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5 High-paying Special Education Jobs

You don’t always have to choose between a fulfilling career and one that pays well. For those who want to work in the field of special education while also earning a high salary, there are ways to meet both goals. Though it can take an upfront investment of time and money to earn the prerequisites (including advanced degrees) toward one of these five high-earning special education jobs, it’s still possible to make a good salary while helping children in need live their best lives.

1. Speech and Language Pathologist

Speech and language pathologists, also called speech therapists, support students with speech disorders and impediments in schools, hospitals and private practice. The median annual salary for speech and language pathologists was close to $74,680 in 2016 and ranged from $47,070 to $116,810. Experts such as Carrie Clark design resources and activities to support the families of children with speech challenges. 

2. Educational Audiologist

Of the best-paying special education jobs, this can be one of the most specialized. Educational audiologists work with hearing-impaired students in schools and clinics and help them achieve success in the classroom. Educational audiologists earned an annual mean salary of $76,720 in 2016.Audiologist salaries range between $50,490 and $113,540.

3. Occupational Therapist

In schools, clinics and hospitals, occupational therapists work with children both long- and short-term to help them overcome challenges resulting from physical and psychological disabilities. In 2017, occupational therapists earned a median income of $82,833. Some, like Dr. Frederick Covington, specialize in using technology to help children with special needs perform better in academic settings. 

4. Special Education Teacher

Special ed teachers work with schoolchildren who have a wide range of disabilities. These can include autism, emotional disorders, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities or speech disorders. They earn a median income of $52,497 annually and a special education teacher salary can range between $40,703 and $64,290, depending on the school district and grade level they teach. 

Whatever the salary, working with students with special needs can be remarkably rewarding and challenging. Read special education teacher Kyle Redford’s Twitter feed or her articles in Education Week for a glimpse into the life of a special education teacher.

5. Child Psychologist 

Child psychologists study and trace behavioral patterns in children. Those who work with special needs children focus on the impact of their disabilities on their lives and education. These professionals operate in private practice and/or full-time in schools and earn a median salary of $66,918. Some choose to move into lifestyle and behavior coaching, like Dr. Kevin Fleming. 

In general, special education jobs may not pay as well as the financial sector, but some areas can actually garner a high income. Whether you are motivated by salary or not, the rewards for professionals in these roles can be numerous. 

Note: All salary information retrieved in April 2017.

Learn more about special education careers both inside and beyond the classroom.

5 Rewarding Career Paths in Special Education (if you’re not into teaching)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the mean salary for special education teachers in 2017 as $58,890. But it is no secret that the burnout and turnover rates for this field are high. Additionally, growth potentials and opportunities for upward mobility are low for teachers alone.

Salaries can be higher for teachers that want to expand their resumes. There are jobs are out there for teachers who want to stay in the field and continue making a difference in the lives of children.

Find out which of these five rewarding career paths in special education will help you change the world.

Behavior Specialists

Behavior specialists are specialists in the field of psychology and social work. They work with individuals with disabilities or impaired learning functions.

In most cases, all that is needed to work in this field is a Bachelor’s degree in the field of social work or psychology or a related field. Study.com notes that licensure may be required.

Licensing requirements vary by state. The field is experiencing a projected 19 percent growth rate between 2012 and 2022.

Job duties will vary according to the work environment. They generally involve the observation and assessment of emotional and behavioral problems with children and adults with special needs. Some duties will be specialized such as those working with the deaf community.

Average pay rates begin around $40,000 but also will vary by state and specialty, and/or the organization you are working for. Those with experience in the field or with advanced degrees are likely to earn at the higher end of the pay scale.

Early Intervention Specialist

The early years for children are considered the years between birth and kindergarten. Children with special needs in this age group need special support. Early intervention specialists provide this support.

They work in a variety of environments from preschool classrooms to inside the home. They also work in the private sector.

The main purpose of this job is to serve as the connection between families and support. The specialist also works directly with children, providing support to improve their area of needs. This could range from cognitive or emotional developmental support to motor and sensory support.

The early years of life are often considered the most critical. As such, this specialist will work in a multidisciplinary capacity to support the child and their family.

In many cases, a teacher’s degree is the only requirement for this career. A Bachelor’s degree is often required, and any additional credentials or education in the area of child development is favored.

Zip Recruiter reports that the national average pay for early intervention specialists is $46,985 annually. Candidates holding a graduate degree or additional credentials are expected to earn at the higher end of the spectrum.

Educational Diagnosticians

An educational diagnostician does exactly what its name implies. This person diagnoses someone with special needs.

This support worker functions within a team setting, assisting all agencies that work with special needs. This is a multi-disciplinary role.

Diagnosticians work every angle of the child’s life to get a complete picture for a diagnosis if necessary. Once a diagnosis is established, the diagnostician works with families to find support.

Depending on their degrees and credentials, and their location, diagnosticians can earn as much as $68,000 to $75,000. Most diagnosticians are not working at the entry level, and have acquired experience and education in the field of special needs.

Instructional Assistant

The job of a teaching assistant is one of the most under-reported jobs, as it falls in the lower end of a pay scale. But it is also one of the most rewarding jobs in special needs. The teacher’s assistant is often the one person that a child with special needs spends the most time with throughout their day.

Relationships are formed, and this enables instructional assistants to perform their job and do it well. Established relationships not only support the child but helps them to achieve their truest potential.

Projections for teaching assistants jobs is good with research showing a potential growth rate of eight percent between 2016 and 2026. The median salary for these jobs is in the $26,260 range.

Special Education Administrator

The special education administrator is not an entry-level position. This is a leadership role where the special needs worker oversees organizations that work with special needs kids. This position usually requires a Master’s degree or a wealth of career experience in the field.

Licensure could be required and will vary by state. Administrators work with everyone involved in the support of a special needs child.

Administrators work with families and caregivers. They also work with government agencies monitoring and overseeing the life of a special needs child. In a nutshell, administrators need to know that everybody involved in a special need’s child life is doing their job.

They will have a large number of children whose needs they need to monitor. If an educational or support matter goes wrong in a special needs child’s life, the administrator will hear about it and deal with it.

Salary ranges typically start in the six-figure mark, due to the depth of their responsibilities. There is an opportunity for upward mobility into advanced administrative jobs.

Employers are looking for someone with experience working with special needs kids. They want someone that is dynamic and innovative in problem-solving and has true leadership abilities.

This is the kind of guy or gal that when he or she walks into the room, a special needs kid feels….even more special.

How Will You Change the World?

If you are looking for a special needs job outside of the teaching realm, that means you have a passion for special work. It also means you are already changing the world.

Keep going, as there are a number of rewarding career opportunities that will give you the ability to fulfill your life and your true potential. Those same opportunities will help you develop the true potential of many special needs kids’ lives too. Start clicking to search open special education jobs today. How will you change the world?

Is a Special Education Career Right for You?

Is a Special Education Career Right for You?Becoming a special education teacher is a high and honorable calling. Teaching children with physical, mental or emotional impairments can be difficult but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Many special education teachers find a great deal of fulfillment helping students learn and grow.

However, it’s not just emotionally gratifying. There is currently a huge shortage of special education teachers across the United States. As more children are diagnosed with disabilities and older teachers leave the workforce, the national demand for jobs in special education is only expected to grow, offering more career opportunities.

As expected for such an important endeavor, the requirements for special education jobs are high. As such, determining a clear career path can be complex. For those drawn to special education, this article discusses the training, tools, qualifications and credentials to begin or further develop your career.

Career Path Varies by State

In most cases in the U.S., finding a job in special education requires a bachelor’s degree, state-specific certification and a master’s degree. In most states, a bachelor’s degree is the lowest bar for employment. Having a master’s degree or other specialized certification is particularly important, as working with disabilities such as autism, hearing impairment, vision impairment or any emotional disturbances requires specific training. To become a fully qualified special education teacher, further education as well as state certification are often needed get the necessary skills to help students succeed.

Some colleges and universities, such as Saint Joseph’s University, offer an online master’s degree in special education as well as certification programs, with concentrations in autism spectrum disorder, hearing impairment and the Wilson Reading System. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers an online master’s degree in special education with state licensure options. George Washington University also offers both online master’s degrees and certificate programs in special education, focusing on culturally and linguistically diverse learners and those looking to help special needs students transition into post-secondary education. 

Alongside these educational skills, many states have additional requirements. These usually include fingerprinting, background checks, registering with state officials and passing state exams. In California, for example, having a bachelor’s degree and completing a number of assessments will only provide a preliminary credential for special education. For a Level I or Level II Professional Clear Credential to teach special education, completing a fifth year of study is required, as well as approved courses in special education. To get a certificate and license to teach special education in New York state, a number of state-registered programs for students with disabilities are required, along with teaching certification exams, a variety of tests and three years of classroom experience. For specific special education jobs, the requirements are listed on each state’s education department website.

Demand for Skills May Drive up Salaries

Regarding salary expectations, even with the increased demand for highly trained educators, the level of financial compensation for special education jobs varies widely by state, depending on the school of employment and the level of education that an instructor teaches. For example, a special education teacher would earn more at a secondary school than they would teaching at an elementary school.

The 2015 median pay for a special education teacher in the United States was $56,800. In California, the average salary for a special education teacher is $65,370 – $12,000 more than the national average of $53,220, and the need for special education teachers in California is expected to grow by 20 percent over the next two years. In Texas, the salary of $52,283 is slightly lower than the national average, but demand is expected to grow as much as 41 percent by 2018. In Florida, the average salary of $41,741 is quite a bit below the national average, but the demand for special education teachers is expected to grow 19 percent by 2018. Other states that can expect an increased demand for special education teachers are Georgia, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Arkansas.

If you have the right temperament and drive for such a career, investing in a special education path is likely to pay off in terms of both personal gratification and professional opportunities. Having extra training and knowledge will also allow you to better serve your students, guiding them towards their full potential while also meeting the growing demand for special education teachers nationwide.

Find Your Fit: Top Five Special Education Specialties

For compassionate and skilled educators, becoming a special education teacher is just one option. As classrooms have changed to reflect the needs of special education students, so too have the career options available. Check out the infographic below, which highlights the Top 5 Special Education Jobs.

Recreational Therapist

Job description:

  • Use arts, drama, music, dance, sport, and games to engage students
  • Develop treatment plans to meet students’ needs and interests
  • Help students develop social skills

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $28,010 – $72,340

Average: $46,410

Required skills:

  • Resourcefulness: Ability to customize treatment plans to each student’s needs
  • Physical strength
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more or care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 7 percent
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: District of Columbia, Connecticut, Utah

 

Occupational Therapist

Job description:

  • Design physical exercises to aid students in improving basic motor functions
  • Modify or recommend special classroom equipment; instruct students and teachers on how to use equipment
  • Help students improve decision-making, problem-solving and perceptual skills

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $54,200 – $119,720

Average: $71,480

Required skills:

  • Communication: Ability to listen attentively to students and explain what tasks they want students to perform
  • Physical: Ability to move people or equipment
  • Compassion: Ability to be empathetic to the needs of students and their families

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 27 percent
  • Elementary and secondary schools are the third-largest employers
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts

 

Speech Language Pathologists

Job description:

  • Aid students who have difficulties with speech, articulation, language or swallowing
  • Teach students how to make sounds, improve their voices, or develop muscles used to swallow
  • Identify treatment options and work with teachers and parents to carry out programs

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $47,070 – $116,810

Average: $65,540

Required skills:

  • Analytical: Ability to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan
  • Detail-oriented: Ability to take detailed notes on a patient and patient progress
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more or care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • By 2024, the job market demand is expected to increase by 21 percent.
  • 2 in 5 speech therapists work in schools
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: Arkansas, West Virginia, North Dakota

 

Autism Spectrum Disorders Specialist

Job description:

  • Assess the skills and needs of students identified to be on the autism spectrum
  • Adapt general lessons and develop individualized education programs (IEPs)
  • May work in a self-contained classroom with additional teaching supports or in a regular education classroom

Salary:

$$$$$

Range: $37,760 – $93,090

Average: $57,910

Required skills:

  • Resourcefulness: Ability to customize treatment plans to each students’ needs
  • Communication: Ability to listen attentively to students and explain what tasks they want students to perform
  • Patience: Ability to work with students who require more care and may be slow to progress

Stats on the job market:

  • Autism is the fastest-growing development delay in American children; its prevalence has increased by nearly 120% since 2000
  • States with the highest concentration of jobs: West Virginia, New Jersey, New York

Ready to get started? Find a Special Education program that’s right for you.

Source of information: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Special Education Career Profile: Teacher of the Deaf

Teaching in the field of special education can give you a variety of career options. You can choose age/grade level, type of disability, or even the type of program you teach in. Being a teacher of the deaf can be a very rewarding, yet challenging, career choice.

What Does A Teacher of the Deaf Do?

The role of the teacher of the deaf can vary depending on the setting. According to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED), the teacher’s role is to:

  • Establish a classroom or other learning environment to meet the physical, cognitive, cultural, linguistic, and communicative needs of the child;
  • Plan and utilize strategies, appropriate materials, and resources for implementing educational experiences that support the development of communicative competence;
  • Provide consistent comprehensible language(s) appropriate to the needs of the child regardless of the modality or form;
  • Apply first and second language teaching strategies to teaching English (e.g., through ASL appropriate to the needs of the child and consistent with the program philosophy);
  • Facilitate and support communication among deaf and hard of hearing children and adults, hearing children and adults, including family/caregivers;
  • Monitor and evaluate the child’s communicative competence on a regular basis in academic and nonacademic contexts including the child’s use of signs, cues, speech, and/or assistive technologies;
  • Provide instruction and/or support for effective use of communication supports such as interpreting, transliteration, note-taking, real-time captioning, telecommunications, and computing.

Teacher of the Deaf Responsibilities, Knowledge and Skills

As a teacher of the deaf, you should have a working knowledge of hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM equipment, as well as understand and be able to interpret audiograms. You may have to share this information with school staff members or families. You may also have to and supervise paraprofessionals and sign language interpreters.

As with any special education teacher, you will have to develop and maintain compliant IEP‘s as well as assess students in the areas of academics, language, and communication.

Where Teachers of the Deaf Work

Young elementary school student signing the letter I for the class.There are a few educational options to where a teacher of the deaf can teach. All fifty states have schools for the deaf, as well as District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Students with hearing loss may also attend public schools. In areas where there is a high population of deaf students, there may be center schools for the deaf. Students are bussed in from several areas to one specific school.

A teacher of the deaf may either provide instruction and support in a separate class or as a resource teacher in a general education or special education classroom.

Deaf students may also attend their neighborhood school. If this is the case, the student may be the only deaf student at the school. Here, an itinerant teacher may be utilized. Itinerant teachers generally cover several schools in an area and provide one on one support to the student as well as collaborate with the classroom teacher.

Classroom or resource teachers serve students in a specific age range, where itinerant teachers tend to cover students pre-k through 12th grade.

Salary, Education and Certification

Certification for a teacher of the deaf varies from state to state. There are several colleges that offer bachelor and master degrees in education of the deaf. While you don’t have to have a degree in deaf education, you must be able to pass the state certification test. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is $53,220.

If you are looking for a career where you can support students’ communication needs, as well as their academic, social, and independent functioning needs, work with parents and professionals on understanding hearing loss, and have a variety of classroom settings to work in, then you should consider becoming a teacher of the deaf.