As we better understand the needs of students with disabilities, it is clear that teachers must be prepared to meet those needs, armed with more than just simple fixes, like fewer worksheets, modified tests and preferential desk placement. With increasing numbers of exceptional students being placed in the general education classroom, it is wise for experienced teachers or those contemplating a career in education to consider earning a Master of Science in Exceptional Student Education.

Why a Master’s Degree in Special Education?

If you have a bachelor’s degree and are considering a new career in education, or if you are an experienced teacher searching for meaningful professional development, there are two reasons why earning a master’s degree in special education may be right for you.

  1. More opportunities for advancement and positions
    Since 1990, when the United States government started keeping statistics, the state of Florida, along with many other states, has consistently faced a shortage of special education or exceptional student education teachers. In February 2017, the local NBC affiliate in Miami reported that the need for teachers in southern Florida is especially acute in special education as well as the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math).The national and local need for teachers well-prepared to teach students with special needs, both in the general education classroom and in self-contained classrooms, has not decreased in recent years. The trend shows no sign of changing.

    In addition, new teachers who want to remain in the general education setting, but who have received formal training in special education, are attractive candidates to school administrators. As the number of students with mild to moderate disabilities assigned to general education classrooms increases, principals recognize the value of hiring teachers who know how to best meet the needs of all students.

  2. More preparation to teach students with disabilities
    A study published by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the National Center for Learning Disabilities titled Preparing General Education Teachers to Improve Outcomes for Students With Disabilities states, “… federal legislation such as IDEA [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] and ESEA [the Elementary and Secondary Education Act] increasingly emphasize that students with disabilities are expected to be taught and learn the general education curriculum and achieve grade-level standards…”According to education journalist, Jackie Mader, however, this is not an easy mandate to follow or accomplish. “Experts say the problem is that it takes much more than just placing students with disabilities next to their general-education peers: Teachers must have the time, support, and training to provide a high-quality education based on a student’s needs.”

    In 2015, more than 13 percent of Florida’s 2.5 million students were identified with a disability. The above-mentioned report makes the case: “To realize high expectations for all students, including students with disabilities, teachers must be prepared to work collaboratively to utilize specific, evidence-based teaching practices that both challenge and motivate all of their students.”

Earning a Master of Science in Exceptional Student Education from a private, prestigious Catholic school like Barry University is one way that a prospective or experienced teacher can prepare to meet the needs of students with disabilities in multiple settings. In this all-online program, students study classroom organization, behavior management and instructional practices designed to accommodate exceptional students. The coursework also includes a variety of assessment models and procedures for using data and techniques for individual instruction.

Student success, both academic and behavioral, both inside and outside of the classroom, is the common goal for educators at all grade levels in all settings. Teachers who are prepared to work effectively with special needs students are a welcome addition to school staff. They truly buy into the philosophy that, with the appropriate support and instruction, every child can succeed.

Learn more about Barry University’s online Master of Science in Exceptional Student Education program.


NBC Miami: Teacher Shortage in South Florida

U.S. Department of Education: Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing 1990-1991 through 2017-2018

The Atlantic: How Teacher Training Hinders Special Needs Students

Education Week: Florida

AACTE and the National Center for Learning Disabilities: Preparing General Education Teachers to Improve Outcomes for Students With Disabilities