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Special Education Roles Beyond the Classroom

Teaching is a profession that is both rewarding and challenging – particularly true for special education teachers. Working with students who need additional support can be satisfying yet emotionally draining, which likely contributes to the high turnover rate. Some sources estimate a 75 percent turnover rate for special ed teachers every 10 years, with 50 percent leaving their jobs within five years. Fortunately there are a variety of ways for people with special education experience and training to make a difference outside the classroom. 

Here are some special education jobs that don’t involve teaching:

Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant (LDT-C)

Key elements:

  • Assess/diagnose students with learning difficulties, assist in the development of IEPs (individualized educational programs) and plan or implement instructional programs.
  • Support special education students by identifying their specific needs and ensuring they are met.

Prerequisites:

Requires completion of a graduate-level program, usually 24 to 33 credits – in addition to a master’s degree and often several years of teaching experience. (Note: This role is not found in every school district; research opportunities in your specific area.)

Special Education Advocate

Key elements: 

  • Advocates represent students (and their families) and speak on their behalf in the educational setting.
  • Plan, implement and monitor an educational plan for the student — serving as the student’s voice if any problems or concerns arise.

Prerequisites:

No specific training or certification is required by law but it is a good idea to pursue additional training with a specific focus on advocacy and special education regulations. The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates has a variety of helpful resources and training opportunities.

Educational Consultant

Key elements:

  • Share your expertise or experiences related to a specific educational topic or challenge.
  • Package your services in the format you prefer. Options include seminars, workshops or as-needed support.
  • As a self-employed consultant, you decide when and where you want to work.

Prerequisites: 

No additional credentials are required beyond a special education teaching background. 

Tutoring

Key elements:

  • Work as a self-employed freelancer scouting your own clients or sign up as a contractor providing services through a company such as Sylvan or Tutor.com.
  • Flexible schedule: You decide when and where you want to work.

Prerequisites:

Teaching experience and credentials are usually all you need — but some companies/clients will pay higher rates for tutors with special training or advanced education.

School Administration

Key elements:

  • A good option for those who are comfortable staying in the traditional school setting but don’t want to teach students directly.
  • Job titles range from special education administration to more general education roles such as vice principal.

Prerequisites: 

A master’s degree – including degree programs offered online – is a good start. You may then need to bolster your degree with specific administration-related training or certifications, depending on the position.

Fundraising Specialist

Key elements:

  • Lead fundraising efforts at organizations that assist children or education-related causes.
  • Good fit for those with persuasion skills or those motivated to use their winning personalities toward a positive goal.

Prerequisites:

Skills and experience are usually more important than educational degrees but training specifically related to fundraising is a valuable asset. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offers certification programs in areas such as Fund Raising Management as well as customized training options.

Publishing 

Key elements:

  • A big departure from an educational environment, this is an attractive option for those with specific expertise who are eager for a major change.
  • Various career paths including writing training guides for teachers, developing curriculum materials and training educators (high potential for business travel).

Prerequisites:

Varies based on role and hiring company. Employment notices will offer details.

Teachers who feel the need for a change can pursue a number of career paths that still allow them to provide valuable contributions to children’s education beyond the classroom. For those who want to support children with special needs in a non-teaching role, these special education job alternatives may provide the perfect solution. Learn more about alternative special education careers.

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?