The types of special education training available vary depending on regional and local requirements for the certification and licensing of special education teachers and teaching assistants. In the United States, special education teaching requirements are regulated by the board of education in the state of residence. In general, the different types of special education training include undergraduate degree programs, alternative education programs for individuals who already hold a Bachelor's degree, and certification training for teaching assistants. The programs all share a requirement for supervised time spent in a classroom environment working directly with students. Some regions may require additional education in the form of a Master's degree or PhD in special education.
Schools that offer special education training programs must be accredited by the appropriate regional organization in order for the program to qualify an individual to earn a special education teaching license or certificate. In the United States, this is the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, and it is recognized by the United States Department of Education. Colleges, universities, online education programs, and community colleges are all places that may hold accreditation to offer special education training. It is important to verify that a school or program is recognized in your region before taking classes or completing coursework.
Traditional undergraduate degree programs at a college or university offer special education training along with a general education degree experience. Additional coursework specific to special education is part of the program, along with time spent student teaching in a supervised classroom environment. Degree completion typically takes four to five years, and some students may choose to continue their education in graduate school. Masters and doctoral degree programs in special education are offered at many universities and may include coursework and educational experience specific to certain types of student disabilities, such as visual and hearing impairment, autism, and physical injuries. There are regions that require special education training and education beyond an undergraduate degree in order to gain certification.
There are some regions that offer alternative special education training programs to allow individuals who have already earned a Bachelor's degree to become certified as a special education teacher. These programs require classes and coursework, classroom teaching experience, and an assessment process in order to gain special education teacher certification. Typically, alternative programs may take one to two years to complete.
Many schools and special education programs hire teaching assistants to aid teachers and help students in the classroom. Requirements to work in these positions vary by region, but most require individuals to have at least an Associates degree from an accredited institution. Community colleges may also offer certification programs to become a special education teaching assistant, and there are some regions that mandate certification before employment as an assistant.