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Special Education Major

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Special Education

18,003 Master's Degrees Annually
257 Doctor's Degrees Annually
#9 in Popularity (Master's)
$62,500 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Special Education Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many special education graduations there were in 2018-2019 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 18,013
Graduate Certificate 2,240
Doctor’s Degree 257

What Special Education Majors Need to Know

O*NET surveyed people in occupations related to special ed and asked them what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. The responses were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Special Ed Majors

Special Ed majors often go into careers in which the following knowledge areas are important:

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  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Clerical - Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.

Skills for Special Ed Majors

When studying special ed, you’ll learn many skills that will help you be successful in a wide range of jobs - even those that do not require a degree in the field. The following is a list of some of the most common skills needed for careers associated with this major:

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  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Instructing - Teaching others how to do something.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

Abilities for Special Ed Majors

As you progress with your special ed degree, there are several abilities you should pick up that will help you in whatever related career you choose. These abilities include:

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  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

What Can You Do With a Special Education Major?

People with a special ed degree often go into the following careers:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Adapted Physical Education Specialists 9.9% $56,680
Interpreters and Translators 17.7% $49,930
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School 7.4% $59,390
Special Education Teachers, Middle School 7.2% $60,250
Special Education Teachers, Preschool 11.3% $55,840
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School 7.4% $60,600

Who Is Getting a Master’s Degree in Special Education?

18,013 Master's Degrees Annually
85% Percent Women
25% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This is one of the most frequently chosen graduate majors. It is the 9th most popular in the country with 18,003 students graduating with a master’s in special ed in 2019. The major attracts more women than men. About 85% of the recent graduates in this field are female.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of special ed majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Special Ed Students with Master's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 446
Black or African American 1,718
Hispanic or Latino 1,977
White 12,197
International Students 246
Other Races/Ethnicities 1,429

Geographic Diversity

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in Special Ed. About 1.4% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • Saudi Arabia
  • China
  • South Korea
  • Canada
  • India

How Much Do Special Education Majors Make?

Master’s Degree Starting Salary

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that special education students who graduated in 2015-2017 with a master’s degree made a median starting salary of $47,350 per year. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $43,550 (25th percentile) and $54,325 (75th percentile).

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It is possible that some of these people may have taken positions that were not related to special ed.

Salaries According to BLS

Special Ed majors often go into careers where salaries can range from $61,610 to $64,390 (25th to 75th percentile). This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Special Education Major  ( 61610 to 64390 )
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250K
Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
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250K
Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
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250K
Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )
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250K

Some careers associated with special ed require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. In general, the more advanced your degree the more career options will open up to you. However, there is significant time and money that needs to be invested into your education so weigh the pros and cons.

Find out what the typical degree level is for special ed careers below.

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Education Level Percentage of Workers
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 0.1%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 0.1%
Some College Courses 0.4%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 1.8%
Bachelor’s Degree 52.9%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 13.8%
Master’s Degree 27.0%
Post-Master’s Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Master’s degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctoral level. 2.2%
First Professional Degree - awarded for completion of a program that: requires at least 2 years of college work before entrance into the program, includes a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete, and provides all remaining academic requirements to begin practice in a profession. 1.5%
Doctoral Degree 1.0%

Online Special Education Programs

In 2018-2019, 994 schools offered a special ed program of some type. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 91 15
Certificate (1-2 years) 50 4
Certificate (2-4 Years) 4 0
Associate’s Degree 79 12
Bachelor’s Degree 362 120
Post-Baccalaureate 91 15
Master’s Degree 951 290
Post-Master’s 137 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 82 5
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 1 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 0 0

Is a Degree in Special Education Worth It?

The median salary for a special ed grad is $62,500 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 57% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $452,000 after 20 years!

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You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to special ed.

Major Number of Grads
Educational Administration 43,584
Teacher Education Grade Specific 29,615
General Education 23,737
Teacher Education Subject Specific 20,147
Curriculum & Instruction 18,738
Student Counseling 13,672
Instructional Media Design 6,790
Teaching English or French 4,389
Other Education 3,071
Multilingual Education 1,452
Educational Assessment 968
Education Philosophy 479
International Education 354
Teaching Assistants 6

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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