What Can I Do With A Doctorate in Special Education?

Ph.D in Special EducationGraduates with a doctorate in special education will find numerous opportunities to pass along their expertise to others in a variety of work settings. They will usually have experience at entry level positions requiring at least a bachelor’s degree to instruct students with mild-to-moderate learning difficulties across disability areas, according to Special Education News. Others who work in therapeutic positions or with more severely disabled populations, such as speech-language pathologists or multiple-disabilities specialists, may already hold a master’s degree. Interested candidates should seek out accredited special education programs that follow standards set forth by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) as approved by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Foundations for a Doctorate in Special Education

Many special education programs now offer combined curricula for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, so graduates earn credentials for both degrees at once. Graduates then work for a time prior to returning for further studies at the doctoral level. This is beneficial, as most positions for doctorates in the field require personal knowledge of classroom instructional practices, including developing, writing and implementing Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Some individuals may go immediately into doctoral programs upon earning a master’s level degree, but their job prospects may be limited initially until they have gained instructional or therapeutic experience. Besides special education teachers, other individuals who may pursue a doctorate in this field include school administrators, human services professionals or mental health providers.

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Types of Doctorate Degree Programs in Special Education

Doctorate titles in special education vary. Some programs award a Doctor of Education with a special education concentration, otherwise known as an Ed.D. in Special Education. This type of degree often emphasizes teaching, legal or administrative aspects of the discipline. Other programs may award the customary Ph.D. in Special Education, which benefits those working in research or technical areas within the field. Regardless of degree type, doctorate degree holders will be employed at the highest levels of managerial and instructional capacities in special education.

Job Prospects for Graduates with a Doctorate of Special Education

Career opportunities for those with a doctorate of special education include a broad spectrum of possibilities. Jobs may be found in public or private facilities, government agencies, all levels of education, and within community organizations. Doctors of Special Education may be expected to perform all or some of these duties:

  • Stay current with the latest trends, technology and practices in the special education field.
  • Train and supervise special education staff.
  • Design and implement evidence-based special education programs to benefit exceptional learners.
  • Understand and interpret psychological and educational testing.
  • Understand and mediate legal issues related to the implementation of special education services.
  • Participate in research or publication activities.
  • Instruct students at the college level.
  • Administrate and manage special education budgets.
  • Act as a liaison between parents, staff and students.
  • Provide expert opinions to school administrators about special education services and legalities within their buildings.
  • Advocate for special education staff, programs and students in IEP meetings or other public arenas.

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The field of special education offers many challenging and rewarding career opportunities for those in administrative positions. Earn a doctorate of special education and share the knowledge and expertise with fellow professionals that makes a difference in the lives of exceptional needs students.