Special education teachers can work for public or private schools, or for the government. They serve as teachers for students who require specialized education programs due to mental or physical disabilities. Special education teachers can specialize in specific disabilities or age groups.
In most cases, students interested in special education will need a bachelor's degree and additional special education training. Some special education careers require teachers to have specialized training for specific age groups or types of disabilities. Teachers can work specifically with students of a particular age or with a particular emotional, behavioral, developmental, or physical disability. Internships are usually mandatory.
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree|
|Certification/Licensure||Required for public school teachers|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||6%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$53,920*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Licensing requirements for teachers differ, depending on the state the student lives in. However, federal law requires teachers to earn a bachelor's degree and finish a preparation program, which includes student-teaching under supervision, to become nationally certified as a special education teacher. In some cases, internships are mandatory.
Special Education Teaching Jobs
Special education teachers can find work in a variety of environments, including public schools, private institutions and governmental human services agencies. Special education positions often require teachers to have specialized training for specific disabilities or age groups.
Early Childhood Special Education
Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial for young children who may be experiencing slow learning development. Teachers who specialize in working with infants, toddlers and preschoolers often use games and other age-suitable techniques to promote the development of motor, speech and cognitive skills. Creating techniques that can be used by parents in their homes is often part of the early childhood teacher's job.
Kindergarten, Elementary and Secondary School Special Education
Teachers that specialize in working with school-age special needs children are often employed by public school districts. Depending on state requirements, some teachers may have their own classrooms, work in conjunction with general education teachers or provide one-on-one sessions with individual students. In many areas, teachers are considered a member of a student's support team, which can include social workers, therapists, parents and physicians.
Special Education for the Developmentally or Physically Impaired
Teachers for students with developmental or physical impairments typically design educational programs with a student's individual needs in mind. Depending on the student's disabilities, teachers may use a variety of teaching tools and practices, including computer, audio and visual technology. Special education teachers may also aid older students with vocational training and life skills. Besides working in public and private schools, these teachers may work in hospitals or vocational centers; they may also provide in-home tutoring.
Special Education for the Emotionally or Behaviorally Impaired
Students with emotional or behavioral problems can disrupt classroom activities, thus making it difficult for them to take part in a traditional classroom experience. Many states categorize these students under special needs and provide them with teachers who specialize in behavioral and emotional problems. There teachers create structured learning environments and establish clear boundaries so that students can retain lessons and function at school; they may also teach self-control techniques.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for special education teachers are expected to increase 6% between 2014 and 2024. This rise is anticipated due to the increasing number of children who require special education services. Government disability regulations, stricter graduation requirements and parent awareness are factors in the increasing number of students identified with special needs.
The BLS further projects a strong need for special education teachers in inner-city neighborhoods, as well as in the western and southern regions of the United States. These opportunities are attributed to teacher loss in low-paying urban school districts and increased regional population growth.
Special education teachers are tasked with finding the best and most efficient way to help their students continue their education despite any handicaps. This may include teaching specialized programs, helping students acclimate to the classroom, or designing games and activities to support mental and emotional development, as well as training life skills. A bachelor's degree and a preparation program in the field is the minimum required to teach special education, and licensing and an internship may be necessary.