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What is a Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers offer academic and personal support for students with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities to help them overcome difficulties in their learning.

They facilitate lessons by working around or with the students' particular learning obstacles and preparing classes and learning activities. Sometimes working with students in the same classroom as a general education class, the top priority of a special education teacher is ensuring equal opportunities and respecting the dignity of the youngsters they assist.

The average annual salary of a special education teacher is $53,220. However, with significant experience on the job and a graduate degree in your pocket as well, your yearly income might reach as high as $98,000.

What Does a Special Education Teacher Do

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Learn more about what a Special Education Teacher does

How To Become a Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers in public schools are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Private schools typically require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, but teachers are not required to be licensed or certified. For information about teacher preparation programs and certification requirements, visit Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education.

Education

All states require special education teachers in public schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some earn a degree specifically in special education. Others major in elementary education or a content area, such as math or science, with a minor in special education.

In a program leading to a bachelor’s degree in special education, prospective teachers learn about the different types of disabilities and how to present information so that students will understand. These programs typically include fieldwork, such as student teaching. To become fully certified, some states require special education teachers to complete a master’s degree in special education.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools may prefer to hire teachers who have at least a bachelor’s degree in special education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed. A license is frequently referred to as a certification. Those who teach in private schools are not required to be licensed. Most states require teachers to pass a background check.

Requirements for certification vary by state. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, states also require teachers to complete a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching. Some states require a minimum grade point average. Teachers may be required to complete annual professional development classes or a master’s degree program to maintain their license.

Many states offer general licenses in special education that allow teachers to work with students with a variety of disabilities. Others offer licenses or endorsements based on a disability-specific category, such as autism or behavior disorders.

Some states allow special education teachers to transfer their licenses from another state. Other states require even an experienced teacher to pass their state’s licensing requirements.

All states offer an alternative route to certification for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately, under the close supervision of an experienced teacher. These alternative programs cover teaching methods and child development. Candidates are awarded full certification after they complete the program. Other programs require prospective teachers to take classes in education before they can start to teach. They may be awarded a master’s degree after completing either type of program.

Training

Some special education teachers need to complete a period of fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching, before they can work as a teacher. In some states, this program is a prerequisite for a license to teach in public schools. During student teaching, they gain experience in preparing lesson plans and teaching students in a classroom setting, under the supervision and guidance of a mentor teacher. The amount of time required for these programs varies by state, but may last from 1 to 2 years. Many universities offer student teaching programs as part of a degree in special education.

Advancement

Experienced teachers can advance to become mentor or lead teachers who help less experienced teachers improve their teaching skills.

Teachers may become school counselors, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, or principals. These positions generally require additional education, an advanced degree, or certification. An advanced degree in education administration or leadership may be helpful.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Special education teachers discuss students’ needs and performances with general education teachers, parents, and administrators. They also explain difficult concepts in terms that students with learning disabilities can understand.

Critical-thinking skills. Special education teachers assess students’ progress and use that information to adapt lessons to help them learn.

Interpersonal skills. Special education teachers regularly work with general education teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to develop Individualized Education Programs. As a result, they need to be able to build positive working relationships.

Patience. Working with students with special needs and different abilities can be difficult. Special education teachers should be patient with each student, as some may need the instruction given aloud, at a slower pace, or in writing.  

Resourcefulness. Special education teachers must develop different ways to present information in a manner that meets the needs of their students. They also help general education teachers adapt their lessons to the needs of students with disabilities.

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Average Salary
$47,958
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
3%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
67,795
Job Openings
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Special Education Teacher Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Special Education Teacher

Special Education Teachers in America make an average salary of $47,958 per year or $23 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $62,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $36,000 per year.
Average Salary
$47,958
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12 Special Education Teacher Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Special Education Teacher Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Special Education Teacher resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Choose From 10+ Customizable Special Education Teacher Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Special Education Teacher templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Special Education Teacher resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Special Education Teacher Resume
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Special Education Teacher Resume
Special Education Teacher Resume
Special Education Teacher Resume

Special Education Teacher Demographics

Special Education Teacher Gender Distribution

Male
Male
25%
Female
Female
75%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Special Education Teachers, 75.4% of them are women, while 24.6% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Special Education Teachers is White, which makes up 75.4% of all Special Education Teachers.

  • The most common foreign language among Special Education Teachers is Spanish at 65.4%.

Job Openings

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Special Education Teacher Education

Special Education Teacher Majors

13.4 %

Special Education Teacher Degrees

Bachelors

65.5 %

Masters

27.2 %

Associate

4.7 %

Top Colleges for Special Education Teachers

1. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

3. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

4. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

5. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

6. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$14,184
Enrollment
30,845

7. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,740
Enrollment
5,567

8. Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$52,930
Enrollment
5,030

9. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$15,094
Enrollment
32,974

10. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582
Job Openings

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Online Courses For Special Education Teacher That You May Like

Educational Psychology & Special Education (Certificate)
udemy
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Informational content for educators and parents to learn about teaching and understanding exceptional children...

Music Education for Teachers
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In the Music Education for Teachers specialization, you will explore ways of integrating popular music into your teaching. You'll begin by learning from two highly experienced teachers, Krystal Banfield, the Vice President of Educational Outreach for Berklee College of Music, and David Alexis a Berklee Professor and long-time instructor for the Berklee City Music Program. They will take you through their process of incorporating popular music, improvisation, arranging, and music technology into...

Assessment in Higher Education: Professional Development for Teachers
coursera

Are you a teacher in higher education wanting to get the best out of your students and assessments? Then on behalf of Risbo, Erasmus University Rotterdam, we would like to welcome you to this MOOC on Assessment in Higher Education. In this MOOC we will guide you through the different phases of preparing, creating and evaluating the assessments in your course. After participating in this MOOC, you will be able to: 1. Design an assessment that is constructively aligned (content, level, methods) wi...

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Top Skills For a Special Education Teacher

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.1% of Special Education Teachers listed Classroom Management on their resume, but soft skills such as Communication skills and Interpersonal skills are important as well.

Best States For a Special Education Teacher

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Special Education Teacher. The best states for people in this position are Maryland, Alaska, New York, and Washington. Special Education Teachers make the most in Maryland with an average salary of $67,969. Whereas in Alaska and New York, they would average $67,669 and $59,237, respectively. While Special Education Teachers would only make an average of $57,476 in Washington, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Maryland

Total Special Education Teacher Jobs:
1,062
Highest 10% Earn:
$95,000
Location Quotient:
1.33
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Connecticut

Total Special Education Teacher Jobs:
580
Highest 10% Earn:
$77,000
Location Quotient:
1.39
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. District of Columbia

Total Special Education Teacher Jobs:
235
Highest 10% Earn:
$91,000
Location Quotient:
1.11
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Special Education Teachers

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Top Special Education Teacher Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Special Education Teachers and discovered their number of Special Education Teacher opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Baltimore City Public Schools was the best, especially with an average salary of $49,219. City of New York follows up with an average salary of $42,460, and then comes East Baton Rouge Parish School System with an average of $47,742. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a Special Education Teacher. The employers include K12, ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education, and Learn It Systems

Most Common Employers For Special Education Teacher

RankCompanyZippia ScoreAverage Special Education Teacher SalaryAverage Salary
1
1.Prince George's Community College
$53,465
2
2.Fairfax County Public Schools
$50,347
3
3.Cobb County School District
$49,891
4
4.Baltimore City Public Schools
$49,219
5
5.The School District of Philadelphia
$47,805
6
6.East Baton Rouge Parish School System
$47,742

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Becoming a Special Education Teacher FAQs

Do special education teachers make more money than regular teachers?

No, special education teachers do not make more money than regular teachers. On a national average, special education teachers make $57,600 per year.

Regular teachers make approximately $60,300 annually. However, there are small margins for special education teachers to earn approximately $1,000 to $3,000 more per year depending on their district and state, though they could earn more based on school-level incentives.

How long does it take to become a special education teacher?

It takes approximately five to six years to become a special education teacher. The expectation for most special education teachers is to complete a four-year bachelor's degree in education or a related field. Some individuals looking to gain more understanding and knowledge may go after their masters in education, but it isn't necessary.

Is being a special education teacher a good career?

Yes, being a special education teacher is a good career choice. Because of the demand for special education teachers, many find themselves with more job security and career path options. Many special education teachers have also reported their careers as more rewarding and fulfilling than other types of educators.

What do you teach as a special education teacher?

Special education teachers teach math, science, and writing. While these are the main areas of focus, other areas could include history and creative classes, such as music or art.

The role of a special education teacher is also to help develop necessary skills within their class or work closely with certain individuals in their classes. Depending on the student's level of severity, special education teachers may also help with a special focus on viable communication and applicable life skills.

What is the qualification of a special educator?

Special educators require minimum qualifications of a bachelor's degree from an accredited program and a state-issued license. These qualifications ensure that the educator has completed all necessary training to engage with students who have special needs.

Where do special ed teachers get paid the most?

Special ed teachers get paid most in Washington D.C., New York, and Pennsylvania, with runners up in Texas and Illinois. Special ed teachers may also find their skillset useful in areas such as public schools, private care centers, and private tutoring companies.

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