Whether you want to work in a classroom or not, there are lots of ways to get involved in the field of special education. A range of different positions are available both inside the classroom and out, and not all of them require a Master’s in special education degree. Depending on your interests and skills, your desired work environment, salary and lifestyle, there are many ways to have a fulfilling career working with children with special needs.
Assistive Technology Specialists
Technology can change a special ed student’s life. Assistive technology specialists work closely with students to prescribe and provide technology that can ease their classroom challenges and bring them academic success. The position may require certification (one example is the Hearing Impaired N-12 Certification in Pennsylvania, which is part of the online Master’s degree program offered by Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.) The median salary for specialists is around $48,000.
Katrina Keene is an example of a specialist who moved on later in her career to research and integration of new assistive technologies.
Some education journalists report on news of developments in the special ed field, and others, such as Kate Leonard, specialize in covering medical advancements. Some choose to pursue a journalism or special education degree, though it is not generally required. The median salary for a journalist or reporter with a master’s degree or MBA ranges from $37,138 to $42,560.
School leaders often start their careers as classroom teachers, like Eric Sheninger. By leading the direction of a school and supporting special education teachers, they can profoundly impact the education of students with special needs. A master’s degree is typically required, and principals can earnbetween $88,607 and $112,842, depending on the school district.
College/University Faculty in Special Ed
Postsecondary teachers are responsible for educating future instructors toward special education degrees. Those like Dr. Matthew Lynch also research and design curricula and resources for teachers to use in the classroom. For an assistant professor, which is typically an untenured position in the U.S., the median salary is $58,861, with a range between $49,603 to $77,828. For associate professors, more often a tenured position, the median salary is $88,935, and can range between $71,626 to $122,045.
Classroom teachers, including general subject teachers and those who focus on children’s special needs, all have an impact on children with physical and psychological disabilities. They help students achieve academic success by adapting state curriculum to their various abilities. Teachers can obtain a certificate or Master’s degree to practice, and earn around $57,000 per year. Some teachers, like Kelly Gallagher, choose additional consulting or writing positions to advise other teachers working with special needs students.
Coaches of students with special needs work with them one-on-one to achieve success. After earning a specialized license, child counselors can earn$76,040, on average, yearly. Laurie Dupar and Casey Dixon are two examples of influential special education professionals who’ve incorporated ADHD coaching and counseling into their careers.
Behavioral therapists work with children who have a range of disabilities and help them adjust to school and life. They are required to obtain a Master’s degree (such as the online program offered by St. Mary’s University in Minnesota) and state license, and generally earn around $32,000. Some, like Tim Villegas, begin careers as behavioral therapists and then continue on to teaching careers.
Occupational therapists help students with special needs navigate barriers caused by their disabilities to function as capably as possible in school. After earning a master’s degree, occupational therapists earn a median salary of $82,833 — most between $75,875 and $90,229. Some like Dr. Frederick B. Covington work in a range of areas including school-based intervention, autism, developmental disabilities, physical disability and dysfunction, and technology.
These are just some of the options available to those considering special education jobs. They each have their specialties, and there is considerable overlap in how and where these individuals work with children. But for all, it takes teamwork to succeed.
Note: Salary figures as of April 2017.
Learn more about special education careers both inside and beyond the classroom.