What’s the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Special Education Teacher?

Do you have a passion for educating young people? Do you care about helping people with disabilities? A career as a special education teacher might be a great fit for you.

Special education teacher is one of the top 10 highest paying careers in education. The salary range is $40,480 to $63,500 per year. These classroom instructors have the potential to make a big difference in the lives of the students who most need help. This  makes the profession personally and professionally rewarding, as well. Like other teachers, special education teachers need a college education. Often, the best degree path for becoming a special education teacher is earning a degree in special education specifically.

A Special Education Teacher’s Education

For aspiring special education teachers, a degree program in special education is perhaps the most popular choice. However,  the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that some special education teachers study general elementary education.

A degree in special education is preferred  because it covers information relevant to special education teachers in great depth. For example, coursework in a special education college degree program includes studies of various types of disabilities students may have. You learn teaching methods to tailor lessons to help students with disabilities better grasp the information. If you’re in a special education degree program, you learn how to:

  • manage problem behavior
  • evaluate student performance
  • create personalized educational programs for individual special education students
  • legal issues to be aware of

Special education teachers, like teachers of other subjects and grade levels, must often complete a student-teaching requirement to gain real-world classroom experience.

A bachelor’s degree in in special education is adequate preparation for some teaching jobs, but other positions may require that special education teachers have an advanced degree. Programs like Master of Arts or Science in Education (M.Ed.) allow students to study special education at the graduate level.

Gaining a License

Most special education teachers work in public school according to the BLS, Special education teachers must have a license or certification. Licensing requirements vary from state to state but usually include:

  • a college education
  • completion of student-teaching
  • a background check
  • good grades

Depending on your state, you may be able to earn a license that allows you to work with all special education students. Or you may have to earn different licenses to handle students with different disabilities.

Work as a special education teacher can be challenging, but it can also be very fulfilling if you have the patience, resourcefulness and communication skills to help students with disabilities. The higher pay, as compared to many other types of teachers, is just one of the benefits of this rewarding job. Special education teachers make a difference to students at every grade level. Their work contributes to disabled students leading the most independent and fulfilling life possible.

Further Reading:

30 Great Small Colleges for a Teaching Degree

Brenda Rufener
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Julie McCaulley
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Carrie Sealey-Morris
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