If you’re considering a career in special education, the timing couldn’t be better.
A recent U.S. News & World Report article laments the teacher-shortage crisis looming across the country and the particularly severe scarcity in special education. In fact, according to a study from the Learning Policy Institute, most states – including Florida – identified special education as a shortage area in their reports to the U.S. Department of Education in 2015-16.
As Florida grapples with this serious situation, college graduates who specialize in or seek advanced special education degrees will be snapped up by local school districts to fill vacancies.
Ready to position yourself as the perfect candidate? Here’s what you need to know about teaching special education in Florida.
Teachers’ Starting Point
To teach in Florida, you must at a minimum hold a bachelor’s degree, commonly in education or special education. (Each state sets its own requirements for earning a professional teaching certificate.) In the Sunshine State you can choose to major in special education (or similar majors), or you can opt for a bachelor’s degree that includes 30 semester hours in specific areas of exceptional student education – often called ESE for short.
Head to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) website for general information about the state’s public education system. Then check out theBureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, which administers programs and coordinates services for Florida students with disabilities.
Next Stop: Florida Requirements
In addition to requiring a bachelor’s degree, Florida mandates certification for all educators (including classroom teachers, school administrators and other support professionals) who teach in public schools, and it is required in many private schools as well.
Florida offers two types of educator licensing. The three-year, non-renewable Temporary Certificate is geared for new teachers who haven’t yet met all the FLDOE academic and testing requirements. The five-year, renewable Professional Certificate is for educators who have already met all FLDOE’s criteria. There are multiple paths to earning a Florida Professional Certificate – including interstate reciprocity if you have teaching credentials from another state – so you might want to review your educator preparation options in this FLDOE chart.
The FLDOE outlines a four-step process to earning your first Florida teaching certificate:
Complete an initial application package and submit it to FLDOE’s Bureau of Educator Certification. The package will include a CG-10 Application Form and the appropriate processing fee. If you’ve never held a Florida Educator’s Certificate or your Florida Educator’s Certificate has been expired for more than one year, the application fee is $75 per subject. (Check the FLDOE certificate application fee schedule for additional information.) Your application must also include official college transcripts listing all degrees and credits you’ve earned and, if applicable, copies of teaching certificate(s) you hold from any other U.S. states or territories.
2. Determine Eligibility
The Bureau of Educator Certification evaluates your application package, determines your eligibility for a Florida certificate and mails you the results, known as an Official Statement of Status of Eligibility. Valid for three years, this statement serves two functions. It officially says whether you’re eligible for a Temporary Certificate or a Professional Certificate in the subject area you requested, and it provides you with a customized list of the requirements you must complete to receive full state certification in Florida.
3. Seek Employment
With 67 public school districts, Florida offers a wide range of teaching possibilities in elementary and secondary schools. For traditional public schools, each district employs teachers eligible for certification. For Florida’s 650+ charter public schools, the relevant district may help with certification for teachers. Florida also offers instructional options through its online public schools – Florida Virtual Schools – and through several non-public schools. For a one-stop job-hunting portal visit Teach in Florida.
4. Submit Fingerprints
For employment and certification purposes, the school district requires fingerprints from employees at Florida’s traditional and charter public schools.
In addition to this certification process, FLDOE requires four endorsement areas for teachers of students with specific disabilities including severe/profound disabilities, orientation and mobility disabilities, pre-kindergarten disabilities and autism-spectrum disorders.
If you already know you are interested in teaching in this state, and as you decide to pursue a master’s degree in special education, check with your university’s education department to confirm your graduate program complies with the most current FLDOE regulations and licensing requirements.