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Teachers—Special Education Job Description, Career as a Teachers—Special Education, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Advanced Degree

Salary: Median— $47,446 per year

Employment Outlook: Very Good

Special education teachers are responsible for providing education to children with disabilities. They provide life skills trainings, and work to impart basic literacy to students suffering from mental retardation, autism, or other disabilities. Special education teachers have to modify and adjust the education curriculum so as to suit every student’s needs. They may be employed at the pre-school, elementary, middle, as well as secondary school levels.

Various techniques are adopted by special education teachers to promote the learning process in students. These techniques include small group workshops, problem-solving assignments, and individualized instruction. Special education teachers also prepare assignments and set goals, always keeping in mind the individual needs and abilities of their students. Appropriate, individualized tests are constructed and graded by the teachers. In addition, special education teachers are responsible for developing an Individualized Education Program for each of the students.

Special education teachers also need to collaborate with teacher assistants, parents, school administrators, psychologists and therapists, and social workers. They generally work in classrooms, but those teaching infants may be required to visit the homes of these children. They prepare activities and techniques that foster the development of language, motor, social, and cognitive skills in these children.

Education and Training Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for those wishing to become special education teachers. One also needs to complete a special education teaching training program. A large number of colleges and universities offer undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees to special education teachers. One can choose from courses in the fields of educational psychology, child growth and development, and legal issues of special education, among others. These degree programs usually include a year of classroom teaching under the supervision of a certified teacher.

Special education teachers also need licensure in order to enter the profession. All states as well as the District of Columbia require special education teachers to have a license before taking up any employment. Mostly, a bachelor’s degree coupled with completion of an approved teacher training program is necessary for licensure. However, in certain states, one may be required to hold a master’s degree and have a year of additional course work. Alternative licensure programs are also available, and these call for a candidate to complete a period of training and instruction under a supervisor as well as pass an examination.

Getting the Job

Information about jobs for special education teachers is generally available at state departments of education. One can also look for suitable openings on the Internet and in the classified sections of newspapers. Enquiring directly at schools can also prove to be of great help.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Special education teachers generally advance to positions of supervisors or administrators. However, one needs a considerable amount of experience to earn such promotions. Some school systems allow the more experienced special education teachers to become mentors and guide those who are new in the profession. One can also opt for advanced degrees that offer the opportunity to work in colleges providing preparatory programs to special education teachers.

Employment opportunities are expected to grow by about 15% in the next decade. Job prospects will be most favorable for those willing to relocate to inner cities and rural areas. Also, special education teachers skilled in working with students suffering from multiple or severe disabilities are likely to have better opportunities.

Working Conditions

Since special education teachers are employed in schools, they normally work through a 10-month school year. The job of handling students with disabilities is in itself very satisfying, and most teachers enjoy working in the environment of special education schools. However, they are often under pressure due to heavy workloads. Special education teachers have to maintain detailed paperwork documenting the progress of each student, and this can cause considerable stress.

Where to Go for More Information

The Council for Exceptional Children
1110 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22201

National Center for Special Education Personnel & Related Service Providers
National Association of State Directors of Special Education
1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 320
Alexandria, VA 22314

Earnings and Benefits

As per data published in May 2006, median annual salary of special education teachers ranged between $31,320 and $80,170. Those working in elementary schools earned, on an average, around $46,360 every year. Middle school special education teachers reported median annual wages of $47,650, and secondary school special education teachers earned $48,330 per annum.

Special education teachers are offered a wide array of benefits and services. Apart from the regular paid leaves and vacations, special education teachers are also provided health insurance, retirement plans, and flexible work schedules.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training