Special education teaching degrees can be earned at a number of different levels and with various concentrations. Starting with the bachelor’s degree, special education teachers typically need to complete training in the subject areas that they wish to teach. Once you have completed this training, you will learn how to make adjustments for students who are working from a different learning level.
When earning your master’s degree in special education, you will take courses on curriculum development and administration. You will also need to complete clinical experience and student teaching as part of this program.
If you choose to pursue your doctorate in special education, it is likely that you will already have experience teaching in the field. You can expect to complete advanced coursework in psycho-educational assessment, history and philosophy of special education, research methods and educational law.
Special education is a branch of teaching that works with students who have a wide range of physical, emotional, mental, and learning disabilities. Special education teachers are responsible for modifying or adapting standard school curriculum to meet the needs of these students. As such, this career path requires additional training and education beyond what is required for most teaching positions.
A special education teacher’s salary can vary based on experience and location, but there is strong demand for qualified professionals in this field. The following guide will help you learn more about the degree requirements and potential career paths in special education teaching.
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.
Most special education teachers work in public schools. Others work in private schools or hospitals (inpatient) and residential facilities (outpatient). Some travel between several locations during the day. Most special education teachers work during school hours when students are present. Some teachers may be required to attend meetings during the evenings with parents or guardians of the students, or for professional development; others are required to spend time outside of their regular working day working on lesson plans or grading papers.
The specific requirements for becoming a special education teacher vary from state to state; however, most states require a bachelor’s degree in special education or a related subject area. An individual may also need to complete an educator preparation program that includes supervised student teaching experience. Many states require licensure for special education teachers; however, some do not require it for those working in private schools.
The most common path to becoming a special education teacher requires four years of undergraduate study and two years of graduate study. Undergraduate students must major in special education or a specialized area such as music, art or physical therapy. Those who major in other fields must take additional courses to qualify as a special education teacher. All prospective teachers must also complete a student teaching program comprising at least 10 weeks of supervised practice teaching both individuals and groups in a classroom setting.
In addition to an undergraduate degree, aspiring special education teachers should earn a master’s degree in special education if they want to advance in their careers. A master’s degree may also be required for some positions, including those working with students with more severe disabilities or for entry-level jobs in private schools.
Many special education teachers also collaborate with teacher assistants, psychologists, and social workers to accommodate requirements of students with disabilities. Special education teachers may use technology—including augmentative communication devices—to help students learn. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in special education or in a related area combined with a special education certificate or credential, states require special education teachers in public schools to have a state-issued certification or license.