The first step towards entering the teaching profession is a bachelor degree in special education. At a four-year university, you will learn about pediatrics, child development and special education policy. Occasionally, you will be required to take a fifth year of college where you will specialize in a field like language therapy or physical therapy.
Many special education teachers begin their careers as elementary school teachers. After finishing a bachelor’s degree, most go on to become principals or school counselors at both public and private schools. You can also find employment as a teacher’s aide, a school psychologist and even as a private school librarian. While there are no federal laws requiring special education teachers to be certified, it has been found that those who teach special education children often have more rewarding jobs, are often paid higher salaries and enjoy more personal freedom than their colleagues in other special education classrooms. Check out the article on becoming a special ed teacher.
A special education teacher has the option of being a full-time or part-time teacher. Those who work as part-time have to abide by a set of regulations, which call for a certain number of hours of instruction each week. This includes both classroom teaching and field trips. Those who choose to be full-time special education teachers must still be supervised by a licensed registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse.
The National Association of School Psychologists estimates that there are approximately 13 million students with special needs, such as auditory processing disorders and gastrointestinal problems, in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are only nine full-time general education teachers and three part-time special education teachers. Those school year administrators make up the majority of teachers in both categories. When a child starts out in a typical school year, most elementary and middle school students have at least one special education teacher on their first school year’s team.
In order to teach special education students, many states require that aspiring teachers complete either a master’s degree or a PhD in special education, along with providing extensive experience in a specific classroom. Other states, such as Ohio and Minnesota, don’t require any form of advanced educational training or certification, but do require that the teacher work under a current licensed school district. To become a special education teacher, a teacher should be very organized and detail-oriented, and be able to manage multiple students with different needs. Many of these instructors also have professional work experience in the professional worlds of teaching and school administration.
Once a teacher has gained classroom management skills, he or she can apply to teach in preschool, kindergarten or K-12 education classes. A preschool teacher helps children prepare for kindergarten and works with parents and other caregivers to get children ready for this new level of school. A preschool teacher may also work directly with children who are entering pre-k education, helping them develop and meet academic expectations while meeting fun and social work activities. A K-12 education teacher oversees various aspects of a child’s educational development, from grade one to twelfth grade. Some states allow educators to collaborate with students’ teachers or coaches in elementary or special education classes, while other states have no limitations.