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Special Education Major

Special education is a major that typically falls into the Education category.

There are 75 programs available throughout the country that offer an associate’s degree in special ed, 687 that offer a bachelor’s degree, and 947 that offer a master’s degree. There are also at least 84 schools in the nation where you can get your doctorate degree in the field.

Who Is Getting a Special Ed Degree?

In 2017, roughly 10,000 special education majors graduated with a bachelor’s degree. This makes it #49 in popularity of all the majors we track. This major is dominated by women with about 90.3% of recent graduates being female.

Racial Distribution

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

  • Asian: 1.1%
  • Black or African American: 4.4%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 10.1%
  • White: 78.2%
  • Non-Resident Alien: 0.5%
  • Other Races: 5.7%
Special Education Majors Ethnic Diversity Statistics

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in special ed. About 0.5% of those graduating in 2017 were international students. The most popular countries sending special ed majors to the U.S. are Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea.

What Will You Learn as a Special Education Major?

An O*NET survey asked people with careers related to special ed to rate how important certain subject areas were to their job. The following are some of the results of that survey. Importance was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Special Ed Majors

This major prepares you for careers in which these knowledge areas are important:

Important Knowledge Areas for Special Education Majors

Skills for Special Ed Majors

The following list of skills has been highlighted as some of the most essential for careers related to special ed:

Important Skills for Special Education Majors

Abilities for Special Ed Majors

Special ed majors often go into careers where the following abilities are vital:

Important Abilities for special ed Majors

What Can You Do With a Special Ed Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with special ed:

Careers Related to Special Education
Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary

Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School



Interpreters and Translators



Adapted Physical Education Specialists



Special Education Teachers, Secondary School



Special Education Teachers, Middle School



Special Education Teachers, Preschool



Special Education Major Salary

Special ed majors often go into careers where salaries can range from $62,000 to $64,000. 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, the typical high school graduate makes between $29,000 and $57,000 a year. The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $44,000 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,000 and $120,000.

Average Salary for a Special Ed Major  ( 62000 to 64000 )
Average Salary for High School Graduate  ( 29000 to 57000 )
Average Salary with Bachelor's Degree  ( 44000 to 99000 )
Average Salary with Advanced Degree  ( 55000 to 120000 )

Your salary will be largely dependent on the career path you follow and what area of the country (or world) you work. Getting a graduate degree may open up more options with higher salary potential.

Amount of Education Required for Special Education Major Jobs

Some careers associated with special ed require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. Whatever the case may be, pursuing more education usually means that more career options will be available to you.

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

Education Levels for Careers Associated With Special Education
Level of Education Percentage of Workers

Less Than a High School Diploma


High School Diploma or Equivalent


Post-Secondary Certificate


Some College Courses


Associate's Degree or Equivalent


Bachelor's Degree


Post-Baccalaureate Certificate


Master's Degree


Post-Master's Certificate


First Professional Degree


Doctoral Degree


Post-Doctoral Training


Online Special Education Programs

There are 687 colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in special education, with 53 of them offering at least some courses online.

Online learners must listen or watch video lectures, participate in group chats or forums, submit papers and assignments electronically, take tests, and meet deadlines.

Getting your degree online is not easy and includes watching and listening to hours of lectures, participating in group charts, submitting papers by the appropriate deadline and taking tests. Some online programs will also feature internships or in-person clinical hours.

Is a Special Education Major Worth It?

The median salary for a special ed grad is $63,000 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 61% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $472,000 after 20 years!

special education salary compared to typical high school and college graduates over a 20 year period


Bureau of Labor Statistics
National Center for Education Statistics
O*NET Online
Image Credit: Woodleywonderworks via License

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