How to Advance (Advancement)
Special education teachers can advance to become supervisors or administrators. They also may earn advanced degrees and become instructors in colleges that prepare others to teach special education. In some school systems, highly experienced teachers can become mentors to less experienced teachers.
Special education teachers held a total of about 473,000 jobs in 2008. Nearly all worked in public and private educational institutions. A few worked for individual and social assistance agencies or residential facilities, or in homebound or hospital environments.
Employment is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be excellent because many districts report problems finding adequate numbers of licensed special education teachers.
The number of special education teachers is expected to increase by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Although student enrollments in general are expected to grow more slowly than in the past, continued increases in the number of special education students needing services will generate a greater need for special education teachers.
The number of students requiring special education services has grown steadily in recent years because of improvements that have allowed learning disabilities to be diagnosed at earlier ages. In addition, legislation emphasizing training and employment for individuals with disabilities and educational reforms requiring higher standards for graduation have increased demand for special education services. Also, the percentage of foreign-born special education students is expected to grow as teachers become more adept in recognizing disabilities in that population. Finally, more parents are expected to seek special services for children who have difficulty meeting the new, higher standards required of students.
In addition to job openings resulting from growth, a large number of openings will result from the need to replace special education teachers who switch to teaching general education, change careers altogether, or retire. At the same time, many school districts report difficulty finding sufficient numbers of qualified teachers. As a result, special education teachers should have excellent job prospects.
The job outlook does vary by geographic area and specialty. Although most areas of the country report difficulty finding qualified applicants, positions in inner cities and rural areas usually are more plentiful than job openings in suburban or wealthy urban areas. Student populations also are expected to increase more rapidly in certain parts of the country, such as the South and West, resulting in increased demand for special education teachers in those regions. In addition, job opportunities may be better in certain specialtiesófor example, teachers who work with children with multiple disabilities or those who work with children with severe disabilities such as autismóbecause of large increases in the enrollment of special education students classified into those categories. Legislation encouraging early intervention and special education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers has created a need for early childhood special education teachers. Bilingual special education teachers and those with multicultural experience also are needed, to work with an increasingly diverse student population.
Median annual wages in May 2008 of special education teachers who worked primarily in preschools, kindergartens, and elementary schools were $50,020. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,480 and $63,500. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,980
Median annual wages of middle school special education teachers were $50,810. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,720 and $63,480. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,200.
Median annual wages of special education teachers who worked primarily in secondary schools were $51,340. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,810 and $65,680. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,000.
In 2008, about 64 percent of special education teachers belonged to unions or were covered by union contracts.
In most schools, teachers receive extra pay for coaching sports and working with students in extracurricular activities. Some teachers earn extra income during the summer, working in the school system or in other jobs.
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