Early Childhood Education

Are you thinking about studying special education? If so, that’s good news, both for you and for your community.

Let’s start with you—why this might be the best decision you ever make for your future. First of all, special education is commonly named in lists and rankings of the most fulfilling careers.

“Everyday, you get to see your impact on your students, big or small,” one special education teacher wrote in Odyssey. “There are no words to describe the feeling you would feel when your autistic student who avoids physical contact, touches your shoulder affectionately. Or when your student who has a learning disability and been many grade levels below their grade in reading or math levels finally makes it close to their goal.”

Few jobs provide such immediate and inspiring rewards as working in special education. And it’s hard to overstate just how important these rewards of meaning are--and how unimportant salary is--when considering job satisfaction. In fact, The Guardian conducted an exhaustive study of nine different surveys asking people about their job satisfaction, and they made some surprising discoveries.

“Interestingly, we didn’t discover a link between a high salary and happiness,” the researchers said. Rather, they found that the happiest workers were people who could see the direct results of their work, and who felt that that work made a positive difference in the world. Not surprisingly, special education teachers--grouped together with teachers more generally--made their list.

“Showing the future generations that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life like anyone else--that’s what makes me happy,” one special education teacher told The Guardian. “Every day, I go home with a permanent smile on my face.”

If a “permanent smile” on your face is not incentive enough (how could it not be?) here’s some more encouragement: Finding a job in special education is not a difficult task, especially in the United States.

"Right now it's a buyers' market," a human resources director at a Seattle-area school district told NPR. "Districts can't afford to wait around for the right candidate."

In other words, if you’re willing to jump into special education, you shouldn’t have much of a problem getting an offer. And this is precisely why going into special education would not only be a good choice for you, but also for your community.

Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), every single child with a disability is entitled to a free public education appropriate to their learning ability and potential. This means that pretty much every school and school district is in need of special education teachers. Unfortunately, however, it can be hard to find them.

In fact, 49 states report having a shortage of special education teachers, due in large part to the fact that 12.3 percent of special education teachers leave the profession. This is twice the rate of general education teachers.

So don’t think that special education is a walk in the park, even if there are very real, meaningful rewards. You have to be tough enough to handle it. And if you can, your community will be grateful. The staffing shortage is so severe that many school districts end up having to hire people to teach special education who aren’t even qualified to do it. We just don’t have enough properly trained special education teachers.

And even though there is some wrangling and disagreement about how to fund education in this country, it’s evident that the government is still committed to making sure every child--no matter their level of ability--is able to get a good education. In the recent case Endrews F. v. Douglas County School District, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of an autistic child and his parents. The court said that schools need to do more than provide minimal improvement for disabled students. This was a big victory for special education in the United States.

Which brings us back to you. You might not change federal policy, but you too could score a big victory for special education--child by child, family by family, year by year. Imagine what you could do.

If you’re willing to take on the challenge, then you’ve come to the right place. This page hosts all of our rankings of special education degree programs. So whether you’re looking for the best bachelor’s or a master’s degrees, the most affordable special education degrees, or an online degree program, we’ve got rankings to interest you. And if we don’t have the specific ranking you’re interested in, feel free to drop a line on our contact page--or just check back in awhile as we expand our rankings.