Children learn skills in different ways and at different speeds. While some may master a task on the first or second try, for others, that same task may take weeks or months to perfect. Many factors contribute to a child's success in school, and key among them is opportunity and engagement.
Did you have memorable teachers from your past or the ones who were special to you? They easily established rapport with the classroom, and they paid special attention to those students who were falling behind. Maybe they acted as coaches, inspiring students to be the best versions of themselves, and they seemed always to be kind, patient, and caring.
Is this the type of teacher you aspire to be? If you have a bachelor's degree in education or a related field, and you wish to learn new skills and techniques to help you become a better teacher, earning your special education certification could be a sound investment in your future. University of the Cumberlands can help you get there.
Students need access to the right tools and the right professionals if they're to reach their full potential. This is especially true for students who have different abilities or special needs. As a special education teacher or specialist, you'll be well positioned to help these students experience a higher quality of life and education. You may be a source of comfort and support to their families, and you may be instrumental in advocating for their rights within the community and the school district they attend.
Why Pursue a Career in Special Education?
There's a distinct type of satisfaction that comes with helping others, especially when those you're helping are children. As a special education teacher, you're in a unique position to provide educational services to students with developmental, behavioral, or physical disabilities. These include services that they would not otherwise receive.
In today's educational system, areas of the United States are experiencing critical shortages in qualified teachers and special education teachers in particular. For students, this means less assistance at school to help them succeed. In some locations, such as Omaha, Nebraska, shortages are so severe that schools have been forced to forego offering special education programs altogether, prompting families to transfer to another school district or forfeit the extra educational services for their differently-abled child.
Because of these shortages, however, graduates who are trained in special education may benefit in several ways:
- Wider availability of jobs
- Better benefits
- Higher annual salaries
- Increased job satisfaction
If you've always had a knack for helping others and are patient, kind, and enjoy seeing others succeed, pursuing a degree in special education could be the best decision to make for your career.
Special Education Career Outlook
In 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were just over 498,000 professionals working as special education teachers. Through the year 2032, openings are expected to remain steady. In fact, roughly 33,500 jobs should open up each year in this field. These statistics encompass only those working as educators in the field and don't account for related positions.
Potential Types of Employers
Although many who have training in special education go on to work for public or private school districts, others work in peripheral occupations, such as with state or government agencies, rehabilitation centers, and clinics or in private care.
Skills Gained With a Special Education Degree
Earning a degree in special education will leave you with a variety of important skills that are easily transferred between jobs. Though most people who hear the term "special education" instantly think of teachers, there are positions in this field that don't focus on the classroom. The skills you'll gain from earning your special education certification could increase your job marketability in other areas, too.
Skills in curriculum design give you a better understanding of how classes work together to create interdisciplinary learning and give children real-world skills. As a curriculum designer, you'll be instrumental in putting together materials that guide classroom teachers. Because you'll have special knowledge of how differently-abled children learn and how best to reach them, you'll be in a unique position to create units of study that are engaging, educational, and meet individual students at their customized learning level.
Every child learns differently. With training and education in different learning styles, you'll have a better ability to reach students. This could make you a wonderful trainer of teachers as well as a powerful resource for school districts who need special or gifted education consultants.
Communication skills are a must for teachers, and when working with differently-abled students, it's helpful to have a wide range of skills designed for interaction. These include the ability to actively listen to what students—even those who are nonverbal—are trying to say. It also includes the ability to talk with families in a way that's sympathetic yet constructive. You may be called upon to advocate for students, and this means establishing a good rapport with school administrators and parents.
Keen interpersonal skills, or those that help you communicate effectively with others, are necessities in the special-education classroom, but they'll be beneficial outside the classroom, too. Empathy is important, as is patience. The ability to judge a situation fairly and to respond without anger or bias is an absolute must.
Common Job Titles Related to Special Education
Will you become a special education teacher? Will you work with gifted or exceptional students? Perhaps you'll enter the world of consulting or curriculum development. Earning your special education certification is a great way to improve your job prospects in the education industry. These careers in special education are only the beginning.
Elementary Education Teacher
Elementary school teachers generally teach students ages five to 10 in a full range of subjects, including English and language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and health. In many school districts in the U.S., elementary school teachers also teach middle school, which encompasses students ages 11 to 13.
Secondary Education Teacher
In America, secondary education teachers preside over high school classrooms. While they may be responsible for teaching one subject more than others, they're still expected to have well-rounded knowledge that allows them to fill in for teachers in other classroom subjects as needed.
Gifted Education Teacher
Teachers who preside over gifted classrooms teach students who are performing ahead of their scholastic expectations. These teachers need special training in creating a classroom environment that's challenging, engaging, and educational.
Special Education Teacher
The special education teacher is responsible for teaching students who have special needs. These students may have learning disabilities, physical disabilities, behavioral issues, developmental delays, or be otherwise unable to flourish in a traditional classroom setting. These teachers need special skills in connecting with hard-to-reach students. They must also be especially patient and understanding.
The instructional coordinator typically has at least a master's degree. This person is responsible for many duties within a school, including implementing curricula, assigning supplemental materials to complement the curricula, arranging educator training sessions, and analyzing student test scores and performance pertaining to the curricula.
Special Education Administrator
Special education administrators are more involved with the administration side of education and perform a variety of functions, including meeting with students and their families and helping establish policies that affect differently-abled students.
Special Education Careers Outside of Teaching
If you're interested in the area of special education, but you can't see yourself in a classroom, there may be other options available. As someone with specific training and skills, you may find success working as an advocate for families or in early intervention.
Special Education Advocate
The special education advocate assists families in finding services for their child. They act as liaisons between the family and the school district, and they help parents understand complex policies that affect their child.
This is the professional who is often supports the family during Individual Educational Plan (IEP) meetings, making sure they're able to ask questions and fully understand what to expect. They also assist families in their interactions with school administration. When problems arise or families want to file complaints, their advocate is on hand to guide them through the process.
Early intervention specialists are instrumental in assessing developmental delays in children up to six years of age. This professional often works with the child inside the home or in a clinical setting to evaluate learning disabilities and devise strategies to overcome them. A specialist in early intervention must build beneficial relationships with the children they serve, their families, and school administration.
Special Education Career Opportunities
Once you've earned your degree in special education, the next step is to decide where you wish to work. You may have several options, including schools, government agencies, support agencies, residential facilities, or rehabilitation centers. Your degree could open up a whole new world of opportunities that were once out of reach, and you may find yourself in a position that's better than you ever dreamed it could be.
Elementary and Secondary Schools
As a professional within the public or private school system, you'll play a crucial role in helping shape America's youth. You may find yourself in the role of educator, counselor, administrator, or any one of several interesting positions. Regardless, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing the work you're doing is important and that you're making an impact among students and in your community.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hires special education professionals, and so do the Bureau of Prisons and the military. The U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education also advertise to fill special education positions.
Locally, the largest government employer of special education specialists is the public school system, but there are other agencies in and around your community who may require these services as well. They include the local courts and other legal agencies, such as services for women and children.
Educational Support Services
In a supporting role, you may find yourself working in the office of the local school board, with a Head Start agency, as a reading specialist with a private educational group, or in people's homes helping their developmentally disabled child prepare to begin school.
Your services may also be in demand in local rehabilitation centers. You could find yourself working with children who have been abused or neglected or with those struggling with addiction. You could help enhance the lives of children who live in residential facilities as well by teaching them the skills needed to transition to home care.
Career Opportunities With an Advanced or Graduate Degree
Does it sound like a career in special education might be a good fit for you? If you're ready to become a specialist in the field, University of the Cumberlands is ready to help you reach your goals.
At UC, our mission is to provide an education that's affordable yet of the highest quality. We offer an impressive range of degree and certificate options to help students become more marketable applicants and more valuable employees.
For more information on earning your Special Education Certification at University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, contact an admission advisor today. At UC, we've been helping students reach their educational goals since 1888, and we're ready to help you succeed, too. Earn your bachelor's degree with us or, if you already have a bachelor’s, specialize within your industry by earning unique certifications to improve your skills and performance. Contact us to learn more.