, Lincoln
NEW JERSEY: New Jersey City University
NORTH CAROLINA: University of North Carolina
PENNSYLVANIA: Clarion University of Pennsylvania
TEXAS: Texas Tech University

Private or Independent Universities Offering Online Degrees

At least 10 well-known private or independent universities in 8 states offer master online special education degree. These states include Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. Arizona and Iowa top the list with two private universities each, offering the course. Florida and Pennsylvania are perhaps the only two states that have both public and private universities offering the course. Some of the well-known private schools offering online degrees are:

ARIZONA: Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix
CALIFORNIA: La Sierra University
FLORIDA: Nova Southeastern University
IOWA: Graceland University, Kaplan University
MINNESOTA: Bethel University
VIRGINIA: Regent University
WASHINGTON: City University

What to Expect From Master Online Special Education Degree, in the Future?

The high performance expected from special edd teachers will ensure that a master's degree in this field becomes an absolute must in all states. As it is working teachers who are more likely to go for a master's degree in this subject, and because the course itself is dominated by on-the-job training, college degree master online might even upstage regular courses in the subject, in the near future.

Recent stricter regulations from the part of administrations regarding expected student performance, and better awareness about learning disabilities from the part of parents, will make sure that more and more students will be presented for evaluation. This scenario will drive the demand for qualified and trained special educators, giving further momentum to master online special ed. degree courses.

The most likely change in course content will be super-specializations in special education, with probably different master's degrees built around different learning disabilities or handicaps.
About the Author
Jim Zorn is web master of the Guide to Distance Learning. Visit us to learn more about online colleges and universities, distance learning degrees, majors and courses offered.
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