Special Education

Special education calls for special teachers. People have different reasons for becoming special ed teachers: they grew up with an autistic brother, they want to help special populations, they have the missionary spirit, you name it. What’s your reason for wanting to go into Special Ed?

Special Education

Special education calls for special teachers. People have different reasons for becoming special ed teachers: they grew up with an autistic brother, they want to help special populations, they have the missionary spirit, you name it. What’s your reason for wanting to go into Special Ed?

Online Degrees for Special Ed Teachers

All special ed teachers need to be licensed to teach in their state. To teach special ed, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in special education. You’ll also need to do supervised student teaching and pass exams. With the exception of your student teaching, which must be done on-site, many teachers today get their teaching degrees online. And there are online special ed programs at the bachelor’s and master’s level.

Salary and Job Growth

Annual Median Salary


Special Education Teachers

graphic supporting preschool kindergarten salary

Special Education Job Outlook


Salary Information

Special ed teachers have a challenging job, but they also make a good salary for what they do. And the benefits don’t stop at the paycheck. Special ed teachers find their jobs very rewarding; they get summers off to travel, take continuing ed courses, or work to earn even more money.

The median salary for special ed teachers across the U.S. was $57,910 in 2016, the last year for which data exists.

Job Growth Information

Teachers help their students in many ways, but special teachers are a breed apart.

Employment of special ed teachers is projected to grow 8 percent through 2026, adding 28,100 positions within that time frame. Additional jobs will become available as more senior teachers retire, or mid-career teachers move on to other professions and roles.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook.
*The salary information listed is based on national median salaries, unless noted. 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.

Teaching Career Skills

You're compassionate and want to help

You want to help students succeed

You're a creative problem solver

You're a natural teacher

You like studying and learning

You are proud of your work

You love working as part of a team

You believe in the power of education

Work Environment

What grades can I teach?

Special needs don’t discriminate, so special ed teachers teach kids of all ages. The grade you teach depends on the age group you relate to most. Some people know they want to teach younger students while others prefer working with middle and high school students.

What's the job like?

Special teachers are behavior and personality experts, and they have special training so they can effectively work with students from the whole spectrum. No learning, emotional, mental or physical disability is too challenging for this dedicated lot.

That said, the job is as diverse as the student base, and the challenges—and solutions you find—will change from class to class and year to year.

Day in the Life

Like other teachers, special ed teachers follow a curriculum, develop lesson plans and teach classes that are adapted to their students’ needs. They develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) so that the needs of each individual student are met. They may teach basic literacy and communication techniques to students with severe disabilities. Like other teachers, they communicate with parents, fill out report cards, and give students the specialized attention they need.

Program Overview

Special ed students have their particular needs, and they need more support than most students. That’s where you come in.

But first, you’ll need to get a bachelor’s degree (and in some states, a master’s) so that you can learn how to teach this high-needs group. A supervised student-teaching internship is also required, and it will let you see what the job is really like. This is where you’ll work under a mentor who can give you support as you’re learning teaching techniques customized for special ed students.

What You’ll Study

A bachelor’s degree in special education will teach you how to be a successful teacher, but for some positions, you’ll need to earn a master’s with a concentration in special education.

In a bachelor’s degree, you’ll take the same core courses as other undergraduates, but you’ll then specialize in special ed, with a heavy component of psychology and social and behavioral sciences.

Length of Program

To become a special education teacher, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in special ed. Most people finish their bachelor’s degree in four years, but some take longer, depending on their circumstances. And if you go on to get your master’s, it’ll take about two more years. But don’t forget the many convenient online options for getting a bachelor’s or master’s in special ed.

Sample Classes

As a future special education teacher, you’ll take specialized coursework in special ed, like the following courses:

  • Introduction to Teaching Special Ed
  • Principles of SpEd Instruction
  • Diversity and Behavioral Science
  • Inclusive Classroom Environments
  • Legal Issues of SpEd
  • Classroom Management
  • Legal and Ethical Issues for Teachers
  • Assessment of Students with Disabilities

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Find a Special Education Program Near You

Tell us a little about yourself and we’ll connect you with schools that offer special education programs.