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Special Education Major

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Special Education

9,747 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
17,840 Master's Degrees Annually
#51 in Popularity
$62,500 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Special Education Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many special education graduations there were in 2017-2018 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 17,867
Bachelor’s Degree 9,761
Graduate Certificate 2,334
Basic Certificate 395
Associate’s Degree 294
Doctor’s Degree 240
Undergraduate Certificate 237

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

According to O*NET survey takers, a major in special ed should prepare you for careers in which you will need to be knowledgeable in the following areas:

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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

special ed majors are found most commonly in careers in which the following skills are important:

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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

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

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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?

Below is a list of occupations associated with special ed:

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 Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education?

9,761 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
90% Percent Women
18% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This is a less frequently chosen undergraduate major. Only 9,747 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in special education in 2018, making it rank #51 in popularity. This major is dominated by women with about 90% of recent graduates being 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 Bachelor's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 107
Black or African American 428
Hispanic or Latino 989
White 7,636
International Students 48
Other Races/Ethnicities 553

Geographic Diversity

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in Special Ed. About 0.5% 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?

Bachelor’s Degree Starting Salary

According to 2017-2018 data from the U.S. Department of Education, students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in special ed have a median salary of $36,400 during the early years of their career. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $32,875 (25th percentile) and $39,025 (75th percentile).

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Note that some of these people may have jobs that are not directly related to a special ed degree.

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 degrees associated with special ed may require an advanced degree, while others may not even require a bachelor’s in the field. 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 2017-2018, 975 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) 84 10
Certificate (1-2 years) 48 8
Certificate (2-4 Years) 1 0
Associate’s Degree 75 12
Bachelor’s Degree 337 115
Post-Baccalaureate 84 10
Master’s Degree 947 263
Post-Master’s 132 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 83 3
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
Teacher Education Grade Specific 99,840
Educational Administration 44,405
Teacher Education Subject Specific 43,242
General Education 31,485
Curriculum & Instruction 17,977
Student Counseling 14,228
Instructional Media Design 6,846
Teaching English or French 5,766
Other Education 5,558
Teaching Assistants 1,900
Multilingual Education 1,510
Educational Assessment 1,322
Education Philosophy 564
International Education 443

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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