Certain jobs, like teaching at the college level, absolutely require a master’s degree, but there are other paths you can follow in the special education field that don’t necessarily require a master's. Before piling on more student debt, see what a master’s can do for you in the special ed field and how it sets you apart from other candidates, so you can hook you up with the job you really want.
One such example is in early education. You don’t need a master’s degree to teach special education students in K-12. However, you do need a bachelor’s degree and a state teaching license. With your teaching degree and a few years’ experience, you can get into a number of master of science programs that emphasize special ed. The advanced degree won’t get you the initial job, but it could pave the way for a promotion. It will certainly help you stand out, especially if you’re in a tight competition with other teachers for a promotion to something like principal.
You need to earn a master’s degree in special education and counseling to become a mental health counselor for students with special needs, their families, teachers and caregivers. Once you get the degree, you can apply for a state license and work in the school system or start your own practice. Clinics, hospitals, family service agencies and residential treatment facilities all hire counselors for children and adults with developmental disabilities and other leaning disorders.
Take your master’s in special education and turn it into a career helping people with disabilities live more independently. Rehabilitation counselors work for private rehab programs, state and government-run agencies and long-term assisted living facilities. School systems may retain rehabilitation specialists to work with students one-on-one, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you could even get work in prisons or open your own practice. You’ll need a license in most states to open a private practice, but you don’t always need a license to work for an agency or hospital, as this depends on the employer’s requirements.
You can find work with a company that creates diagnostic tests for teachers and physicians to use to screen for developmental and learning disabilities, or can use your degree to administer the tests. The University of Houston offers a master’s in special education with an emphasis on educational diagnostics that prepares teachers for work in the Texas school system. In this capacity, you’d test young children, and then help the school and parents develop a plan of action for teaching the students.
- Forbes: The Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs
- Michigan State University: Special Education Master's Overview
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists
- Cal State: Division of Special Education and Counseling
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor
- Education Portal: What Can You do With a Master's in Special Education?
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."