How Much Do Special Education Teachers Make?
Special education teachers work with students with disabilities, including physical, mental, and emotional issues. Different states vary in their requirements for special education teachers, but usually the basic requirements are a bachelor's degree in education along with a student-teaching program specific to students with special needs, as well as state certification.
The median salary for all special education teachers is $58,980 per year. However, salaries differ greatly based on location, the type of school, and if the teacher has expertise in specific areas of special education.
For example, check out the public vs. private school special education teacher median salary:
- Public school special education teacher median salary: $59,720
- Private school special education teacher median salary: $51,300
Your salary as a special education teacher can be based on the age of students you're teaching, too. The median middle school special education teachers' salary was $59,510 in 2017.
Let's dive into some more information on what salary you can expect as a special education teacher.
Average Special Education Teacher Salary
As of May 2017, most special education teachers earned salaries between $38,000 and $96,000 annually, with those working in healthcare offices (outside the school system) earning salaries on the higher end. The average annual special education teacher salary for those working in schools was in the low-to-mid $60,000s, depending on the grade-level the teacher works with.
- Kindergarten and elementary special education teacher: $61,960
- Middle school special education teachers: $63,250
- Secondary school special education teachers: $64,590
It's important to note that most teachers don't work year-round or put in 'normal' hours. Many special education teachers work during the 10-month school year and then have a 2-month summer break, as well as a winter break. Because of that, teachers need to plan accordingly based on their pay schedule.
Special Education Teacher Starting Salary
Following the trend of special education teaching salaries in general, the starting pay also depends on location and specific job. Entry-level special education teachers' salaries range between $33,000 and $56,500 per year. Broken down by grade level taught, entry-level median salaries for special education teachers are:
- Preschool or elementary teachers: $41,052
- Middle school teachers: $43,371
- High school teachers: $42,496
Average Salary of a Special Education Teacher by State
The cost of living in each state along with supply and demand affects special education teachers' salaries. In states with few special education teachers and a high cost of living, for example, the average teaching salary is likely to be higher than in other states with low cost of living and/or many available teachers. The top paying states for these teachers in elementary schools were Connecticut, Alaska, and California while the top states for those in high schools were New York, California, and Oregon.
Here's a look at the average annual salary of special education teachers in each state:
|State||Kindergarten and Elementary Average Salary||Middle School Average Salary||High School Average Salary|
|District of Columbia||$73,220||$65,750||$70,200|
Special Education Teacher Salary with Masters
While a master's degree is not required for all special education teaching positions, it can prepare you for advanced certification, open the door to additional teaching positions, or prepare you for consultant work. In general, the salary range for special education teachers with master's degrees is between $50,315 and $57,026 annually. Broken down by grade level taught, average salaries for those with a master's degree are:
- Preschool through elementary school: $48,830
- Middle school $50,991
- High school: $52,075.
There are a handful of places where a special education teacher with a master's degree can earn above the average range. Some of those cities and their top salaries include:
- Atlanta, GA - $60,092
- Chicago, IL - $70,567
- New York, NY - $79,665
Special education consultants require you to have a master's degree, since the position includes more than teaching in the classroom. They often work as advisors for school boards, agencies, or even directly with families. They could be called upon to help diagnose disabilities, as well. These additional duties and expertise result in a higher salary - a median of $66,668 annually.
Elementary Special Education Teacher Salary
Special education teachers who work with physically and mentally impaired kindergarten and elementary school students help them learn typical elementary school subjects along with teaching them life skills associated with their individual handicap. The median elementary special education teacher salary was $58,600 per year, though certain metropolitan areas have much higher average salaries, such as:
- New York, NY - $75,770
- Los Angeles, CA - $81,680
- Waterbury, CT - $94,380
Special Education Preschool Teacher Salary
Children with special needs in preschool have unique difficulties to overcome. Not only are they trying to learn basic skills along with other preschoolers, but they must do it while dealing with a mental or physical disability. A special education preschool teacher has been specifically trained to address a variety of special needs in the early childhood learning environment. The median special education preschool teacher salary was $53,640 as of May 2017.
Special Education Paraprofessional Salary
Special education paraprofessionals assist special education teachers in the classroom, sometimes working with groups of students or even one-on-one with individuals. Most school districts require paraprofessionals to have at least an associate's degree, and anyone desiring to become a special education paraprofessional may also need to complete training for working with students with various physical, mental, or learning impairments. The average special education assistant salary was $27,060 annually, with a mean hourly wage of $13.01.
*All statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), PayScale.com (2018), and Salary.com (2018).