12 November 2014

Do More than Teach with a Master's in Special Education

Most people who pursue a master’s in special education do so with the intent of becoming a special education teacher. After all, most states require such educators to have completed, at minimum, a special education training program if a master’s degree isn’t required. 

However, earning such a degree presents a number of opportunities outside the classroom as well. Law enforcement, health care, social services, and the media are all in need of experienced professionals with a background in special education. 

Not convinced? Check out some of the doors that your special education credential can open up.

Social Services Providers

When children are hospitalized due to illness or injury, their medical team relies upon social services coordinators to help the patient and his or her family access necessary programs and services, and to
help them provide the best possible care to their young patients. With your degree in special education, you can help determine patient eligibility for extra services, advocate for patients’ educational needs, and help coordinate treatment plans. A special education program also helps prepare you for certification as a Child Life Specialist, a health care professional who helps children and families as they deal with illness, injury, disability, and hospitalization. 

Depending on the agency or organization, a social services provider earns an average of around $40,000 per year, with those who earn the Certified Child Life Specialist credential among the top earners overall.

Writer and Tester

In order for children to receive special education services, in most cases they must undergo a series of diagnostic tests designed to pinpoint the issue and identify appropriate measures. The tests are usually administered by trained professionals with a background in special education who can effectively interpret the results and make appropriate recommendations.

Not only do special education professionals deliver exams, they also help create them. Using their in-depth knowledge and experience, they devise exams that are both effective and developmentally appropriate. Special education experts are also in demand as writers of textbooks, and training and informational materials. In most cases, these roles also require some degree of classroom experience in addition to a degree, but the earning potential is competitive. A full time writer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earns about $50,000 per year. However, many special education teachers provide writing, editing, and testing services on a freelance basis, earning a steady income in addition to their full time jobs.


For people with physical, emotional, and learning disabilities, a rehabilitation counselor can mean the difference between being able to care for themselves and relying on others for everything. If you hold a special education degree, you may be able to work as a rehab counselor, helping children and teens with disabilities develop strategies for managing everyday life or participate in certain activities. 

You might find these positions in schools, where you would work with a single student or a small group in a classroom, at a rehabilitation center, or in private practice. Private practice usually requires that you obtain a license, which may require additional education and training. Demand for rehabilitation counselors is expected to grow by 20 percent within the next decade, but salaries are still on the lower end of the spectrum, averaging in the low to mid $30s. Counselors in private practice tend to earn substantially more money each year.

Law Enforcement

It might seem strange that you can use your special education degree in the law enforcement field, but it’s true. Correctional facilities often hire people with a background in special education to teach or provide rehabilitation services to inmates. Studies show that more than a third of all inmates in juvenile correctional facilities received special education services at some point prior to incarceration, and the law requires that children with disabilities continue to receive those services while they are in detention. 

This is an extremely challenging, yet rewarding specialization, with above average earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salaries for a corrections officer is about $48,000 per year, with the region, level of security, and level of education all factors in actual salaries.

Earning a special education master’s degree does not mean that you are limited to working in schools. From hospitals to jails to your own private practice, a special education degree is a versatile credential that offers a wealth of career opportunities.



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