If you're comparing your options for obtaining a baccalaureate degree that would prepare you for teaching children, you may be wondering if a Bachelor's in special education is worth it. There can be no doubt that this line of work is rewarding, important and necessary — but does it pay well? Is this a degree that would broaden your options, or limit them? Let's explore the answers to these questions with the main goal of understanding whether holding a degree in special education is ultimately worthwhile.
Can You Earn More as a Special Ed Teacher Than You Could as a General Education Teacher?
In 2016, the best-paid special ed teachers were teaching at the secondary school level. They earned annual median pay of $59,700. Compare that against the annual median pay of $58,030 per year that high school teachers earned; while there is a difference, it isn't a huge one. Annual median pay for special ed teachers of all age groups was $57,910 as of May, 2016.
Many aspiring teachers will conclude that the difference in earning potential is not significant enough that they are able to justify limiting their options by earning a special ed degree.
Which Is More Valuable, a Bachelor's Degree in Special Ed or a Bachelor's Degree in Education With a Special Ed Certificate?
The answer to this question varies depending on your geographic location and the current job market in the area where you are seeking work. However, in general, you can maximize your employment opportunities by earning a Bachelor's degree in education and obtaining a special ed certificate. With a Bachelor's degree in special ed, your options are likely to be more limited.
Are There Any Current Academic Trends That Could Devalue a Bachelor's Degree in Special Ed?
Yes. You should be aware that some areas are eliminating or reducing special ed programs in favor of inclusion classrooms. If this is the case in your area, and your goal is to teach special needs children, it would be beneficial for you to pursue a Bachelor's degree in general education and then teach in an inclusion classroom. Another option would be to move to an area where special needs teachers are in higher demand. You can find out where the needs are currently greatest by reviewing state and location data for special needs teachers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
The Verdict: Yes or No to a Special Ed Degree?
The question of whether a particular degree is worthwhile or not is a deeply personal matter. There's no clear-cut answer that will work for every individual.
If you're an aspiring teacher and your primary career goal is to teach special needs children, a Bachelor's degree in special ed is clearly beneficial. You are likely to get the most value out of your degree if you want to live and work in an area that devotes adequate funding to special needs education programs. If you don't already live in such an area, you'll likely have to be flexible in moving to a location that does.
If you're an aspiring teacher whose main goal is to maximize your earnings and overall career opportunities, obtaining a Bachelor's degree in special ed is probably not your ideal career move. This would limit your opportunities instead of expanding them. It would be preferable to obtain your degree in general education and earn a special ed certificate; that way, you'll be qualified for a broader variety of teaching opportunities.
We hope these insights are helpful to you as you make challenging decisions about which academic credentials to pursue. We encourage you to think it over carefully and reach your own conclusion about whether a Bachelor's in special education is worthwhile for helping you achieve your uniquely personal career goals.