Special Education

What Is It?:

Special Education instructs how to teach students from 5-21 who have specific needs, such as visually impaired or hearing disabled students, students with learning or behavior disorders, mentally handicapped students, or students with a combination of moderate or severe disabilities. Special Education offers highly specialized classes on disability and disorder assessment, child development, and classroom management. They incorporate standard educational practice into a specialized program to meet the needs of their students. This major requires exceptional patience and a tremendous desire to work with children who have very special needs.

Students applying to the major must also provide evidence of having 50 hours of formal experience working with individual with disabilities comparable to the age-level of students served in the program for which application is made.

Illinois law and Council on Teacher Education policy require that all candidates for admission to a teacher preparation program pass the Illinois Licensure Testing System Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) prior to admission.  Effective July 2012, the Illinois State Board of Education determined the ACT Plus Writing/SAT scores can be used in lieu of a passing score on the Test of Academic Proficiency (formerly known as the Illinois Test of Basic Skills). See information on the details.

For more information, please visit the College of Education.

Courses That Introduce the Major:

  • EPS 201—Foundation of Education
  • PSYC 100—Introduction to Psychology
  • SPED 117—The Culture of Disability

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Possible Career Opportunities:

  • Adapted PE Teacher
  • Autism Center Mgr-Teacher
  • Camp Director
  • Child Psychologist
  • Counselor
  • Day-Care Center Owner
  • Employee Development Specialist
  • Hearing Impaired Educator 
  • Lobbyist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • School Psychologist
  • School Teacher
  • Social Worker
  • Special Needs Teacher
  • Student Teacher Advisor
  • Teacher - Adult Education

Common Career Titles Related to this Major:

(Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree)

  • Adapted PE Teacher
  • Autism Center Mgr-Teacher
  • Child Psychologist
  • Critical Needs Teacher
  • Day-Care Center Owner
  • Educational Advocate
  • Language/Audiologist
  • Rehab Counselor
  • School Psychologist
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Teacher - Adult Education

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:

  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • Epsilon Delta Professional Teaching Organization: informs and involves future teachers in the changing field of education.
    • Student Education Association: provides pre-professional educational development for future teachers.

Related Skills:

  • Ability to plan
  • Accepting of differences
  • Adaptable and flexible
  • Communication with parents
  • Compassion
  • Creativity
  • Enjoy challenges
  • Good communication skills
  • Interact well with others
  • Knowledge of legal issues
  • Patience
  • Technology skills
  • Understanding
  • Variety of teaching techniques
  • Well organized
  • Work in variety of settings
  • Work with groups
  • Work with students individually

Further Information:

For more information on what you can do with a major in Special Education, visit The Career Center’s webpage: What Can I Do With This Major.

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Special Education.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of Special Education.  These organizations include Council for Exceptional Children, International Association of Special Education and National Association of Special Education Teachers.

For more information on the classes needed for a degree in Special Education, visit Undergraduate Programs.