Special Education Teacher Job Profile

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Special education teaching jobs are designed to assist learners with special needs to achieve a greater level of personal sufficiency and success in both the community and in schools. Special education teachers use teaching procedures which are systematically monitored. They also use adapted materials and equipment meant to assist the person with a special need. Special education teachers work with students with special needs, which vary from learning disability to physical and developmental disability in addition to mental disability (Down syndrome, autism, mental retardation) and giftedness.

Special education teachers do not only start working with school going children. They also work with newborns right after birth, using the early developmental methods. They also work with post school ages during their adulthood.

Special education teachers have to do a kind of therapeutic work and academic work at the same time. In therapeutic work, the teacher deals with the medical and psychological approach, while in academic work the teacher uses the educational approach. This makes a special education teacher different from a normal teacher. A special education teacher has to concentrate on the following developmental areas in order to come out with the best educational conditions; social skills, behavioral skills, language skills, cognitive skills, emotional skills, academic development, and self-care skills. Special education teaching jobs demand a teacher to liaise with doctors, social workers, and psychologists in order to be successful in his or her career. The knowledge of anatomy, neurology, sociology, pathology, and psychology is paramount to a special education teacher to be able to make the best developmental plans for a child. This therefore means that they have a special knowledge of diverse sciences.

Education, Training and Other Qualifications

Special education teachers in the USA undergo a longer period of learning compared to general teachers. Bachelor degree programs normally take 4 years which covers general and special courses in special education. An increasing number of learning institutions are requiring a fifth year of learning, or other preparations at graduate level. These among many are the courses offered in a special education program, child growth and development, educational psychology, and legal issues of special education. To be recognized as a special education teacher, one has to possess a bachelor degree which is an approved preparation program for a teacher. In addition, many states do require a master degree. In the USA, many states offer general special education licenses according to different disabilities categories. In other states licenses are offered in accordance with the different specialties in special education. Colleges and universities across the USA offer special education programs in bachelor, masters, and doctoral levels.

In addition to the academic qualifications, special education teachers require patience, understanding of the students’ individual needs, and the ability to accept their differences. Teachers must be creative and be excellent communicators who are able to apply different methods of teaching in order to take care of students’ individual differences. He or she should have the ability to cooperate with other people because a special education teaching job entails dealing with parents, school administrator, other teachers and the school faculty.

Nature of Work

Normally special education teachers work with the children and the youth who have different types of disabilities. A small percentage of special education teachers work with students with mental retardation. In this case, special education teachers are supposed to teach the learner basic literacy and life skills. The greatest percentage of special education teachers work with learners with mild to moderate disabilities. In this case, a teacher applies the general curriculum, or he or she modifies it to meet the learner’s individual needs.

There are various disabilities that make a person to be considered for special education. These are: language impairment, mental retardation, hearing impairment, visual impairment, combined blindness and deafness, traumatic brain injury, multiple disabilities, and orthopedic impairment among others. The special education teacher has the responsibility of classifying students according to the above mentioned categories to be able to carry out his teaching duties well by working with specific groups.

Special education teaching jobs entail assisting in developing an individualized education program for every student. This program helps a teacher to set personalized goals for each student. The individualized education program is always tailored to the student’s learning ability and styles. The program includes a change or transition plan showing specific steps to prepare students in special education program for middle school or high school. In the case of older students, the change is geared towards a job or post secondary studies. Review of the individualized education program is necessary. The teacher should therefore involve the student’s parents, the school administrator and the student general education teacher, if necessary. Special education teaching jobs call for the teacher’s cooperation with the parents, to inform them of the progress of the child in school and also to enhance and promote continuous learning, both in school and at home.


According to a research done in the year 2002, special education teachers occupied a total of four hundred and thirty three thousand jobs. However, the greatest majority of special education teachers worked in public schools. Seven percent (7%) of the teachers worked in private schools. Half of the total number worked in elementary schools. A few of the teachers worked for social assistance agencies or individuals, and some in hospitals or home bound environments.


In 2004, median teachers working in preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools earned $43, 570. Median earnings for those working in middle schools was $44, 160 while median earning for teachers working in secondary schools was $45,700

Job Outlook

Special education teaching jobs are likely to increase faster than average for all jobs through the year 2012. Continued increase in the number of students needing special education will bring about additional positions for special education, despite the slow down in students enrolment for special education programs. Enforcement of legislation calling for employment and training of individuals with special needs or disabilities will also bring about an increased demand for people to fill in positions for special education teachers. Special education teachers who move to a general teaching program will leave positions which will need to be filled, therefore calling for additional professions in the field of special education thus creating more employment. Retirement of older special teachers will also create more job openings to be filled by other special education teachers. In addition to this, many schools are currently reporting a shortage of qualified teachers in special education. Due to this, teachers in special education teaching jobs should have job prospects which are really excellent.
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