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10 Benefits of Teaching Special Education

Thinking about becoming a special education teacher?

Wondering if it’s the right career choice for you?

While teaching special education definitely comes with some unique challenges, the truth is that there are a lot of big benefits to the career as well. Few people realize how rewarding becoming a special ed teacher can be and just how much it can positively influence your life.

Luckily, this article is here to help. Below we’ll give you an overview of the top benefits of teaching special education and tell you why it may be the right career choice for you.

1. You’ll Have a Specialized Skill

One of the benefits of becoming a special education teacher is that it will require you to have a more advanced education and specialized knowledge that other teachers don’t have. You’ll have to be licensed to teach special education and this extra education can help you stand out in the job market.

More job opportunities will become available to you and you’ll have a much better resume that you can use when it comes time to look for new positions. As a result of becoming certified and teaching special ed, you’ll become a much more marketable teacher.

Even if you move on from teaching special ed later on in life, your experiences as a special ed teacher will shape your skills and continue to influence your career in big ways.

2. Special Ed Teachers Are in High Demand

If you want to gain a high amount of job security, becoming a special ed teacher is one of the best ways you can do it. Special education teachers are harder to come by than the average teacher and because of that, you’ll be in high demand.

When it comes time for a job search, whether you’re moving across the country or looking for a job close to home, you’ll often find that it goes very smoothly and is over quickly. There are also plenty of jobs that you can do outside of the classroom as well.

3. Work Days Will Be Shorter

One extra perk of working in special education is that, in many cases, your workday will be much shorter. Special education school days are typically a bit shorter in length than average. Along with that, there is also plenty of flexibility in how you can arrange class schedules and the course curriculum.

While the work can be hard, having a little bit less time at school can be a great perk that can give you the rest and relaxation you need after a hard day of teaching.

4. You’ll Develop Great Relationships With Students

When you work as a special ed teacher, few things can compare to the close relationships you’ll form with your students. You wouldn’t always get the same opportunity to form deep relationships with other types of students like you can as a special education teacher.

Your students’ relationships with you will be a big part of what matters as a special education teacher. You’ll find yourself caring for your children deeply and celebrating their successes as your time with them goes on and as you get more chances to further their education.

5. There’s a Better Adult-to-Child Ratio

While it’s not always the case, when teaching special education there is often a much better ratio of teachers to students. For many teachers, this is a big plus since managing a big classroom full of students can be difficult.

While teaching special ed comes with its challenges, having a smaller focus on a limited number of students can be a better alternative to dealing with a large classroom full of students. While only a few special education students can often be just as difficult to deal with, in other moments it can be a much simpler experience.

6. There Will Be More Individualized Education

You’ll also find that it’s a necessity to give each student plenty of individualized attention when you teach special education. Each child will be different and will have different capabilities. You’ll also be working with students at various grade levels.

Big classrooms make it hard to spend one-on-one time with each student and instead teachers usually have to adopt a one size fits all approach out of necessity.

If you would rather focus on giving your all to a few individual students, then special education will give you that opportunity. No matter what your special education specialization is, you’re likely to have a lot of time to focus on each student along with their specific needs and challenges.

7. You’ll Get to Teach the Students Who Need It Most

By becoming a special education teacher, you’ll get a chance to reach the students who are most in need of help. While all students can benefit from strong educational support, children who are in special education need it even more.

By becoming one of their teachers, you’ll be able to know that you’re making a big difference in their lives. You’ll be educating and caring for the children who need your love and support most of all and will develop stronger teaching skills and capabilities as a result.

8. You’ll Go Beyond the Classroom

When you become a special education teacher, you’ll usually be a lot more than that. You’ll also become their advocate and will have to communicate with other people in the students’ lives.

You’ll often be communicating with parents as well as health professionals and other educators to care for the student. You’ll team up with these people to ensure that a student is not only getting a great education but that their other needs are being met as well.

As a special education teacher, you’ll be influencing many areas of a child’s life and impacting them in ways that extend beyond the classroom.

9. You’ll Be Able to See The Impact Firsthand

By teaching special education students you’ll also be able to see the impact you have on students firsthand. Oftentimes, you’ll spend several years with a student. You may even teach them for the entire time they spend at your school.

When you’re not a special education teacher, this usually isn’t the case. You won’t spend the same amount of time with a typical student who has a different teacher as they move from grade to grade.

On the other hand, working as a special ed teacher will often give you a better chance to see your students grow and learn over the course of time. It also allows you to see the full impact of the work you’ve done to get them to where they are.

10. It’s a Rewarding Experience

Few things can be as rewarding as working with special needs students. You’ll know that you’ll be making a difference in the life of some great kids who need it more than most.

You’ll be able to rest assured knowing that at the end of the day you’ve made good use of your time as a teacher. You’ll see that you have been able to impact others in a positive way.

The truth is that the relationships you form with students are everything and knowing that you impacted their lives and their families’ lives in a positive way is a great feeling.

Ready to Start Teaching Special Education?

Teaching special education can be very challenging. However, teachers who have never done it don’t realize just how rewarding it can be as well. If you’re trying to make the decision of whether you should teach special ed, then consider the above points carefully. Your decision may become a lot easier.

Looking for more teaching and career resources? Check out our resources section now for more great tips and insights.

Top Challenges Facing Today’s Special Educators

Top Challenges Facing Today's Special EducatorsEver since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was introduced in 1975 – guaranteeing students with exceptional needs access to free and appropriate public education – the field of special education has changed substantially. One thing has remained constant: special education is a charged topic. From concerns on how to attract high-quality teaching candidates to optimizing curriculum and teaching techniques, best practices continue to be hotly debated among experts and educators.

To learn more about the most pressing issues facing today’s special educators, we spoke with four leading experts in the field.

Special education jobs and pedagogies are constantly evolving. What’s the biggest change that you’ve witnessed since starting your career?

Mikki Garcia, president at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): The push towards educating students in the general education environment. Putting the kids in the environment was easy; making sure they are getting a quality education is more difficult. If implemented correctly, this service delivery model is much more expensive, and without adequate federal funding the responsibility is put on the local education agency. The biggest challenge though lies in the general education environment itself and the willingness of administrators and teachers to do their part. Constant training and monitoring has helped but attitudes are hard to change.

Dr. George Giuliani and Dr. Roger Pierangelo, executive directors at the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET)There’s been a greater awareness of general education teachers, administration and staff. That being said, there’s a need for more undergraduate and graduate school coursework for future general education teachers in special education classroom management.

Matt Asner, vice president of development at the Autism Society of America: Our college and graduate-level teacher training programs are outdated. Special education is still an unfunded mandate, meaning federal law requires states to make sure school districts provide students who have disabilities with a free and appropriate public education, but the federal government does not provide funds for them to do that.  

What are the greatest challenges facing special educators, students and their families?

Dr. Lauren Morando Rhim, co-founder and executive director at the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS)The biggest challenge is effectively engaging general educational administrators and instructional peers to include and provide high-quality support to students with a diverse range of disabilities. Special educators also frequently struggle with inadequate resources, specialized personnel shortages and cumbersome paperwork that can require substantial quantities of time.

Garcia: The shortage of highly trained special education teachers is an alarming reality. It’s a very difficult job and we just don’t have enough teachers out there to meet the very specific needs of students with exceptionalities. 

Giuliani and Pierangelo: There are also issues pertaining to the budgets of school districts relative to making sure the needs of students are met as dictated by federal, state and local laws. For families, the challenge is ensuring teachers are aware of children’s IEPs [individualized education programs] and that they’re being delivered. Additional special education trends include addressing the needs of English-language learners who are also students with disabilities, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), best practices for teaching and medication management, and research-based interventions.

Assistive technology such as iPads, text-to-voice devices and digital pens are increasingly popular in the classroom for special education and general learners alike. What are the benefits and challenges of these technologies and what can we expect to see in the future?

Garcia: The special education field is always looking for ways to provide access to students who have varying needs – from communication devices for those students who have difficulty speaking to mobility devices for students who have ambulatory issues. Districts are obligated to perform assessments and determine what types of assistive technology devices will help a child best access the curriculum. There is nothing better than seeing a child, who has previously had difficulty with some aspect of access, be able to function more easily because of assistive technology.

Asner: Assistive technology is revolutionizing education but unfortunately schools are way behind the curve in terms of learning how to use it. As we saw recently with LAUSD and the iPad debacle, even when there is money to spend on devices and hardware the knowledge base isn’t there to know how to use it. Especially for students and adults who use augmentative communication, technology has completely changed the terrain. Now almost everybody communicates by typing out what they want to say, by texting and tweeting. The digital revolution has put this in everybody’s hands. Now we have to use it to create space for open and effective communication for people with communication-related disabilities.

From the shortage of special education teachers in nearly every state to classroom integration and new technologies, there’s no question that today’s special education issues will continue to shape the role of future special educators.

Learn more about current special education career opportunities. Or if you’re interested in deepening your specialty and pursuing advanced education, explore our favorite online degree programs.

Meet a Teacher: Insights From a Pre-K Special Education Teacher

Are you passionate about a career working with exceptional children? Educational requirements for special education jobs typically include a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or master’s in special education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a special education teacher in 2016 was $57,910. Academic and monetary aspects aside, how do you know if you’re cut out for this type of work? One of the best ways to gain insights is asking someone who already works in the profession. 

We recently spoke with Lois Shell, a pre-K special education teacher from Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Florida. Lois has worked with elementary-age students with special needs for more than 16 years, focusing on the pre-K population for the past 12 years.

What inspired you to go into special education?

I babysat for a two-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. She was my little inspiration for teaching special-needs kids. I also volunteered at a hospital when I was younger, which developed my interest in medical issues related to special-needs children as well.

What steps did you take to attain the position you have today? 

I received my degree in special education with a concentration in early childhood from the University of South Florida. While working on my undergraduate degree I worked at a preschool to get toddler and early childhood experience. I also did internships and had practicum experience where I assisted a teacher in a classroom. I completed my graduate degree through an online learning program. I was working full-time so I took one class per semester. Eleven classes later, I had a master’s degree! 

What does a typical day in your classroom look like? 

In my class I have a paraprofessional and a “unique needs assistant” who helps students with physical disabilities. After the kids arrive we have breakfast together and work on feeding skills. Back in the classroom we do a greeting and circle time. Then we move into center time, small groups and table time, working with students one on one if needed. Later we play outside, have story time, lunch time, music and movement, and rest time. Math, science and social studies are covered within circle time and small groups. Table time is where we do manipulative activities – handwriting if they’re ready for it and pre-handwriting skills if they’re not.

Describe the specific skills a special-needs teacher should have?

Patience. Patience. Patience! You also need to be able to think quickly on your feet. Every child, whether they have special needs or not, is different. You need to be ready to adapt, modify and think outside the box to accommodate each’s child’s specific needs. For example, I had a little girl who would always throw her spoon. The occupational therapist came up with the idea to put a cotton glove on her hand with Velcro that attached to her spoon handle. The next time she tried to throw her spoon it didn’t move, and her reaction was priceless!

What are your biggest challenges? 

Meeting all the students’ varying needs. They are all on different levels with different challenges. To handle them all, first and foremost, you need to love and have a passion for the child. No matter what the disability is, you embrace it and move forward without feeling sorry or having a pity party for them. My goal is to keep them safe, care about them and provide them with the best education I can.

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

Seeing the children’s reactions to their successes and the smiles I’m able to put on their faces. I’ve always loved all the kids. I still keep in contact with one of my former students who is now 31 years old!

Do you have any tips or advice for anyone considering becoming a special education teacher?

Get as much hands-on exposure as you can with the special-needs population. Volunteer with organizations like the Special Olympics. Another valuable thing you can do is to talk with the parents of a child with special needs. They are one of the best sources of information.

Lois got her master’s degree online, on her own time, and you can too! Learn more about some of our favorite online degree programs for advanced degrees in special education.

Special Education: Putting You on the Right Path

Special Education – The Right Choice

When pursuing a teaching degree, many college students are faced with the decision to major in elementary education, secondary education with a curricular emphasis, or work with special education students. Making this decision is no easy task, however as a school administrator, let me make a case for why more teachers could benefit from a special education background.

Special Education – A Mother’s Influence

Before I begin telling you about why a special education background could be crucial to a budding career in education, let me tell you about my own special education background. My mother was a special educator for many years in our local school district. While growing up, my mother provided me with countless opportunities to try to understand and work with this often misunderstood sub-group of students within our school systems. While pursuing a teaching degree, I had the opportunity to work in a variety of special education positions that gave me a wealth of knowledge about special education programs, its students, and strategies for working with special education students. As a school administrator, this personal experience has been invaluable to me as I run a school whose special education population accounts for almost 20% of our total student enrollment.

Special Education Develops Patience

The day that anyone decides to go into the education field is the day that they declare to the universe their need for an extra helping of patience. Have you ever had someone continuously make an annoying noise that you can hear? Have you ever had a young child swear at you? Have you ever taught something over and over, yet it remains unlearned by the pupil? These are all situations that occur generally in education, but in special education classrooms, they occur with much greater frequency. When I interview potential teaching candidates, I ask them which character trait is most important for a teacher to possess and more often than not, they respond in the same way — patience. Special education refines your patience to the point that you are able to achieve a zen-like calm regardless of any environmental disturbances.

Special Education Makes You Data Driven

Special education teachers write individualized education plans for their students that detail how a special education student is currently able to perform on specific academic tasks, a plan to improve their academic performance that details specific goals, and lists specific accommodations that the student needs to successfully perform in the classroom. This level of specificity regarding the needs of one student is unparalleled in education, yet all of our students should receive this same degree of analysis. Special education teaches you to plan for your students with this level of specificity that ultimately teaches you how to be organized and data driven in the classroom.

Special Education Teaches Sympathy

Special education is full of opportunities to sympathize with students who are struggling and with parents that are at their wits end. Just like no-one likes a doctor with poor bed-side manner, no-one likes a teacher who becomes jaded to the problems their students experience. Special education teaches educators to be compassionate and caring individuals. As a school administrator, I extremely value my employees that can provide this personal, sympathetic touch that is so sorely needed in education.

Special Education Makes You a Behavior Expert

Behavior management is a crucial skill that all educators must develop and become successful at, otherwise it could spell disaster in the classroom. Special education students can exhibit a wide-variety of behaviors depending on the disabilities they have. This broad exposure to varying behaviors will help educators focus in on the function of the behavior and how best to handle it within the classroom.

Conclusion: Special Education Provides the Right Foundation

Although special education teachers are often cited for having high turnover rates in the education field, I argue that special education is a great place for budding educators to start their careers. It affords people the opportunity to hone and develop so many skills that are essential to be an effective educator. As an administrator I have solved problems, avoided conflict, and helped students learn all because of my special education knowledge. If you’re on the road to a career in education, special education will put you on the right path.

Inclusion Strategies for Special Education Teachers

Inclusion programs are a hot topic in special education these days. These programs allow students with special needs to learn in classrooms alongside mainstream students. Research from the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) reports that inclusive programming helps students with disabilities become more successful both socially and academically. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 6.5 million students receive special education services, about 13 percent of total enrollment. Students receiving those services have learning, developmental and/or physical disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.

Training Holds the Key

A special education teacher who receives specialized training is better prepared to meet the needs of exceptional students within an inclusion classroom. Many collegiate institutions offer certification programs, bachelor’s and master’s degrees for special education jobs. These programs, such as the one at Perdue University, provide instruction on the most innovative techniques to effectively overcome different learning challenges. 

Teachers may choose specific areas of concentration such as: learning how to best accommodate children on the autism spectrum; effective ways to work with students who have visual and hearing impairments (which is among the specializations taught at Saint Joseph’s University); or how to alter teaching methods to instruct culturally and linguistically diverse learners within an inclusive setting (taught at George Washington University, for example).

Programs for special education teachers also demonstrate how to develop individualized education programs (IEP) for exceptional students. The IEP contains goals for a student, customized to the student’s individual needs and abilities. In addition, special education teachers working in inclusive classrooms assist students in the area of emotional development, helping them learn to feel comfortable in a variety of social situations.

7 Top Tips for Inclusion Classroom Success

Classrooms in which students of all abilities work side-by-side can provide a positive and supportive setting for students with learning challenges. An influential study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals and shared by NASET in 2009, was strongly in favor of inclusion, reporting that inclusive classrooms are also beneficial for mainstream students by teaching them to develop empathy and improving their social skills.

Last year, however, Education Week reported on a newer study that found some negative effects on non-disabled and neurotypical students resulting from the practice. Even the study’s author suggested more research is required, adding: “The point is, here is a situation that we have and what systems of supports can improve outcomes for everyone?”

Special education teachers must balance the needs of all their students. Those who successfully integrate their special needs students into a traditional classroom utilize specific strategies to make it all work. Here are seven great tips for inclusion classroom success:

1. Organize: Clear clutter, stabilize furniture, secure any loose cables with tape and ensure there is plenty of space for students to safely move around the room. Post clear signage with symbols that point out exits in case of emergencies.

2. Grouping: Arrange student desks into groups of two to four desks to foster discussion and encourage cooperative learning.

3. Classroom decor: Decorate the classroom in neutral tones. Avoid bright, flashy colors as these can be distracting to some students or lead to sensory overload.

4. Home base: Occasionally the social and emotional challenges of a mainstream classroom may overwhelm a special needs student. Provide a safe space where students can go to reduce stress and regain control of themselves.

5. Transition time: Transition times can be particularly difficult for students with social or emotional challenges, leading to behaviors that may disrupt the entire class. Plan ahead and create a consistent routine for transitioning students from one activity to the next. 

6. Teamwork: Help ensure the success of your inclusive classroom by maintaining regular communication with all members of the instructional planning team. Team members may include parents, paraprofessionals, support staff and other specialists.

7. Break it down: Break down instruction into smaller tasks, starting simple and working your way into the more complex concepts, using a step-by-step approach that incorporates a lot of repetition and practice. 

Preparing Exceptional Students for the Real World

Working in an inclusive classroom setting with students of widely varying abilities may seem challenging, but the right education and training can help educators create a positive and effective learning environment, successfully meeting the needs of all their students. An inclusive learning environments ultimately allow students of all abilities to develop friendships and experience success that will prepare them to enter the world beyond the classroom.

For more articles like this check out SpecialEduCareers.com s blog here!

5 High-paying Special Education Jobs

You don’t always have to choose between a fulfilling career and one that pays well. For those who want to work in the field of special education while also earning a high salary, there are ways to meet both goals. Though it can take an upfront investment of time and money to earn the prerequisites (including advanced degrees) toward one of these five high-earning special education jobs, it’s still possible to make a good salary while helping children in need live their best lives.

1. Speech and Language Pathologist

Speech and language pathologists, also called speech therapists, support students with speech disorders and impediments in schools, hospitals and private practice. The median annual salary for speech and language pathologists was close to $74,680 in 2016 and ranged from $47,070 to $116,810. Experts such as Carrie Clark design resources and activities to support the families of children with speech challenges. 

2. Educational Audiologist

Of the best-paying special education jobs, this can be one of the most specialized. Educational audiologists work with hearing-impaired students in schools and clinics and help them achieve success in the classroom. Educational audiologists earned an annual mean salary of $76,720 in 2016.Audiologist salaries range between $50,490 and $113,540.

3. Occupational Therapist

In schools, clinics and hospitals, occupational therapists work with children both long- and short-term to help them overcome challenges resulting from physical and psychological disabilities. In 2017, occupational therapists earned a median income of $82,833. Some, like Dr. Frederick Covington, specialize in using technology to help children with special needs perform better in academic settings. 

4. Special Education Teacher

Special ed teachers work with schoolchildren who have a wide range of disabilities. These can include autism, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities or speech disorders. They earn a median income of $52,497 annually and a special education teacher salary can range between $40,703 and $64,290, depending on the school district and grade level they teach. 

Whatever the salary, working with students with special needs can be remarkably rewarding and challenging. Read special education teacher Kyle Redford’s Twitter feed or her articles in Education Week for a glimpse into the life of a special education teacher.

5. Child Psychologist 

Child psychologists study and trace behavioral patterns in children. Those who work with special needs children focus on the impact of their disabilities on their lives and education. These professionals operate in private practice and/or full-time in schools and earn a median salary of $66,918. Some choose to move into lifestyle and behavior coaching, like Dr. Kevin Fleming. 

In general, special education jobs may not pay as well as the financial sector, but some areas can actually garner a high income. Whether you are motivated by salary or not, the rewards for professionals in these roles can be numerous. 

Note: All salary information retrieved in April 2017.

Learn more about special education careers both inside and beyond the classroom.

5 Rewarding Career Paths in Special Education (if you’re not into teaching)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the mean salary for special education teachers in 2017 as $58,890. But it is no secret that the burnout and turnover rates for this field are high. Additionally, growth potentials and opportunities for upward mobility are low for teachers alone.

Salaries can be higher for teachers that want to expand their resumes. There are jobs are out there for teachers who want to stay in the field and continue making a difference in the lives of children.

Find out which of these five rewarding career paths in special education will help you change the world.

Behavior Specialists

Behavior specialists are specialists in the field of psychology and social work. They work with individuals with disabilities or impaired learning functions.

In most cases, all that is needed to work in this field is a Bachelor’s degree in the field of social work or psychology or a related field. Study.com notes that licensure may be required.

Licensing requirements vary by state. The field is experiencing a projected 19 percent growth rate between 2012 and 2022.

Job duties will vary according to the work environment. They generally involve the observation and assessment of emotional and behavioral problems with children and adults with special needs. Some duties will be specialized such as those working with the deaf community.

Average pay rates begin around $40,000 but also will vary by state and specialty, and/or the organization you are working for. Those with experience in the field or with advanced degrees are likely to earn at the higher end of the pay scale.

Early Intervention Specialist

The early years for children are considered the years between birth and kindergarten. Children with special needs in this age group need special support. Early intervention specialists provide this support.

They work in a variety of environments from preschool classrooms to inside the home. They also work in the private sector.

The main purpose of this job is to serve as the connection between families and support. The specialist also works directly with children, providing support to improve their area of needs. This could range from cognitive or emotional developmental support to motor and sensory support.

The early years of life are often considered the most critical. As such, this specialist will work in a multidisciplinary capacity to support the child and their family.

In many cases, a teacher’s degree is the only requirement for this career. A Bachelor’s degree is often required, and any additional credentials or education in the area of child development is favored.

Zip Recruiter reports that the national average pay for early intervention specialists is $46,985 annually. Candidates holding a graduate degree or additional credentials are expected to earn at the higher end of the spectrum.

Educational Diagnosticians

An educational diagnostician does exactly what its name implies. This person diagnoses someone with special needs.

This support worker functions within a team setting, assisting all agencies that work with special needs. This is a multi-disciplinary role.

Diagnosticians work every angle of the child’s life to get a complete picture for a diagnosis if necessary. Once a diagnosis is established, the diagnostician works with families to find support.

Depending on their degrees and credentials, and their location, diagnosticians can earn as much as $68,000 to $75,000. Most diagnosticians are not working at the entry level, and have acquired experience and education in the field of special needs.

Instructional Assistant

The job of a teaching assistant is one of the most under-reported jobs, as it falls in the lower end of a pay scale. But it is also one of the most rewarding jobs in special needs. The teacher’s assistant is often the one person that a child with special needs spends the most time with throughout their day.

Relationships are formed, and this enables instructional assistants to perform their job and do it well. Established relationships not only support the child but helps them to achieve their truest potential.

Projections for teaching assistants jobs is good with research showing a potential growth rate of eight percent between 2016 and 2026. The median salary for these jobs is in the $26,260 range.

Special Education Administrator

The special education administrator is not an entry-level position. This is a leadership role where the special needs worker oversees organizations that work with special needs kids. This position usually requires a Master’s degree or a wealth of career experience in the field.

Licensure could be required and will vary by state. Administrators work with everyone involved in the support of a special needs child.

Administrators work with families and caregivers. They also work with government agencies monitoring and overseeing the life of a special needs child. In a nutshell, administrators need to know that everybody involved in a special need’s child life is doing their job.

They will have a large number of children whose needs they need to monitor. If an educational or support matter goes wrong in a special needs child’s life, the administrator will hear about it and deal with it.

Salary ranges typically start in the six-figure mark, due to the depth of their responsibilities. There is an opportunity for upward mobility into advanced administrative jobs.

Employers are looking for someone with experience working with special needs kids. They want someone that is dynamic and innovative in problem-solving and has true leadership abilities.

This is the kind of guy or gal that when he or she walks into the room, a special needs kid feels….even more special.

How Will You Change the World?

If you are looking for a special needs job outside of the teaching realm, that means you have a passion for special work. It also means you are already changing the world.

Keep going, as there are a number of rewarding career opportunities that will give you the ability to fulfill your life and your true potential. Those same opportunities will help you develop the true potential of many special needs kids’ lives too. Start clicking to search open special education jobs today. How will you change the world?

Is a Special Education Career Right for You?

Is a Special Education Career Right for You?Becoming a special education teacher is a high and honorable calling. Teaching children with physical, mental or emotional impairments can be difficult but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Many special education teachers find a great deal of fulfillment helping students learn and grow.

However, it’s not just emotionally gratifying. There is currently a huge shortage of special education teachers across the United States. As more children are diagnosed with disabilities and older teachers leave the workforce, the national demand for jobs in special education is only expected to grow, offering more career opportunities.

As expected for such an important endeavor, the requirements for special education jobs are high. As such, determining a clear career path can be complex. For those drawn to special education, this article discusses the training, tools, qualifications and credentials to begin or further develop your career.

Career Path Varies by State

In most cases in the U.S., finding a job in special education requires a bachelor’s degree, state-specific certification and a master’s degree. In most states, a bachelor’s degree is the lowest bar for employment. Having a master’s degree or other specialized certification is particularly important, as working with disabilities such as autism, hearing impairment, vision impairment or any emotional disturbances requires specific training. To become a fully qualified special education teacher, further education as well as state certification are often needed get the necessary skills to help students succeed.

Some colleges and universities, such as Saint Joseph’s University, offer an online master’s degree in special education as well as certification programs, with concentrations in autism spectrum disorder, hearing impairment and the Wilson Reading System. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers an online master’s degree in special education with state licensure options. George Washington University also offers both online master’s degrees and certificate programs in special education, focusing on culturally and linguistically diverse learners and those looking to help special needs students transition into post-secondary education. 

Alongside these educational skills, many states have additional requirements. These usually include fingerprinting, background checks, registering with state officials and passing state exams. In California, for example, having a bachelor’s degree and completing a number of assessments will only provide a preliminary credential for special education. For a Level I or Level II Professional Clear Credential to teach special education, completing a fifth year of study is required, as well as approved courses in special education. To get a certificate and license to teach special education in New York state, a number of state-registered programs for students with disabilities are required, along with teaching certification exams, a variety of tests and three years of classroom experience. For specific special education jobs, the requirements are listed on each state’s education department website.

Demand for Skills May Drive up Salaries

Regarding salary expectations, even with the increased demand for highly trained educators, the level of financial compensation for special education jobs varies widely by state, depending on the school of employment and the level of education that an instructor teaches. For example, a special education teacher would earn more at a secondary school than they would teaching at an elementary school.

The 2015 median pay for a special education teacher in the United States was $56,800. In California, the average salary for a special education teacher is $65,370 – $12,000 more than the national average of $53,220, and the need for special education teachers in California is expected to grow by 20 percent over the next two years. In Texas, the salary of $52,283 is slightly lower than the national average, but demand is expected to grow as much as 41 percent by 2018. In Florida, the average salary of $41,741 is quite a bit below the national average, but the demand for special education teachers is expected to grow 19 percent by 2018. Other states that can expect an increased demand for special education teachers are Georgia, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Arkansas.

If you have the right temperament and drive for such a career, investing in a special education path is likely to pay off in terms of both personal gratification and professional opportunities. Having extra training and knowledge will also allow you to better serve your students, guiding them towards their full potential while also meeting the growing demand for special education teachers nationwide.

Find Your Fit: Top Five Special Education Specialties

For compassionate and skilled educators, becoming a special education teacher is just one option. As classrooms have changed to reflect the needs of special education students, so too have the career options available. Check out the infographic below, which highlights the Top 5 Special Education Jobs.

Recreational Therapist

Job description:

  • Use arts, drama, music, dance, sport, and games to engage students
  • Develop treatment plans to meet students’ needs and interests
  • Help students develop social skills

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $28,010 – $72,340

Average: $46,410

Required skills:

  • Resourcefulness: Ability to customize treatment plans to each student’s needs
  • Physical strength
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more or care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 7 percent
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: District of Columbia, Connecticut, Utah

 

Occupational Therapist

Job description:

  • Design physical exercises to aid students in improving basic motor functions
  • Modify or recommend special classroom equipment; instruct students and teachers on how to use equipment
  • Help students improve decision-making, problem-solving and perceptual skills

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $54,200 – $119,720

Average: $71,480

Required skills:

  • Communication: Ability to listen attentively to students and explain what tasks they want students to perform
  • Physical: Ability to move people or equipment
  • Compassion: Ability to be empathetic to the needs of students and their families

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 27 percent
  • Elementary and secondary schools are the third-largest employers
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts

 

Speech Language Pathologists

Job description:

  • Aid students who have difficulties with speech, articulation, language or swallowing
  • Teach students how to make sounds, improve their voices, or develop muscles used to swallow
  • Identify treatment options and work with teachers and parents to carry out programs

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $47,070 – $116,810

Average: $65,540

Required skills:

  • Analytical: Ability to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan
  • Detail-oriented: Ability to take detailed notes on a patient and patient progress
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more or care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 21 percent.
  • 2 in 5 speech therapists work in schools
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: Arkansas, West Virginia, North Dakota

 

Autism Spectrum Disorders Specialist

Job description:

  • Assess the skills and needs of students identified to be on the autism spectrum
  • Adapt general lessons and develop individualized education programs (IEPs)
  • May work in a self-contained classroom with additional teaching supports or in a regular education classroom

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $37,760 – $93,090

Average: $57,910

Required skills:

  • Resourcefulness: Ability to customize treatment plans to each students’ needs
  • Communication: Ability to listen attentively to students and explain what tasks they want students to perform
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • Autism is the fastest-growing development delay in American children; its prevalence has increased by nearly 120% since 2000
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: West Virginia, New Jersey, New York

Ready to get started? Find a Special Education program that’s right for you.

Source of information: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Education Career Profile: Teacher of the Deaf

Teaching in the field of special education can give you a variety of career options. You can choose age/grade level, type of disability, or even the type of program you teach in. Being a teacher of the deaf can be a very rewarding, yet challenging, career choice.

What Does A Teacher of the Deaf Do?

The role of the teacher of the deaf can vary depending on the setting. According to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED), the teacher’s role is to:

  • Establish a classroom or other learning environment to meet the physical, cognitive, cultural, linguistic, and communicative needs of the child;
  • Plan and utilize strategies, appropriate materials, and resources for implementing educational experiences that support the development of communicative competence;
  • Provide consistent comprehensible language(s) appropriate to the needs of the child regardless of the modality or form;
  • Apply first and second language teaching strategies to teaching English (e.g., through ASL appropriate to the needs of the child and consistent with the program philosophy);
  • Facilitate and support communication among deaf and hard of hearing children and adults, hearing children and adults, including family/caregivers;
  • Monitor and evaluate the child’s communicative competence on a regular basis in academic and nonacademic contexts including the child’s use of signs, cues, speech, and/or assistive technologies;
  • Provide instruction and/or support for effective use of communication supports such as interpreting, transliteration, note-taking, real-time captioning, telecommunications, and computing.

Teacher of the Deaf Responsibilities, Knowledge and Skills

As a teacher of the deaf, you should have a working knowledge of hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM equipment, as well as understand and be able to interpret audiograms. You may have to share this information with school staff members or families. You may also have to and supervise paraprofessionals and sign language interpreters.

As with any special education teacher, you will have to develop and maintain compliant IEP‘s as well as assess students in the areas of academics, language, and communication.

Where Teachers of the Deaf Work

Young elementary school student signing the letter I for the class.There are a few educational options to where a teacher of the deaf can teach. All fifty states have schools for the deaf, as well as District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Students with hearing loss may also attend public schools. In areas where there is a high population of deaf students, there may be center schools for the deaf. Students are bussed in from several areas to one specific school.

A teacher of the deaf may either provide instruction and support in a separate class or as a resource teacher in a general education or special education classroom.

Deaf students may also attend their neighborhood school. If this is the case, the student may be the only deaf student at the school. Here, an itinerant teacher may be utilized. Itinerant teachers generally cover several schools in an area and provide one on one support to the student as well as collaborate with the classroom teacher.

Classroom or resource teachers serve students in a specific age range, where itinerant teachers tend to cover students pre-k through 12th grade.

Salary, Education and Certification

Certification for a teacher of the deaf varies from state to state. There are several colleges that offer bachelor and master degrees in education of the deaf. While you don’t have to have a degree in deaf education, you must be able to pass the state certification test. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is $53,220.

If you are looking for a career where you can support students’ communication needs, as well as their academic, social, and independent functioning needs, work with parents and professionals on understanding hearing loss, and have a variety of classroom settings to work in, then you should consider becoming a teacher of the deaf.