What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Special Education?

Oh, the places you’ll go.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Special Education?

Educators who have expertise in special education are a diverse and masterful bunch. Those fortunate to have a master’s degree in special education often have a big edge over those who don’t: choice. What’s next for you and your master’s degree in special education depends on what best suits your professional interests. We’ve rounded up a few of the top jobs and opportunities that master’s degree holders are conquering with gusto. Wherever your special education path takes you, do you! And your next chapter will have the makings of pure awesome.

If you’re a thoughtful observer and a reliable team player …

… then behavior intervention specialist (BIS) is a strong career move. You are a patient observer, taking time to assess student behavior patterns in the classroom. You also love working with teachers and administrators to counsel diverse learners and work closely with families and administrators to determine an action plan. A behavior intervention specialist role often includes program development and academic assessments, too (paperwork does not scare you). 

If you’re a creator and curriculum is your jam …

… then becoming a special education instructional coordinator may be your next move. Developing innovative approaches to special-needs learning puts you at the forefront of dynamic change. You’ll get to work with teachers and school leaders to develop IEPs (individual education programs) for special education students and create broader change for learners across a school—or even an entire district.

If you love the classroom (and know an advanced degree will open more doors) …

… then special education generalist/K–12 special education teacher is the position for you, especially if you crave differentiating instruction in a classroom environment with students who have different learning abilities. Many K–12 teaching jobs do not require a master’s degree, so having one can land you a coveted position in a competitive district or set you up for advancement and more opportunities. You’ll also get a real team feel with your work with support staff, parents, and administrators, as you’ll be working together to make sure students are meeting their IEP goals. 

“You see the light turn on, and the student gets something you have been working with them on for days, weeks, and sometimes months,” Patricia says. “It makes it worth every moment.”

Patricia loves her job and students so much, she’s ready to dig even deeper: She’s starting on her second special education master’s degree, with a focus on autism spectrum disorders, to assist her students even more than she already does.

If you crave one-on-one teaching and want to focus on specific needs …

… then special education specialist may be the role for you. Specialists are usually called in for more focused assistance and development. Your specific area of study and special education development plays a role here. Maybe you have a specialization in physical challenges, like vision or hearing, or you’ve had advanced training with students on the autism spectrum. The skill set you acquired by getting your master’s degree and your passion will help you meet the challenges of students with significant needs who require one-on-one instruction and assistance.

If data sparks joy in you …

… then consider becoming a special education diagnostician or tester. By assessing a student’s learning needs and individual growth, you’re helping to create the foundation for their IEP. Educational diagnosticians truly help educators and families with their overall plan and how to tackle it. 

Testers are the early diagnosticians in the special-ed world. Testers are often on the front line of early diagnosis and intervention, screening for challenges and helping to determine first steps and action plans for families. Obviously, it’s an emotional journey, so compassion (along with your brilliant data sense) is paramount. 

If you need a flexible schedule but still want to make a big impact …

… then you might use your master’s degree in special education to go into independent consulting and training. Autumn Ipock teaches special education full time and authors the popular special-education blog Supports for Special Students. When flexible work opportunities popped up, Autumn says her master’s degree in special education was the ideal calling card. She served as an independent consultant for her state’s department of education and as a statewide trainer with her union.

“Advocating and making changes at a state level was extremely rewarding,” Autumn says. “Providing training for other teachers became a new passion. […] These opportunities were only made available to me because of my advanced degree. They are extremely unique positions that are actually more attainable than people may think.”

Want to learn more about earning your master’s degree in special education? We like FIU’s fully online program because it’s flexible and engaging. Plus, Florida teachers have an opportunity to receive their Autism Endorsement. Learn more about FIU’s program and how it works.

Posted by Jenn Horton

Jenn is an editor for WeAreTeachers and SchoolLeadersNow. She used to work for Oprah for over a decade, teaching folks to "Live Their Best Lives" online and in real life...and she continues to try that herself too (mostly). Her work has appeared on WebMD, CNN, Amazon and various online publications. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two kiddos.

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