Special Education

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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 students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Special education teachers work as part of a team that typically includes general education teachers, counselors, school superintendents, and parents. As a team, they develop individualized educational programs (IEPs) specific to each student’s needs. IEPs outline goals and services for each student, such as sessions with the school psychologists, counselors, and special education teachers. Teachers also meet with parents, school administrators, and counselors to discuss updates and changes to the IEPs.

Education and Certification Requirements

All states require special education teachers in public schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree, either in special education or in another area of education with a minor in special education. All states require certification in special education.

In a program leading to a bachelor’s degree in special education, prospective teachers learn about the different types of disabilities and how to present information so that students will understand. These programs typically include fieldwork, such as student teaching. Some states require special education teachers to complete a master’s degree in special education, to become fully certified.

Teachers in private schools do not need to meet state requirements. However, private schools may prefer to hire teachers who have at least a bachelor’s degree in special education.


The median annual wage for special education teachers was $56,800 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,260.

Job Outlook

mployment of special education teachers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The employment growth of special education teachers will vary by type. However, overall demand will be driven by enrollment, the need for special education services, and the federal budget situation.

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