About Exceptional Education
Exceptional or special education is a cross-categorical program that focuses on educating students with special instructional needs.
Graduates of a master’s program in special education are equipped to work with children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical/neurological disabilities, and learning and behavioral difficulties, both in immersion and specialized classrooms.
While most students who earn a master’s degree in special education teach in elementary, middle, and high school, others use their knowledge and skills to serve individuals with disabilities in different capacities—as behavior specialists, job coaches, direct support specialists, or educators with nonprofit organizations.
At Buffalo State, graduate students have a choice among three specialty programs within the Exceptional Education Department:
- Early Childhood
All three programs lead to a master of science in education and provide eligibility for New York State certification in special education.
- The Early Childhood and Childhood special education graduate programs are designed for students with undergraduate majors in early childhood, childhood, or special education.
- The one in adolescence focuses on subject instruction for Students with Disabilities in Grades 7-12.
Students who are not provisionally/initially certified in special education must complete 15–18 credit hours of preliminary coursework in addition to the program area requirements.
All of the master’s programs in special education culminate with a master’s thesis or master’s project worth three to six credit hours.
If you recently completed your bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education or Special Education and now need your master’s degree, Buffalo State will prepare you for a rewarding career teaching children with special needs.
Our graduate program in Special Education: Early Childhood prepares early interventionists and teachers to work with infants and young children with disabilities—or young children at risk for being identified with a disability—and their families. The program is cross-categorical; prospective teachers receive coursework related to working with students with physical, intellectual, sensory, communication, and behavioral disorders.
What Is an Interventionist?
The role of the early interventionist or preschool teacher is to facilitate the child’s development of social, motor, communication, self-help, cognitive, and behavioral skills.
Interventionists are expected to design activities and environments to enhance the child’s concept of self, sense of competence and control, and independence.
Because a number of educational programs serving this population subscribe to an interdisciplinary approach, much of the assessment, planning, and implementation of programs is done in collaboration with other members of the professional team.
- Applicants with certification or who are eligible for certification in Early Childhood Education must meet additional special education certification requirements once enrolled.
- Students who pursue initial certification in both childhood special education and childhood education are particularly well-qualified to work with students with special needs in integrated education settings.
This program is intended to develop highly qualified teachers to work with students with disabilities at the elementary level.
The goal of this program is to prepare special educators, working closely with general educators, to provide the best teaching strategies to promote student learning, as well as to design positive environments that foster learning for students both with and without disabilities.
- Teaching of Individuals with Severe/Multiple Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Collaboration and Consultative Practices in Inclusive Settings
- Adapting Language Arts and Reading Instruction for Students with Mild Disabilities
- Promoting Effective Social Interactions in the Schools
- Parent and Family Involvement in Special Education Programs
- Models of Classroom Discipline for Students with Disabilities
- Transition from School to Adult Community Life
Students in the Generalist (7-12) Secondary Program are training to work with adolescents with disabilities in middle and high school classrooms.
Secondary special education teacher candidates are prepared to work collaboratively with general education subject matter specialists, as well as with career education personnel. Graduates of this program become knowledgeable in subject matter content, as well as best practices for transition planning. They also acquire a solid base in the technology of teaching, with knowledge related to direct and interactive instruction (cooperative learning, peer tutoring, differentiated instruction, and responsive instructional strategies).
The programs recognize the unique needs of adolescents with learning difficulties. A major goal of this program is to prepare teachers to address secondary students’ skill deficits, social adaptation problems, and vocational competence.
The program leads to a master of science in education degree and eligibility for New York State certification in Generalist 7-12. The additional SWD Generalist 7-12 and subject extension programs lead to a master of science in education degree and eligibility for New York State certification in SWD Generalist 7-12 as well as 7-12 subject area extensions.
7-12 Subject Area Extensions
• Earth Science
• English Language Arts
• Social Studies
The candidate designs programs of study with his or her adviser according to the candidate's goals and background.
All three programs require the completion of a research component, which must be taken in sequential order at the end of the program.
Students who specialize in special education develop a number of skills that will help them throughout their careers—regardless of the jobs they choose.
They’ve been trained to think critically, problem-solve in collaborative groups, analyze situations, use data to help develop goals and appropriate plans, and implement evidence-based practices and procedures.
Special education teachers are in demand, and jobs nationwide are expected to increase by 6 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual salary for special education teachers in the United States is just over $55,000.
Graduates of our master’s programs in special education typically teach in inclusive classrooms, resource rooms, self-contained classrooms, special schools, or even residential facilities. Some choose to work as consultant teachers in general education settings. Special education is and has been considered a high-need area across the nation. Many of our graduates have progressed in their careers as school principals, superintendents, college professors, and researchers.
In addition to teaching, our special education graduates may serve individuals with disabilities in different capacities such as behavior specialists, job coaches, or direct support specialists.
Some of the specialty areas that Exceptional Education graduates pursue:
- Adapted Physical Education
- Attention Deficit Disorders
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Developmental Delays
- Early Childhood Intervention
- Emotional or Behavioral Disorders
- Hearing Impairment
- Intellectual Disabilities
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairments
- Reading/Literacy Special Needs
- Sensory or Developmental Disabilities
- Special Education Administration
- Special Education Homeschooling
- Specific Learning Disabilities
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
Buffalo State is committed to providing all education students with plenty of hands-on experiences outside the classroom. Below are some opportunities open to exceptional education majors:
Council for Exceptional Children: The local chapter of the international organization provides members with professional development, community volunteer activities, and fun events.
Best Buddies: This organization provides an opportunity for college students to be matched in a one-to-one friendship with individuals who have intellectual disabilities.
Polar Plunge: The Exceptional Education Department, Buffalo State Best Buddies, and the Student Council for Exceptional Children help raise money for the New York Special Olympics during this “freezing for a reason” event every December at Woodlawn Beach State Park
Tutoring in Area Schools: Multiple opportunities are available for students, staff, and faculty to engage PK-12 students through one-on-one tutoring in schools throughout Western New York.
TeachLivE™: This computer-simulated, immersive, virtual reality classroom provides teacher candidates the opportunity to develop their skills in a safe, digital environment.
Buffalo State’s Exceptional Education Department was one of the first departments dedicated to training teachers for students with disabilities. Graduates of our programs are highly sought after, both at the local and the national levels.
The Exceptional Education Department has received accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Our Exceptional Education faculty are very involved in state and national organizations (e.g., New York State Council for Exceptional Children, National Council for Exceptional Children), and many are award-winning scholars.
Most field-based courses have fewer than 16 students. Other courses do not exceed 24 students and professors are able to differentiate certain learning experiences by students’ backgrounds and future career aspirations.
Strong Job Placement
Our graduates quickly find employment locally and nationally. The department is regularly contacted by districts across the nation regularly to recruit our graduates, especially in states like Texas that are experiencing a teacher shortage.
"With my degree, I’ll be able to work anywhere from a regular classroom to a self-contained one. Friends who are studying education at other schools don’t necessarily have that option.”
"Teacher preparation programs should embed more authentic opportunities into our preparatory programs for exceptional education teachers, which allow them to work with children and families outside of a classroom setting.”