Special Education Teacher Job Description, Salary, and Skills

Teacher working with students
••• Tetra Images / Getty Images

Special education teachers oversee the education and training for students with physical, emotional, mental, and learning disabilities. Read below for information on what special education teachers do, as well as more specific information about salary, job outlook, skill and educational requirements for special education teachers.

Special Education Teacher Job Description

Special education teachers design and deliver lessons geared towards the individual needs and capabilities of the students under their supervision.

Special education teachers collaborate with other classroom teachers, school psychologists, learning disabilities specialists, speech/hearing specialists, and school social workers to provide an integrated plan for developing the capacities of their students.

Special education teachers set learning goals for each student, assess their progress, and record their evaluations. They update parents on the progress of their students and enlist parental support with behavior control and home activities designed to supplement their classroom lessons.

Special education teachers supervise and train teaching assistants. They help plan for the transition of their students to productive lives after the completion of their secondary education.

Special Education Teacher Work Environment

Many special education teachers work in public or private schools at the elementary, middle and high school level as well as childcare service centers. Others work for residential and day programs that’s serve the needs of disabled or special learners or community based agencies that supplement the instruction provided by schools. Special education teachers teach at the preschool, elementary, middle, or high school level.

Special Education Teacher Work Schedule

Most special education teachers work the full school day. Many special education teachers have summers off, although some work in summer school as well.

Special Education Teacher Education Requirements

Special education teachers in public schools need at least a bachelor’s degree and a state certification or license. Some states require candidates for certification to possess a master’s degree in special education. In addition, many district sate a preference for candidates with a master’s degree. Most states require individuals to pass a certification exam.

Private school teachers need a bachelor’s degree, but do not have to be certified or licensed. Some teachers receive a bachelor’s degree specifically in education, or even special education. Some teachers get licenses in specific disability categories, such as behavior disorders or autism.

Special Education Teacher Training Requirements

Many special education teachers must complete a certain number of hours of student teaching before becoming certified. In student teaching, special education teachers might learn how to plan lessons and manage a classroom under the supervision of a lead teacher.

Special Education Teacher Skill Requirements

You can find a list of skills required of all kinds of teachers here. There are many skills specific to special education teachers, including empathy, patience, and organization.

Special education teachers also must have strong communication skills; they must be able to not only give instructions to students, but also communicate with parents, other teachers, and administrators.

Sample Job Advertisement for a Special Education Teacher

When applying for a job as a special education teacher, be sure to read the job description for a list of the specific skills required for that job. Here’s a typical job advertisement:

  • Reviews assessments by child study team to identify learning, social, psychological and cognitive challenges of assigned students.
  • Develops individual learning plans for students based on their strengths and disabilities.
  • Fosters a positive classroom environment that will allow student learning, expression, and safety.
  • Sets high expectations for student performance.
  • Integrates school curriculum with individual learning plan.
  • Solicits assistance from parents to reinforce study habits and minimize classroom disruptions.
  • Constructs and administers appropriate assessments of learning.
  • Evaluates student performance and communicate with other schools staff regarding areas of need.
  • Communicates with parents regarding student progress towards learning goals.
  • Collaborates with classroom teachers to facilitate performance of special ed. students who are mainstreamed.

Special Education Teacher Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median pay for a special education teacher in 2016 was $57,910.

The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,090.

Special Education Teacher Job Outlook

Employment of special education teachers is expected to grow at a rate of about 8% from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as average for all occupations. This is due to more effective and earlier screening and identification of various physical, emotional, mental, and learning disabilities. Federal and state regulations require school districts to provide free education to disabled students.