What are the Different Types of Special Education Careers?

Angela Johnson

There are many different types of special education careers, which are often found in the public schools systems as well as the private sector. Special education careers include jobs as special education teachers and teacher assistants as well as support services for special needs children and adults. Special education teachers can be found in schools for grades pre-kindergarten to 12, and there are college- and university-level positions. These careers focus on a special education curriculum geared toward special needs students.

State education boards typically create the requirements for special education teacher training.
State education boards typically create the requirements for special education teacher training.

Special education teachers work with children who have a wide spectrum of disabilities. These can be children in primary or secondary schools as well as sometimes at the college or university level. The special education curriculum is modified to suit the needs of each individual child. The class sizes generally are smaller than classes in traditional classrooms, and there is a higher ratio of teachers to students as well.

Some computer programs may be designed specifically for special education students.
Some computer programs may be designed specifically for special education students.

Most special education teachers work with students who have minor to moderate levels of disabilities. There are also teachers who work with students having major cognitive disabilities. These students are taught basic communication skills as well as other life skills individualized to each student.

Special education teachers work with children who have a wide spectrum of disabilities.
Special education teachers work with children who have a wide spectrum of disabilities.

Special education careers as a teacher include specializing in autism spectrum disorders, in emotional or behavioral disorders, in high-incident disabilities as a resource teacher who works in a co-teaching environment at a traditional classroom setting or in low-incidence disabilities as a teacher working with students who have more severe disabilities. These teaching careers generally require special training and certification as well as an undergraduate degree or higher. There are other types of special education careers that focus on one aspect of a student's disability, such as a speech pathologist who helps students by working on verbal communication, an occupational therapist who helps with functional and developmental areas, a physical therapist who works to improve mobility, an adaptive physical education teacher who helps promote physical exercise adapted to meet the special needs of each child or an art therapist who works using art as a therapy for rehabilitation or development of students.

Special educators may work with students on an individual basis or in a classroom setting.
Special educators may work with students on an individual basis or in a classroom setting.

Careers in special education can offer rewarding experiences and opportunities working with students by providing essential resources. Many colleges and universities offer degrees at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral level as well as credentials or certification. These certification and credential programs are more specific in terms of learning about a specific area within the field of special education. Examples of a specific area of interest would be studying the autism spectrum of disorders or adaptive physical education.

Special educators might help children who have developmental issues.
Special educators might help children who have developmental issues.
Students with special needs may have a variety of developmental, emotional and physical disabilities.
Students with special needs may have a variety of developmental, emotional and physical disabilities.
Special education teachers may work in a kindergarten or pre-kindergarten setting.
Special education teachers may work in a kindergarten or pre-kindergarten setting.
Special education teachers may have a more challenging time grading assignments.
Special education teachers may have a more challenging time grading assignments.
Some special education teachers may work with students who have major cognitive disabilities.
Some special education teachers may work with students who have major cognitive disabilities.

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Discussion Comments

bythewell

More and more places are trying to integrate special education students with the rest of the students, so I don't know if jobs in special education are going to be all that easy to get in the future.

Often what will happen is that the student in question will just get a few hours with a teacher's aide every week and the rest of the time, they just join in to the best of their ability with the rest of the class, leaving no need for a dedicated teacher.

irontoenail

@Ana1234 - Honestly, I don't even think you need patience, if you've got compassion and an open mind. I worked with a girl who happened to have cerebral palsy, but I never felt frustrated with her, or felt like I needed to be patient.

A few times I needed to open my mind a little more and see things from her perspective, but once I did that, I could absolutely see why she made the decisions she did and why we'd work together better if I adjusted whatever I was doing that wasn't working.

Teaching special education doesn't have to be a trial or an exercise in patience. There's a lot of joy to be had in helping people to succeed no matter what their particular needs happen to be.

Ana1234

The thing you most need for a career in special education is patience. These kids have a lot to give the world, but they will often want to do things a lot differently than you might think they should be done. They might do them more slowly, or quicker, or just in a different way and that can frustrate people.

The more patient a person is the more likely they will be a good fit in a special education program.

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