Special Education Teachers: Career Info and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a special education teacher. Get an overview of the requirements, degree programs and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Special education teachers work with individuals who have emotional, physical and developmental disabilities. They work in classrooms, hospitals and clinics by assisting in personal and life skills development. A bachelor's degree is the typical education required for this job, and those special education teachers employed in the public school system will need teacher licensure.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State certification or licensure required to work in public schools
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 6% for all special education teachers
Median Annual Wage (2012)* $55,060 for all special education teachers

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Education Teachers: Overview

Special education teachers must understand their students' needs in order to ensure that they receive proper attention and assistance to succeed in school. From making sure students receive appropriate test materials to providing one-on-one tutoring, special education teachers offer students and their families the tools they need to grow as independent individuals in the community.

Education Requirements

Universities and colleges offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in special education. Aspiring special education teachers combine knowledge of disabilities such as visual impairment, autism or Downs syndrome with practical procedures for teaching science, math and reading skills to students with special needs. Specialized courses may examine topics like low-incidence disabilities and technology for differentiated instruction. Most special education training will also include supervised classroom teaching and curriculum development courses.


Special education teachers require a teaching license from the state Board of Education in order to teach in their field. Traditional teacher licensing programs require a bachelor's degree to teach grades K-12, but due to the high level of specialization in the field of special education, some states may require additional training - such as a master's degree - before applying for a professional license.

Additional Skills

Special education teachers must be prepared to work with students who may be uncooperative or difficult to access, such as non-English speaking students. As a result, teachers must be patient and creative, with an ability to understand and motivate students by expressing complex ideas using a variety of exercises and techniques.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that special education teachers would be in demand between 2012-2022, because there is a reported shortage of qualified special education teachers in fast-developing U.S. regions, particularly in the West and South (www.bls.gov). The BLS expected jobs to grow by six percent within that timeframe. This slower-than-average growth is due to school funding issues, which can affect the number of jobs available in special education. In 2013, the middle 50 percent of special education teachers not working in preschools earned between $39,790 and $68,610, according to the BLS.

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