Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.
Most special education teachers work in public schools, teaching students at the preschool, elementary, middle, and high school level. Others work in private schools, childcare services, and other institutions. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, but some work year round.
How to Become a Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers in public schools are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Teachers in private schools typically need a bachelor’s degree, but may not be required to have a state license or certification.
Employment of special education teachers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by continued demand for special education services. Many job opportunities will stem from the need to replace teachers who leave the occupation.
This occupation supported 442,800 jobs in 2012 and 450,600 jobs in 2014, reflecting an increase of 1.8%. In 2012, this occupation was projected to increase by 6.0% in 2022 to 469,400 jobs. As of 2014, to keep pace with prediction, the expected number of jobs was 448,100, compared with an observed value of 450,600, 0.6% higher than expected. This indicates current employment trends are about on track with the 2012 trend within this occupation. In 2014, this occupation was projected to increase by 6.4% in 2024 to 478,799 jobs. Linear extrapolation of the 2012 projection for 2022 results in an expected number of 474,700 jobs for 2024, 0.9% lower than the 2014 projection for 2024. This indicates expectations for future employment trends are about on track with the 2012 trend within this occupation.