How to Become a Special Education Teacher

Special Education Teachers work with students who have a difficult time learning or getting their work done in the typical classroom.

Students on their caseload can have either a mental, physical or emotional obstacle that prevents them from learning and can be enrolled in grades pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade.

Special Education Teachers have to follow state mandated protocol called Individualized Education Program (IEPs) and are required to provide alternative instructions, modified schoolwork and in class support to their students.

Special Education Teachers play an important role in a school because they typically work with kids who require extra time to do work.

If a student is having a hard time learning a certain subject, a Special Education Teacher will use a different approach to help their students succeed in school.

Although Special Education Teachers work with a smaller group of students it doesn’t mean they have a lighter workload.

They are required work with students, teachers, parents and school administration in order to help students achieve and learn the same material the other students are learning.

Education Requirements to Become a Special Education Teacher

In addition to following the University or college track, candidates who want to become a Special Education Teacher need to seek licensure in the state they want to teach in.

The minimum education requirement includes holding at least a Bachelor or Master’s degree, depending on the state they are seeking licensure in.

Candidates who are getting a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education can focus on a track to work with students who are diagnosed with either moderate or severe disabilities.

They can also choose what grade level they wish to specialize in: High School, Middle School or Elementary aged students.

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree, the candidate then needs to complete a teacher training program and pass a license test in order to teach.

In states that require a Master’s, candidates need to take required specialized curriculum focused on Special Education.

Some typical classes in a Special Education graduate program include teaching methods, legal issues possible in special education and educational psychology.

The last year of a Special Education program is spent working in the classroom as a student teacher.

Student teaching is required in most states; candidates will spend their time working under the supervision of a licensed teacher or administrator.

The final step in becoming a Special Education Teacher is taking a state mandated test in order to become licensed.

Most states accept the PRAXIS license test although the exact test an individual needs to take depends on the state they are trying to work in.

Special Education Teacher Job Description

Candidates who want to become a Special Education Teacher should expect to be busy throughout the day helping students on their caseload, participating in meetings with other teachers, administration, parents and students and creating lesson plans.

Some other common responsibilities include:

  • Work with other teachers and administration to modify curriculum
  • Work with students individually, in small groups or in a larger classroom setting
  • Provide in class support in subject areas students are struggling in: Math, English, Science or other areas
  • Perform classroom management when needed
  • Follow state mandated IEP
  • Hold IEP meetings with parents or legal guardian, other teachers and when needed, translators

Special Educations Teachers are busy throughout the work day working one on one with their students, helping other teachers in the classroom, creating individualized lesson plans, managing small groups of students and going to required meetings.

Special Education Teacher Salary and Career Path

Wages and earnings for Special Education Teachers depend on the school district and state they find a job in.

The entry pay for this position typically begins in the low $30,000s with the highest earners making approximately $79,000.

The median income for this profession was about $50,000 in 2008.

People who are making steps to become a Special Education Teacher can choose to work in either the public school system or a private school.

The number of Special Education candidates is expected to grow throughout the next decade even though the number of students in such programs is expected to grow at a slower pace.

However, because some Special Education Teachers retire or change track to become General Education Teachers, the job outlook for future Special Education Teachers continues to look promising.

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