Career Choice: Special Education Teacher

Career Choice: Special Education Teacher
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    The teaching profession has taken its lumps in recent years as layoffs continue to mount in the face of a withering economy.

    Not all districts are cutting back and there are certain positions, such as special education teacher, which are defying current trends and are outpacing industry growth.


If you enjoy working with special needs people, particularly children, you may find a career as a special education teacher to be rewarding. Most classes are very small with some individual instruction available in areas where team teaching is used. You’ll need a bachelor of science in special education to obtain a position working with children who are physically, emotionally or mentally challenged.


Special education teachers may find their work day to be anything but predictable. Such teachers provide structure to help children who have challenges, seeking to help their students excel with an eye toward mainstreaming, where possible. These teachers work closely with parents to develop individualized instructions plans, and for handling academic and behavioral problems. Special education teachers help in the development of each student’s sensory- and perceptual-motor skills, language, cognition, or memory.


Special education teachers are trained to work with preschool, kindergarten and elementary, middle school and secondary school students. Training may vary from group to group with individual states requiring targeted certification to enable a teacher to handle a particular grade level. A bachelor’s degree in special education or a degree in general education with a concentration or minor in special education is required by most states. Some states require professionals to have a master’s degree, a hiring advantage in districts where the competition for good paying jobs is keen.

view current positions for special ed teachers


The provided salary range is for special education teachers who work on the preschool through elementary school levels. As of May 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that these professionals earned a mean annual salary of $55,220. Salaries ranged from $34,690 for those in the 10th percentile to $42,200 for teachers in the 25th percentile. The median salary was $52,250. The highest salaries, for those in the 75th to 90th percentiles ranged from $65,730 to $81,650.


As expected, more than 90 percent of all special education teachers work for school districts or private schools. Pay for these professionals corresponds to national averages. The remaining employers include child day care services, individual and family services, health practitioners and local governments. The bureau reports salary averages ranging from $44,330 to $59,060 for these employers.


Top pay for special education teachers is in Alaska where salaries averaged $72,770 as of 2010 according to the BLS. Connecticut followed with average wages of $70,020. New York at $66,850, Rhode Island at $64,370 and California at $64,320 rounded out the top five states. Among metropolitan areas, Nassau-Suffolk counties in New York had the highest wages, offering $83,190 annually followed by Chico and Salinas, California, at $78,680 and $78,060, respectively.


The job outlook for special education teachers is a bright one, especially on the elementary or younger level where early intervention is most needed. The BLS has forecast a 17 percent growth rate for all special education teachers through 2018, but 20 percent for elementary teachers. The bureau reports that some openings take place because of teacher retirement or teachers transferring to other fields. Some districts report an ongoing shortage of special education professionals, particularly in rural and inner city locations.


O-Net Online; Summary Report for: 25-2052.00 – Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; Teachers–Special Education

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment Statistics; 25-2041 Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School*

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Categories: Career Planning