Do you have a soft spot for children with disabilities? Do you feel that you could be beneficial to disabled children in a school system? If you said yes to both of these questions then you should consider pursuing a career as a special education teacher. If this sounds like an appealing career option for you, then you will first need to obtain your bachelor's degree in special education, with an emphasis in special education. This bachelor's degree program will prepare you to work with children who have emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, mental handicaps, and physical handicaps. As you probably already assume, you will first have to obtain your high school diploma or the equivalent before you can begin working towards your degree.
Once you have selected the higher learning institution that you plan to attend, you will likely need to provide them with a copy of your high school transcript, a copy of your ACT scores, and letters of recommendation that will encourage your admission into an educational degree program. Keep in mind, to become a special education teacher you will need to obtain your bachelor's degree in education, with an emphasis in special education. Of course, you will first need to complete core curriculum courses that are typical for most any degree programs. Also, most states require their prospective special education graduates to choose a specific area of focus. Common choices for focus areas are: children with emotional disturbances, autism spectrum learners, students with learning disabilities, and physically handicapped children..
The course work that you will be required to complete will be specifically tailored to your chosen area of focus. Of course, like with any bachelor's degree program in an educational field of study you will be required to complete a semester of student teaching directly prior to graduation. This semester, which is similar to an internship, will allow you to apply and utilize the knowledge and skills that you have spent the last few years learning from your instructors. It will also serve as the last step that you must complete before you can completely finish your program. This semester's requirements will make it possible for you to ease into your career as a special education teacher with the aid of an experienced mentoring teacher by your side.
Following your college graduation you will need to earn a passing score on the Praxis exams in order to obtain your license. It is important to understand that different states have different licensure requirements, therefore, it is a good idea to know what is required by the state you reside in (or the state you plan to teach in). One last factor to consider; many four year colleges and universities may offer some of the classes that you are required to complete in an online learning format. While this type of instructional approach does not suit all learners, for some it makes it possible to work towards a degree while maintaining a life outside of school.
You have decided to earn your special needs degree because you want to make a difference in someone’s lives. Take that first important step and request information from any of the schools that offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education. Your degree will allow you to take the next step which would be to get licensed in your state as a special education teacher. Some of the areas you’ll study in school include:
- Special Education
- Planning and Presentations
- Day Planning for Special Needs
- Diversity Education
- Moderate Disabilities
- Visual and Hearing Impaired
Sometimes special education teachers are hired in public schools depending on the severity of the disability. Most para’s will teach as tutors or in private schools. Additional career paths include:
Para in Public School
Special Needs Schools
According to the BLS being a special education teacher is in high demand. The industry is expected to grow over 17% over the next few years. The average salary is $51,000 and you can earn more in the private sector than in public schools.
Jody Wilson, Special Needs Teacher
I first started teaching 10 years ago and taught 1st grade. I really enjoyed teaching but after a few years something was missing. A position opened up at my local school district for a special education teacher that focused on K-3. I interviewed and received an offer within a few weeks.
It took me a semester to really feel comfortable with my new surroundings and how I had to alter my teaching methods to fit special needs children. The first thing I do when I start a new school year is take assessments on each child. Sometimes I’ve given files if the child attended a different school so I can see how they progressed. I want to get a feeling of their emotional state including any behavioral disorders. This allows me to come up with a lesson plan and goal for each child on what I’d like to get accomplished each year.
Each day I start my lesson plan with a goal in mind. Each day I update my teacher parent program that keeps the parents of the children updated progress reports. Our school has 3 different para teachers and I’m the leader for all of them. I have weekly meetings with each of them where I go over the goals of the school and deal with any issues that come up. I think the hardest thing or challenge I have to deal with is parents. It isn’t that they aren’t helpful but sometimes we try to implement steps to help the children and the parents fight us with their own opinion on what their child needs.