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Doctor of Special Education

Earn Your Doctorate Degree in Special Education

If you plan on working toward an online doctorate degree in special education, you may be able to earn your degree with four years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree. Some students may require more or less time, and it may depend on the amount of course work you can handle and whether you choose to study full or part-time. In addition to studying special education as a whole, you may want to choose a specialty to focus on. Some specific areas of study include early childhood special education, visual impairments, severe disabilities, and learning disabilities. These specialties are designed to address how to meet the special needs of individual students with developmental, behavioral and physical disabilities.

In order to graduate with a doctorate in special education, you must first complete the program's basic core curriculum. In addition, you may also be expected to complete a research project in collaboration with a faculty member. After completing a research project and studying its results, you may be required to submit and defend a dissertation based on your findings.

Career Paths

If you decide to earn a doctorate degree in special education, you should familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements in your state. Since licensing and certification requirements vary, it's important that educators who want to work in the field of special education are aware of local licensing procedures.

Earning an online doctorate degree in special education can lead to opportunities in a wide variety of careers. Some of the possibilities include:

  • Special Education Teacher -- Special education teachers may work in a public or private school setting and are responsible for creating a positive learning environment for students with mental, learning, emotional and physical disabilities. In addition to regular classroom activities, special education teachers are also regularly required to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in order to help each individual student reach their goals. These teachers need to be flexible, as they may have to tailor their curriculum and programs to the changing needs of their students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career of special education teachers is expected to experience 17 percent job growth nationally between 2010 and 2020 (bls.gov, ooh, 2012). This expected growth is due to a projected increase in school enrollment and the continued need for special education services.
  • Postsecondary Teacher -- Graduates who have earned an online doctorate degree in special education may qualify to teach postsecondary education as a college professor or teacher. Professors in the field of special education may be responsible for creating lesson plans, developing curriculum and advising students on how to achieve their academic goals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of postsecondary teachers should increase 17 percent nationally from 2010 to 2020 (bls.gov/ ooh, 2012).

Career Earnings

Earning your online doctorate degree in special education may increase your prospects for employment. This is due to the wider variety of positions that are usually available to graduates with an advanced degree. Individuals with a doctoral degree in special education can choose to work as a teacher or college professor, or even in school administration or research.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers earned a national annual mean wage of $73,770 in May 2012, while special education teachers earned a national annual mean wage of $58,140 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). Preschool special education teachers earned a national annual mean wage of $57,770, and special education teachers who worked in secondary schools earned a national mean annual wage of $60,090 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). It's also important to note that wages can vary due to geographic region, skills and experience.

Sources:

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition," Special Education Teachers, March 29, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-1
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition," Postsecondary Teachers, April 10, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-6
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," March 29, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#25-0000

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