Learn How to Become a Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers are a special breed. They are patient, caring and compassionate. If this describes you, get the education you need to join the ranks of the 459,000* dedicated special education teachers across America. As a special education teacher, you'll spend your days praising simple accomplishments and making a true difference in the lives of your students. Learn how to become a special education teacher and help the students who need you most.

Once you learn how to become a special education teacher, you'll work with children who have emotional challenges, learning disabilities, visual or auditory impairments, and physical or intellectual disabilities that affect their ability to function in a regular classroom. You'll enrich their lives by teaching them the skills they need to live healthy lives in and out of the classroom, and find the confidence that only you can instill.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher: Degrees and Certification

To become a special education teacher, you'll need to complete at least a bachelor's degree and a teacher-training program. Many states also require a master's degree in special education. This requires an additional year or more of coursework, and, in some cases, the successful completion of a master's thesis.

You'll also need to get teaching certification. Whether you pursue state or federal teaching certification, most certifying bodies require a college degree, completion of certain education courses, student teaching, and passing an approved exam. The most common teaching exam is the Praxis™.

Once you have your teacher certification, you can decide where, and in what kind of school, you want to teach. You should note, though, that private schools often don't require teacher certification, just the proper teacher education.

Learn How to Become a Special Education Teacher for a Good Salary and Benefits

If you're ready to learn how to become a special education teacher, you'll want to know about special education teacher salaries and benefits.

Special education salaries are competitive, and the career offers great benefits, especially the coveted summers and holidays off. Your salary will depend on the location and type of school where you teach.

Middle and high school special education teachers earn comparable salaries. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2008 the median annual salary for high school special education teachers was $50,810. However, the top 10 percent earned more than $78,000. Teachers generally earn more with higher levels of education, in suburban school districts, and with increasing seniority.

Most schools offer teachers extra pay for coaching sports or for other extracurricular activities. Some teachers also earn extra money either teaching or in other jobs during the summer vacation. Additional education degrees can also increase your salary. Read our article on teacher salaries, to learn more.

Celebrating the Successes of Special Education

Special Education teachers celebrate countless small victories with their students every day. If teachers in mainstream classes appreciate the joys of teaching, that goes ten-fold for teachers of special-education students.

As you might expect, it takes a special person learn how to be a special education teacher. Like other teachers, you'll need to be organized and creative, but to teach special ed, you'll also have to be accepting, even–tempered, and occasionally thick skinned. But to best help your students, you'll also need to be intuitive to effectively solve problems, and be extremely dedicated to your students.

Remember, you can make a difference in the lives of these exceptional people. If you learn how to become a special education teacher, you can help the special-needs child become a confident and capable adult. There's no greater joy than that.

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009

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