Special education teachers work with students with a range of disabilities, including mental, emotional, learning, and physical. Candidates teach adapted lessons in various subjects to students with moderate disabilities. With students that have more severe disabilities, lessons often include basic communication and literacy skills.
Special education teachers generally work on a larger team with educators, counselors, school administrators, and parents. They often develop individualized education programs (IEPs) that fit individual students' needs. Some teachers work in settings with only disabled students, while others work environments with general education students, and still others work in inclusive classrooms. Typical duties include:
Adapting lessons to meet individual students' needs
Implementing and updating IEPs throughout the school year
Assessing students' progress and growth
Discussing students' behavior and achievements with parents and caregivers
Special Education Job Education Requirements
Primary and secondary special education teachers are required to have a bachelor's degree, and some school districts prefer that teachers specialize in special education or in a particular subject area. Public school special education teachers are also subject to state licenses, while private school teachers are not required to obtain state licensure. Some states offer licenses in special education, providing additional specialized training. All special education teachers should have excellent communication skills, patience, resourcefulness, critical thinking skills, and people skills.
Special Education Job Market
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of special education teachers will grow 6 percent through 2022. This is slower than the average growth for all occupations. Increased disability screening over the next decade is expected to lead to better disability identification practices and higher demand for special education teachers, especially at the early education level. State government funding, however, largely determines the budget for and ability to hire special education teachers.
Special Education Job Salary Information
According to the BLS, average annual salary for special education teachers is about $55,000. The salary for middle school special education teachers falls right in the middle of the pay range, while secondary school teachers tend to earn slightly more, with an average of $57,000 per year. The lowest 10 percent of the spectrum earn under $37,000, while the highest 10 percent of the spectrum earn over $87,000 annually. The majority of special education teachers work throughout the traditional 10-month school year, with a two-month summer break, while others teach during summer school, and still others work on specialized school district schedules.