A Ph.D. in special education is helpful for individuals looking to pursue a personally and professionally rewarding career in research, teaching, or leadership. The combination of coursework, field experience, and completion of a dissertation are the foundation for doctoral graduates to enter a number of different career paths to help run, shape, and develop programs for diverse groups with special needs.
Doctorate in Special Education Overview
Like most doctorate programs, the majority of special education doctorate programs are designed to concentrate on either research or teaching based specializations. In research based programs, doctorate students learn various methods for the collection, testing, evaluation, and analysis of data based on qualitative and quantitative research. These programs are designed to help graduates gain the knowledge needed to perform research tasks in a variety of positions and include opportunities for students to participate in research alongside highly qualified and experienced faculty.
In teaching based doctorate programs in special education, most students will perform duties as a teaching assistant in order to gain skills in educational delivery. These assistantships also match doctorate students with experienced faculty. Additional information for preparing to teach in special education, visit the National Association of Special Education.
In addition to these concentrations, some doctorate programs in special education are designed to include additional coursework or research in leadership, public policy, or educational theory. Additionally, most students pursuing a doctorate level degree will focus on a specific area of special education. These areas are often separated into support needs, learning disabilities, autism, hearing or visual impairment, early childhood development, behavior disorders, and gifted programs.
Doctorate in Special Education Coursework
In addition to experience working directly with research, teaching, administration, or another specialized area, doctorate students will complete a dissertation and several Ph.D. level courses in special education. Required coursework varies by institution as well as by concentration of area of study, but typical coursework at the doctorate level in special education programs is often divided by evidence practice, research, and teaching categories.
In the teaching category, doctoral students might complete coursework in college level instruction, leadership, and special education supervision. Research categories might include statistical methods, qualitative methods, applied research with special needs students, and professional issues and research. Evidence practice courses might include education research introductory classes, diversity in special education, and advances in special education and student needs.
Careers in Special Education
There are many organizations that look to Ph.D. graduates in special education to fill a variety of positions. Educational institutions at all levels, for example, employ special education doctoral graduates to facilitate and instruct from the early childhood development to the collegiate level. This degree can also help candidates meet educational requirements for principal and superintendent positions.
In addition to opportunities to teach, graduates who have earned a Ph.D. in special education are also candidates for positions as directors of programs at educational institutions, non-profit organizations, medical facilities, and government agencies. Research institutions and curriculum development corporations also employ doctoral graduates for positions.
The need for qualified professionals to lead, conduct research, and teach in special education programs from education to rehabilitation facilities to research and curriculum development organizations continues to increase as the number of special education programs grows to meet demand. With a Ph.D. in special education, candidates are able to focus on a specialized area and look for many exciting and rewarding positions in the field.