Steps to Becoming a Special Education Teacher

Steps to Becoming a Special Education Teacher

Are you interested in a rewarding career where you can make a positive impact on the lives of students with special needs? Becoming a special education teacher may be the perfect path for you. In this article, we will outline the essential steps you need to take in order to pursue a career in special education. From obtaining the necessary education and certifications to gaining practical experience in the field, we will guide you through the process of becoming a successful special education teacher.

Education Requirements

Becoming a special education teacher requires meeting specific education requirements. These requirements typically include earning a bachelor’s degree, completing a special education teacher preparation program, and obtaining state licensure.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step towards becoming a special education teacher is earning a bachelor’s degree. This degree should ideally be in special education or a related field, such as education or psychology. Some programs may also require coursework in areas such as child development, behavior management, and instructional strategies for students with disabilities.

Complete a Special Education Teacher Preparation Program

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, aspiring special education teachers must also complete a special education teacher preparation program. These programs typically include coursework in areas such as assessment, instructional planning, and working with students with diverse needs. They also often include a student teaching component, where aspiring teachers gain hands-on experience working with students with disabilities under the supervision of a licensed teacher.

Obtain State Licensure

Once education and training requirements are met, the final step towards becoming a special education teacher is obtaining state licensure. Licensure requirements vary by state, but typically include passing a series of exams, completing a background check, and fulfilling any additional requirements set forth by the state board of education. Once licensed, special education teachers are eligible to work in public schools and other educational settings, providing support and instruction to students with disabilities.

Gain Experience

One of the most important steps in becoming a special education teacher is gaining relevant experience in the field. This can be achieved through various means, such as completing student teaching, participating in internships or residencies, and working as a paraprofessional.

Complete Student Teaching

Student teaching is a crucial component of any teacher preparation program. This hands-on experience allows aspiring special education teachers to work directly with students in a classroom setting, under the supervision of an experienced teacher. During student teaching, individuals can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in their coursework to real-world situations, gaining valuable insights into the challenges and rewards of working with students with special needs.

Participate in Internships or Residencies

In addition to student teaching, aspiring special education teachers can benefit from participating in internships or residencies. These opportunities provide individuals with the chance to gain practical experience in a variety of educational settings, such as public schools, private schools, or specialized learning centers. Internships and residencies allow individuals to work closely with students, teachers, and administrators, further developing their skills and understanding of the field.

Work as a Paraprofessional

Working as a paraprofessional is another valuable way to gain experience in the field of special education. Paraprofessionals provide direct support to students with special needs, assisting teachers with classroom management, instructional activities, and individualized interventions. By working as a paraprofessional, individuals can gain hands-on experience working with diverse student populations, while also developing their skills in areas such as behavior management, lesson planning, and data collection.

Develop Skills and Qualities

Patience and Flexibility

As a special education teacher, it is crucial to possess patience and flexibility. Working with students who have diverse learning needs can be challenging, and it is important to remain patient when faced with obstacles. Flexibility is also key, as each student may require different approaches to learning. By being patient and flexible, special education teachers can create a supportive and nurturing environment for their students.

Empathy and Understanding

Empathy and understanding are essential qualities for special education teachers. These teachers work with students who may face various challenges, and it is important to empathize with their struggles. By understanding the unique needs of each student, special education teachers can tailor their teaching strategies to meet individual requirements. Empathy and understanding help create a positive and inclusive classroom environment where all students feel valued and supported.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is a vital skill for special education teachers. Clear and concise communication with students, parents, and other professionals is essential for ensuring the success of the students. Special education teachers must be able to effectively convey information, instructions, and feedback to support their students’ learning and development. By mastering effective communication skills, special education teachers can build strong relationships with students and collaborate effectively with colleagues to provide the best possible support for their students.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

Special education teachers must continuously seek opportunities for professional growth and development in order to stay current with best practices in the field. Here are some ways to further your education and advance your career:

Attend Workshops and Seminars

Attending workshops and seminars is a great way to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and research in special education. Look for events in your area or online that cover topics such as inclusive teaching strategies, behavior management techniques, and assistive technology.

Pursue Advanced Degrees

Consider pursuing advanced degrees such as a Master’s in Special Education or a Doctorate in Education. These degrees can open up new career opportunities and allow you to specialize in a specific area of special education, such as autism spectrum disorders or learning disabilities.

Join Professional Organizations

Joining professional organizations such as the Council for Exceptional Children or the National Association of Special Education Teachers can provide you with valuable networking opportunities and resources. These organizations often offer professional development workshops, conferences, and publications that can help you stay informed about the latest research and developments in special education.


Becoming a special education teacher is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice that allows individuals to make a positive impact on the lives of students with special needs. By following the steps outlined in this article, including obtaining the necessary education and certifications, gaining practical experience, and continuing to stay informed about best practices in special education, aspiring teachers can successfully navigate the path to becoming a special education teacher. With dedication, passion, and a commitment to supporting students with diverse learning needs, individuals can make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.