How Do You Become a Special Education Teacher?

Special education teachers usually go beyond the responsibilities and duties that comes with teaching in a traditional classroom. If you want to help children with disabilities and have the patience to deal with circumstances that may arise, these steps can help you pursue a career in teaching special education.

Ask yourself if you’re right for the job

 Like most things, teaching special education may not be for everybody. For this type of job, you need to have an abundance of patience and exceptional organization and communication skills. You will need to be able to able to adapt to different forms of teaching styles to suit each individual student’s learning style.

As well, you will help develop each individual student’s educational plans, thus a strong understanding of the each individual student’s needs and learning style is needed. However, teaching special education is more than these tasks–it also requires a lot of work, care, respect and understanding.

 Get a degree (or two, in some states)

Before doing so, it is important to research different colleges and universities to see which program is the best fit for you. It is also extremely important for you to check the specific requirements of becoming a special education teacher, as it varies from state to state (for example, some states require you to get a Masters degree before becoming a special education teacher). Doing this research will allow you to best plan your academic future accordingly.

If you wish to become a special education teacher straight out of university, you will need a degree in special education (either a Bachelor’s, or, in some cases as mentioned above, a Master’s). If you have a degree in another field, you can get a special education license.

 Besides learning how to teach subjects such as English or mathematics, you will also learn about child assessment, educational psychology, communication techniques, and behavior support.

Get certified

 Along with the credentials that comes with earning a degree (or more), you will also need to get a teaching certification, or a licensure. This is required by all public schools, but only some private schools. The tools and resources to get a certification will be offered by the state or school district you are applying to.

In order to receive the certification, you will need to decide what grade level and where you want to teach special education. You will also need to decide what kind of certification you want: either a general certification that allows you to teach a range of special needs students, or a certification for a specific disability category. You will then be prompted to apply for a Teacher Preparation Program (make sure you have all the requirements for the program you are applying for; some calls for passing specific exams).

It is important to note that there are some state-specific requirements and/or exceptions that applies for each program, depending on which state you are getting certified for. Upon completion of the program, you can then apply for your initial credential with your state. Once you are certified and have taught for 3 or more years, you can either renew or get your permanent credentials, depending on the state you are working in. It is worth noting that there are some (though few) states that allows you to teach immediately following graduating university or college under the supervision of a veteran teacher.

Specialize (optional)

While you are not required to specialize, as all special education teachers are certified to teach in six different subject areas, a specialization for a specific disability can increase your salary and potential for getting a job due to demand. You can specialize in the following areas: Mild/Moderate Disabilities, Moderate/Severe Disabilities, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Visual Impairments, Physical and Health Impairments, and Early Childhood Special Education.

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