Types of Jobs That Work with Special Needs Children
About 9.4 million children (around 12.8 percent of children under age 18) across the United States require special-needs-based education to help them learn and develop important life skills. For individuals with a passion for caring for special needs children, a number of career paths provide the opportunity to work directly with these students in a teaching or related caregiver role.
As with most specialized fields, special education jobs require specific education and training to prepare you for your desired career role. Here's a look at the types of special needs jobs you might want to consider, along with details about the nature of that work, and the education and training requirements they might entail.
Special Education Teacher
The most prominent and in-demand special education career is working as a special education teacher. With most special education teacher jobs, you can expect to be hired by a public or private school, although you might also be sought out by community health or other health organizations that provide special education services outside of the school system.
The outlook for special-ed teacher jobs is projected to remain stable over the next decade, making this career path a reliable option for teachers who want to dedicate themselves to this student population. Keep in mind that a special education teaching job brings a number of requirements beyond a degree or teaching certificate in special education. Public schools typically require a state-issued teaching license, although private schools and other settings may have more flexible rules on this front.
Special Education Teacher Job Description
Perhaps the biggest role a special education teacher plays is in developing an IEP (Individual Education Program) for students. Because each special education student has specific needs, their school expectations must be catered to their capabilities. Teachers are tasked with setting goals for educational progress and for delivering a curriculum and in-class experience that helps the student reach those goals.
Teachers also maintain strong lines of communication with the parents of special needs children, as well as other educators, to keep them updated on the student’s progress toward their educational goals. At the same time, teachers must coordinate the tasks of special education aides, as well as the services and involvement of specialists and volunteers providing individualized support and care for the students in their classroom.
Because of this individualized approach, special education teachers are given a lot of responsibility to manage the education and care of their students. Individuals interested in this career path should be capable of multi-tasking, managing their stress levels, and being flexible in a classroom environment that can vary greatly from one day to the next.
Other Jobs Working with Special Needs Children
Special education teacher jobs aren't the only professional role required to support special needs students. The following career options also directly serve special needs populations, and may be a preferable career path based on your specific interests and educational background:
- Speech-Language Pathologists: SLPs work with students to strengthen their speech and verbal communication. This is essential for special education students who suffer from language development challenges: improved verbal communication will improve their quality of life, including their ability to articulate their own thoughts and advocate for themselves. SLPs must earn a graduate degree in speech-language pathology, pass a standardized exam, and receive a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology.
- Special Education Aides: Also referred to as paraprofessionals, this role does not require a four-year degree, but it plays an important role in providing direct care and support for students. Aides work along with the teacher to guide students through lessons and activities, to provide 1-on-1 support and tutoring, and to attend to any other needs the students express.
- Therapists and Counselors: While these roles are typically not exclusive to special education, they play an important role in providing support and resources for students with special needs—and can allow you to continue serving a more general student population while also dedicating your time and energy to students in special education.
Finding the Right Special Education Jobs
You might be asking yourself, “How do I find open special education teacher jobs near me?” You can check the job listings with your local school district to see if any openings are available, along with checking our careers page, as we specialize in placing special education teachers into open positions.
Special education jobs play an important role in supporting the success and well-being of our most vulnerable students. If you're passionate about caring for students in need, find out the next steps you need to take to turn this passion into the focus of your career.