Masters in Special Education Salary

A bachelor’s degree may be the minimum educational requirement to become a special education teacher in the U.S., but that certainly hasn’t stopped many in the field from pursuing a master’s degree and enjoying the professional and financial benefits that come with it. And for anybody who already has a bachelor’s in an area other than teaching and who is looking to make the transition to a new career in special education, a master’s degree with a teacher prep component to the curriculum provides that path.

Whether you’re earning your initial teaching license in special education, expanding your expertise by adding a special education endorsement to your teaching license, or further specializing in the field with a focus in an area like autism spectrum disorder or applied behavioral analysis, a master’s degree is your ticket to a more fulfilling career and better earning potential.

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George Mason University
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Online MSEd in Special Education
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Online Master's in Special Education
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Online Master in Special Education
Grand Canyon University
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Online M.Ed. in Special Education
Capella University
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100% online MS in Special Education Teaching

 


How Demand and Other Factors Are Influencing Salaries and Reducing Student Debt

Salary Ranges for Master’s-Prepared Special Education Teachers in Different Roles and Grade Levels

Examining the Earning Power of Special Education Teachers with a Master’s Degree

State-by-State Guide to What Special Education Teachers are Earning


How Demand and Other Factors Are Influencing Salaries and Reducing Student Debt for Special Education Teachers

There is a widespread shortage of special education teachers in the U.S., leaving school districts everywhere scrambling to attract and retain talented educators with special ed credentials. According to the U.S. Department of Education, which maintains a database of “teacher shortage areas” in each state, 45 states and Washington D.C. experienced special education teacher shortages in the 2020-21 school year, either in specific grades/special education areas or statewide.

For example, California, Washington D.C, Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and New Jersey are just a handful of states that reported a statewide shortage of special education teachers in all grades from PreK to grade 12 during the 2020-21 school year.

These shortages come as no surprise as the number of students in Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and receiving special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) continues to grow. Between the 2007-08 and 2018-19 school years, the number of students receiving special education services increased by a half million, and  now totals 7.1 million in 2019-20 – representing about 14 percent of the entire public school population in the U.S.

With a persistent and widespread shortage to contend with, the federal government and state education agencies are working to solve the problem by eliminating barriers to entering the field. Of course, the barriers in question are almost always financial ones as it gets more and more difficult to afford a college education. That’s why together, state and federal government are working to identify teacher shortage areas and provide affordable loans and loan repayment programs specifically aimed at student teachers pursuing certification with a special ed endorsement, as well as those currently working in the field looking to advance and specialize.

For example, the federal TEACH (Teacher Education Assistants for College and Higher Education) Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 per year for students who agree to serve as a teacher in a high-need field that serves students from low-income families. Current high-need fields include:

  • Special education
  • Bilingual education/English language acquisition
  • Foreign language
  • Mathematics
  • Reading specialist
  • Science

The Teacher Forgiveness Program provides up to $17,500 in loan repayment for special education teachers with Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans. Special education teachers who achieve “highly-qualified” status are eligible for this program if they teach full-time for five, consecutive school years in a low-income school or educational service agency at either the elementary or secondary level.

Many states have also implemented state-level loan repayment and other incentive programs for teachers in high-demand areas. For example, Texas offers the Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which provides loan repayment assistance of up to $2,500 for teachers working in identified teacher shortage areas, which include:

  • Bilingual/English as a Second Language (Grades PK-12)
  • Career and Technical Education (including Technology Applications and Computer Science) (Grades 7-12)
  • Mathematics (Grades 7-12)
  • Special Education (Grades PK-12)

School districts with adequate funding are also able to provide financial incentives for special education teachers in teacher shortage areas. For example, the Austin Independent School District offers two financial incentives for special education teachers: (1) a $2,000/year special education stipend for special education classroom teachers and eligible support staff; and (2) a $1,500 bonus for newly hired special education classroom teachers.

Salary Ranges for Master’s-Prepared Special Education Teachers in Different Roles and Grade Levels

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teachers earned an average, annual salary of $61,030, as of May 2019, which places even the average income in the filed a good notch above the average salary for teachers overall . But there’s nothing average about teachers who hold a master’s, which tends to mean that their salaries are considerably higher too, and more likely to land closer to the 90th percentile average of $98,530.

To offer a complete picture that takes into account how location and experience could influence salary potential, even with all other things being equal as far has having a master’s degree goes, we  focus our examination of reported income for these dedicated educators on the higher ranges. That means looking at the 75th percentile (top 25%) all the way up to the 90th percentile (top 10%) since that range provides a more accurate picture of what master’s-educated special education teachers are earning:

  • Preschool special education teachers: $79,910 – $115,260 (24% hold master’s degrees at this level)
  • Kindergarten/elementary special education teachers: $77,420 – $97,210 (22% hold master’s degrees at this level)
  • Middle school special education teachers: $79,030 – $98,610 (47% hold master’s degrees at this level)
  • High school special education teachers: $79,150 – $98,890 (18% hold master’s degrees at this level)

Instructional Coordinators

Special education isn’t necessarily all teaching all the time. Someone has to create the tailored curriculum and methods of delivery that students with special needs require. It’s not uncommon for special education teachers with a master’s degree to serve as instructional coordinators who oversee the development and roll-out of new curricula and educational materials. In fact, a master’s degree is the standard for these positions, so median figures provide a good representation of what salaries are like in this role.

These educational professionals earned an average salary of $69,180, while the top 10% earned $103,790 or more according to May 2019 BLS stats, while in elementary and secondary school settings, the average was $72,250—that’s about $12,000 more than the average salary for special education teachers.

A job as an instructional coordinator may also take you outside of the public school setting. Instructional coordinators working for educational support services earned an average salary of $73,030, while those working in state government earned an average of $73,860 during this time.

The top-paying states for instructional coordinators, as of May 2019 were:

  • Washington D.C.: $96,640
  • Connecticut: $94,450
  • Oregon: $83,110
  • California: $80,970
  • New Jersey: $76,680

The top-paying metro areas included:

  • Jackson, MI: $117,990
  • New Haven, CT: $111,750
  • Warner Robins, GA: $103,980
  • Riverside (includes San Bernardino and Ontario), CA: $103,660
  • Hanford (includes Corcoran), CA: $96,770
  • Bridgeport (includes Stamford, Norwalk), CT: $96,550
  • El Centro, CA: $94,080
  • Salem, OR: $92,980
  • Danbury, CT: $91,110

Examining the Earning Power of Special Education Teachers with a Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is the pathway to more – and more varied – professional opportunities in special education, and is virtually always associated with a higher salary. In the vast majority of school districts throughout the country, a master’s degree earns special education teachers a bump in pay over their bachelor’s-prepared colleagues.

For example, special education teachers with the Broward County Public Schools (Ft. Lauderdale) earn an annual salary of $41,742 if they have three years of experience and a bachelor’s degree. However, special education teachers with a master’s degree and the same number of years of experience earn $3,650 more, or $45,392 annually.

Similarly, special education teachers with the Bakersfield, California City School District earn $56,950 with five years of experience and a bachelor’s degree. However, with a master’s degree and the same number of years of experience, teachers in that same position pull down $61,979—more than $5,000 more every year.

State-by-State Guide to What Special Education Teachers are Earning

Because the greatest need for special education teachers is in the elementary schools, that’s where most of the hiring is taking place right now. The following BLS stats highlight what special education teachers in the kindergarten and elementary school setting are earning (50th – 90th percentile range as of May 2019):

  • Alabama: $52,550 – $63,510
  • Alaska: $72,860 – $100,670
  • Arizona: $45,720 – $62,880
  • Arkansas: $49,050 – $63,580
  • California: $77,470 – $118,210
  • Colorado: $52,610 – $79,180
  • Connecticut: $77,990 – $102,690
  • Delaware: $57,990 – $80,570
  • District of Columbia: $76,660 – $118,620
  • Florida: $64,040 – $86,430
  • Georgia: $59,920 – $85,680
  • Hawaii: $57,580 – $76,900
  • Idaho: $46,880 – $75,490
  • Illinois: $61,590 – $98,230
  • Indiana: $49,550 – $79,490
  • Iowa: $55,320 – $81,750
  • Kansas: $52,760 – $73,190
  • Kentucky: $52,780 – $65,290
  • Louisiana: $49,350 – $61,700
  • Maine: $51,210 – $73,660
  • Maryland: $69,620 – $108,470
  • Massachusetts: $72,550 – $110,890
  • Michigan: $63,330 – $98,220
  • Minnesota: $58,730 – $85,140
  • Mississippi: $46,770 – $64,810
  • Missouri: $54,260 – $96,630
  • Montana: $49,270 – $73,540
  • Nebraska: $58,490 – $81,140
  • Nevada: $52,970 – $74,570
  • New Hampshire: $59,350 – $80,210
  • New Jersey: $67,060 – $99,170
  • New Mexico: $51,390 – $77,900
  • New York: $78,810 – $120,610
  • North Carolina: $49,390 – $66,290
  • North Dakota: $57,820 – $85,040
  • Ohio: $56,670 – $82,100
  • Oklahoma: $47,030 – $74,330
  • Oregon: $76,330 – $118,160
  • Pennsylvania: $64,210 – $94,340
  • Rhode Island: $77,930 – $98,890
  • South Carolina: $58,470 – $87,670
  • South Dakota: $44,300 – $59,480
  • Tennessee $52,630 – $72,120
  • Texas: $57,390 – $72,710
  • Utah: $43,620 – $81,870
  • Vermont: $60,690 – $86,110
  • Virginia: $64,040 – $102,140
  • Washington: $68,150 – $93,220
  • West Virginia: $42,820 – $58,480
  • Wisconsin: $54,700 – $81,070
  • Wyoming: $60,470 – $77,870

 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which preschool special education teachers work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which kindergarten and elementary special education teachers work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which middle school special education teachers work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which secondary school special education teachers work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. 

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which instructional coordinators work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.  

All salary and employment data accessed October 2020.