Few teachers grow rich as a result of their teaching vocation but they aren't hurting financially either.
A special education teacher salary is usually competitive and is complemented by a solid benefits package. Teaching brings other rewards as well, especially when working closely with exceptional students whose day-to-day progress can be a great source of inspiration.
But since you can't live off emotional rewards alone, it's wise to research special education salaries before pursuing a career path in special education.
Location, location, location
Your special education salary will depend on the location and type of school in which you choose to make your living. A public school position will offer a package complete with paid summer vacations and a pension.
However, the details will depend upon the city and the type of school in which you teach. In general, suburban schools pay more than urban or inner-city schools, but it can be harder to find jobs in the higher paying districts.
Teachers holding special ed endorsements don't generally make higher salaries than those in traditional classrooms, but some districts do pay a bit more.
Like other teachers, if you are seeking a position at the high end of the salary spectrum, you'll need to build up experience and earn an advanced degree, most likely in a specialized area of special ed.
Administrators and curriculum coordinators tend to earn more than classroom teachers and aides, so if you want to eventually bring in a six-figure salary, you'll need to work toward an administration position.
Median Annual Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for special education teachers is $55,060. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Special Education Administration
Because administrative positions require advanced degrees, such as a master's or a doctorate, and a substantial amount of field experience, these positions pay more than classroom teaching.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for elementary, middle and high school principals is $87,760. As always, actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. For more information on school administration positions, see our school leadership resource center.
Special Education Teacher Benefits
Something else to keep in mind is that most classroom teaching positions come with the added benefit of lengthy summer vacations, during which you can travel or supplement your income with a summer job (either teaching or something completely different).
And don't forget, you will enjoy winter and spring breaks, a pension plan, comprehensive health care and life insurance benefits, and supplemental pay for working with students in extracurricular activities.
The BLS calculates that the number of special education teaching positions will increase by 6 percent through 2020, which is slower than average. This demand is aided by the retirement of current special education teachers. Many school districts are already experiencing special ed teacher shortages, so job prospects in the area are already proving strong.