If you’re wondering what you can do with a master’s in special education, you’re not alone. It’s a common question for those wondering what career options they may have after they earn their degree. While the answer may not be as straightforward as it is for some other degrees, you may find that’s because an MA in special education offers many more career options than expected. If you’re passionate about changing lives through education, an MA in special education can open many doors.
Read on for just a few of the careers you can pursue with this degree.
What Is an MA in Special Education?
The abbreviation for Master of Arts in Special Education is M.A.S.E, an advanced degree that provides a foundation in helping to make education accessible to all types of learners. You can pursue this degree in-person at a traditional, brick-and-mortar institution or at an online university such as the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). An MA in special education provides coursework and experiences that focus on a variety of topics related to designing instruction for exceptional learners, learning and behavioral interventions, methods to differentiate instruction in the classroom, and ways to provide special education students with the tools they need to reach their full potential.
What Skills Will I Gain in a Special Education MA Degree Program?
You’ll learn more than your fair share of pedagogical theory to impress any classroom of students — in addition to parents — throughout your master’s degree program in special education. In addition to classes like “positive behavior” and “lesson design,” you’ll pick up a number of extra valuable skills throughout the degree program.
The University of Edinburgh found that on top of the specialized skills you gain in your field of study, you can also expect to pick up postgraduate skills like:
- Independently managing a (research) project
- Exhibiting the capacity for critical thinking and analysis
- Understanding how to design instruction for diverse learners
- Using knowledge to solve problems creatively
- Working collaboratively with people from different disciplines and cultures
- Being able to apply critical research skills
- The ability to assess student learning and progress
- Dealing with complex, unpredictable issues and making informed decisions based on incomplete information
- Strategies for behavior management
- Taking responsibility for your own learning and development
- Communicating ideas effectively in different ways and to people with different levels of knowledge
- Classroom management techniques
What Can I Do With a Master’s in Special Education?
With so many skills, you’ll have plenty of career options to explore. It’s important to take the time to research what you want to do — and what you can do — with a master’s in special education. Before you enter into a program, consider these eight potential career outcomes for an MA in special education:
1. Assistive technology specialist
With an MA in special education, you can become an expert in the field and assist those with unique needs. You could put your hard-earned skills to work as an assistive technology specialist, which ZipRecruiter explains is an individual who helps to provide assistance for mobility, vision, disabilities, and rehabilitation services. You’ll be responsible for developing innovative technology plans and providing support to students and staff members. Working as an assistive technology specialist is both challenging and rewarding, as you’ll be directly helping people improve their lives. While it can be a demanding job, it’s also one that offers a great deal of satisfaction.
2. Behavior intervention specialist
Career site Indeed explains what you can expect to do as a behavior intervention specialist on a daily basis: Help treat individuals, often children, develop life skills and improve their social interactions. You might work with children who have diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or anger problems. With a focus on inclusion and diversity, you can work on behaviors and come up with plans to help clients feel more comfortable in their environment and around others. You’ll collaborate with other behavior specialists, parents, and guardians to come up with intervention plans tailored to individuals.
3. Talented and gifted specialist
Sometimes students find it hard to fit in at school and in other settings due to their advanced knowledge or skills. In these situations, a talented and gifted specialist can work alongside a student to see that their needs — both mental and social — are met. A Talented and Gifted (TAG) specialist offers support and resources to school programs, evaluates and designs gifted and talented programs, assists school teachers and staff, and supports students who are sometimes identified as “twice exceptional.”
4. Inclusion specialist
One of the many wonderful things about earning an MA in special education is that the field seeks to improve the lives of those who are often overlooked and underserved due to a disability or other emotional, mental, or physical issue. Previously, these students were all labeled under the same category and enlisted into special education programs. The role of an inclusion specialist, however, is to recognize the unique needs of students and help them find the best classroom for their growth. The best environment is often a general education classroom, and according to Bright Hub Education, an inclusion specialist provides assistance in general education classrooms and helps to accommodate the unique needs of students. The combination of teacher and inclusion specialist creates an environment where more students are welcomed and accommodated.
5. Special education specialist
One of the great benefits of an MA in special education is the flexibility it provides in working across education — both inside school and out. As a special education specialist, for instance, you can use the skills you gain from the program to make a difference in students’ lives at the structural level. As job board Indeed describes the role, you can provide leadership in program evaluations and follow-up procedures as a special education specialist; write and develop federal, state, and equipment projects; coordinate the integration of special education into the total school program; and much more. The special education specialist is a rewarding role that is both hands-on and makes a lasting impact in the field of special education.
6. Special education coordinator
Similar to the role of special education specialist, a special education coordinator plays an important part in keeping programs running smoothly for students. As EdJoin.org describes the position: “The special education coordinator is an integral part of the school’s instructional leadership team and is responsible for overseeing programs that provide educational assistance to children with mental, psychological, learning, behavioral, or physical disabilities.” With the goal of creating and helping to run special education programs that maximize the growth potential of students with exceptional learning needs, special education coordinators are highly trained and experienced educators. If special education is calling your name, consider this as a potential career to make a lasting difference in students’ lives.
7. Special education course developer
A special education course developer is responsible for creating and designing courses that meet the needs of students with disabilities. In this role, you would work closely with teachers and other educational professionals to ensure the courses are accessible and effective. Understanding how students learn in different ways, for instance, is critical to the role. In addition to developing new courses, you may also revise existing ones. The ultimate goal is to provide students with the best possible learning experience. To succeed as a special education course developer, ZipRecruiter adds that you must be able to create clear and concise materials, as well as have an understanding of the unique needs of students with disabilities. Excellent communication and organizational skills are essential. If you have all of these qualities and an MA in special education, then you may be the perfect candidate for a special education course developer.
8. Learning behavior specialist
Consider learning behavior specialist as one career outcome that allows you to be even more hands-on in students’ learning and growth. A learning behavior specialist is a professional who works with students who have been identified as having one or more learning disabilities. As such, you would work with the student to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and provide support in the areas of academics, social skills, and behavioral management. In addition, you’ll collaborate with teachers and other school staff to ensure the student is receiving the best possible education.
The goal of a learning behavior specialist is to help the student reach their full potential and become successful members of society. Working alongside them, you would strive to instill confidence in students and help them develop into independent learners. With patience, dedication, and hard work, you can make a difference in the lives of students as a learning behavior specialist.
Overview: What Can I Do with an MA in Special Education?
The field of special education is rife with opportunity and a multitude of career outcomes to choose from. The common denominator in each of the roles? The chance to make a difference in the lives of students. Do any of these 8 potential careers spark your interest?
An online degree from the University of Arizona Global Campus does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state. If you want to become a classroom teacher, contact your state’s education authorities prior to enrolling at the University of Arizona Global Campus to determine what state-specific requirements you must complete before obtaining your teacher's license.