Careers Working With People With Special Needs

There are a number of career possibilities available to individuals who enjoy working with people who have special needs. These opportunities will be discussed in detail by focusing on what each career involves and how to become qualified for these positions.

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Career Options for Working with People with Special Needs

If you enjoy working with people with special needs, there are many careers that may be a good fit for you, as they all involve helping or supporting those with special needs in some way. Below, we will look at five of these careers in greater detail. We will discuss how each career involves working with people with special needs as well as what type of education you will need to pursue in order to be qualified for these positions.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Recreational Therapist $46,410 7%
Rehabilitation Counselor $34,670 10%
Special Education Teacher $57,910 8%
Teacher Assistant $25,410 8%
Instructional Coordinator $62,460 10%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Information for Careers that Involve Working with People with Special Needs

Recreational Therapist

Recreational therapists often work with individuals who have various types of disabilities and special needs. Some of their responsibilities include developing a treatment plan for patients, often by working with other professionals like social workers and physical therapists; helping patients cope with anxiety or stress; and planning various exercises and activities for patients with the purpose of improving their physical and social states. To become a recreational therapist, you will usually need a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy, along with certification.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors also often work with patients who have various developmental or mental disabilities with the goal of helping them live more independent lives. They may help a patient find a place to live that is well-suited to whatever type of disability they have. These counselors make sure patients have the proper equipment and resources -- like career training or medical care -- to be independent, and they keep track of patients' progress. To become a rehabilitation counselor, you will usually need a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling and possibly a license or certification.

Special Education Teacher

If you are interested in working in the field of education, you could pursue a career as a special education teacher. This job would entail working with students who have special needs and developing lessons and courses that are geared specifically to their abilities. You may work in a classroom that only has special needs students or you may help a student with special needs be more successful in a general education classroom. These teachers can work with students in preschool, elementary school, middle grades, or high school. To become a special education teacher, you will need to obtain a bachelor's degree in special education. If you work for a public school, you will also need a state license or certification.

Teacher Assistant

Teacher assistants also work with special needs individuals in an educational setting. They typically work closely with one student in a general education classroom and provide them with additional assistance and explanations so that they are able to follow lessons successfully. Depending on the level of help necessary, a teacher assistant may attend each class with a special needs student and work closely with the head teacher. To become a teacher assistant, you normally will need an associate's degree or complete around two years of college-level coursework. Passing a skills test is required of special education teacher assistants in several states.

Instructional Coordinator

While instructional coordinators may not work directly with people with special needs, they can play an important role in the lives of these individuals. These professionals are responsible for developing and implementing different types of curricula, and they may choose to focus specifically on materials designed for special needs students. They are responsible for designing and testing out the curriculum, figuring out the best way to implement it in schools and programs, and training special education teachers on how to use the curriculum properly. To become an instructional coordinator, you will typically need a master's degree in curriculum and instruction or education.

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