What Is a Special Education Teacher?

Teachers are always in demand in the United States. Specifically, special education is a career full of challenges and rewards, and the demand for skilled special education teachers grows each year.

Responsibilities of Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students with cognitive, developmental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities. Special education programs exist in preschool, elementary school, middle school, secondary school and specialized private schools around the country.

Many special education teachers, like other kinds of teachers, work a 10-month year. Though time off during the summer is the norm, some special education teachers do work year-round.

“For those who choose a job in special education, the rewards can be high,” the principal of a school that serves students with severe disabilities told The Washington Post. Many special education teachers stay within the profession because they find helping special needs students grow and thrive to be a rewarding career path.

Want to become a Special Education Teacher?

Special education teachers with an online Master of Education degree from Southeastern University stand to increase their earning potential and their opportunities for career growth and development.

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Salary Potential

The median salary for a special education teacher is $58,980, the BLS reports. Within the field, secondary school teachers make slightly more than average, followed by middle school teachers. Growth potential is often determined by demand, though higher levels of education and experience are important factors as well.

A master’s degree in education can lead to a higher salary and can pave the way for a career in education administration, where salaries are even higher. According to PayScale, a director of special education with a master’s degree can make an average annual salary of $53,000.

Career Outlook for Special Education Teachers

Jobs for special education teachers are expected to increase 8 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). About 33,300 new positions are expected to be available. The National Center for Education Statistics also reports an overall increase in the number of special needs students being served by special education programs.

According to the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services, 49 states report special education teacher shortages, and 82 percent of special education professionals report that there are not enough personnel to meet demand. This shortage provides a wide array of job opportunities for students who graduate with degrees in special education.

Education Requirements

In order to become a special education teacher at a public school, a bachelor’s degree and state teaching certification are required. (Private schools may have different requirements.) Special education teachers with an online Master of Education degree from Southeastern University stand to increase their earning potential and their opportunities for career growth and development.