18 Highest-Paying Special Education Jobs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 23, 2021

Published August 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Special education covers many professions and niches in the learning industry. If you're compassionate, want to help others and enjoy working with children, this may be a career field for you. Understanding the types of available jobs can help you choose the right education and career journey. In this article, we discuss what special education is, learn the requirements to enter the industry and review 18 high-paying jobs you can pursue in the field.

What is special education?

Special education is the name for a collective range of services that help disabled children learn. Support specialists design programs to meet the needs of the individual child or teen rather than taking a universal approach to special educations.

Students who qualify have an individualized education plan (IEP). This plan helps students get specialized teaching and other resources at little or no cost to their families. IEPs also help teachers understand each child's learning needs and accommodations. Either the school or the family can request an evaluation to put a child in special education.

To qualify for these programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students must be between the ages of three and 21, need special education to remove learning barriers for general education curriculum and have a documented disability covered by one of 13 categories:

  1. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): This category covers developmental disabilities that affect social and communication skills.

  2. Deaf-blindness: This category covers children who have both severe vision and hearing loss.

  3. Deafness: This category includes children who can't hear most or all sounds, even with a hearing aid or device.

  4. Emotional disturbance: This category covers health issues like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and bipolar disorder.

  5. Hearing impairment: The category includes children with hearing loss conditions not covered under deafness.

  6. Intellectual disability: This category includes conditions that affect mental status, communication, social skills and self-care, such as down syndrome.

  7. Multiple disabilities: This category includes children who fall into multiple areas listed under IDEA that require cross-category program development and attention.

  8. Orthopedic impairment: This category includes conditions that affect the functionality and mobile abilities, such as cerebral palsy.

  9. Other health impairments: This category covers conditions that limit energy, alertness and strength, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  10. Specific learning disability (SLD): This category covers conditions that affect the ability to read, write, speak, reason, listen and do math, like dyslexia and dyscalculia.

  11. Speech or language impairments: This category covers issues with speaking and understanding, such as stuttering.

  12. Traumatic brain injury: This category covers physical injuries to the brain caused by an accident or another issue.

  13. Visual impairments: This category includes conditions that cause eyesight issues, like blindness.

What are the requirements to work in special education?

To work in special education classrooms, schools and other environments, candidates typically need:

  • A bachelor's degree or higher in education, special education or a related field

  • State-issued certification or licensing in teaching, psychology or a related area

  • Completion of a student-teaching program for educators

  • Passing a background check and other clearances as dictated by the state or institution.

While not required, important skills for those working in special education include verbal and written communication, critical thinking, patience and resourcefulness.

18 high-paying jobs in special education

Explore some of the high-paying jobs in the special education field. These jobs all pay above $50,000 per year.

1. Special education teacher

National average salary: $50,535 per year

Primary duties: Special education teachers work with students who have learning, physical or emotional disabilities. They adapt lesson plans for students that challenge them in the classroom. They also develop and update IEPs and monitor student progress to discuss with parents, administrators and counselors.

Related: Learn About Being a Special Education Teacher

2. School counselor

National average salary: $52,502 per year

Primary duties: School counselors help students develop academic and social skills. They work with children to set goals, identify strengths and pursue interesting and challenging opportunities. Counselors also advise students on personal issues related to family life, school experiences and social interactions with classmates. They may work with teachers, administration and parents to address situational or behavioral issues with individual children or groups.

Related: Learn About Being a School Counselor

3. School librarian

National average salary: $54,434 per year

Primary duties: School librarians provide students with access to information in multiple formats. They teach students how to find, evaluate and use this information and technology for academic and pleasurable purposes. Librarians also introduce children to literature, help them learn language skills and find and choose interesting reading materials for their age and developmental levels.

Related: Learn About Being a Librarian

4. Learning specialist

National average salary: $56,018 per year

Primary duties: Learning specialists are education professionals who evaluate children to determine a disability diagnosis. They work with schools and families to help develop learning strategies for each child. They may also work with students in one-on-one settings to practice and advance challenging skills.

5. Special education assistant

National average salary: $56,205 per year

Primary duties: Special education assistants help disabled students or those with severe medical and mobility needs navigate school settings. They provide access to instructional programs and maintain a safe educational environment. Assistant may aid students in developing appropriate relationships with peers. They may also monitor vital signs, administer first aid if necessary and help students with the use of medical and mobility equipment such as feeding tubes and leg braces.

6. Early childhood early intervention coordinator

National average salary: $57,755 per year

Primary duties: Early childhood early intervention coordinators provide support and services to families and children in preschool and kindergarten who may have or be at risk for developmental disabilities. They help build on natural learning opportunities that occur in daily routines at home and school. They also help children meet their developmental milestones by adapting processes, if necessary.

7. School social worker

National average salary: $58,036 per year

Primary duties: School social workers help students, staff and families understand and recognize issues that could impede or stall learning. They address social, academic and emotional issues to help students live safe and balanced lives. School social workers also help schedule counseling and crisis intervention and help prepare the IEP.

Related: Learn About Being a School Social Worker

8. Education specialist

National average salary: $58,593 per year

Primary duties: Education specialists provide recommendations to improve lesson and curriculum planning. They help improve teaching methods at all grade levels. Education specialists communicate expectations for student progress to teachers, families and guidance counselors. Other specific duties may vary by district or school.

9. Sign language interpreter

National average salary: $60,739 per year

Primary duties: Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between deaf or hard-of-hearing students and their hearing peers and staff. They may help students learn oral interpretation and lip-reading and help all students learn to better communicate with one another. Interpreters may work in the classroom, on the playground or at school functions like assemblies.

10. School psychologist

National average salary: $67,911 per year

Primary duties: School psychologists provide support and intervention for students in areas such as mental health, behavior and academic achievement. They promote student motivation and engagement, help them improve communication and social skills and offer individual and group counseling. They also make referrals for special education and work with administrators to create practices and policies regarding topics like bullying and self-care.

Related: Learn About Being a Psychologist

11. Educational audiologist

National average salary: $75,729 per year

Primary duties: Educational audiologists work with deaf and hard-of-hearing children to receive support in the classroom. They're part of the team that develops the IEP. They can also fit children for hearing assistive devices (HAT).

Related: Learn About Being an Audiologist

12. Curriculum developer

National average salary: $75,952 per year

Primary duties: Curriculum developers oversee teaching standards and school curriculums. They develop and implement curriculum, analyze student test data and plan teacher training, workshops and conferences. Some developers train teachers, recommend new technologies and review and suggest books and other educational materials for classroom use.

13. Occupational therapist

National average salary: $83,308 per year

Primary duties: Occupational therapists assist disabled and seriously injured students with everyday activities. They help them learn and relearn the skills to live independently. Occupational therapists evaluate a child's needs and review medical histories to develop treatment plans and goals. They assist with activities and exercises and recommend how to improve the school environment for maximum mobility and use.

Related: Learn About Being an Occupational Therapist

14. Inclusion specialist

National average salary: $86,535 per year

Primary duties: Inclusion specialists develop learning strategies and help set objectives for special education students. They identify the needs of the individual child, inform teachers and families of the plans and objectives and help make appropriate classroom accommodations such as different lighting, the use of visual aids and extending assignment due dates. Some inclusion specialists also train staff to help them better meet student needs.

15. Speech therapist

National average salary: $99,496 per year

Primary duties: Speech therapists diagnose and treat speech, communication and swallowing issues. They work with the administration to provide therapy at school. They also collaborate with staff, families and counselors to update them about individual student progress.

Related: Learn About Being a Speech Therapist

16. School principal

National average salary: $101,755 per year

Primary duties: School principals run a school's daily operations. They approve curriculum, set goals and visions for the school and provide a safe and productive learning environment. They also hire all teachers and administrators, including special education and support staff.

Related: Learn About Being a Principal

17. Speech-language pathologist

National average salary: $111,943 per year

Primary duties: Speech-language pathologists diagnose and treat speech issues caused by conditions like autism, brain trauma, developmental disorders and hearing loss. They teach students how to make sounds and form words to speak. They also create treatment plans and advise teachers and families on how to continue treatment at home or outside therapy sessions. In school, speech-language pathologists may hold group programs for students with similar conditions.

Related: Learn About Being a Speech Pathologist

18. Behavioral specialist

National average salary: $116,674 per year

Primary duties: Behavioral specialists are social work professionals who help students develop healthy behaviors. They observe and assess student interactions and find ways to connect with patients. Behavioral specialists provide guidance, counseling and therapeutic strategies to assist students in socialization, communication and behavioral management in everyday life.

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