Special Education Master's Program Curriculum

Special Education Teacher Graduate Program Curriculum & Coursework

If you’re considering pursuing a career in special education, you’re likely wondering about the requirements for special education teachers. GradSchools is here to help. We’ll examine the different types of special education master’s degree programs—and take a look at typical curriculums, course competencies and coursework, should you choose to enroll in special education teaching program. Keep in mind all states require special education teachers to earn a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and some states may require special education teachers to earn a master’s degree in special education to be considered fully certified[i].

Types of Special Education Master’s Degrees

The three primary types of special education master’s degrees, these include: the M.S. in Special Education, the M.A in Special Education, and the M.Ed. in Special education. In general, M.S. and M.A. degree programs tend to be research-based, whereas M.Ed. programs are more focused on applied knowledge. As such, pursuing an M.S. or M.A. in special education may be a good option if you’re interested in eventually pursuing a doctorate degree in special education for the purposes of conducting research or advising on educational policy. M.Ed. programs may be a better match if your goal is to teach—or continue to teach—in the classroom. In fact, some M.Ed. programs may require that you’ve already accumulated a certain amount of classroom experience or that you hold a valid teaching license in order to apply.

Special Education Master’s Degree Curriculum

The general curriculum for special education master’s degree programs will vary depending on the program and the school. However, typically M.S. and M.A programs involve a combination of general coursework, research, practicum experience and the submission of a thesis. M.Ed. programs—on the other hand—may involve a combination of coursework, practicum experience and the submission of a final project.

Below are some examples of the types of courses that you may if you enroll in a master’s degree program in special education.

  • Introduction to Educational Research: Introduces students to the different methods of educational research, including how to formulate research hypotheses and how to prepare research reports.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis: Delves into the application of learning theory, verification of functional relationships, measurement procedures and current significant research in applied behavior analysis.
  • Mild Methods: Deals with intervention strategies and research with individuals of varying disabilities—topics discussed include reading comprehension, mathematics, mnemonic strategies, metacognitive strategies, self-monitoring and transitional instruction.
  • Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues in Special Education: Looks at the differences and similarities of children with exceptionality and provides analysis and practical application of social, legal and ethical issues in the field.
  • Advanced Assistive Technology: Overviews the different types of assistive technology for education, communication, recreation, employment and daily living.
  • Collaboration and Transition: Examines theoretical frameworks and assessment for consultation and collaboration with para-educators (such as teachers’ aides) and parents—including transition practices.

Core Competencies of Special Education Teachers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics outlines specific duties for special education teachers.  The key duties include[ii]:

  • Assessing students’ skills to determine their needs and developing teaching plans to meet those needs
  • Working with other educators to develop individualized learning plans (IEPs) for special needs students
  • Provide students with one-on-one teaching and mentoring time
  • Communicate the students’ progress to parents and other educational stakeholders
  • Supervising teaching assistants and other classroom resource professionals
  • Providing education, support, and training to help students prepare for advancement to the next grade level and for life following graduation

special education masters degree programs


Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm#tab-2

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