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Special Education

The Breakdown

Should you choose to major in special education, you’ll study how to teach (and reach) children with special needs. The children you work with will likely have a range of disabilities and difficulties, from visual or aural impairments to behavioral problems and mental handicaps.

As a special ed major, you’ll take classes in child development, curriculum development, classroom management and, importantly, disorder assessment. More specifically, you’ll receive training in specialized areas such as motor, language and social-emotional development. You will also study how to integrate traditional educational standards and practices into more targeted programs designed to meet the needs of your students. Additionally, a student teaching requirement will illustrate how to focus on your curriculum while juggling the complications of your classroom. Finally, most programs will prepare you for state certification licensure.

A handful of colleges also offer the opportunity to study early intervention. Coupled with rehabilitation, psychology or speech language pathology, students learn how to engage at risk or special needs infants and toddlers and their parents. The techniques taught help to ensure greater success for these children in the future.

While special education is a profession laden with frustrations and challenges, it’s also an immensely rewarding career. Those well suited for this trade are extraordinarily patient, supportive and can take pleasure in progress, no matter how small or measured.

Nuts and Bolts

As a special education major, you might take classes like: Cultural Diversity and Disability, Family Partnerships in Special Education, History, Research and Context in Behavioral and Learning Disorders, Reading and Writing Instruction in Special Education or Instruction of Students with Physical Disabilities

Decisions, Decisions

Special education majors have also been known to consider these academic disciplines as well: speech pathology, physical therapy, music therapy, psychology, sociology, human development and child and family studies.

What's Next

We all recognize majoring in education can lead you directly into the classroom. And many ed majors sustain satisfying teaching careers over the course of their professional life. As you’re also no doubt aware, some translate classroom experience into administrative positions and become principals, vice principals, guidance counselors, etc. However, others find a passion for policy work and land jobs at non-profits, think tanks and various departments of education. Additionally, some majors take advantage of their extensive knowledge of child development and education and seek employment with companies that create products and entertainment for children. Still others combine their studies with a passion for other cultures and look for work involving international education, be it study abroad or development in third world countries.


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Don Munce