Salary and Career Info for Early Childhood Special Education Teachers

Sep 16, 2019

Special education teachers at the preschool and elementary levels must have at least a bachelor's degree and teaching certification. Special education teachers are trained to work with children with physical or mental disabilities who may require modified curriculum or instruction in order to progress through the school system.

Essential Information

Early childhood special education teachers work with toddlers and other young learners who require help with disabilities ranging from mild to severe. A minimum of a bachelor's degree and licensure are required in most states. A master's degree is required by some employers. Training in special education is also often necessary.

Career Preschool Special Education Elementary Special Education
Required Education Bachelor's degree typically required Bachelor's degree typically required
Other Requirements Certification or license, training often required Certification or license, training often required
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 8% 3%
Mean Annual Salary (2018)* $61,610 $63,110

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

Preschool Teachers in Special Education

The youngest special needs students are learning beginning skills while coping with a physical or mental disability. Preschool teachers who work with these children might address a spectrum of needs by working in smaller groups or one-on-one. They work in child-care centers and public and private preschools. Some educators spend the majority of their time in the classroom, while others work in the gym and/or on the playing field.

Wage and Job Outlook Information

Teachers educating children with disabilities at the preschool level earned an average of $61,610 in May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Teachers can often earn additional income by coaching a sport, supervising an extracurricular activity or teaching in the summer. Between 2018 and 2028, the number of special education teacher jobs in preschool is expected to grow by 8%.

Career Information

To become a special education preschool teacher, most undergraduates enroll in teaching programs in early childhood that offer a concentration in special education. The programs can be completed in four years and include practical classroom training.

Special education teachers in all states must be licensed to work. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but most ask for at least a bachelor's degree and some amount of approved professional training in special education. States are increasingly requiring teachers to possess more education, and many expect educators to hold a master's degree. Those seeking their license should verify the requirements with their respective state's education board or agency.

Educators who specialize in certain disabilities, like autism spectrum disorders, or who work with students with multiple disabilities might see more job opportunities. Teachers in special education can also pursue jobs as administrators and supervisors. Advancement can be improved with additional higher education and on-the-job experience.

Adapted Physical Education Teachers

Educators who specialize in physical fitness can opt to focus on students with special needs. Often called adapted physical education teachers, they help the youngest learners improve their motor skills and learn to play with others through exercise and games.

Wage Information

The average annual pay for special education teachers at the kindergarten and elementary level is $63,110, according to May 2018 BLS figures.

Adapted physical education teachers might improve their earnings by becoming certified. A certified adapted physical education teacher must either pass the standardized test, possess ten or more years in the field or provide details about specific academic experience, according to Adapted Physical Education National Standards.

Career Information

Physical education teachers who work with students with disabilities create programs and activities best suited to their needs. They might modify equipment or adjust the parameters of a game to allow all students to participate to their fullest abilities. Adapted physical education teachers must be familiar with a wide range of disabilities, including physical and mental, and the appropriate manner to engage those students.

A bachelor's degree plus some practical training in an adapted setting are generally required to work as an adaptive physical education teacher. As with all teachers, licensure is required to work in their respective subject or grade level. Some states require additional education and experience prior to issuing a license. Prospective teachers should verify the licensing requirements of their respective state.

Special education teachers work with individual students or groups of students who have a variety of disabilities that affect their education. Preschool special education teachers may be employed by childcare centers, public preschools or private preschools. Special education teachers at the elementary level typically work in public or private schools.

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