Special education teachers have one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, careers in education. It takes extra compassion and patience to succeed and find enjoyment in this career. Special education teachers may work in public or private schools; requirements may vary depending on school status.
Special education teachers work with students who exhibit a range of developmental delays, including learning, mental, emotional, behavioral and physical disabilities. They are tasked with similar duties as a content teacher (lesson planning, administering and grading assessments, etc.), but face the extra challenge of ensuring that lessons meet the needs of their students.
The current trend in special education is an inclusive model. Inclusion classrooms maintain the philosophy that special needs children benefit the most from remaining in regular education classes, when possible, with modified instruction. Special education teachers may work with content teachers to revise and alter lesson plans to satisfy the requirements of special education students.
How to Become One
All states require that teachers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a teacher certification or license. Private schools are not legally obligated to hire certified teachers; however, many private schools prefer to hire teachers who hold a license. All teachers in a bachelor’s program in education or instruction are introduced to special education topics. At the master’s level, students can pursue a specialized degree track that focuses solely on pedagogy for special education students. As in most careers, the higher a candidate’s level of education and training, the more likely they are to advance, hence the reason so many go back and get their online masters degree in education.
Licensure requirements vary by state, but all require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a student-teacher practicum or other teaching experience. Some may require a specific GPA and annual professional development classes. All states offer an alternative route to certification for teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of special education teachers is expected to grow by 17 percent over the next decade due to increased enrollment and demand. Most of the growth is projected in elementary and secondary schools. Growth may not be even across all grades.
Careers in Education
An online degree in education from Notre Dame College opens doors to rewarding careers in education. Our graduates find work in the following occupations:
- Content teacher
- Adult literacy teacher
- Instructional coordinator
- School principal
- Special education teacher