What You Need to Be a Special Education Teacher

So you want to be a special education teacher? Great! The job market is good for special education teachers right now, and there are many different types of positions available. But what do you need to get started on your career path?

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The Special Education Teacher Role

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 meet the needs of each student. They also modify the content of the lesson and the way information is presented, depending on each student’s ability level.

What Special Education Teachers Do

A special education teacher is responsible for adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of students with disabilities. They also teach specialized subjects, such as Braille and sign language.

Most special education teachers work with students who have mild to moderate disabilities. They work with students in small groups or one-on-one to help them improve their academic and social skills. Many special education teachers also teach life skills, such as hygiene and anger management.

Special education teachers develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for each student they work with. IEPs outline the goals and objectives for each student. Special education teachers use a variety of instructional techniques and materials to help their students achieve the goals of their IEPs.

Work Environment

Most special education teachers work in public schools. Some work in private schools, childcare centers, and Head Start programs. A small number are self-employed.

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Most special education teachers work full time. They may work some evenings or weekends to attend meetings or accompany students to sporting or social events. Many teachers also supervise students during lunch and recess or offer tutorial sessions before or after school.

Salary and Job Outlook

Job outlook for special education teachers is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a job growth of 3% for elementary and secondary school teachers, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. In May 2019, the median pay for elementary and middle school teachers was $59,660 per year, while the median pay for secondary school teachers was $60,770 per year. However, salaries will vary based on factors like education level, experience, location, and more.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers work with students who have a variety of disabilities. They adapt lessons and create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to help these students learn and make progress in the classroom. Becoming a special education teacher requires completing a four-year degree program, completing a state-approved teaching program, and passing a state licensing exam.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program

To become a special education teacher, you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree program. A bachelor’s degree in special education will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to work with students with disabilities. In your program, you will take courses in educational psychology, child development, and special education law and policy. You will also complete student teaching practicums to gain experience working with students with disabilities in various settings.

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Step 2: Obtain Certification

To become a special education teacher, you will need to obtain certification from the state in which you wish to teach. Each state has different requirements for certification, but most require that you have at least a bachelor’s degree in special education or a related field, and that you pass a state-authorized teaching exam. Some states may also require you to complete a period of student teaching before you can be certified.

Step 3: Complete a Master’s Degree Program (Optional)

A master’s degree in special education is not required to teach in most public schools, but it may give you an advantage in the job market and make you eligible for leadership positions and higher salaries. In some states, a master’s degree is required for certification. You can complete a master’s degree program in special education before or after you complete your teacher preparation program.

What You Need to Be a Special Education Teacher

A special education teacher is a person who is trained to work with children who have special needs. This includes children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Special education teachers work in a variety of settings, including public schools, private schools, and hospitals.


In order to be a special education teacher, you will need to have a strong understanding of different disabilities and how they affect learning. You should be familiar with common assessment tools and be able to use them to identify student strengths and weaknesses. You will also need to be able to create individualized education plans (IEPs) based on each student’s needs. In addition, you should be familiar with different instructional strategies and be able to modify them as needed.

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A successful special education teacher should:
-Empathize with students and their challenges
-Understand different types of disabilities
-Communicate effectively with students, parents, and colleagues
-Work well independently and as part of a team
-Plan and organize effectively
-Monitor student progress and adapt instruction as needed
-Maintain a positive attitude

Personal Characteristics

Patience, resilience, a good sense of humor and a passion for teaching are essential qualities for any teacher, but they are especially important for those working in special education. Teachers in this field must have the ability to build positive relationships with both students and parents, as well as the patience to deal with challenging behaviors. They must also be adaptable, as they may need to change their teaching methods to meet the needs of each individual student. In addition to these personal qualities, special education teachers must also have the following:

-A bachelor’s degree in special education or a related field
-A teaching license in special education
-The ability to pass a background check
-A strong understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
-The ability to individualize instruction
-The ability to effectively manage classrooms and behavior
-The ability to communicate effectively with students, parents and other members of the school community

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