Special Education, M.A.
Make a difference in the lives of students and families with the Special Education M.A.
About USJ’s M.A. in Special Education Program:
- Core coursework includes Special Education research, laws, and curricular adaptations
- Electives are selected in collaboration with an advisor
- Program integrates theory and practice, using research-based practices
- There are opportunities to complete course-required tasks in your own school settings
- Coursework includes supervised after-school and weekend clinicals in partnership schools and agencies
- Students have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with other candidates who want to make a difference
- Reading: Learn how to use diagnostic-prescriptive approaches to reading and apply them to decoding and comprehension strand skills.
- Math-Science (STEM): Learn how to use diagnostic-prescriptive approaches in mathematics and how to integrate science content and informational reading that motivates students.
- Autism: Learn how to conduct functional-behavior assessments of challenging behavior and develop intervention plans and evidence-based teaching strategies based on principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.
9 Reasons to Study Special Education
Why choose to study special education? Because you are kind, caring, empathetic, and driven to support the needs of others. Because you’re passionate about building a safer and more inclusive school system. Because you believe that all children, regardless of ability level, deserve the opportunity to live independent and empowered lives.
There are many reasons people choose to become a special education teacher. It is a fantastic, rewarding, and multifaceted career-path. If you are wondering whether or not a career as a special education teacher is the right choice for you, it makes sense to first understand what a special educator does and the many reasons why others choose to become special education teachers.
What does a special education teacher do?
A special education teacher works with students in elementary, middle, or high schools who have disabilities and are in need of specialized education. The goal of a special education teacher is to empower these students and help them develop the skills that will allow them to reach their individual goals. A special education teacher designs individual learning plans (IEP) for each student based on their strengths and areas of instructional need so that the student can reach their individual goals. In partnership with families, general education teachers, and related service providers, special educators create safe and inclusive learning environments for children and adolescents with disabilities.
Why Become a Special Education Teacher?
A special education teacher can have a huge impact on the lives of their students and their students’ families. As an educator, they may help children develop communication skills, teach a child to learn to read, or work with a student to develop social skills. Special education teachers help their students overcome personal obstacles and experience a sense of achievement. This can have a huge impact on that student's sense of self-worth. Without a doubt, a special education teacher makes a big impact on the lives of the children they work with—just as those children make an impact on their teacher.
Increased Job Opportunities
The teacher shortage across the United States has resulted in an over-abundance of open teaching positions. This is even more true for specialized roles such as special education. Because qualified special educators are less numerous, there are more schools in need of such expertise. With a degree in special education, teachers can open the door to a wealth of job placements.
Better Pay and Benefits
Although not a hard and fast rule, special education teachers often have higher pay due to the added specializations they earned on top of traditional teaching certification. Additionally, due to the different requirements of the role, special education teachers sometimes finish their workday earlier than a more traditional teacher would. This can lead to better pay and a more flexible work schedule.
Because of the teacher shortage happening across the United States, positions for special education teachers are opening up in schools around the country. Demand is high, yet the supply of dedicated, qualified special education teachers is still low. With the broad application of the special education curriculum, teachers who earn their degree in one state can easily transition to another. Unlike a more traditional teaching certification which is often state-based, special education teachers can have much more flexibility with where they work.
Special education teachers are highly valued within a school system, in part because of the added specialization inherent in their training. With such high regard for special education instructors and the growing demand for these teachers all across the United States, it is no surprise that job security for this role would be reliable. High performing, motivated, and dedicated special education teachers in today’s economy can more easily find and retain jobs that they enjoy.
An Engaging Career
As a special education teacher, every day is different. Students with special needs face unique challenges and no two students are the same. Because of this, special education teachers are pressed to use their creativity and ingenuity to overcome challenges and help their students achieve success. The role of a special education teacher is varied, complex, and challenging. As such, this career path can be exceptionally engaging and rewarding for someone who is unafraid of a challenge.
For individuals who care about the rights of children and adults with special needs, becoming a special education teacher represents an opportunity to advocate for those who lack the ability to advocate for themselves. Fearlessly pursue human rights and dignity for a segment of the population frequently forgotten, ignored, or underprivileged. Special education teachers work closely with special needs students, so they understand not only their struggles, but also their strengths, and can advocate for the contributions that people with special needs can make to our society.
Promote Understanding within the School System
Beyond advocating for students with special needs more broadly in society, special education teachers also play an important role in promoting understanding of special needs within their own school system. Either with teachers or with students, a special education teacher has the opportunity to open conversations about what it means to live with special needs. They help break through misunderstandings and preconceived notions, and they can play a role in breaking down stereotypes and hurtful tropes. In the end, a special needs educator helps build a more inclusive and welcoming school system for all students, regardless of ability level.
Rewarding Career Path
More than anything else, the career of a special education teacher is rewarding. You spend each day helping students learn and develop the skills that will guide them through the rest of their lives. You advocate for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves and work with your peers and colleagues to build a better, safer, and more inclusive world. If these values ring true to you, then a career in special education may be one of the most rewarding you could pursue.
Special education is a fantastic career choice for caring, compassionate, and hardworking individuals with a drive to work with children. Earning a master’s degree in special education is an important step towards this career. The University of Saint Joseph offers a comprehensive Master of Arts in Special Education that can be completed in two years or less and will launch a career in this rewarding field.
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Reading Time: 2 minutes For the University of Saint Joseph (USJ), its core values remain at the forefront of everything it does. Compassionate service – one of the seven values – is practiced in both programs and courses, as evidenced by the most recent capstone course for students in the undergraduate Special Education program. Led by Jennifer Kowitt, Ph.D.,
Reading Time: 1 minute On Wednesday, June 10, 2019, Gengras Center transition coordinators/vocational teachers Kathleen Walsh and Caroline Wilson were recognized as Advocates of the Year by Harc, an organization that provides special needs support to individuals with intellectual and related disabilities and their families. The Advocate of the Year award recognizes outstanding achievements in the area of individual