What is a Special Education Teacher?

Have you ever wondered “What is a special education teacher? What training is required for teaching disabled students?” Special education teachers assist students with learning, physical and mental disabilities. These teachers may have their own classroom, or they may work individually with students. Some special education teachers work for tutoring agencies and may work evenings or weekends, but most work for public or private schools and follow a regular school schedule. Like other teachers, special education instructors may become department heads, vice principals, tutors, curriculum developers or school superintendents.

Degrees, Training and Experience

Special education teachers are subject to the same requirements as other teachers. Public schools will require a bachelor’s degree and a state teaching license. Depending on the state, earning a license may require an undergraduate degree in education, supervised classroom hours or focused training in working with disabled individuals. Prospective teachers can major or minor in special education, but not all jobs will require a specific degree. Some states require specific classes or tests before allowing teachers to work with disabled individuals, but some states only require a general teacher’s license. Private schools may not require a license, but most will expect at least a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of where special education teachers work, they must have patience, compassion and a desire to help disabled students succeed. To advance to higher positions, additional education in school administration or curriculum development may be required.

How much do Special Education teachers make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, special education and K-12 teachers earn a median wage of approximately $50,000 per year. Special education teachers may earn slightly more than other teachers. Beginning teachers will start at a lower salary. Most school districts have union contracts that guarantee regular wage increases, although some districts are switching to merit-based pay. Most districts offer additional compensation for teachers who earn a master’s degree. Because education budgets vary depending on area, teachers’ compensation can fluctuate depending on location. A teacher in a bankrupt rural city will make substantially less than someone in a thriving urban environment, so aspiring teachers should check with their local school district to determine starting wages.

Future Prospects

The need for special education teachers is expected to grow 17 percent by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Parents and healthcare providers are becoming more educated on the need for early assessment of learning disabilities, meaning students who need special assistance are more likely to be identified. Additionally, school enrollment is expected to rise in most areas of the United States, meaning more of a need for special education teachers. Like teacher compensation, the need for teachers will depend on local and state government. Increasing enrollment numbers may not be matched by increasing budgetary allocations. Hopefully, government officials know the answer to “What is a special education teacher?” and understand the importance of early intervention for students with disabilities.