How to Become a Special Education Teacher

Compassionate and caring people may wonder how to become a special education teacher. This career provides an excellent opportunity for individuals to exercise their creativity, critical thinking, and instructional and people skills both inside and outside of the classroom.

Education Requirements

Anyone who wants to work as a special education teacher must obtain at least a bachelor degree in education. Students can major in special education or minor in the specialty at a traditional college or while earning an online degree.

Special education degrees and general education degrees require many of the same classes. Candidates will take math, English, social studies and humanities courses. Additionally, students who wish to earn a special education degree take classes that deal specifically with challenges special education students face. They learn about different disabilities and strategies for teaching special needs children. Before graduating, special education teachers complete fieldwork in the classroom where they work with special needs students and are supervised by a licensed special education teacher.

After graduation, special education teachers must apply for a state license or certification. States award a general special education license or a license that allows teachers to work in specialty areas such as art, music or physical education. Teachers must demonstrate expertise and pass a background check. Licensed teachers must then complete professional development annually and they may need to pursue a master’s degree.

To work in a public school, special education teachers must possess a state license or certification. Private school special education teachers may work without a state certification.

Transferring a license from one state to another may require the teacher to undergo a new certification procedure before teaching in that state. Teachers who wonder how to become a special education teacher after moving to a different state should contact the state’s Department of Education.

Career Options: What you can do with a Special Education Degree

A student’s special education needs may range from mild to severe. Students with mild special needs often function in general education classrooms while students with severe special needs require one on one attention in a private classroom or at home.

Special education teachers work with students from infancy to age 21. They provide instruction at home, in school or in public locations like the library, grocery store or gymnasium.

In addition to working directly with students, special education teachers work as administrators in schools. They advocate for students and ensure compliance with federal and state laws. They also write reports and curriculum. Special education teachers also facilitate communication between teachers, parents and students.

What to Consider if you Pursue a Special Education Degree

On average, special education teachers make $53, 220 per year. High school special education teachers make as much as $54,810 annually while elementary school special education teachers make $52,250 annually.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 17 percent job growth rate through 2020. Potential teachers with compassion, patience, creativity and people skills can expect to find adequate jobs in the field over the next few years.

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