Hybrid Masters in Special Education and Gifted Education Graduate Programs and Degrees

Perhaps you are currently a working professional in the field of education and you are looking to add to your technical knowledge so that you can potentially jumpstart your career. Or maybe you are looking for your teaching niche and are drawn to learning the methods that can help to guide gifted students and those with special needs. If so, a hybrid masters in special education graduate program can be a great academic choice with the potential to lead to a variety of professional possibilities.

Career options for graduates of a hybrid masters in special education program

The job outlook for special education teachers is projected to grow 6% from 2012 to 2022[i]. The number of children with disabilities is being identified earlier and they are being enrolled into special education programs, which increases the demand for special education teachers in preschool and kindergarten grades[i].

In general, special and gifted education graduate programs are aimed at preparing students with the methodologies and knowledge needed to be classroom teachers of students with special needs, and may also prepare teachers of general classes on how to include students who are either special needs or gifted in their classrooms. In the past, most students with special needs have been excluded from school[ii].

Some hybrid masters in special education degrees can allow teachers to focus on a specific population, whether an age group, or autism spectrum disorders, learning and behavior disorders, the visually impaired or education of the deaf or gifted students.

What is a Special Education Teacher?

A special education teacher is an educator who works with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional or physical disabilities. Some of the industries with the highest levels of employment include elementary and secondary schools, individual and family services, educational support services, government, and residential intellectual and developmental disability and substance abuse facilities[iii].

FACT: Special education teachers should inform themselves about certification[iv]

Earning a master’s in special education online can potentially help graduates in their future hunt for job placement. According to the BLS, all states require that special education teachers in the public school setting have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some states require special education teachers to complete a master’s degree in special education to become fully certified[iv]. Some students might be using the master’s program to go on to earn an online special education doctorate

Their responsibilities vary depending on where they work, who they are teaching, and their teaching specialty[v].  Typically, some of the duties of special education teachers can include[v]:

  • Adaptation of general education lessons in a variety of subjects, such as reading, writing and mathematics, to those who have mild and moderate disabilities
  • Teaching basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques to those students with severe disabilities
  • Assessing student’s skills to determine their needs and to develop teaching plans
  • Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student
  • Discuss student’s progress with parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators
  • With gifted students, or talented students, these are students who have high abilities and need an enriched classroom setting with an accelerated program so that they can continue to progress.

What are the potential benefits of a hybrid masters in special education?

The hybrid format of learning combines two formats: online, and on-campus. Distance learning can assist the working professional that does not have the time to commute to classroom, and needs the flexibility of scheduling study around other factors in their timetable, so it becomes a convenient your academic goals with other factors in your life.  The on-campus component can allow you to network, have face-to-face interaction with your professors, partake in campus activities and have access to the campus facilities. 

What kind of courses can I study in masters in special education programs?

Hybrid special education and gifted education programs can vary from school to school, and students may have to complete a period of fieldwork; called ‘student teaching[iv].

Generally coursework may include the theory and methods that can help address the educational needs of the gifted or special needs student. Typically if the degree is focused on a particular group, such as autism spectrum disorders or visual impairment, the curriculum will likely reflect that concentration. Some of the coursework in master special education programs could include courses such as:

  • Development and characteristics of learners
  • Managing behaviors
  • Delivering instruction
  • Individual learning differences
  • Instructional strategies
  • Social and language development
  • Lesson planning
  • Assessment
  • Professional and Ethical Practices
  • Collaboration

Potential career paths for graduates with master’s degree in special education

Most special education teachers work in public schools, private schools and with young children in childcare centers. Others work with students in residential facilities, hospitals and even in student’s homes. Graduates who have earned a master’s in special education can also potentially be prepared to follow a variety of different career paths. Some of these might include:

  • Childcare Workers: care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable[vi]
  • High School teachers: prepare students for life after graduation[vii]
  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects[viii]
  • Middle School teachers: educate students from grade 6-12[ix]
  • Preschool teachers: care for children from ages 3-5 who have not yet entered kindergarten[x]

Ready to pursue a hybrid masters in special education degree?

If you feel called to work with students who have special needs then pursuing your masters degree in special and gifted education could be a rewarding career path with potentially a good job outlook; new job opportunities arise each year from the need to replace teachers who leave the occupation[i].

Begin searching through the hybrid degree listings in special and gifted education graduate programs on GradSchools.com to find the one that sounds the most rewarding!

[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-6 | simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_education | [iii] bls.gov/oes/current/oes252059.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [v] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-2 | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/childcare-workers.htm | [vii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm | [viii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm | [ix] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm | [ix] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm

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