A master's degree in special education provides students with a broad-based educational background that includes classes in behavioral disorders, autism intervention, motor skills assessment, traumatic brain injury, human relations and special education law. Although there are several different specific degrees available within the field of special education, a Master of Science degree is intended for those students interested in a profession involving research, and a Master of Education degree is designed for those students aiming for a teaching career.
One of the most obvious career paths for an individual with a master's degree in special education is teaching in either a public or private institution. Depending on the school, special education teachers may work side by side with other teachers in a regular classroom setting, or they may have their own classrooms set aside specifically for their students. Special education teachers not only work with students who have learning disabilities, emotional problems, autism, mental retardation and visual and language impairments, but also they work with gifted students. Special education classes are usually offered to students from preschool through secondary school.
Some people with master's degrees in special education choose to work as human services professionals within a clinical setting. These individuals are often members of a team and work with other health care professionals in an effort to develop treatment plans and provide behavioral support for people with disabilities. These professionals typically work in hospitals, group homes, community learning units or day treatment facilities. With some additional specialized educational course work, people with master's degrees in special education may venture into more clinical professions, such as occupational therapy, speech pathology or physical therapy.
Individuals with a Master's of Science degree in special education may decide to devote their professional lives to researching the causes of the mental, physiological and emotional problems that plague so many students and patients. Researchers often work for agencies that specialize in conducting this type of research, such as the National Center for Special Education Research, the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities and the Center for the Study of Autism.
Another career possibility for a person with a master's degree in secondary education is that of special education advocate. Although not as widely known as some of the other career choices, this position is becoming increasingly common throughout the United States. A special education advocate works on behalf of the parents of a special needs child to ensure that the student's individual needs are adequately met within the school system. A person interested in becoming an advocate should have not only have a strong knowledge of special education issues in general but also expertise in state and federal laws involving special education and the rights of the parents and their children.
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