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Special Education Teacher Careers

Degrees and Schools for Special Education Teachers

Special Education Teacher Careers Information

Special Education Teachers are trained to work with students who have learning disabilities. Since such disabilities have a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional causes and can vary from mild to severe, special education teachers must have broad knowledge and be flexible in their methods.

Special Education Teacher Careers & Degrees

Special Education teachers work with millions of students who otherwise would be left behind in the education system, if not left out completely, are able to graduate and in many cases, go on to earn university degrees and lead independent lives.

The majority of students with whom special education teachers work are classified as having a mild learning disability. This usually means they are kept in regular classes, but require some extra help with certain activities such as reading and test-taking.

Therefore, in addition to their classroom teacher, these students will have a special education teacher assigned to them. This additional teacher may assist them during class time and/or remove them from the class. Once outside of regular class they may work with the student one-on-one or have him work with other students with similar problems. For these students with mild learning problems, the goal is to have them successfully complete the standard curriculum. For students with severe learning disabilities, however, the goals set by the special education instructor are often much more quotidian.

In their own classes, these students are taught basic skills according to their individual abilities. These skills may include learning how to use money or, in very severe cases, how to dress themselves and/or communicate what they want.

Special education teachers must develop an individualized education program or IEP for each of these students. This IEP is often created with the input from the child’s guardians, other teachers, guidance counselor, social worker, and/or other learning specialists that the child may have (speech pathologists, physical therapists, etc). By following this program, specialists in the child’s life can work together toward a common goal and monitor her progress.

Special Education Teacher Careers Path

Special education teachers need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in special education, though a Master’s degree may be required for some higher paying positions with more responsibility.

With these degrees, coursework will involve learning the unique skills required to teach students who have disabilities. Because of the intensity of the curriculum, many Bachelor’s programs take five years to complete. An internship or practicum period spent in a special needs classroom is often a requirement to graduate.

Furthermore, all states require special education teachers to become certified. Depending on the state, this likely will be earned through some combination of testing and supervised hours in the classroom. Special education teachers may become generally certified or certified to work with a specific population of students (i.e. mild, moderate, or severe disability).

For those who did not undergo this educational/training path but who wish to become a special education teacher, many states offer alternate paths to becoming certified. A Bachelor’s degree is still required, but teachers are often allowed to teach under strict supervision while earning the necessary credits at a participating college or university.

Special Education Teacher Careers: Compatible Personality Traits

Patient, highly organized, creative, compassionate, multi-tasker, people person, works well with others, good record keeper, excellent communicator, works well under stress.

Special Education Teacher Careers: Salary Expectations

Average salaries for special education teachers depends on the grade level in which they primarily focus:

  • Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School – $50,020
  • Middle School – $50,810
  • Secondary School – $51,340

Like other educators, special education teachers may supplement their income by sponsoring extracurricular activities, coaching sports, or teaching summer courses.

With more experience, special education teachers may be able to move into administration roles within the school system or become mentor teachers and thus earn more money.

Special Education Teacher Careers: Job Outlook

The job outlook for special education teachers is excellent in the coming years. Because more students are being successfully diagnosed with learning disabilities at an earlier age, state and local governments are allocating more funds to meet their unique educational needs. Much of this funding translates into salaries for additional special education teachers.

Furthermore, there will be demand to replace those who leave the specialty for general classroom work or leave teaching altogether. Special education teachers with more education and especially those who are willing to work in inner city or rural area should have an excellent chance of finding work.

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