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Special Education Teacher

Career Overview

Special education teachers work with children and adolescents who have disabilities with varying degrees of severity. Some teachers in this field work with children who are severely handicapped by autism or mental retardation. However most special education teachers work in public school systems. with children who have mild disabilities that require close engagement with a teacher.

Speech impediments, hearing problems, emotional volatility, orthopedic disabilities or traumatic brain injuries can cause a child to require special education. Most schools today try to integrate their special education students into the student body, so in some schools special education teachers often work with their charges in a standard classroom setting. In other instances special education students meet in their own classroom.


Education requirements for special education teachers vary by state. Until recently almost all states required a master's degree and many still do. However the shortage of teachers has resulted in some states developing training regimens so that people with a bachelor's degree can learn teaching skills without a master's program. Special education teachers must be licensed by the state and meet the state's combination of education and training requirements. Some states license by category, such as special education in speech, in behavioral disorders, or in learning disorders.


Federal data shows that there were 459,000 special education teachers working in 2006. About half worked in elementary schools; the balance were spread among middle schools and secondary schools.

Job Outlook

The demand for special education teachers will grow more quickly than the average growth rate for jobs overall. Though school enrollments will climb slowly the need for special education teachers will be driven by earlier diagnoses of childhood disorders and by legislation at the state and federal level mandating training for young people with minor disorders.


Lowest 10% $27,711

Median Salary $48,259

Highest 10% $69,208

Source: Salary.com

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