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Special Education Careers

Opportunities are growing in the field of special education


The 2008-2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook ranks careers in special education as among the fastest growing.

"The number of special education teachers is expected to increase by 15 percent from 2006 to 2016, faster than the average for all occupations."

The career field of Special Education is made up of more than teachers, though they make up the largest group of professionals. Special Education professionals provide a whole range of services and support to children with disabilities, from mobility, feeding and hand over hand support to physical therapy. Preparation for these jobs can be on the job training for high school graduates to specific certification programs that require Master's or Doctoral degrees.

Job opportunities in special education:

  • Therapeutic Support Staff: Often call "wrap arounds," these aides work with individual children to provide behavioral or physical support. These positions may require some college, but are often open to 21 year olds with high school diplomas.

  • Classroom Aides: Most school districts provide "para-professionals" who assist special education teachers by providing instructional support to individuals or small groups of students. Hired by school districts, they may require some college education.

  • Special Education Teachers: Teachers are required to have at least a special education degree from a college or university. Some states provide alternate routes to certification through post baccalaureate Masters Degree programs. Some states require Masters degrees. Another requirement since passage of the latest reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is that teachers are "Highly Qualified" which requires certification in another curricular field.

  • Occupational Therapists OT's provide support that helps children develop handwriting, grooming, self dressing and other motor skills they need for life and academic success. A Master's degree is required for Occupational Therapy certification.

  • Speech Pathologists/Therapists: Speech and Language Pathologists/Therapists work with students who with articulation or cognitive difficulties to help them develop understandable speech. A master's degree is required for certification.

  • Physical Therapists: PT's provide support for children with physical disabilities to help them with ambulation (walking or getting around in a wheel chair) and the other physical requirements of daily living. Master's degrees are required for physical therapy.

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