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Advancement Opportunities for Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers often possess outstanding skills working with students with disabilities. For professional advancement, they might want to consider other careers within education or in fields related to counseling.

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Career Growth Options for Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work in schools with students diagnosed with specific learning, developmental, or emotional disabilities. Special education teaching requires a bachelor's degree and state licensure. After several years engaged in this career, special education teachers may look for advancement in a field that will put their highly specialized instructional and administrative skills to use. There are many choices such as the following for special education teachers to consider.

Job Title Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)** Education
Behavior Analyst $57,355 Board Certified Behavior Analyst (2018)* 15% or higher (Mental Health Counselor) Master's Degree and certification
Instructional Coordinator $63,750 (2017)** 11% Master's Degree
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor $34,860 Rehabilitation Counselor (2017)** 13% (Rehabilitation Counselor) Master's Degree and certification
School Psychologist $75,090 (2017)** 14% Master's Degree and state licensure

Sources: *Payscale.com, **US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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  • Teaching Gifted and Talented Students
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Career Information

Behavior Analyst

Special education teachers who work with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders can consider advancing their career to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA. A BCBA works at schools, places of residence, or in treatment facilities. BCBAs work to change children's behavior in small increments to increase a child's functioning across settings. They consult with teachers and parents regarding behavior plans. Board Certified Behavior Analysts are independent practitioners licensed by their state and approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. To become a BCBA, a candidate must hold a master's degree or Ph.D. which includes a sequence of approved courses. Those who already hold a master's degree may enter a post-master's certification program. Specific supervised work experience or a practicum working under a licensed behavior analyst is also required.

Instructional Coordinator

Special education teachers who enjoy overseeing teachers and developing school curricula may consider becoming an instructional coordinator. Instructional coordinators hold administrative positions in school districts to review curricula and ensure that the content being taught to students is up-to-date. They also often consider how current technology can support the educational program, such as adaptive technologies used by special education students. Instructional coordinators observe other teachers and provide feedback for how they can increase their skills. They must have a master's degree and typically have at least five years of teaching experience. Some states may require specific licensure for these positions

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Special education teachers who enjoy working with older students may consider moving into a position as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. These professionals might work in community centers, veteran's organizations, or senior centers. They work with individuals to overcome various disabilities in order to successfully undertake employment. Vocational rehabilitation counselors must evaluate their clients, teach vocational skills to individuals or groups, and document their efforts to help place clients in appropriate employment. They may also help to place clients in appropriate educational programs. Vocational rehabilitation counselors have master's degrees and are certified through the Commission on Rehabilitation.

School Psychologist

Special education teachers are experienced in reviewing psychoeducational testing in order to make educational plans for students. Therefore, gaining additional training to become a school psychologist is a logical next step. School psychologists work in schools or state agencies; and some may set up private practices. They conduct psychoeducational testing and consult with teachers, parents, and counselors about the results of those tests. School psychologists recommend interventions for academics, behavior or mental health, and they also counsel students with serious emotional concerns. These psychologists often provide consultations to schools regarding crisis response and preparedness. Educational requirements to become a school psychologist include undertaking a specialized master's program or doctoral program, which includes an internship, and becoming licensed by your state.

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