University Special Education Courses Available Online

If teaching is one of the most personally rewarding career fields out there, then special education teaching is doubly so. Working with children who have physical or psychological impairments is by no means easy, and it often requires additional training. Most states require special education teachers to be licensed with both a general teaching certificate and a special education teaching certificate in which teachers specialize in either a specific disability or field within special ed. Taking special education courses is, as such, especially important for those who are interested in working with disabled children. After the passage of important amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 2004, all special education teachers are required to be “highly qualified,” which usually means earning a bachelor’s degree, acquiring a state teaching license, and demonstrating knowledge in both the subject matter being taught and the types of disabilities a teacher would encounter in the classroom.

Online education courses are widely available and are a great, convenient way to begin a career path in special education. The first step to becoming a special education teacher via distance learning is taking general online college courses in education, then taking courses that count toward a degree plan focused on special education. A typical online course in special education will cover issues that are critical to becoming an effective special education teacher, like special education law and effective development of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), which are guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for every special education student. For instance, Western Governor’s University, an online school that offers several basic and advanced online education degrees, offers a variety of courses related to special education, which can be viewed here.

Because special education teachers are required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree (in some states a master’s degree is required), it is essential for future teachers to choose an online program of study that is fully accredited. For more on accreditation, check out this advice from Colorado Christian University.

Special Education and your Career

Online college courses in special education offer self-starters a convenient entry into a personally rewarding and exponentially growing field. In fact, U.S. News and World Report named special education teaching one of the top 50 careers in 2011. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth rate for special education teachers will increase by 17% between 2008 and 2018, which is considered a faster-than-average pace. There are various reasons for this impressive growth rate. For one, IDEA has made special education teacher qualifications much stricter, meaning many schools have unfilled positions for want of qualified teachers. Another reason is that advances in medicine have made it possible to detect various disabilities at younger ages. Now more than ever, students who would have earlier passed under the radar will have access to special education services. This substantial increase in students diagnosed with a disability has translated into an increased demand for special education teachers.

Taking online courses in special education does not limit your career options to working with disabled children in a school setting. Since all special education teachers are required to hold a basic teaching license, they may also teach general education. Various non-profit groups that advocate for disability rights are also possible places of employment. If the private sector interests you, you may consider becoming a consultant for companies that develop educational materials for disabled students. Finally, as laws governing disability rights become more complex, the need for lawyers who specialize in disability law will increase. Once you’ve taken several special education courses, you may consider law school, after which you’ll have more familiarity with disabilities than your peers do, which can improve your job prospects.

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