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How to Become a Special Education Teacher

People interested in careers in special education often bring a sense of service to the needs of children who require additional support in schools and in a variety of other settings. Some have experienced the challenges of moderate learning disabilities in their own lives or in the lives of their children or other family members. They want to join this growing and important field within education, and they understand the positive effect they can have in the lives of students and their families. Some future special education teachers choose to grow their existing career in education, and others enter the special education profession as a significant career change. In many cases, they see special education as a secure future for themselves and their families — a way to gain higher ground.

Three Ways to Become a Special Education Teacher

How to become a special education teacher depends upon where things currently stand with your academic and professional experience. Choose the special education career path that best matches your situation:

  1. Earn your bachelor’s degree to become a licensed special education teacher at the very beginning of your career.
  2. Earn your bachelor’s degree in education to become a licensed teacher in a general education classroom, then work as a teacher while earning your Master of Education Degree in Special Education. (Some schools provide tuition assistance to their employees.)
  3. Change your career by adding a master’s degree in special education to your current bachelor’s degree and work experience to become a licensed special education teacher.

1. Become a Special Education Teacher With a Bachelor’s Degree

If you’re just now starting your college career and are interested in becoming a special education teacher, then the most direct way is to earn a special education bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university so that you can work in special education as soon as you graduate and become a licensed teacher.

It’s important to note, however, that many schools and school districts prefer or require their teachers to earn a master’s degree based on a certain timeline as their careers move forward. That means you may be able to enter the special education profession directly with a bachelor’s degree, but you will still need to earn a master’s degree at some point.

How to become a special education teacher with a bachelor’s degree

2. Become a General Education Teacher Then Add a Master’s Degree in Special Education

Some people choose to earn a general education bachelor’s degree first. This option lets you start working as soon as you become a licensed teacher. You can gain teaching experience and connect with special education teachers and colleagues so that you have a better sense of how to become a special education teacher and how special education teachers help students.

Get started by reading "What Do Special Education Teachers Do?"

Since many schools and school districts prefer or require their teachers to earn a master’s degree anyway, you can always look into special education master’s programs to grow your career and your salary at a later time.

Get insights with special education teacher salary details.

How current teachers can become special ed teachers with a master’s degree in special education

3. Change Your Career by Adding a Master’s Degree in Special Education

No matter what subject you studied to earn your bachelor’s degree and no matter what kind of jobs you’ve had in the past or have now, you can change your career and become a special education teacher by adding a master’s degree in special education to your academic and work experience.

Here’s how it works: You’ll complete the academic requirements for a special education master’s program, including practicum hours — often called student teaching. You’ll also complete state licensing exams to become licensed to teach and licensed to teach special education.

See the full list of required courses for the Master of Education Degree in Special Education from Cambridge College.

How anyone can become a special education teacher with a master’s degree in special education

Request Additional Information From Cambridge College

If you’re looking for an affordable, flexible, and respected graduate degree in special education, Cambridge College invites you to request additional information. A member of the admissions team would be pleased to provide you details about how to apply, financial aid, curriculum specifics, and more. We’d be honored to get you started on a career as a licensed special education teacher with a master’s in special education degree.

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