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Special Education Teacher - Training & Careers

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Special Education TeacherSpecial education teachers can make a difference in the lives of disabled students and their families. They work at the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels, focusing on students with learning disabilities, mental retardation, deafness and blindness, autism, speech or language impairments, emotional disturbances, hearing or visual impairments, and orthopedic impairments. It takes a talented, devoted individual to become an effective special education teacher.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 433,000 special education teachers held jobs in 2002, with some 90 percent employed in public schools. The BLS predicts a faster than average growth in jobs in special education through 2012, with the best prospects for specialists in teaching students with speech or language impairments and learning disabilities. Median salaries for special education teachers in 2002 fell between $34,160 and $54,340, depending upon school districts and region in the country.

Launching Your Career in Special Education

Every state in the Union requires specific licensing for special education teachers. Each state has different requirements, however. In some states, you can begin work after earning a general education credential for K-12 teaching. Other states require teachers to earn a general education license first and an additional license in special education thereafter.

In general, most states require a bachelor's degree with a certification in education, along with classroom experience and special education preparation. Some districts require a master's degree in special education. You can expect to take classes in educational psychology, child growth and development, and specialty courses detailing skills needed for teaching students based on emotional disorders or physical handicaps.

Because of a dire need for special education teachers, many districts throughout the country offer emergency or alternative certificates and licenses to expedite the preparation process.

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