Special Education Teacher Salary

Special education teachers play a vital role within the education system as a whole. They are responsible for motivating students with a variety of special needs. Special education teachers facilitate an environment of acceptance among students with mild to severe cases of emotional, cognitive or physical challenges.

Teachers with special education backgrounds work to instill life skills and basic literacy ability within their students. Furthermore, they apply remedial instruction for each individual child in preschool, elementary, middle school and secondary school settings.

Yet, some special education teachers also work with toddlers and infants. They pull together various educational techniques to facilitate social, behavioral and academic development for all of their students.

Salary Overview

Special education teachers hold more than 470,000 positions within the United States alone. Special education teacher salary ranges are varied within their positions in public and private academic settings. There is also a large variation of salary ranges within individual and social assistance agencies, hospitals, residential facilities and homebound settings.*

Those that have a special education teacher salary often get paid more when working within the field of sports coaching or extracurricular activity settings. The special education teacher salary may be more in summer education or other seasonal job areas.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the recent median for special education teacher salary tops at around $50,000 for those that work within preschool, kindergarten and elementary settings. Furthermore, the middle 50% of special education teachers earn around $40,400 to more than $63,000.*

According to the bureau, special education teachers within the lower 10% range earn salaries that are a little less than $33,770. However, those that are within the upper 10% range earn more than $78,900.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

According to CollegeGrad.com, the median range for a special education teacher salary is around $45,699 in secondary education settings. However, the middle 50% is said to earn nearly $36,900 to $59,300 per year.

Job Description and Outlook

A plan for personal goal setting for each student is put together by the special education teacher in the form of an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. Special education teachers are increasingly working within inclusive settings as they help create step-by-step goals to help students meet the demands of the next grade level.

Although the rewards of establishing meaningful relationships with students are great, the work load of special education teachers can be heavy. Besides the emotional and physically parts of educating students with special needs, they also must incorporate many hours to fill out documents, which gives details on each students progress.

Most special education teachers work on a 10-month schedule. The need for this level of educators is projected to be on the rise. One reason for the projected rise is that parents are expected to demand more assistance in order to keep their children at the optimal level of education. Specifically, the need for qualified special education teachers is expected to increase by 17% between now and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Another variant that creates job openings for special education teachers is caused by replacement need. Some special education teachers switch to general education or they retire. Another reason some special education teachers move away from the field includes starting entirely new career choices.

Even so, the geographic location and specialty within this field are variables that may decrease or increase the need for special education teachers. For instance, some of the more needy places for special education teachers include rural and inner city locations. Yet, teachers with the ability to work with children with multiple or severe disabilities have a greater chance of finding jobs in special education.

Training and Education Requirements

There is undergraduate, graduate, and doctor’s levels of education for the special education teacher. The training for special education teachers is a lot more extensive than regular teaching degree programs.

Although most undergraduate programs require four years of general and specialized course work, some programs have launched fifth-year or graduate level requirements. In general, the last year of undergraduate course work is spent getting classroom training and supervision from a teacher with special education certification.


Teachers with special education certification may work in a variety of fields. Some fields include music therapy, art therapy, para-education, speech and language therapy, audiology, administration of special education and many more.

Teachers can obtain degrees with special certifications or specializations in general special education. However, special board certifications can be obtained for those teachers that desire to express a complete level of commitment to employers. A board certification in special education also demonstrates full dedication to peers, administrators and parents.

Obtaining board certification requires five interdisciplinary subjects:

  1. Special Education Eligibility
  2. IEP Development Principles
  3. Knowledge of Special Education Assessment Procedures
  4. Review of Main Principles in Special Education
  5. Knowledge of Response to Intervention (RTI)

Professional Associations

There is great benefit for special education teachers that get involved with professional associations, organizations and networks. These associations provide social and educational support:

  • Nation Association of Special Education Teachers
  • American Academy of Special Education Professionals
  • The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
  • National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)
  • Technology, Reading, and Learning Difficulties (TRLD) Conference
  • Special Education-Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • CARS Plus- The Organization for Special Educators
  • National Center to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children with Disabilities.

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