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Career Info for a Degree in General Special Education

Special education is generally offered as a bachelor's or master's degree program. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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A degree in general special education is more extensive than other teaching degrees. It covers human development, educational assessment, and behavioral issues, and how to teach children with emotional, physical, and behavioral disabilities. Individuals with a degree in general special education are prepared to work as a special needs teacher with students and may opt to work in a preschool, elementary school, middle school, or high school setting.

Essential Information

Special education teachers work with students who have unique needs and disabilities. A bachelor's or master's degree in general special education can prepare future educators to work as special education teachers in primary or secondary schools. Every state also requires general special education teachers to earn certification or licensure.

Career Titles Special Education Teacher, Preschool Special Education Teacher, Elementary School Special Education Teacher, Middle School Special Education Teacher, Secondary School
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Other requirements State certification State certification State certification State certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% 6% 6% 6%
Mean Salary (2015)* $58,210 $58,640 $60,300 $62,180

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Special education teachers in preschools, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach a wide range of subjects.

Preschool Special Education Teacher

Preschool special education teachers teach preschool subjects to students with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. They may also be tasked with identifying students with disabilities who would benefit from a special education setting.

Elementary School Special Education Teacher

Elementary school special education teachers work with students who face developmental, physical and emotional challenges. Special education teachers who work with primary school students may have the added responsibility of identifying possible special-needs students.

Middle School Special Education Teacher

Middle school special education teachers teach preschool subjects to students with physical and/or intellectual disabilities, including academic and life skills. Some teachers may specialize and work with students who have hearing and vision impairments.

High School Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers who work in secondary school environments focus less on identifying students who require individualized attention and more on preparing students for a smooth transition into the adult world. Some teachers continue working with a student until he or she turns 21.

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What is a Degree in General Special Education?

While there are degree programs at undergraduate and graduate levels, general special education teachers often need to undertake additional training and educational hours than other teachers. Students in these programs take courses in subjects such as literacy, behavioral disabilities and individualized program development. Some bachelor's degree programs require an additional year of graduate-level education.

The coursework in a general special education program typically covers human development, educational assessment and behavioral issues. Students learn about various emotional, physical and behavioral disabilities and how to teach children with these special needs. Extensive time is spent practice teaching in real classrooms under the supervision of experienced teachers.

Certification Information

Every state requires general special education teachers to earn certification or licensure. Requirements typically include a bachelor's or master's degree from an approved teacher education program, completion of a particular set of education courses and participation in a certain number of hours of practice teaching time. Additionally, aspiring special education teachers must pass an examination. In some states, teachers must first receive a general teaching license and then continue training to earn licensure as a special education teacher.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), special education teachers in elementary, middle and high schools are likely to see job opportunities increase by six percent between 2014 and 2024. Special education preschool teachers should see job growth of nine percent during the same time period. As of May 2015, elementary school special education teachers made an average annual salary of $58,640, while those teaching middle school earned a yearly average of $60,300. High school special education teachers at that time averaged $62,180 per year, reported the BLS.

A general special education degree prepares graduates to pursue certification as a special education teacher in a preschool, elementary school, middle school, or high school setting. These careers may involve identifying students with special needs and developing and implementing a plan to address the specific learning needs of those students, or preparing students with special needs to transition from a school environment into the adult world. Salaries vary, depending on the level taught, and jobs are expected to grow at a steady rate through 2024.

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