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					Special education was originally a classroom full of kids who for one reason or another, couldn’t learn at
the pace of their original classmates, or who had behavioral problems. Today there are several
categories of special education and in most states, licenses to match those categories. That means
special education teachers face an additional educational component for licensure and when they
obtain it, will most likely be paid at a higher scale than regular classroom teachers.



The options for obtaining special education licensure are usually the traditional educational institutions
because of the requirement for supervised classroom work that is a feature of any teacher education
program. However there are a few schools with online programs that are accredited by the Teacher
Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) or by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher
Education (NCATE).



Categories for Special Education Students



The education community and the organization of school psychologists have assembled a list of
impairments that require special education. Those include impaired hearing, impaired vision, emotional
disability, developmental delay, autism, mental retardation, orthopedic impairment, speech
impairment, traumatic brain injury, and a category for “other” health impairments. Then there are the
specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia that are not the result of any physical condition or injury.



Online Programs at Traditional Universities



The University of North Carolina offers several online programs for licensed teachers. The East Carolina
campus has a master’s program for licensed teachers that leads to a MAEd with emphasis on one of the
following: mental retardation, emotional/behavioral disabilities, learning disabilities, or low-incidence
disabilities. The Chapel Hill campus has a MAT program with general training in special education for
students with mild disabilities. The Western Carolina campus offers an online MAEd with three tracks:
mild disabilities, severe disabilities, and gifted children.



The University of Massachusetts Online (UMassOnline) has several special education options. There is a
Master of Education in special education for children with impaired vision, and a MEd in vision
rehabilitation. A MEd in Curriculum & Instruction is available with emphasis on children with autism.
There is also a certificate program for Behavioral Intervention with Autistic Students.
A Mixture of Specialized Degrees and Certificates



The University of North Texas and the University of Minnesota/Mankato both have graduate certificate
programs in special education. Florida State University offers the Master of Science in Special Education
with specialization in severe disabilities (autism and severe cognitive disability), early childhood special
education (birth through age 5 years), and high incidence disabilities. The University of Kentucky and
Gonzaga University both have online graduate degrees in special education. The University of
Missouri/Columbia offers a MEd in Mental Health Practices in Schools, designed for both teachers and
administrators.



Most of these programs are designed to meet teacher licensing requirements in the state where the
campus is located; however there is a license reciprocity agreement for teachers with at least 33 states
as participants. There are a few exclusively online schools with accredited special education programs;
the first to achieve NCATE recognition is Western Governors University, which also offers several K-12
teaching degrees that meet licensure standards.



If you are a licensed teacher wishing to break into special education there are several viable online
programs available to you. There are also MAT programs in special education for individuals who are
not licensed teachers but are interested in making a career change into education. Special education
has become a respected and well paid educational niche that requires extra education, which is
increasingly available to teachers who would like to go back to school and continue working.

				
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