Assistive Technology: Master's, Certificate & Online Course Info

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In certificate and master's degree programs, you could learn about technologies that help people with disabilities actively participate in school, workplace and community environments. Find out about requirements and careers you might pursue.
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Studying Assistive Technology: Programs at a Glance

Assistive technology studies supporting the human services field may be interdisciplinary, involving current or emerging education, rehabilitation, engineering, interior design and architecture professionals. Specialists design or use equipment and modify environments to help people minimize limitations caused by disabilities.

Research could include - but is not limited to - medical devices such as prosthetics, adaptive computer technology or the creation of enabling physical environments. Studies in these areas might lead to careers in biomedical or rehabilitation engineering, special education, rehabilitation or occupational therapy, industrial or interior design or public policy. While jobs overall were projected by the federal U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to increase 14% from 2010-2020, opportunities for biomedical engineers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, software developers, rehabilitation counselors and architects were expected to grow 62%, 39%, 33%, 30%, 28% and 24%, respectively. Some of these careers may require licensing by your state or certifications by professional associations.

Certificate Master's
Who is this degree for? Emerging or established professionals interested in training in one facet of assistive technology Individuals interested in a professional position involving assistive technology
Common Career Paths and Salary - Senior architect ($52,000 - with 2-3 years of experience)*
- Intermediate biomedical engineer ($57,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Certified occupational therapist ($75,000)*
- Vocational rehabilitation counselor ($61,000 - with 0-2 years of experience)*
- Intermediate mechanical engineer ($72,000 - with 2-5 years of experience)*
- Intermediate software developer - ($76,000 - with 3-5 years of experience)*
Time to Completion Less than two years, full-time
Two years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 0-30 credits
- Final project or practicum
- Approximately 30-40 post-baccalaureate credit hours
- Practicum or internship
- Thesis or final project
Prerequisites Bachelor's or master's degree
Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Available Uncommon but available

Source: * (2012 median salary).

Certificate Programs Covering Assistive Technology

Post-baccalaureate and post-master's certificates are available for candidates interested in learning more about assistive technology. Students are often experienced professionals in a related field. Programs may offer a general introduction or address concerns related to specific disabilities or occupational groups, such as special education teachers. They might be hosted by research centers for assistive technology or schools of education, medicine or human service. You could earn continuing education units or course credits in on-campus, online or blended formats.

Pros and Cons of a Certificate Covering Assistive Technology


  • You could get a short-term introduction to the field.
  • Programs may address topics not regularly covered in professional curriculum.
  • Certificate programs could teach you how to work with clients who have a specific disability.
  • Some credits may be transferable to a graduate degree program.


  • Programs are not available in all locations.
  • Some certificate programs provide only non-transferable continuing education units.
  • You may not find a full-fledged curriculum addressing an uncommon disability among your certificate options.

Courses and Requirements

Certificate programs could be general or targeted to a specific application or population, so coursework may vary. For example, assistive technology requirements for autism might be different from those for deafness or blindness. You might have laboratory or practicum requirements, or participate in research or community service as part of your program.

You may take basic overview courses such as these:

  • Assistive technology and sensory, communicative and cognitive disabilities
  • Introduction to computer applications
  • Assistive technology devices and services
  • Enhancing occupational performance through assistive technology
  • Assessment, planning and implementation
  • Collaborative resource management
  • Human movement and environmental effects on everyday occupations

Online Class Options

Although uncommon, online assistive technology certificates are available. Individual courses may be available through a wide variety of institutions. Professional associations including the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America and the American Occupational Therapy Association offer virtual continuing education opportunities. These courses may help you maintain your professional accreditations.

Getting Ahead with a Certificate

Schools may offer special programs or institutes addressing related research topics and providing a focal point for diverse students, faculty and disciplines concerned with assistive technology. These could provide learning and networking opportunities. Laboratory facilities might be coordinated through centers.

Working professionals may have the opportunity to interact with colleagues and with assistive technology industry and government partners to become leaders in an assistive technology subfield. Certificate programs may help you meet professional certification requirements.

Master's Degree Covering Assistive Technology

While you may be able to get an entry-level position in a related area with a bachelor's degree, undergraduate assistive technology course options may be limited. A certificate or master's program with an engineering, computer science, education or human service focus could be required to specialize in assistive technology. In a more technical curriculum, you could learn to create devices and software for special needs populations. If you're interested in education or human service, you would learn about techniques, software and media that help disabled people.

Pros and Cons of a Master's Degree Covering Assistive Technology


  • This degree could lead to a rewarding career for professionals committed to maximizing the potential of all people.
  • Related opportunities may be available in high-growth professions.*
  • Civil rights legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act supports developing opportunities in all geographies for people who can work with disabled populations.


  • A master's degree in a field such as social work or special education might address some of the same topics while supporting a broader range of opportunities.
  • This might be a narrow field for those who are inclined to be generalists.
  • Programs may require significant commitment of time and financial resources.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Your courses may depend on your choice of a technical or human service-oriented program, but you'll typically learn about biology, design, research, policy and legal issues. Your program may require a practicum.

Courses such as these might be included in a program covering assistive technology:

  • Functional biology and design innovation
  • Counseling for assistive technology service delivery
  • Applied biomechanics and motor control
  • Instrumentation and measurement
  • Robotic applications and control interfaces
  • Product design and development
  • Assistive technology project management

Online Courses

Completely online full-time and part-time programs are available, although they are more common for students interested in the human service and education side of assistive technology. In an online program, you'll meet the same requirements as on-campus, but with more schedule flexibility. You may prefer a hybrid approach to take advantage of on-campus facilities.

Standing Out with a Master's Degree Program

You may need to make choices based on your science and engineering or human service perspective. You might look at programs offered by schools accredited by your occupation's professional associations. If you are committed to a specific topic, you may want to consider availability of research centers and faculty that could support production of a quality research thesis and professional journal articles.

The Access Technology Higher Education Network collects information on best practices for assistive and information technology on college campuses. Its research and publications may provide insight on schools and faculty actively engaged in assistive technology initiatives.

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