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What Schooling Is Needed To Be a Special Education Teacher?

Looking to become a special education teacher? Here are the educational requirements you may need, depending upon the nature of the job you're looking for.

Being a teacher can be a rewarding career and there are a variety of opportunities available for those that enter the education field of employment. A special education teacher is an example of this and they typically work with children of all ages that can have a variety of disabilities. The majority of teachers involved in special education work with youths that have mild to medium disabilities, although some will also be responsible for teaching those with more serious handicaps. In either case specialized schooling is typically required to train a teacher in the requirements of educating those with special needs.

High School

A career as a special education teacher requires a college education, with a bachelor’s degree typically being the minimum requirement. For high school students that have an idea that they would like to pursue a career in special needs teaching, achieving the grades required to undertake a university course in special education is the standard way of moving forward. This can typically vary depending on the entrance requirements of the university, and it can therefore be worth checking these out for courses on offer in a variety of universities that offer special education teaching programs.

Degree in special education

There are a number of colleges and universities throughout the country that offer degree courses in special education. This ranges from the minimum undergraduate degree course, which are typically around 4 years in length, to master’s and doctoral degrees which require an additional time of study. Generally there is some overlap with the training requirements for all teachers, although those studying a special education program will typically undertake additional training designed to prepare them with the capabilities of teaching those with special needs. Programs can vary, with some offering generalized training, while others offer the opportunity to specialize in a particular field of special needs teaching. Details of some of the colleges and universities that have special education teacher degrees on offer can be found at EduChoices and a2zcolleges.

Approved teacher education program

In addition to successfully achieving a degree, a requirement in many states can be to undertake an approved teacher education program. In many cases these days, this can be incorporated into a degree course and typically involves supervised teacher training with special needs students. The actual requirements for the approved education program can vary, since each state government typically has its own standards for school teachers.

Education license

To work as a special needs teacher in any state it is a requirement to obtain a license. These are generally issued by the state board of education or, in a number of cases, by a licensure advisory committee. Those applying for a license will typically need the minimum of an undergraduate degree plus the approved teacher education program, although the actual qualifications can vary from state to state, with some requiring that at least a master’s degree is held by the applicant. In some states a general license to work as a special education teacher is available, although in others licenses for different fields within special needs education can be granted. When applying for a license an applicant may also have to undertake a professional assessment test as part of the process.

Alternative schooling route

While many people will go through the traditional route to becoming a special education teacher, others may decide to enter the field at a later stage. There are options for doing this and many states have programs available that are designed to encourage people to enter the field of special needs education. These are typically open to anyone that has completed a bachelor’s degree, which does not necessarily have to have majored in education. To qualify as a special needs teacher, an applicant will typically undertake a program of further education and supervised training for a period of around 1 to 2 years. Again, the actual requirements will vary depending on the teaching guidelines of a state government. However, alternative licensure programs offer the chance for those that do not have a background of being trained in teaching to enter the special needs teaching profession.

Becoming a special education teacher provides the opportunity to educate ad enhance the life of kids that have a range of disabilities. This can be a fulfilling occupation and there are a few ways to enter the field of special needs teaching. Some of the details of the schooling required are provided above and further details can be found at the United States Department of Labor.


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