Special Education
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Special Education Overview

Brittany has Down syndrome and is in a special contained classroom. With the help of her teacher, Brittany learns many life skills that will help her live a happy and less dependent life.

Eric is autistic and has a hard time socializing. After several weeks, Eric is able to work better with his classmates because of the teaching aid and the teacher working together to modify instruction.

These are just a few examples of what Special Education teachers do every day. A major in Special Education focuses on designing educational services and teaching children with learning needs or disabilities. You will create individualized learning plans (IEP) and monitor your student's progress while also supporting each student emotionally and making sure that their needs are met. Your students will have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Some classes you could be required to take are behavior management, assistive technology, human development and learning, cultural and linguistic diversity, issues in special populations, issues in contemporary education, mild to moderate disabilities, moderate to severe disabilities, and assessment in special education.

There are many different concentrations within special education. In your major you can focus on hearing or vision impairment, gifted and talented education, emotional disturbances, multiple disabilities, orthopedic and other physical impairments, speech impairment, autism, developmental delays, brain trauma, and more.

Required Skills

As a special education teacher there are certain skills needed in order to have a successful career. You need to be patient and willing to put in extra work and effort. Students with special needs usually require more patience and attention in certain areas depending on their individual needs. Although Special Education teachers are patient and understanding, they must also be assertive in advocating for students to receive the services and support they need. A good sense of humor will be very helpful in this field as well as being able to enjoy small successes. It will help you to be inclusive and celebratory of differences.

This field required you to have excellent interpersonal skills as you will be working with students, as well as other teachers, parents, administrators, and teacher aids. Teachers become heavily invested in the success of their students; you need to be able to persevere through difficult moments in order to achieve the happiness and growth of your student.

In order to become certified, you will need to complete a teacher certification program at your college. This program will prepare you for teaching as well put you in a classroom with a certified teacher to student teach. Along with student teaching, it is a good idea to work as a camp counselor, a coach, or even a tutor with special-needs students to help gain experience.


Special Education teachers can work with a variety of students with different needs. There is a high demand for special education teachers in public and private schools. The growth seems to be mainly for students in kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools because students are getting diagnosed at earlier ages. This career is growing faster than average and will increase about 17 percent by 2020.

Graduates with a degree in educational administration average $36,198 as a starting salary with a mid-career salary of $50,112.

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Example Careers

Here is a small sample of the careers that a degree in Special Education might open up.

Interpreters and Translators
Special Education Teachers, All Other
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School
Special Education Teachers, Middle School
Special Education Teachers, Preschool
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School
Salary data is estimated by College Factual using 2013 data provided by PayScale.
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