What Does a Special Educator Do? (A Comprehensive Guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 1 November 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.

A special educator focuses on supporting students who have difficulties in social behaviour or learning. Special education teachers help students by providing a positive learning environment that caters for their needs. Understanding the role of a special educator may help you find the best career for you within the educational industry. In this article, we discuss the answer to the question, 'What does a special educator do?' and explore the relevant skills of a special education teacher.

Related: How to Find the Best Career for You

What does a special educator do?

If you're interested in a teaching career, you may wonder, 'What does a special educator do?' Most teachers who are special educators provide different learning programs, specifically to cater for the needs of students with learning difficulties. Usually, special education teachers work in schools, communities and individual homes. There can be a variety of reasons why a student may have learning disabilities, such as a behavioural or social disorder. Many special education teachers create a learning environment and employ teaching methods to improve their students' learning capabilities.

The typical duties and responsibilities of a special education teacher may include:

  • advising parents of teaching methods to apply at home

  • creating positive learning environments

  • catering for different learning needs

  • developing new teaching methods

  • promoting a positive and inclusive school culture

  • providing learning opportunities for students

  • meeting government standards on special education

  • monitoring students' progress

  • evaluating students' performance

How to become a special educator

Below you can find a step-by-step guide on how to become a special education teacher:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

The minimum requirement for becoming a special education teacher is to complete a Bachelor of Special and Inclusive Education. If you undertake a bachelor's degree in education, you may specialise in primary or secondary education and special needs teaching. If you want to become a special educator for high school students, a possible avenue may be to complete a Bachelor of Education (Secondary and Special Education). Bachelor degrees usually provide you with the skills and knowledge to carry out the duties of a special education teacher.

Bachelor degrees in special education typically take three years to complete. They include practical and theoretical studies. You can expect to learn skills, such as creating learning programs and identifying the educational needs of students. Completing a bachelor's degree may provide you with an opportunity to advance your skills in teaching through post-graduate studies or an internship.

2. Complete an internship

You may gain valuable work experience by completing an internship in special education teaching. Internships typically take a year to complete. An internship can provide you with an opportunity to experience different aspects of the teaching industry.

Some of the tasks you may be responsible for as a special education intern can include the planning and implementation of education programs. Completing an internship in special education teaching can show your commitment and passion to potential employers. You can apply for special education traineeships using the Indeed Job Board.

3. Complete a master's degree

A master's degree is not usually a requirement to become a special education teacher, though it may improve your chances of finding a career. A master's degree can provide you with a specialised set of skills that potential employers may be searching for. You can obtain a master's degree through an accredited university.

It usually takes five years to complete a master's degree, which includes a three-year bachelor's degree. The master's degree may provide you with advanced skills and knowledge in special education teaching. Completing a master's degree can allow you to explore the different specialisations within the education industry.

Related: How to Become an Educational Psychologist: A Career Guide

4. Apply for a special education career

Once you complete the relevant qualifications, you can apply for a career in special education teaching. The requirements of potential jobs can vary depending on the responsibilities of the role. If you apply for a managerial role as a special education teacher, then a master's degree or extensive work experience may be a requirement.

Before you apply for a potential career as a special educator, you may consider reviewing your resume and cover letter. It's important to include your up-to-date qualifications and achievements on your resume. Some job applications may require a cover letter. Cover letters are a great opportunity for you to show your motivations and passions to potential employers. You can apply for a career in special education teaching using the Indeed Job Board.

Relevant skills of a special educator

Several skills can help special education teachers carry out their duties. Most teachers incorporate soft skills and technical skills when teaching students with learning difficulties. Soft skills are essentially personality traits and social habits, such as communication and organisation. Technical skills that may assist a special educator can include technical writing and knowledge in computer software. Below, you can find some of the skills that may be relevant to a special education teacher:

Communication

Effective communication is usually an important skill to have as a special education teacher. There may be students with hearing difficulties that struggle to learn through traditional teaching methods. Having a wide range of communication skills can help you communicate effectively with each student. Practising good communication habits, such as active listening, and attending skill workshops can help improve your communication.

Organisation

Having good organisational skills can help you manage the variety of tasks and responsibilities of a special education teacher. Being organised can help you implement and coordinate an education program effectively. Creating goals, planning and managing your time can help to improve your organisation skills.

Adaptability

There are many students with varying levels of learning difficulties. Some students may require a more specific teaching method to help them learn. As a special education teacher, it's usually important to adapt your teaching styles to fit the needs of individual students. Having new experiences, making mistakes and learning from others can take you out of your comfort zone and improve your adaptability.

Related: How to Practise Adaptability in the Workplace

Patience

Some students who have behavioural and social issues may require special education to help them maintain focus and motivation to learn. A special education teacher can require a high level of patience, as it may take time for some students to understand certain principles. Enhancing your organisation skills and reducing stress in your life may help to improve your patience.

Computer literacy

Having a general understanding of computer platforms and education software can help you manage your work more efficiently. Modern teaching methods often utilise technology as a way to keep students entertained and focused while learning. You can learn from online courses or attend computer skill workshops to help improve your computing capabilities.

Problem-solving

Being able to identify learning issues that some students may have can require problem-solving skills. An important responsibility of a special education teacher may be to identify learning issues and implement an appropriate teaching method. You can improve your problem-solving skills by using strategies such as brainstorming and analysing different solutions.

Teamwork

Teamwork is essentially the ability to work well with others and to consider everyone's ideas. Teamwork is generally an important skill for a child to have and can help students who struggle socially. Having a good sense of teamwork can help you set an example for students and become an active role model in their lives. When you participate in team sports, it can develop your communication skills can help to improve your teamwork skills.

Frequently asked questions

Below you can find some of the most frequently asked questions about a career as a special education teacher:

How much do special educators earn?

The national average salary of a special education teacher is $85,522 per year. Your salary as a special education teacher can vary depending on your responsibilities and role within the education department. Working as a teacher can have opportunities to take on more tasks, which may result in a higher salary.

Do you require a license and registration?

Depending on which state you live in, there may be different registration and licence requirements. For example, in Western Australia, to become a special education teacher, you can register with the Teacher Registration Board of Western Australia. You may also obtain a Working with Children Check from the Department of Communities and a National Police History Check. You can generally expect that most states have some form of criminal background check and requirements for working with children.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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