Special education teachers serve students with a variety of different disabilities. This could include children with learning, mental, emotional, or physical disabilities, such as autism or down syndrome, to name a few. Jobs in special education are available from the early childhood to secondary education level. Instructors are in charge of supervising children and adapting core curriculum and teaching practices to suit the individual learning needs of their students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the following as some of the essential job duties for special education teachers:
- Evaluation of each student to determine their knowledge, skills, strengths, and needs.
- Development of individual education plans, known as IEPs, which outline the accommodations and services each child will receive.
- Conduct meetings with parents, administrators, teachers, and school counselors to go over the students' progress.
- Update the IEPs and re-assess each student's goals throughout the school year.
In addition to evaluating and monitoring students' progress and needs, special education teachers will need to have strong communication skills and a thorough understanding of learning psychology and teaching practices for a variety of different disabilities. Given these job duties, students considering special education teaching jobs should have a patient and supportive disposition.
Job Growth for
Special Education Teacher
Becoming a Special Education Teacher
In order to qualify for special education teacher jobs, candidates must have at least a bachelor's degree. Your major may be in education or a specific content area. This could range from mathematics to science, depending on your specific interests. Programs specializing in special education are also popular in many education departments. These will focus more on different types of disabilities and adaptive teaching practices that best suit students with special needs.
Teachers in public schools must have appropriate certification as outlined by the state where they live. In addition, most private schools still prefer to hire teachers who are licensed or certified. Requirements vary by state, but usually candidates must have a degree from an accredited program, student teaching experience, and a minimum GPA. Below are some common subjects students will become familiar by completing this type of program:
- Classroom Management
- Educational Philosophy
- Learning Psychology
- Academic Instruction for Students with Disabilities
Those who have a bachelor's degree already, but do not have a background in education, may be able to pursue alternative certification to receive their teaching license. In addition, some states may allow special education teachers to transfer their license from another state. This will all depend on requirements where you live, of course. Those who only have a certificate or associate degree in special education, or are not certified, may still qualify for teaching assistant positions in the field, but prospects will be more limited.