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Become A Special Educator

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Working As A Special Educator

  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Scheduling Work and Activities
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Deal with People

  • $55,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Special Educator 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.

Duties

Special education teachers typically do the following:

  • Assess students’ skills to determine their needs and to develop appropriate teaching plans
  • Adapt general lessons to meet the needs of students
  • Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student
  • Plan, organize, and assign activities that are specific to each student’s abilities
  • Teach and mentor students as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one
  • Implement IEPs, assess students’ performance, and track their progress
  • Update IEPs throughout the school year to reflect students’ progress and goals
  • Discuss student’s progress with parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators
  • Supervise and mentor teacher assistants who work with students with disabilities
  • Prepare and help students transition from grade to grade and for life after graduation

Special education teachers work with general education teachers, counselors, school superintendents, administrators, and parents. As a team, they develop IEPs specific to each student’s needs. IEPs outline the goals and services for each student, such as sessions with the school psychologists, counselors, and special education teachers. Teachers also meet with parents, school administrators, and counselors to discuss updates and changes to the IEPs.

Special education teachers’ duties vary by the type of setting they work in, student disabilities, and teacher specialty.

Some special education teachers work in classrooms or resource centers that only include students with disabilities. In these settings, teachers plan, adapt, and present lessons to meet each student’s needs. They teach students in small groups or on a one-on-one basis.

In inclusive classrooms, special education teachers teach students with disabilities who are in general education classrooms. They work with general education teachers to present the information in a manner that students with disabilities can more easily understand. They also assist general education teachers to adapt lessons that will meet the needs of the students with disabilities in their classes.

Special education teachers also collaborate with teacher assistants, psychologists, and social workers to accommodate requirements of students with disabilities. For example, they may have a teacher assistant work with them to provide support for a student who needs particular attention.

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide variety of mental, emotional, physical, and learning disabilities. For example, some work with students who need assistance in subject areas, such as reading and math. Others help students develop study skills, such as by using flashcards and text highlighting.

Some special education teachers work with students who have physical and sensory disabilities, such as blindness and deafness, and with students who are wheelchair-bound. They also may work with those who have autism spectrum disorders and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Special education teachers work with students from preschool to high school. Some teachers work with students who have severe disabilities until the students are 21 years old.

Special education teachers help students with severe disabilities develop basic life skills, such as how to respond to questions and how to follow directions. Some teach the skills necessary for students with moderate disabilities to live independently, find a job, and manage money and their time. For more information about other workers who help individuals with disabilities develop skills necessary to live independently, see the profiles on occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Most special education teachers use computers to keep records of their students’ performance, prepare lesson plans, and update IEPs. Some teachers also use various assistive technology aids, such as Braille writers and computer software that help them communicate with students.

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How To Become A Special Educator

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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Special Educator Career Paths

Special Educator
Special Education Teacher Lead Teacher Director
Education Director
7 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Adjunct Professor
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Adjunct Professor Assistant Principal
Elementary School Principal
12 Yearsyrs
Tutor Adjunct Professor Assistant Principal
School Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Tutor Team Leader Chairperson
Department Chairperson
7 Yearsyrs
Tutor Lead Teacher Assistant Principal
Athletic Director
5 Yearsyrs
Special Education Coordinator Principal Assistant Director
School Director
6 Yearsyrs
Nanny Facilitator Education Consultant
Educational Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Lead Teacher Department Chairperson
Academic Dean
10 Yearsyrs
Education Consultant Department Chairperson
Vice Principal
8 Yearsyrs
Facilitator Program Coordinator Educational Programs Coordinator
Education Program Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Coach Adjunct Faculty Education Consultant
Student Dean
7 Yearsyrs
Special Education Coordinator Principal Assistant Superintendent
Director Of Special Education
11 Yearsyrs
Nanny Therapist School Psychologist
Special Education Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Reading Specialist Elementary School Principal Director Of Special Education
Director Of Special Services
8 Yearsyrs
Special Education Resource Teacher Department Chairperson Academic Dean
Student Services Director
5 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Vice President Planning Committee Member
Professional Development Director
6 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Nurse Educator Educational Manager
Director Of In Service Education
9 Yearsyrs
Education Coordinator Educational Programs Coordinator Education Program Manager
Assistant Education Director
6 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Special ED Teacher 3.9 years
Special Educator 3.0 years
Top Careers Before Special Educator
Teacher 15.2%
Internship 5.7%
Tutor 5.0%
Cashier 4.5%
Volunteer 3.9%
Educator 3.5%
Instructor 2.3%
Assistant 2.2%
Top Careers After Special Educator
Teacher 14.8%
Tutor 5.6%
Educator 5.2%
Internship 3.3%
Volunteer 3.2%
Instructor 2.8%
Director 2.7%

Do you work as a Special Educator?

Average Yearly Salary
$55,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$36,000
Min 10%
$55,000
Median 50%
$55,000
Median 50%
$55,000
Median 50%
$55,000
Median 50%
$55,000
Median 50%
$55,000
Median 50%
$55,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Childhaven
Highest Paying City
Seattle, WA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
3.3 years
How much does a Special Educator make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Special Educator in the United States is $55,141 per year or $27 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $36,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $83,000.

Real Special Educator Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Special Education ECE Itinerant Hayward Unified School District Hayward, CA Jan 08, 2016 $93,159
Special Education Teahcer Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Fairbanks, AK Aug 01, 2012 $76,097
Special Educator, Math Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Oct 08, 2011 $70,113
Special Education Educator Heritage Schools, Inc. Provo, UT Sep 13, 2016 $70,000
Special Education Baltimore City Public Schools Baltimore, MD Oct 01, 2011 $64,607
Special Education Teach Patterson Joint Unified School District Patterson, CA Dec 08, 2010 $64,596
Special Educator New York French-American Charter School New York, NY Nov 14, 2013 $63,000
Special Education Bilinguals Inc. New York, NY Jan 03, 2008 $60,000
Special Education Bilinguals Inc. Huntington, NY Feb 04, 2010 $60,000
Special Education ECE Itinerant Hayward Unified School District Hayward, CA Jan 12, 2015 $56,000
Science Integrated Co-Teaching Special Education T Hyde Leadership Charter School New York, NY Jan 04, 2014 $55,880 -
$61,280
Special Education Secondary Schoolteacher Crosswood Inc./Pathways Schools Temple Hills, MD May 27, 2008 $55,655
Special Education, SC. Lifeskills Houston Independent School District Houston, TX Dec 02, 2016 $53,000
Special Educator Xanadu Behavior Therapy Brick, NJ Sep 01, 2009 $52,175
Special Education BSC Houston Independent School District Houston, TX Oct 01, 2014 $49,100
Special Education & Reading Content Area Specialis Educational Leadership Inc. Houston, TX Jul 31, 2012 $48,801
Special Educator Mid Island Therapy Associates, LLC. NY Jan 29, 2013 $47,521
Special Educator Mid Island Therapy Associates, LLC. NY Oct 01, 2012 $47,521
Special Educator Mid Island Therapy Associates, LLC. NY Oct 01, 2012 $47,370
Special Education Educator Kids-Centric Inc. New York, NY Feb 01, 2011 $47,147
Special Education & Reading Content Area Specialis Educational Leadership Inc. Houston, TX Aug 01, 2009 $46,000
Special Education & Reading Content Area Specialis Education Leadership Inc. Houston, TX Aug 01, 2009 $46,000

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Top Skills for A Special Educator

  1. Special Needs
  2. Classroom Management
  3. Lesson Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Individualized instruction to a diverse special needs population within a self-contained class.
  • Executed high level of classroom management and effective procedures increasing overall quality and productivity.
  • Develop group lesson plans and individualized academic programming for students with autism spectrum disorders and multiple disabilities.
  • Handled crisis, communication, learning, emotional and behavioral issues.
  • Created and delivered a curriculum to empower youths in areas of physical education, languages and mathematics

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Top 10 Best States for Special Educators

  1. Connecticut
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Michigan
  4. Alaska
  5. Oregon
  6. New York
  7. California
  8. District of Columbia
  9. Massachusetts
  10. New Jersey
  • (155 jobs)
  • (17 jobs)
  • (242 jobs)
  • (11 jobs)
  • (44 jobs)
  • (204 jobs)
  • (1,340 jobs)
  • (18 jobs)
  • (109 jobs)
  • (235 jobs)

Special Educator Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 4,182 Special Educator resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Special Educator Resume

View Resume Examples

Special Educator Demographics

Gender

Female

70.7%

Male

19.1%

Unknown

10.3%
Ethnicity

White

63.7%

Hispanic or Latino

14.8%

Black or African American

11.0%

Asian

6.6%

Unknown

3.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

60.4%

French

10.1%

Arabic

4.4%

Russian

3.1%

Italian

1.9%

Portuguese

1.9%

Chinese

1.9%

German

1.9%

Japanese

1.9%

Vietnamese

1.3%

Hindi

1.3%

Mandarin

1.3%

Korean

1.3%

Thai

1.3%

Filipino

1.3%

Braille

1.3%

Hebrew

1.3%

Greek

1.3%

Swedish

0.6%

Marathi

0.6%
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Special Educator Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

11.9%

Grand Canyon University

11.3%

Johns Hopkins University

8.8%

Walden University

7.3%

Coppin State University

6.3%

Touro College

5.4%

Capella University

5.0%

Notre Dame of Maryland University

5.0%

Towson University

4.2%

Southern Connecticut State University

3.8%

National University

3.5%

George Washington University

3.5%

Liberty University

3.5%

Western Connecticut State University

3.3%

Kaplan University

3.1%

Saint Joseph's College, New York

3.1%

Lesley University

2.9%

University of Northern Colorado

2.7%

University of Maryland - College Park

2.7%

Hunter College of the City University of New York

2.7%
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Majors

Special Education

30.4%

Education

12.4%

Elementary Education

10.4%

Psychology

6.7%

Business

5.6%

Educational Leadership

4.9%

Early Childhood Education

3.8%

Social Work

2.6%

General Education, Specific Areas

2.4%

Liberal Arts

2.4%

English

2.2%

Sociology

2.2%

Nursing

2.0%

Counseling Psychology

2.0%

School Counseling

1.9%

Human Services

1.8%

Criminal Justice

1.8%

Mental Health Counseling

1.6%

Human Development

1.6%

Curriculum And Instruction

1.4%
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Degrees

Masters

38.2%

Bachelors

31.5%

Other

15.5%

Associate

5.5%

Certificate

5.3%

Doctorate

2.6%

Diploma

0.8%

License

0.7%
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Top Special Educator Employers

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Special Educator Videos

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