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How do I become a Special Education Teacher?

A special education teacher working.
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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 March 2014
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It takes a lot of patience, caring, and understanding to be a good special education teacher. Working with special needs students can be a challenge, and many days will be a challenge, but there are many more days that will bring triumph and a great sense of accomplishment. Becoming a special education teacher is not that different from becoming any other type of teacher. There are different types of courses, but the process is still similar.

The road to becoming a special education teacher begins with receiving a bachelor's degree. Many students choose to get a degree in education, and there are several colleges that offer a four-year degree in special education. An education degree is not necessary, however, as it is possible to take the education classes later on while obtaining your teaching credential.

There are more specialized classes to take when preparing to become a special education teacher. Courses like educational psychology, legal issues in special education, and strategy courses for teachers of children with disabilities are all common. Different states have different education requirements, but most require that students take a lot of courses specializing in children with special needs.

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Student teaching gives prospective teachers a chance to work with students and get a feel for the job. This is one of the most valuable experiences a student will have before going into the profession as a teacher themselves. By the end of their time in the classroom they are assigned to, students will have learned many of the skills they need to become proficient special education teachers.

After graduating from a bachelor's degree program, most states require that students return to school for a credential in special education before being allowed to teach. Some states allow students to teach while finishing a credential program, and a few states don't require the extra year at all. After graduating from this program, students can finish up their teacher certification needed to become special education teachers.

All prospective teachers are required to take teacher competency exams before beginning their teaching careers. These assessment tests are designed to test students on their knowledge of teaching practices and, in this case, issues in special education. Some states require future teachers to take these tests before student teaching, but almost everyone interested in a teaching career has to take them eventually.

The last step to becoming a special education teacher is to apply for certification. After meeting all of the other requirements, this step is easy. There is usually a fee to be handed in with the paperwork, and then, upon approval, a teacher can begin his or her first year officially on the job. It is important to be aware of the fact that different states have different certification requirements. Many states, however, will honor a teaching license from another state without the teacher having to complete further requirements.

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Discuss this Article

anon343834
Post 8

I want to be a special education teacher. I live in Mongolia. Is there anyone who can give me info about universities that have online courses?

anon322609
Post 7

I love special education kids.

anon261060
Post 6

I want to become a special needs teacher really bad and this website definitely helped.

anon260395
Post 5

To anon, post #4: Someone who possesses the real passion to be a special education teacher very rarely cares about the salary.

anon161298
Post 4

so i really want to become a special education teacher. About how much would i get paid?

cafe41
Post 3

Sunny27- I think you are right. Being a special education teacher is really hard work, but I bet it is among the most rewarding of all the teaching specializations. Seeing the progress, how ever small must really make the teacher’s day.

I agree that having the right level of compassion lessens the level of frustrations that probably occur from time to time. When a teacher understands the child’s shortcomings, the constant repetition won’t matter.

These teachers are performing a wonderful service and parents all over should be grateful. To me they are little angels on earth.

Sunny27
Post 2

Excellent article- I agree that a special education teacher requires significant patience, but they also must have deep compassion for these children.

Children with learning and physical disabilities often suffer from low self-esteem because of their differences. These children require a special teacher that not only understands this but brings out the best in the children. Proper training helps, but a big heart is even more helpful. With the right teaching methods many of these students go on to college and develop successful careers as a result. The right teacher will make the difference.

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