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How to become a special education teacher: a female teacher shows a female special needs student how to use a tablet.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher

In the 2020-21 school year, 15% of all public school students aged 3-21 received special education. 1 In 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed, granting free and accessible public school education to all eligible students. Now, special education teachers are at the frontline of providing education to those with disabilities. Read on to discover how to become a special education teacher.

What is Special Education?

Special education—or special needs education—is a range of services that are customized to help students with disabilities. Special education can include accommodation for assignments, access to specialists, and sometimes dedicated schooling for students with learning disabilities.   

Special education is characterized by IEP or 504 plans that highlight learning goals and processes to achieve them.

Why is Special Education Important?

Special education is a federally protected service to prevent discrimination against students with disabilities. Special education provides several benefits, including:

  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improved social skills
  • Accessible quality education
  • Access to trained support systems

Before learning how to become a special education teacher, it’s important to recognize the importance of education for students with disabilities.

Equal Access to Education

Special education ensures that students with disabilities have the same opportunities to learn and succeed as their peers without disabilities. By providing appropriate accommodations and support, special education helps to level the playing field and give all students a chance to reach their full potential.

Individualized Learning

Special education is tailored to meet the unique needs of each student with a disability. Teachers and specialists work closely with students and their families to create individualized education plans (IEPs) that address the student’s strengths, challenges, and learning goals. This approach helps to ensure that students receive the support they need to succeed.

Personal Growth and Development

Special education goes beyond academics and helps students with disabilities develop important life skills such as communication, self-advocacy, and socialization. These skills are essential for success in school and beyond—and can help students with disabilities lead fulfilling and productive lives.

Inclusion and Diversity

Special education promotes inclusion and diversity by recognizing and valuing the unique contributions and perspectives of all students. By creating a culture of acceptance and respect, special education helps to foster a more inclusive society that values and celebrates differences.

Special education is a legal and ethical obligation under federal and state laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These laws ensure that students with disabilities are provided with appropriate educational services and support and that their rights are protected.

Special education helps improve the quality of life for individuals with special needs. Such education is important because it helps to ensure that all students, regardless of their abilities, have access to a quality education that prepares them for a successful future.

However—because needs vary depending on the individual—educators of students with disabilities must be able to address the needs of various students.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher

To become a special education teacher, there are some things you’ll need to do. While your path may vary, there are general requirements to teach special education.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is one of the basic requirements to become any kind of public school teacher. You will need to complete a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field, such as special education, elementary education, or secondary education.

A bachelor’s degree is required before pursuing a teaching license. While you can become a teacher after pursuing other undergraduate degrees, an education degree includes the field experience and supervision necessary to smoothly complete licensure.

Obtain Teaching Licensure

Licensure requirements can vary by state. Make sure to research each state’s licensure criteria before beginning your journey.

Certification requirements vary by state but typically involve completing a teacher preparation program, passing state exams, and fulfilling student teaching or classroom observation requirements.

Complete Additional Education

A master’s degree can be helpful when pursuing a career as a teacher for students with disabilities. Some specializations for education are predominantly offered after you complete `your bachelor’s degree.

Become a promising applicant and enhance your teaching skills for students with specific needs by achieving a master’s degree in special education.

You can focus your studies on autism, behavior disorders, or assistive technology through certifications or endorsements offered in your state of licensure.

Develop the Qualities of a Special Education Teacher

In addition to the criteria for licensure, you’ll need to possess certain personal qualities such as patience, empathy, and strong communication skills to provide special education.

Special education teachers are important and valuable resources for students with disabilities.  You need to possess a deep commitment to helping students with disabilities succeed. This will help you discover innovative ways to partner with students and families to enrich the lives of those with disabilities.

How to Become a Special Education Teacher at Regent University

Regent is a great place to begin or continue your journey to become a special education teacher. From bachelor’s to doctoral, you can complete your schooling at Regent. The faculty is experienced, knowledgeable, and caring.

At Regent, you can expect a high-quality education and exciting specializations like educational psychology, educational technology & online learning, TESOL, autism, and—of course—special education.

Now that you’ve learned how to become a special education teacher, are you ready to take the next step? Explore our education degrees.