What can you do with a degree in special education?

Updated on December 21, 2023

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Special education has recently become one of the fastest-growing fields in the educational sector. A degree in special education can open up various career paths, enabling you to work with children with disabilities and assist them in reaching their full potential. Whether it’s teaching, creating specialized programs, or advocating for those affected by disability, a career in special education offers many opportunities to make a real difference in the lives of those with special needs.

Careers Options Available

A degree in special education can equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue various careers. These include: 

1. Special Education Teacher: 

Special education teachers teach students with special needs in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. They ensure their students receive a quality education that meets their needs. You will be responsible for creating individualized instruction plans and adapting classroom lessons to meet the needs of each student. In addition, you will be in charge of providing guidance and support to both students and families. For example, you may need to help students transition into adulthood or teach them how to interact with their peers. However, it would be best to learn the ropes of teaching special needs students before you can take up this role. Also, having at least a postgraduate degree in special education or equivalent to becoming a special education teacher would be best. There are several online special education degree programs available that can get you started. The course provides you with the skills needed to understand various disabilities, create individualized instruction plans, and communicate effectively with both students and families. And the average salary for a special education teacher is around $59,000.

2. School Psychologist: 

School psychologists use their knowledge of psychology and behavior to identify, assess, and intervene in cases involving learning disabilities. They work with teachers and parents to create intervention plans for students struggling with classroom learning. School psychologists also conduct assessments, interpret data, and counsel children and families. And do practice in research, consultation, and program evaluation. Furthermore, they are trained to recognize signs of abuse and other emotional or mental issues. It is recommended that school psychologists have a master’s degree in psychology and a license to practice. Also, they must possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills as they interact with various stakeholders. Occasionally, they may also need to present their findings in court and collaborate with other professionals. Their average salary is around $75,000 per year.

3. Early Intervention Specialist: 

Early intervention specialists work with children at risk of developing learning disabilities, developmental delays, or other learning issues. They provide assessments and interventions for young children, working closely with the parents to determine their needs. Early intervention specialists are responsible for designing and implementing appropriate interventions, monitoring outcomes, and supporting parents. They also assess a child’s ability to learn and develop their social, emotional, and behavioral skills. Furthermore, they may need to collaborate with other professionals, such as speech and language pathologists or occupational therapists. An ideal early intervention specialist has a degree in early childhood special education and additional qualifications in early intervention. The average salary for an early intervention specialist is around $53,000 per year. 

4. Special Education Administrator: 

A special education administrator is responsible for managing and overseeing the operations of a special needs program. This includes developing a curriculum, hiring, and training staff, creating policies and procedures, conducting assessments, and managing budgets. Special education administrators also oversee the implementation of IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and handle any complaints from parents or students. Furthermore, they are responsible for ensuring compliance with state and federal laws related to special education. Ideal candidates for this role have a master’s degree in special education or educational leadership and experience as a special education teacher. The average salary for a special education administrator is around $86,000 per year. However, this varies depending on the size and location of the school. 

5. Assistive Technology Specialist: 

Assistive technology specialists help people with disabilities access their environment and participate in activities. They provide assessment, training, and technical assistance using specialized computer software and hardware. Assistive technology specialists also support students in classroom settings by helping them use assistive technology devices and services. They are also responsible for monitoring students’ progress and providing feedback to teachers. Furthermore, they keep up with the latest developments in assistive technology and work with manufacturers to troubleshoot technical problems. An ideal candidate should have a degree in occupational or physical therapy and a special education background. The average salary for an assistive technology specialist is around $55,000 per year. 

6. Mental Health Counselor: 

Mental health counselors work with people to help them cope with problems impacting their mental and emotional well-being. They also assess and diagnose mental health issues, develop treatment plans, provide therapy, and help clients manage their symptoms. Mental health counselors are responsible for assisting clients in setting and achieving goals and providing education and resources to their families. Furthermore, they collaborate with other professionals to ensure the best possible care for their clients. An ideal mental health counselor has a master’s degree in counseling or psychology and must be licensed to practice in their state. What’s also good about this is there is a service for psychology that is funded by NDIS making it more affordable for most. The average salary for a mental health counselor is around $48,000 per year. However, this varies depending on the type of practice and state in which they are employed. 

7. Autism Specialist: 

An autism specialist specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing autism spectrum disorders. They are responsible for assessing a child’s strengths and weaknesses, providing intervention services, creating individualized education plans (IEPs), and collaborating with other professionals to ensure each student’s needs are met. Autism specialists also provide support and education to the child’s family and help them access community resources. An ideal autism specialist has a master’s degree in psychology, special education, or a related field. They must also have experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum. The average salary for an autism specialist is around $53,000 per year. However, this varies depending on the size and location of the institution they’re employed in. ​


The field of special education offers a range of career opportunities, from special education administrator to autism specialist. Each role requires its own set of qualifications and skills, and salaries vary depending on the size and location of the institution. Special education professionals are responsible for helping students reach their fullest potential and providing resources to families and other professionals. If you’re considering a career in special education, research and find the right role for you. With commitment and dedication, you can make a difference in the lives of students with special needs. Good luck! 

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.