Special education teachers instruct and mentor students of all ages who have mental, physical or learning disabilities. These professionals accommodate general education lessons according to a student’s needs and develop and implement Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). They work with students in a class, in small groups or one-to-one, providing lessons and activities that help students develop academically, socially and personally.
Duties and responsibilities
- Teach and mentor students with mental, physical or learning disabilities
- Evaluate student's skills and educational needs
- Adjust and accommodate education lessons according to student’s needs
- Develop and implement Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
- Update IEPs according to student’s progress
- Provide lessons and activities that help students develop academically, socially and personally
- Keep track and records of student’s performance and progress
- Report student’s performance and progress to parents or carers
- Oversee teaching assistants working with students with disabilities
- Grade student’s papers
- Plan lessons and curriculum
- Use assistive technology tools, like Braille writers
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Standard school hours
Special education teachers work in school classrooms, resource centres, hospitals or students’ homes. They may also work outdoors during times of play.
While helping students develop academically can be extremely rewarding, the job can also be stressful and emotionally draining.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Bachelor’s degree in special education
Both public and private schools require that special education teachers have a bachelor’s degree preferably in special education, although some schools will accept applicants with a degree in in elementary education or a specialised area, like English or maths.
That said, you will need to pursue at least a minor in special education. Some states, meanwhile, require aspiring teachers to complete a master's programme in special education.
All states require licensure or certification in the particular grade level that they teach. Professionals in private schools do not need such licensure.
Those with a bachelor’s degree can gain certification after completing alternative programmes that cover teaching methods and child development.
With experience, you can become a mentor to less experienced individuals starting out in the same position, or you can progress to a lead teacher role in the schools you work for.
Some special education teachers decide to become school counselors or even school principals.
SourcesBureau of Labor Statistics