How to Become a Special Education Teacher
What Characteristics Do You Need For This Career?
Special education teachers follow many paths into teaching but they often share some personal characteristics, including creativity, enthusiasm and a passion for social justice. Some people enter the field right out of college, sometimes because they have a friend or family member with a disability. Others may have worked as paraprofessionals and discovered the joy of helping students reach individualized goals. Still others decide to change careers, in search of something more fulfilling. Your path might look different and that’s fine – the world needs more special educators! We invite you to bring your skills, passion and desire to empower others to this rewarding career.
What do Special Education Teachers Do?
Special education teachers can positively impact the daily lives and opportunities for their students. Students with disabilities have a broad range of cognitive, emotional and physical support needs and learn in a variety of settings. Special education teachers collaborate with other educators and related service professionals to meet the needs of their students. This is often done by supporting the students to learn alongside non-disabled peers in inclusive classrooms. Special education teachers create and implement Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), which outline the students’ goals, accommodations and services. Because the needs of their students vary greatly, many teachers decide that they want to build additional expertise around a disability or service (i.e., autism, transition services).
Enrolling in a Program That Fits your Needs
Most special education teachers in the U.S. work in public school classrooms. Since all states require public school teachers to be certified or licensed in the subject and grade level they intend to teach, it’s important to find a state-approved teacher preparation program that will meet your needs.
All states have some basic requirements: a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA, completion of a teacher preparation program (including specific coursework and student teaching or practicum), passing scores on standardized licensure exams, and a criminal background check.
At The University of Kansas, we offer many different online programs in special education. Our program in high incidence special education (mild-to-moderate needs) is designed for people who already hold an initial teaching license and want to add an endorsement in special education.
KU also offers online programs in autism, special education leadership, and secondary special education and transition. These programs are not approved for licensure but may be of interest to teachers who want to learn more about these specialized topics, or for people who are working as teachers or advocates in hospitals, residential facilities or community agencies, where licensure is not required.
Getting Licensed and Finding a Job
Special education is an area of high demand for licensed teachers across the United States and has been for many years. Graduates of KU’s special education programs teach all over the U.S. and throughout the world.
Check with your state’s licensing agency to see what they require for licensure or certification in your home state.
Set out on Your New Career Path
If you’re interested in helping special education students develop academic and life skills, consider how the online graduate programs in special education at the University of Kansas in autism can help you accomplish your goals and enable you to fully support your students.