Requirements for a Special Education Degree

Student teaching or clinical practice is an essential component of a special education degree program.
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Teachers certified in special education are trained to work with students with behavioral disorders, physical disabilities or other special needs. They make it possible for these students to become integrated into an academic structure. This is a challenging, yet rewarding career that often involves obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in special education and certification by the state. The coursework will generally involve both lecture and hands-on experience, supplying future teachers with the theoretical and practical knowledge to assist students with disabilities.

1 Admission and Prerequisites

Upon admission to college, students often need to complete a certain number of requirements before moving on to the major in special education. General education prerequisites, such as English literature and composition, history, math and a foreign language are common requirements. Additionally, many education students must past a pre-professional exam before being admitted to the education program. The College of Charleston requires that students complete a course on the foundations of education with a grade of C or better before continuing on to any other education courses. The Educator Preparation Program at Iowa State University requires that students be accepted by a committee before admission.

2 Professional Education Courses

Special education majors will begin to take courses more specific to their discipline starting their junior year. These courses are introductions to the programs, issues and curricula surrounding children and young adults with special needs, and will include both research and contemporary issues. Next, students take courses specific to emotional, learning or behavioral disabilities, as well as discipline-specific courses. For example, Michigan State University offers courses on the teaching of language and literacy to diverse learners as well as the teaching of mathematics to diverse learners.

3 Student Teaching

Special education departments generally require field work, clinical practice or student teaching before granting a degree. Supervised interaction with children and youth with disabilities gives future teachers hands-on experience in instruction theory and classroom management. Many of these experiences will come with a related seminar, which will discuss the students' new roles as teachers in a contemporary context. College of Charleston's special education major requires that students complete observations or field experience in addition to a clinical internship in which students are placed in a supervised classroom related to their emphasis.

4 Certification

After completing the requirements for the degree, students must pass a comprehensive exam in a specific subject matter or pedagogy which evaluates their knowledge and capabilities as a teacher. Students then apply for a certification or licensure in the state in which they plan on teaching. Requirements for certification vary by state, so students should check their state's requirements, but all require at least a bachelors degree. Some states require that students obtain a master's degree in special education. The initial certificate will last for three years before students take part in a renewal program. Additional subspecialties in special education may be offered as well, such as a literacy focus.

Gale Marie Thompson's work has been published in "Denver Quarterly," "Los Angeles Review" and "Best New Poets 2012." Thompson holds a BA in English and creative writing from the College of Charleston, a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is working on a PhD at the University of Georgia.