Special Education Teacher Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Special Education Teacher, or Special Needs Educator, is responsible for providing the appropriate accommodations and modifications to the set curriculum for their students. Their duties include identifying the individual needs of their students, creating a supportive and effective learning environment and ensuring their students have the resources they need to succeed.


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Special Education Teacher duties and responsibilities

The main goal of a Special Education Teacher is to identify the individual needs of each child and create a healthy, inspiring and supportive learning environment. They work with many different types of children, from those who are physically disabled or sensory impaired to those with speech difficulties or autism, though they typically have the following daily responsibilities:

  • Teaching a small group of students and individuals inside and outside of the classroom
  • Preparing and executing lessons and resources
  • Assessing the students’ work done in class
  • Developing and adapting individualized teaching methods that are suitable for each of their students
  • Using special tools and equipment provided to stimulate an interesting learning environment
  • Using special skills to teach children Braille, sign language or lip reading
  • Collaborating with the Class Teacher and Lead Teacher to build a better learning environment for the children
  • Updating parents on their kids’ progress and giving recommendations to promote a better learning environment at home


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What does a Special Education Teacher do? 

Special Education Teachers are typically employed by public schools to educate students who require additional support outside of the traditional classroom. They work with many different types of children, from those who are physically disabled or sensory impaired to those with speech difficulties or autism. Typical responsibilities for Special Education Teachers include providing small group instruction, writing and delivering lesson plans, assessing student work and collaborating with their students’ other Teachers to ensure they’re meeting their student’s needs.


Special Education Teacher skills and qualifications

To be a successful Special Education Teacher, candidates need a distinct personality to handle the different kinds of children and parents and maintain a level of professionalism. Some of the most important skills they should have include:

  • Ability to build good relationships with children, parents, Teachers and Social Workers
  • Ability to work well with children from different backgrounds who have different abilities
  • Well-organized and self-driven to devise and adopt new techniques for teaching and keeping the class orderly
  • Ability to manage the classroom despite challenging behavior
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Compassionate, kind and patient with kids
  • Excellent leader and mentor for students
  • Strong attention to detail and an inquisitive mind to understand each individual student


Special Education Teacher salary expectations

Special Education Teachers make an average of $50,116 per year. This salary may vary depending on a candidate’s education and experience as well as the age range they teach and the type of facility they teach in.


Special Education Teacher education and training requirements

Special Education Teachers need to earn a state-approved bachelor’s degree in special education in order to be hired. They are also required to take their state’s special education test, such as the Praxis Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications exam, and become licensed in their specific state. Some employers may prefer candidates who also have a master’s degree, though others may only ask for a bachelor’s degree and certification. There are also specific qualifications for children with particular impairments, so it is important to find a candidate with training in the right area.


Special Education Teacher experience requirements

Though education is a big part of the journey to become a Special Education Teacher, candidates should also have experience in the field. Some applicants work as a more typical Teacher before moving into special education, though some employers may prefer applicants who have experience working with kids who have special needs. Most students enrolled in a special education degree in college get experience as a Student Teacher, and some even pursue internships after college to gain experience.


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Frequently asked questions about Special Education Teachers


What makes a good Special Education Teacher?

Special Education Teachers require specific education, training, skills and attributes to perform their jobs well. The best Special Education Teachers tend to have a similar set of qualities, including: 

  • Patience: An important skill for all Teachers is patience. Special Education Teachers work with a variety of students and other stakeholders who may require additional time to complete assignments. 
  • Organization: Special Education Teachers must create lesson plans, collect student work and maintain certain records. Organization is vital to ensure compliance in all the necessary areas. 
  • Knowledge: Subject area knowledge and continuing education into the latest Special Education practices is vital as a Special Education Teacher. 
  • Problem-solving: One of the duties of a Special Education Teacher is to find creative solutions for students who need modifications or accommodations for their work.
  • Empathy: Empathy for their students is one of the hallmark traits of outstanding Special Education Teachers.


What's the difference between a Special Education Teacher and a Teacher?

Special Education Teachers and Teachers perform many of the same duties within their roles. However, the student populations they serve differ, which can impact some of their prescribed responsibilities. Special Education Teachers work with students who require curriculum modifications or accommodations based on a physical or mental need. Teachers, by contrast, work with all students, often including those who fit in the special education category. Special Education Teachers and Teachers usually work closely together to ensure all their students receive the support and resources they need to learn. 


What are the daily duties of a Special Education Teacher?

Special Education Teachers often follow a relatively predictable schedule day to day, though their duties can differ from school year to school year or school to school. In most cases, Special Education Teachers either work in their own classrooms with small groups of students. They provide specific modifications and accommodations for these students based on their individual needs. In some cases, they may assist special education students in the general classroom. 


What should you look for in a Special Education Teacher's resume?

When reviewing a Special Education Teacher’s resume for hire, it’s important to look for a few specific elements: 

  • Teaching certificate: Ensure the Special Education Teacher you’re considering is appropriately certified and licensed for your state. 
  • Special education training: Special Education Teachers receive specific training to ensure they’re prepared to meet the needs of their students. 
  • Classroom experience: Look for student teaching or Lead Teacher experience on their resume to ensure they’re prepared to lead a classroom of students effectively. 
  • Quantification: The best Special Education Resumes will quantify their achievements in past positions, making it easy for you to see the value they could bring to your school or organization. 

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