Why Become a Special Education Teacher

To become a special education teacher, individuals must be creative, compassionate, and committed. Online education for those who wish to work in this field is available and there is a demand for qualified individuals. Special education teachers work with children with various types of disability, including language, hearing or learning impairments. Some children have emotional disturbances and others have traumatic brain injuries, blindness, or deafness. Teachers in these fields must be committed to helping individuals to learn and develop in unique ways. Often, this type of education is specialized for the individual student.

Education Requirements

To teach in the field of special education, teachers need to obtain at least a bachelor degree in education. Often these teachers will pursue a specialized career path in special ed. All states require those working in this capacity to have a teaching licensing in education, but most prefer those who have a specialized level of education in special education studies. Most will also have specialization in various content areas, such as science or mathematics. Some minor in special ed along with these programs. Specialized career programs, including a  master degree in special education, may be available. These programs teach prospective teachers how to work with various types of disabilities. They often offer methods for presenting information in unique styles to combat the child’s learning limitations. This program does require a significant amount of fieldwork, often with a concentration in programs meant for those with specific learning disabilities or physical limitations. Many states require those teaching special education to complete a bachelors degree first and then enter the workforce. However, many also require these teachers to continue working towards achieving a master’s degree in the field. This may be completed with ongoing coursework and graduate-level programs. Some states place a time frame of required completion of the graduate degree whereas others do not.

Career Options: What Can You Do With a Special Education Degree?

With a special education degree, individuals are able to present a wide range of learning opportunities to students who do not fit well or do well in mainstream education. These teachers teach independent living skills, communication, math, and basic literacy to those who have mild to moderate to severe levels of disabilities. For other students, it is necessary to adapt educational programs already in place to meet the limitations or needs of the student. For example, teachers must gauge the appropriate way to present information to those who have learning, emotional, mental, or physical limitations. Most special ed teachers work specifically in special education classrooms, sometimes in the public sector and other times in the private sector. Some become mentors or classroom leads in these situations. Those who advance in this field may also become educational guides to others who wish to enter the field. Additional career course options include administration work, leadership positions within schools, counselor positions, or principal positions in elementary, middle or high school settings.

What to Consider if You Pursue a Special Education Degree?

Individuals who wish to pursue a career in special education will need to have solid communication skills. They must be creative enough to find ways to present information to students who may not have an easy time understanding it. They also have to be good critical thinkers in order to review and analyze data on how a student is improving and to identify any areas of weakness the child presents. They also need to have good instructional skills, including the ability to take topics that are more complex and make them easier to understand. They have to be patient people, too, with the ability to work in an environment that is often continuously changing. Special education teachers must also have good people skills. Online education is an option for those who wish to continue from a bachelor degree to their master degree in special education. It is also an acceptable option for those who are focused on just getting started on their bachelor degree in education.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, special education teacher positions will grow from 2010 to 2020 at a rate of 17 percent, about as fast as average. This will add more than 77,400 positions to the country as a result. Opportunities for well-qualified professionals in this field are available.

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