Teachers who work specifically with students who are deaf or hard of hearing are classified as special education teachers. They often work in self-contained classrooms or as tutors, but may also work as consultants to general education teachers. Prospective teachers of the hearing impaired must have at least a bachelor's degree in a program that focuses on audiology techniques to use with deaf students or those with cochlear implants, as well as fluency in American Sign Language.
Higher Grades, Higher Pay
Special education teachers working in the United States report salaries ranging from $35,700 per year to $84,400 per year. Those who work with students at higher grades tend to earn a bit more than those working with students at lower grades. Special education teachers working with kindergarten and elementary school students earned an average of $56,700 per year in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those working with middle school students averaged $59,320 per year, and those working with high school students reported an average salary or $60,090 per year.
Private and State Schools Pay Less
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the vast majority of special education teachers are employed by schools owned and operated by local governments, and were paid an average of $59,030 per year in 2012. Those employed by state-owned schools reported a somewhat lower average salary, $56,650 per year. Special education teachers working at private schools earned the least, an average of $50,840 per year.
Northeast Leads in Salaries
Special ed teachers working in the Northeast enjoyed the highest average pay in the nation as of 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The very highest-paid, on average, were high school special ed teachers working in New York, who averaged $76,350 per year. Other high-paying states for special education teachers include Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Alaska. The lowest-paying regions in the nation were the Midwest and the Southeast, with the very lowest average pay -- $39,580 per year -- reported by kindergarten and elementary school special ed teachers employed in South Dakota.
An Occupation in Demand
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in the United States is expected to grow by 14 percent between 2010 and 2020. Special education teachers in kindergarten, elementary and middle schools are expected to see even higher job growth of between 20 and 21 percent, while jobs for high school special education teachers are expected to grow at a rate of 7 percent. The highest rate of job growth is expected to occur in the West and the South. The nation faces a shortage of deaf and hard-of-hearing teachers -- particularly in rural and urban areas.
2016 Salary Information for Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers earned a median annual salary of $57,840 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, special education teachers earned a 25th percentile salary of $46,080, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $73,740, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 439,300 people were employed in the U.S. as special education teachers.