Schools and Education
- You must have at least a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field.
- Many schools also offer a master’s degree in special education which can be helpful in pursuing this career.
What you study:
Most special ed teachers will study all of the following while in college:
- Child Development
- Special Education Pedagogy
- Physical Education for Special Needs Students
- Diagnostics Assessment and Progress Tracking
- Physiology and Biology
- Inclusive Classroom Practices
Depending on the specialization you choose within special education you may also take additional courses. For example teachers who want to work with emotionally disturbed teens will take psychology and classroom management courses designed to help them understand and work with those students.
What courses you’ll take
Below are examples of courses that you might take as a teaching student pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in high school special education.
|Foundations of Special Education||An overview of the special education field including: history; roles of various kinds of special education teachers; teaching methods; collaboration with general teachers; education planning for individual students; legal and ethical considerations; and certifications.||Provide special ed teaching students with core knowledge about the field for use in advanced courses especially that related to teaching methods and the different learning styles of special-education students.|
|Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners||Various kinds of differences between special-education students and general students at the adolescent level; specific ways in which special education practice differs from general education; social considerations unique to special-education work.||Familiarize educators with the ways in which a special-education classroom differs from a general high-school classroom and how those difference affect teaching styles.|
|Instructional and Behavior Management for Students with Mild Disabilities||Skills necessary to observe analyze and understand special-ed students’ behavior; how to instruct students in appropriate behavior for a high school classroom; ways to motivate and reward students to improve their behavior.||Prepare special-ed teachers for taking into account the differences between behavior of their students and general students.|
|Communication / Collaboration for Exceptional Children||Teamwork and team-based thinking in the high-school special-education community; communication and cooperation between teachers and researchers in fields that are different but related; practical skills for negotiating and working with other team members in a special-education environment.||Develop skills for communicating and collaborating with other teachers and workers in adolescent special-education environments.|
|Research in Special Education||Importance of current research to effective special education; staying up to date with the latest research in adolescent special education; interpreting and applying new information from research; and collecting classroom data that can be useful for other special-education teachers.||Introduce educators to important areas of special-ed research and prepare them to use this research as part of their day-to-day teaching.|
|Special Education Practicum||Work as an assistant in a special ed high school classroom under the supervision of a certified special education teacher.||Give teaching students actual experiences that reinforce their classroom studies and fully prepare them for full-time jobs in the field.|
Introduces the high school special ed career. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a high school special education teacher you will hold an important role in the lives of children with mental physical and emotional disabilities. On most days you will get to your classroom 20 to 30 minutes before your students arrive. High school special education teachers either teach in their own classrooms or work alongside other teachers in mainstream classrooms. The type of classroom you will work in depends upon whether you work with moderately or severely disabled students. Many moderately disabled students attend mainstream classes. You will attend classes with these students and give them support throughout the day.
Most special ed students need personalized assistance to complete their learning activities. You will help students learn and review skills. You will also work with other teachers to ensure that the homework given to your students is a good fit for their skill level. If you work with severely disabled students you will teach them basic skills. If you work in a classroom with teens who have severe physical handicaps you will be responsible for helping the students eat and use the bathroom. You will monitor the wellbeing of your students and will network with their medical providers in order to provide the best care possible for them while they are at school.
At the end of every school day you will review the day’s activities with your students and will remind them of any homework that they need to complete. After your students have left you will communicate any concerns that you have about their homework or classwork to their other teachers. When you work as a special ed teacher you are likely to interact with the parents of your students on a regular basis. You may be required to formulate an individual education plan (IEP) for each student. Before you implement the IEP you will have a conference with the student’s parents counselors other teachers and school administrators to ensure that everyone is on board with the education plan. You will also do your best to explain this plan to your student.
Certifications and Licensing
All special education teachers must hold a state-issued credential. Credentialing requirements vary from state to state. However most states require special ed teachers to complete an M.A. degree and semester of student teaching. Teachers must submit to a background check in order to become credentialed.
Full-time versus part-time:
Special ed teachers keep regular school hours. For most teachers this means that the school day begins around 8 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m. Some teachers may also work in after-school programs.
While special ed teachers do most of their work on school campuses you may have the opportunity to attend conferences with other educators.
Here are several sites that offer a wealth of information about a career as a special education teacher:
- The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Handbook: This site provides an excellent overview of the career opportunities for and salaries earned by special education teachers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics presents information about special ed teachers at all grade levels in this handbook so it’s important to consult other sites that can provide specific information about teaching at the high school level.
- The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET): The NASET website provides a wide variety of information about careers in special education ranging from information about the training needed to become a special ed teacher to a job search board. Association publications and special ed news can also be viewed on this site.
- The International Association of Special Education (IASE): This organization provides information about global special ed issues. The website is also used to promote IASE’s scholarships annual conference and volunteer opportunities. This website is a great find for teaching students who want to get hands-on experience in classrooms while traveling the globe.
- Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): This organization provides teaching resources information about credentialing and up-to-date research on children with special needs. It is especially useful for student teachers and new teachers.
Salaries by City
See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.
|State||City / Region||Typical Salary||Salary Range||Job Count||% of All Jobs|
|AL||Anniston – Oxford||$45080||70||0.17%|
|AL||Birmingham – Hoover||$55630||170||0.03%|
|AL||Florence – Muscle Shoals||$53620||N/A||N/A|
|AR||Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers||$51270||220||0.11%|
|AR||Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway||$52250||400||0.12%|
|AZ||Lake Havasu City $ Kingman||$38050||40||0.09%|
|AZ||Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale||$45730||910||0.05%|
|CA||Bakersfield – Delano||$69760||300||0.11%|
|CA||Hanford – Corcoran||$69130||N/A||N/A|
|CA||Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)||$66630||4260||0.11%|
|CA||Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)||$74380||440||0.04%|
|CA||Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura||$66200||230||0.08%|
|CA||Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario||$65790||1120||0.10%|
|CA||Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville||$60050||390||0.05%|
|CA||San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos||$69680||450||0.04%|
|CA||San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)||$47930||720||0.07%|
|CA||San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara||$83570||N/A||N/A|
|CA||Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)||$81080||600||0.04%|
|CA||Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta||$66830||80||0.04%|
|CA||Santa Rosa – Petaluma||$68320||140||0.08%|
|CA||Vallejo – Fairfield||$47430||N/A||N/A|
|CA||Visalia – Porterville||$63210||N/A||N/A|
|CO||Denver – Aurora – Broomfield||$57760||1130||0.09%|
|CO||Fort Collins – Loveland||$46790||120||0.09%|
|CT||Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk||$74970||440||0.11%|
|CT||Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford||$69950||740||0.13%|
|CT||Norwich – New London||$71260||150||0.11%|
|DC||Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)||$73800||1870||0.08%|
|DE||Wilmington (Metro Area)||$62860||230||0.07%|
|FL||Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)||$51410||230||0.03%|
|FL||North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota||$45660||170||0.07%|
|GA||Athens – Clarke County||$50190||80||0.10%|
|GA||Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta||$52270||2310||0.10%|
|GA||Augusta – Richmond County||$47390||170||0.09%|
|IA||Davenport – Moline – Rock Island||$58580||250||0.14%|
|IA||Des Moines – West Des Moines||$52470||N/A||N/A|
|IA||Waterloo – Cedar Falls||$47020||100||0.12%|
|ID||Boise City – Nampa||$48620||130||0.05%|
|IL||Bloomington – Normal||$52670||90||0.11%|
|IL||Champaign – Urbana||$45780||60||0.06%|
|IL||Chicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)||$71140||4880||0.13%|
|IL||Kankakee – Bradley||$48870||N/A||N/A|
|IL||Lake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)||$72390||640||0.17%|
|IN||Gary (Metro Area)||$52490||230||0.09%|
|IN||Indianapolis – Carmel||$52590||470||0.05%|
|IN||South Bend – Mishawaka||$55600||50||0.04%|
|KY||Lexington – Fayette||$50670||County||$53350||780||0.13%|
|LA||New Orleans – Metairie – Kenner||$50390||290||0.06%|
|LA||Shreveport – Bossier City||$45740||100||0.06%|
|MA||Boston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)||$64160||1850||0.11%|
|MA||Brockton – Bridgewater – Easton (Metro Area)||$60950||180||0.21%|
|MA||Framingham (Metro Area)||$48420||360||0.23%|
|MA||Haverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area)||$65230||90||0.11%|
|MA||Lawrence – Methuen – Salem (Metro Area)||$65760||N/A||N/A|
|MA||Leominster – Fitchburg – Gardner||$62270||100||0.22%|
|MA||Lowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area)||$65170||180||0.15%|
|MA||Taunton – Norton – Raynham (Metro Area)||$71020|