How to Become a Special Education Teacher Online

Dec 01, 2019

Special education teachers must earn one or more college degrees and meet state licensure requirements. Learn about how to become a special education teacher and which steps of the process can be completed online.

Essential Information for Becoming a Special Education Teacher Online

Special education teachers generally work with and teach students who have learning, emotional, physical, or mental disabilities; and as such, they must be good communicators, patient, and resourceful. Special education teachers must meet several educational requirements, which can be completed mostly online, and licensure requirements, which typically can't be completed entirely online. Below, you can find information about required special education teacher skills, the job growth outlook for the profession, and the median salary for special education teachers.

Required Skills Communication, interpersonal, critical-thinking skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 3%
Median Salary (2018)* $59,780

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Becoming a Special Education Teacher Online

While some of the educational steps to becoming a special education teacher can be completed online, these steps might also include some real-world requirements, such as a student teaching placement. In addition, obtaining a teacher license isn't a step that can be completed online.

Step 1: Earn an Online Bachelor's Degree in Special Education

The first step that you must complete on your pathway to becoming a special education teacher is earning an online bachelor's degree. It's recommended that you earn a degree in the field of special education or elementary education. You might also earn an online degree in a major content area, such as science or math, with a minor in the field of special education.

In an online bachelor's degree program in special education, you might take classes that center on such subjects as classroom management, assessing students with disabilities, elementary core subjects, and diversity in education. While your coursework in these types of programs will be administrated online, you will likely be required to complete student teaching experiences and/or classroom observations. As such, this step to becoming a special education teacher cannot be completed fully online.

Step 2: Or Attend an Alternative Teacher Certification Program (Optional)

If you already have earned a bachelor's degree in a non-educational subject, such as English, history, or math, you can still become a special education teacher online. You may attend an alternative teacher certification program, which could lead to a master's degree and also prepares you for teacher certification in the field of special education. These online programs consist of online classes but do require a student teaching component as well.

Step 3: Obtain State Teaching License

After you complete your online bachelor's degree in special education or a related field, you can then apply for a state teaching license. Although exact requirements vary by state, the most common requirements include holding a bachelor's degree, passing a background check, completing a student teacher program, and passing a teaching certification test. One of the most common exams is the Praxis I exam, which cannot be taken online. However, there are online practice materials that can help you study for the Praxis I exam.

Step 4: Earn an Online Master's Degree (Optional in Some States)

It's possible you may also need to earn an online master's degree in special education in addition to your bachelor's degree. Some states require that special education teachers complete a master's program in special education after they obtain a teaching job. Online master's programs in special education typically consist of classes that focus on special education topics such as assessment, behavioral management, special education policy and law, and instructional design. Like other online programs in special education, these master's programs also require real-world student teaching components.

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