Jobs, Salaries and Career after Masters in Special Education and Teaching - Updated 2020

2018 median Pay for Special Education and Teaching

The median annual wage for special education teachers was $59,780 in May 2018.


Pay

They may travel to these locations. Some teachers work with infants and toddlers at the child’s home. They also teach the child’s parents methods and ways to help the child develop skills. Helping students with disabilities can be highly rewarding. It also can be quite stressful—emotionally demanding and physically draining. Work Schedules Special education teachers typically work during school hours. They also use that time to grade papers, update students’ records, and prepare lessons.



Best paying jobs for Education


Number of Jobs for Special Education and Teaching

Number of Jobs in 2018 was 439,300


Education required

Bachelor's degree


Job Outlook for Special Education and Teaching

Overall employment of special education teachers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. School enrollment and the demand for special education services should drive employment growth.


Job description of Special Education and Teaching

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Duties

Special education teachers typically do the following:

  • Assess students’ skills to determine their needs
  • Adapt general lessons to meet the needs of students
  • Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student
  • Plan, organize, and assign activities that are specific to each student’s abilities
  • Teach and mentor students as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one
  • Implement IEPs, assess students’ performance, and track their progress
  • Update IEPs throughout the school year to reflect students’ progress and goals
  • Discuss students’ progress with parents, other teachers, counselors, and administrators
  • Supervise and mentor teacher assistants who work with students with disabilities
  • Prepare and help students transition from grade to grade and for life after graduation

Special education teachers work with general education teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents. Together, they develop IEPs specific to each student’s needs. IEPs outline the goals and services for each student, such as sessions with school psychologists, counselors, and special education teachers. Teachers also meet with parents, administrators, and counselors to discuss updates and changes to the IEPs.

Special education teachers’ duties vary by the type of setting they work in, students’ disabilities, and teachers’ specialties.

Some special education teachers work in classrooms or resource centers that include only students with disabilities. In these settings, teachers plan, adapt, and present lessons to meet each student’s needs. They teach students in small groups or on a one-on-one basis.

In inclusive classrooms, special education teachers teach students with disabilities who are in general education classrooms. They work with general education teachers to present information in a manner that students with disabilities can more easily understand. They also assist general education teachers in adapting lessons that will meet the needs of the students with disabilities in their classes.

In addition, special education teachers collaborate with teacher assistants, psychologists, and social workers to accommodate requirements of students with disabilities. For example, they may have a teacher assistant work with them to provide support for a student who needs particular attention.

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide variety of mental, emotional, physical, and learning disabilities. For example, some work with students who need assistance in subject areas, such as reading and math. Others help students develop study skills, such as highlighting text and using flashcards.

Some special education teachers work with students who have physical disabilities, such as students who are wheelchair bound. Others work with students who have sensory disabilities, such as blindness and deafness. They also may work with those who have autism spectrum disorders and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Special education teachers work with students from preschool to high school. Some teachers work with students who have severe disabilities until the students are 21 years old.

Special education teachers help students with severe disabilities develop basic life skills, such as how to respond to questions and how to follow directions. Some teach the skills necessary for students with moderate disabilities to live independently, find a job, and manage money and their time. For more information about other workers who help individuals with disabilities develop skills necessary to live independently, see the profiles on occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Special education teachers must be comfortable with using and learning new technology. Most use computers to keep records of their students’ performance, prepare lesson plans, and update IEPs. Some teachers also use various assistive technology aids, such as Braille writers and computer software that help them communicate with their students.


How to become Special Education and Teaching

Special education teachers in public schools are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Private schools typically require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, but the teachers are not required to be licensed or certified. For information about teacher preparation programs and certification requirements, visit Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education.

Education

All states require special education teachers in public schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some require teachers to earn a degree specifically in special education. Others allow them to major in elementary education or a content area, such as math or science, and pursue a minor in special education.

In a program leading to a bachelor’s degree in special education, prospective teachers learn about the different types of disabilities and how to present information so that students will understand. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. To become fully certified, some states require special education teachers to complete a master’s degree in special education after obtaining a job.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools may prefer to hire teachers who have at least a bachelor’s degree in special education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed in the specific grade level that they teach. A license frequently is referred to as a certification. Those who teach in private schools typically do not need to be licensed.

Requirements for certification or licensure can vary by state but generally involve the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average
  • Completion of a teacher preparation program and supervised experience in teaching, which is typically gained through student teaching.
  • Passing a background check
  • Passing a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates knowledge of the subject the candidate will teach.

Many states offer general certification or licenses in special education that allow teachers to work with students with a variety of disabilities. Others offer licenses or endorsements based on a disability-specific category, such as autism or behavior disorders.

Some states allow special education teachers to transfer their licenses from another state. Other states require even an experienced teacher to pass their state’s licensing requirements.

All states offer an alternative route to certification or licensure for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately, under the close supervision of an experienced teacher. These alternative programs cover teaching methods and child development. Candidates are awarded full certification after they complete the program. Other alternative programs require prospective teachers to take classes in education before they can start to teach. Teachers may be awarded a master’s degree after completing either type of program.

Advancement

Experienced teachers can advance to become mentors or lead teachers who help less experienced teachers improve their teaching skills.

Teachers may become school counselors, instructional coordinators, and elementary, middle, and high school principals. These positions generally require additional education, an advanced degree, or certification. An advanced degree in education administration or leadership may be helpful.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Special education teachers discuss students’ needs and performances with general education teachers, parents, and administrators. They also explain difficult concepts in terms that students with learning disabilities can understand.

Critical-thinking skills. Special education teachers assess students’ progress and use that information to adapt lessons to help them learn.

Interpersonal skills. Special education teachers work regularly with general education teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to develop Individualized Education Programs. As a result, they need to be able to build positive working relationships.

Patience. Working with students with special needs and different abilities can be difficult. Special education teachers should be patient with each student, because some may need the instruction given aloud, at a slower pace, or in writing.

Resourcefulness. Special education teachers must develop different ways to present information in a manner that meets the needs of their students. They also help general education teachers adapt their lessons to the needs of students with disabilities.


What people in similar profession do

Job Title What they do How to become one
Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct adults in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They also help students earn their high school equivalent diploma. Most adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Employers typically prefer those who have a license or certification. Education Most states require adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some community colleges prefer to hire those with a master’s degree or graduate coursework in adult education or English as a Second Language (ESL).
Elementary Education and Teaching Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for future schooling. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license. Education All states require public kindergarten and elementary school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Private schools typically have the same requirement.
Secondary Education and Teaching High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market. High school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license. Education All states require public high school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Most states require public high school teachers to have majored in a subject area, such as science or history.
Early Childhood Education and Teaching Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach language, motor, and social skills to young children. Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. They typically need at least an associate’s degree. Education Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree. Preschool teachers in Head Start programs are required to have at least an associate’s degree. However, at least 50 percent of all preschool teachers in Head Start programs nationwide must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field.
Educational Leadership and Administration Preschool and childcare center directors supervise and lead their staffs, design program plans, oversee daily activities, and prepare budgets. They are responsible for all aspects of their center’s program. A bachelor’s degree and experience in early childhood education are typically required to become a preschool and childcare center director. However, the educational requirements can vary by state. Some states or employers require them to have a nationally recognized credential, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA). Education Most states require preschool and childcare center directors to have at least a bachelor’s degree, but educational requirements can vary by state.
Higher Education/Higher Education Administration Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, academics, and faculty research at colleges and universities. Their job duties vary depending on the area of the college they manage, such as admissions, student life, or the registrar’s office. Postsecondary education administrators typically need at least a master’s degree. Employers typically prefer candidates who have experience working in the field, particularly for occupations such as registrars and academic deans. Education Postsecondary education administrators typically need at least a master’s degree. However, at smaller colleges or community college, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient.
Special Education and Teaching Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities. Special education teachers in public schools are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Private schools typically require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, but the teachers are not required to be licensed or certified. For information about teacher preparation programs and certification requirements, visit Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education. Education All states require special education teachers in public schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Curriculum and Instruction Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, coordinate its implementation with teachers and principals, and assess its effectiveness. Instructional coordinators need a master’s degree and related work experience, such as teaching or school administration. Coordinators in public schools may be required to have a state-issued license. Education Most employers, particularly public schools, require instructional coordinators to have a master’s degree in education or curriculum and instruction. Some instructional coordinators have a degree in a specialized field, such as math or history. Master’s degree programs in curriculum and instruction teach about curriculum design, instructional theory, and collecting and analyzing data.
Counselor Education/School Counseling and Guidance Services School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed in school. Career counselors help people choose careers and follow a path to employment. Most school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors. Education Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster academic development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students.
Educational/Instructional Technology Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, coordinate its implementation with teachers and principals, and assess its effectiveness. Instructional coordinators need a master’s degree and related work experience, such as teaching or school administration. Coordinators in public schools may be required to have a state-issued license. Education Most employers, particularly public schools, require instructional coordinators to have a master’s degree in education or curriculum and instruction. Some instructional coordinators have a degree in a specialized field, such as math or history. Master’s degree programs in curriculum and instruction teach about curriculum design, instructional theory, and collecting and analyzing data.

Job Outlook for other majors in Education

Job Title Number of jobs Median Salary Job outlook
Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching 68200 $53630 Decline
Elementary Education and Teaching 1565300 $57980 As fast as average
Secondary Education and Teaching 1018700 $60320 As fast as average
Early Childhood Education and Teaching 478500 $29780 Faster than average
Educational Leadership and Administration 61800 $47940 Faster than average
Higher Education/Higher Education Administration 180100 $94340 Faster than average
Curriculum and Instruction 163200 $64450 Faster than average
Counselor Education/School Counseling and Guidance Services 291700 $56310 Faster than average
Educational/Instructional Technology 163200 $64450 Faster than average