In the field of education, special education teachers fill an important role. They work with students who have some form of disability, be it a physical, emotional, mental or learning disability. Like other types of classroom teachers, special education teachers must create and carry out lesson plans to teach students academic material and evaluate student performance. However, special education teachers must work to make each lesson more accessible to students with various types of mild or moderate disabilities. This requires knowing students’ strengths and weaknesses and adjusting lessons accordingly. Creating Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for every student is a necessary part of special education teachers’ job duties.
Special education teachers may teach one subject or many subjects. They work in all grade levels, starting with kindergarten and continuing through high school. Special education teachers may have students of various grades in a single classroom. In addition to teaching the course curriculum, special education teachers must also help students, particularly those with severe disabilities, to learn basic skills in literacy and communication. They work with students in a class setting, one-on-one and even in small groups.
Naturally, special education teachers, like most other education professionals, need a college education. Aspiring special education teachers have a few academic options available to them, but which option is the best depends on a variety of factors, from the requirements of their state to their own interests. Some aspiring special education teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in special education specifically. Others major in elementary education and/or a desired content area, like mathematics or English, and minor in special education. Still other aspiring special education teachers already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject but enroll in an alternate route certification program where they take relevant courses, perhaps while already teaching. While some states accept a bachelor’s degree in education or special education, others require that candidates earn a master’s degree in special education before they can attain necessary certification. Whatever academic path aspiring special education teachers choose to pursue, they should expect to spend much of their time learning about various physical, mental, emotional and learning disabilities and the ways they will have to alter lessons to help disabled students grasp the information. Like other teaching candidates, they will participate in student teaching or other types of fieldwork where they have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience. After graduation, special education teachers must earn the required licenses and certifications from their state.
Special education teachers earn a median salary of $55,060 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall job outlook for this career is slower than average, with the BLS predicting just a six percent increase in job opportunities over a decade. However, certain types of special education teachers will see above-average employment growth. Preschool special education teachers can look forward to a 16 percent jump in career opportunities, while the BLS expects kindergarten and elementary school special education programs to add the most jobs. In addition to the salary and job outlook, special education teachers often find the work personally rewarding, especially when they get to help students with disabilities to succeed and watch them grow and mature.
Special education teachers are the education professionals who instruct classes of students with physical, mental, emotional and learning disabilities. At every grade level from kindergarten through high school, special education teachers play an important role in helping these students overcome obstacles and perform at their best.