special education teacher salary

Special Education Teacher Salary: How Much Can You Earn?

If you are passionate about teaching and helping students with disabilities, you might be interested in becoming a special education teacher. Special education teachers work with students who have learning, mental, emotional, or physical challenges. They adapt the general education curriculum to meet the individual needs of their students and provide specialized instruction and support.

But how much does a special education teacher make in the United States? And what factors affect their salary? In this article, we will answer these questions and more. We will also give you some tips on how to increase your special education teacher salary and achieve your career goals.

What is a special education teacher?

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A special education teacher is a teacher who specializes in working with students who have disabilities. These disabilities may include autism, dyslexia, ADHD, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and others. Special education teachers may work in public or private schools, preschools, or other educational settings. They may teach students in self-contained classrooms, resource rooms, or inclusive classrooms with general education teachers.

Special education teachers have many responsibilities, such as:

  • Assessing students’ abilities and needs
  • Developing individualized education programs (IEPs) for each student
  • Implementing and monitoring the progress of the IEPs
  • Collaborating with parents, general education teachers, and other professionals
  • Modifying the curriculum and teaching methods to suit the students’ needs
  • Providing individual or small-group instruction
  • Using assistive technology and adaptive equipment
  • Managing students’ behavior and creating a positive learning environment
  • Advocating for students’ rights and interests

Why is a special education teacher’s salary important?

Why is a special education teacher's salary important?

Special education teacher salaries are important for several reasons. First, it reflects the value and recognition of the profession. Special education teachers play a vital role in the education system and society. They help students with disabilities achieve their academic and personal potential. They also contribute to the diversity and inclusion of the school community. Therefore, they deserve to be compensated fairly and competitively for their work.

Second, special education teacher salaries affect the quality and quantity of the workforce. Special education teachers face many challenges and demands in their job. They often have to deal with high caseloads, paperwork, legal issues, and emotional stress. They also need to have extensive knowledge and skills in various areas, such as curriculum, instruction, assessment, behavior management, and collaboration. Therefore, they need to be motivated and supported by adequate salary and benefits. Otherwise, they may experience burnout, dissatisfaction, or attrition.

Third, special education teacher salaries influence the career development and advancement of the profession. Special education teachers need to have opportunities for professional growth and learning. They need to be able to pursue higher education, obtain additional certifications, or seek out leadership roles. However, these opportunities may require additional time, money, and effort. Therefore, they need to be rewarded by higher salary and recognition. Otherwise, they may feel stagnant, frustrated, or discouraged.

What factors affect special education teacher salaries?

Special education teacher salary can vary widely depending on many factors, such as:

Location

Different states and districts have different salary scales and cost of living. Generally, states and districts with higher demand and lower supply of special education teachers tend to offer higher salary and incentives. However, this may also mean higher competition and expectations. Additionally, some states and districts may have higher taxes and expenses than others, which may affect the net income of special education teachers.

Experience

 Special education teachers with more years of experience usually earn more than those with less experience. This is because they have more knowledge, skills, and expertise in the field. They may also have more seniority and bargaining power in their schools or districts. However, this may also mean more responsibilities and challenges. Additionally, some states and districts may have salary caps or freezes that limit the salary increase of special education teachers over time.

Education

 Special education teachers with higher levels of education usually earn more than those with lower levels of education. This is because they have more qualifications and credentials in the field. They may also have more opportunities for career advancement and leadership. However, this may also mean more investment and debt. Additionally, some states and districts may have different requirements and incentives for education levels of special education teachers.

Certification

 Special education teachers with certain certifications usually earn more than those without them. This is because they have more skills and competencies in the field. They may also have more recognition and respect from their peers and employers. However, this may also mean more preparation and testing. Additionally, some states and districts may have different requirements and incentives for certifications of special education teachers.

How much does a special education teacher make in the United States?

How much does a special education teacher make in the United States?

Now that we have discussed the factors that affect special education teacher salary, let’s look at some statistics and data on how much a special education teacher makes in the United States. We will use the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is the federal agency that collects and analyzes labor market information. The data is based on the year 2020, which is the latest available data as of writing this article.

National average salary

According to the BLS, the national average salary of special education teachers in the United States was $63,110 per year or $30.34 per hour in 2020. This means that the median special education teacher earned half more and half less than this amount. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,730, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,090.

Salary range

The salary range of special education teachers in the United States depends on the type and level of the school they work in. The BLS categorizes special education teachers into four groups: preschool, kindergarten and elementary school, middle school, and high school. Here are the salary ranges of each group in 2020:

  • Preschool: $39,020 – $97,770
  • Kindergarten and elementary school: $40,730 – $99,090
  • Middle school: $41,020 – $98,530
  • High school: $41,650 – $99,660

As you can see, the salary range of special education teachers increases as the level of the school increases. This is because higher-level schools usually require more education and experience from their teachers. However, this may also mean more workload and complexity.

Salary by state

The salary of special education teachers in the United States also varies by state. Different states have different salary scales, cost of living, demand and supply, and regulations for special education teachers. Here are the top 10 states that paid the highest annual mean wages to special education teachers in 2020:

  • New York: $86,680
  • California: $85,080
  • Connecticut: $82,970
  • Alaska: $81,800
  • Massachusetts: $80,020
  • Rhode Island: $79,410
  • New Jersey: $77,290
  • Maryland: $76,430
  • Oregon: $75,890
  • Pennsylvania: $74,840

As you can see, most of the top-paying states are located in the Northeast and the West regions of the United States. These regions usually have higher cost of living, demand, and standards for special education teachers. However, this may also mean higher taxes, expenses, and competition.

Salary by experience level

The salary of special education teachers in the United States also depends on their experience level. Experience level refers to the number of years that a special education teacher has worked in the field. Experience level usually affects the knowledge, skills, and expertise of a special education teacher. It may also affect their seniority and bargaining power in their schools or districts. Here are the average salaries of special education teachers by experience level in 2020, according to PayScale:

  • Entry-level (0-1 year): $43,000
  • Early-career (1-4 years): $46,000
  • Mid-career (5-9 years): $51,000
  • Experienced (10-19 years): $57,000
  • Late-career (20+ years): $62,000

As you can see, the salary of special education teachers increases as their experience level increases. This is because they gain more knowledge, skills, and expertise in the field. They may also have more seniority and bargaining power in their schools or districts. However, this may also mean more responsibilities and challenges.

Salary by education level

The salary of special education teachers in the United States also depends on their education level. Education level refers to the highest degree or diploma that a special education teacher has attained in the field. Education level usually affects the qualifications and credentials of a special education teacher. It may also affect their opportunities for career advancement and leadership. Here are the average salaries of special education teachers by education level in 2020, according to PayScale:

  • Bachelor’s degree: $49,000
  • Master’s degree: $55,000
  • Doctoral degree: $66,000

As you can see, the salary of special education teachers increases as their education level increases. This is because they have more qualifications and credentials in the field. They may also have more opportunities for career advancement and leadership. However, this may also mean more investment and debt.

Salary by certification

The salary of special education teachers in the United States also depends on their certification. Certification refers to the professional credential that a special education teacher has obtained in the field. Certification usually affects the skills and competencies of a special education teacher. It may also affect their recognition and respect from their peers and employers. Here are some of the common certifications that special education teachers can obtain and their average salaries in 2020, according to PayScale:

  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): $62,000
  • National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT): $61,000
  • Certified Autism Specialist (CAS): $60,000
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Certification: $59,000
  • Special Education (SPED) Certification: $49,000

As you can see, the salary of special education teachers increases as their certification level increases. This is because they have more skills and competencies in the field. They may also have more recognition and respect from their peers and employers. However, this may also mean more preparation and testing.

How to increase your special education teacher salary?

Now that we have discussed how much a special education teacher makes in the United States and what factors affect their salary, let’s talk about how to increase your special education teacher salary. There are several ways that you can boost your income and achieve your career goals as a special education teacher. Here are some tips and tricks that you can try:

  • Negotiate your salary: One of the simplest and most effective ways to increase your special education teacher salary is to negotiate your salary. Negotiating your salary means asking for a higher pay or better benefits from your employer. You can negotiate your salary when you are applying for a new job, getting a promotion, or receiving a performance review. However, negotiating your salary requires some skills and strategies, such as:
  • Doing your research: Before you negotiate your salary, you need to do your homework and find out how much other special education teachers are earning in your area, school, or district. You can use online sources, such as the BLS, PayScale, Glassdoor, or Indeed, to get an idea of the average salary, salary range, and salary by factors of special education teachers. You can also ask your colleagues, mentors, or professional networks for their insights and experiences. This will help you determine your worth and set a realistic and reasonable salary expectation.
  • Preparing your case: After you have done your research, you need to prepare your case and justify why you deserve a higher salary or better benefits. You need to highlight your achievements, contributions, and value to your employer. You can use concrete examples, data, and evidence to support your claims. You can also mention your goals, plans, and aspirations for the future. This will help you demonstrate your potential and commitment to your employer.
  • Practicing your pitch: Before you negotiate your salary, you need to practice your pitch and rehearse what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. You need to be confident, clear, and concise in your communication. You need to be polite, respectful, and professional in your tone. You need to be assertive, but not aggressive, in your approach. You need to be flexible, but not desperate, in your attitude. You can practice your pitch with a friend, a family member, or a mentor. This will help you improve your skills and overcome your nerves.
  • Timing your request: After you have practiced your pitch, you need to time your request and choose the best moment to negotiate your salary. You need to consider the context and the situation of your employer. You need to avoid asking for a raise when your employer is facing financial difficulties, budget cuts, or layoffs. You need to avoid asking for a raise when you have just started a new job, received a negative feedback, or made a mistake. You need to ask for a raise when your employer is doing well, has extra funds, or is expanding. You need to ask for a raise when you have just completed a successful project, received a positive feedback, or achieved a milestone.

Pursue higher education

Another way to increase your special education teacher salary is to pursue higher education. Pursuing higher education means obtaining a higher degree or diploma in the field of special education or a related field. You can pursue higher education by enrolling in a college, university, or online program that offers courses, programs, or degrees in special education or a related field. Pursuing higher education can benefit you in several ways, such as:

  • Increasing your qualifications and credentials: Pursuing higher education can increase your qualifications and credentials in the field of special education. This can make you more competitive and marketable in the job market. This can also make you more eligible for more career advancement and leadership. This can also make you more respected and recognized by your peers and employers.
  • Enhancing your knowledge and skills: Pursuing higher education can enhance your knowledge and skills in the field of special education. This can make you more effective and efficient in your job. This can also make you more confident and competent in your profession. You can learn new theories, methods, techniques, and technologies that can improve your teaching and learning outcomes.
  • Expanding your network and opportunities: Pursuing higher education can expand your network and opportunities in the field of special education. This can make you more connected and involved in the professional community. You can meet new people, such as professors, mentors, colleagues, and peers, who can support, inspire, and collaborate with you. You can also access new resources, such as libraries, journals, conferences, and grants, that can enrich your professional development.

However, pursuing higher education also has some challenges and costs, such as:

  • Investing time and money: Pursuing higher education can require a lot of time and money from you. You may have to balance your work, family, and personal life with your studies. You may also have to pay for tuition, fees, books, and other expenses. You may have to take out loans or apply for scholarships or financial aid to fund your education.
  • Facing academic pressure and competition: Pursuing higher education can expose you to a lot of academic pressure and competition. You may have to meet high standards and expectations from your instructors, advisors, and peers. You may have to complete rigorous coursework, assignments, exams, and research projects. You may also have to deal with stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

Therefore, before you pursue higher education, you need to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it is worth it for you. You also need to choose the right program and institution that suits your needs, interests, and goals.

Obtain additional certifications

Another way to increase your special education teacher salary is to obtain additional certifications. Obtaining additional certifications means acquiring more professional credentials in the field of special education or a related field. You can obtain additional certifications by completing a training program, passing an exam, or meeting certain requirements that are offered by various organizations, such as:

  • The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), which offers the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification for special education teachers who want to practice applied behavior analysis (ABA) with students with autism and other behavioral disorders.
  • The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), which offers the National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) certification for special education teachers who want to demonstrate their excellence and expertise in teaching students with exceptional needs.
  • The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), which offers the Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) certification for special education teachers who want to enhance their knowledge and skills in working with students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), which offers various certifications for special education teachers who want to specialize in different areas of special education, such as early childhood, deaf and hard of hearing, gifted and talented, and others.

Obtaining additional certifications can benefit you in several ways, such as:

  • Increasing your skills and competencies: Obtaining additional certifications can increase your skills and competencies in the field of special education. This can make you more effective and efficient in your job. This can also make you more confident and competent in your profession. You can learn new theories, methods, techniques, and technologies that can improve your teaching and learning outcomes.
  • Enhancing your recognition and respect: Obtaining additional certifications can enhance your recognition and respect in the field of special education. This can make you more competitive and marketable in the job market. This can also make you more eligible for more career advancement and leadership. You can also gain more recognition and respect from your peers and employers.
  • Expanding your network and opportunities: Obtaining additional certifications can expand your network and opportunities in the field of special education. This can make you more connected and involved in the professional community. You can meet new people, such as instructors, mentors, colleagues, and peers, who can support, inspire, and collaborate with you. You can also access new resources, such as publications, events, and awards, that can enrich your professional development.

However, obtaining additional certifications also has some challenges and costs, such as:

  • Investing time and money: Obtaining additional certifications can require a lot of time and money from you. You may have to balance your work, family, and personal life with your studies. You may also have to pay for tuition, fees, books, and other expenses. You may have to take out loans or apply for scholarships or financial aid to fund your education.
  • Facing academic pressure and competition: Obtaining additional certifications can expose you to a lot of academic pressure and competition. You may have to meet high standards and expectations from your instructors, advisors, and peers. You may have to complete rigorous coursework, assignments, exams, and research projects. You may also have to deal with stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

Therefore, before you obtain additional certifications, you need to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it is worth it for you. You also need to choose the right certification and organization that suit your needs, interests, and goals.

Apply for grants and scholarships

Another way to increase your special education teacher salary is to apply for grants and scholarships. Applying for grants and scholarships means seeking financial assistance or support from various sources, such as the government, organizations, foundations, or individuals, for your education or professional development. You can apply for grants and scholarships by submitting an application, proposal, or essay that demonstrates your eligibility, need, and merit for the funding. Applying for grants and scholarships can benefit you in several ways, such as:

  • Reducing your financial burden: Applying for grants and scholarships can reduce your financial burden for your education or professional development. This can make you more able to pursue higher education, obtain additional certifications, or seek out other opportunities that can increase your special education teacher salary. This can also make you more free from debt, stress, and worry.
  • Increasing your motivation and confidence: Applying for grants and scholarships can increase your motivation and confidence for your education or professional development. This can make you more eager and enthusiastic to learn and grow as a special education teacher. This can also make you more proud and grateful for your achievements and accomplishments.
  • Expanding your network and opportunities: Applying for grants and scholarships can expand your network and opportunities for your education or professional development. This can make you more connected and involved in the professional community. You can meet new people, such as sponsors, mentors, colleagues, and peers, who can support you, inspire you, and collaborate with you. You can also access new resources, such as libraries, journals, conferences, and grants, that can enrich you, inform you, and empower you.

However, applying for grants and scholarships also has some challenges and costs, such as:

  • Investing time and effort: Applying for grants and scholarships can require a lot of time and effort from you. You may have to balance your work, family, and personal life with your applications. You may have to research and find the best grants and scholarships that suit your needs and goals. You may have to write and revise your applications, proposals, or essays. You may have to gather and submit your documents, transcripts, letters, and other requirements.
  • Facing uncertainty and rejection: Applying for grants and scholarships can expose you to a lot of uncertainty and rejection. You may have to wait for a long time to hear back from the funding sources. You may have to face a lot of competition and comparison from other applicants. You may have to deal with disappointment, frustration, and discouragement.
  • Fulfilling obligations and expectations: Applying for grants and scholarships can involve a lot of obligations and expectations for you. You may have to follow the rules and regulations of the funding sources. You may have to report and account for your progress and performance. You may have to maintain a certain grade point average or standard of quality. You may have to repay or return the funding if you fail to meet the criteria or conditions.

Therefore, applying for grants and scholarships is a personal and professional decision that you have to make carefully and wisely. You have to weigh the pros and cons, and consider your goals, interests, and abilities. You have to plan ahead, prepare well, and persevere hard.

Seek out bonuses and incentives

Another way to increase your special education teacher salary is to seek out bonuses and incentives. Seeking out bonuses and incentives means looking for extra pay or benefits from your employer or other sources, such as the government, organizations, foundations, or individuals, for your work or performance. You can seek out bonuses and incentives by applying, qualifying, or participating in various programs, initiatives, or awards that offer extra pay or benefits to special education teachers. Seeking out bonuses and incentives can benefit you in several ways, such as:

  • Boosting your income and benefits: Seeking out bonuses and incentives can boost your income and benefits as a special education teacher. This can make you more able to afford your living expenses, save for your future, or enjoy your life. This can also make you more satisfied and happy with your work and compensation.
  • Recognizing your work and performance: Seeking out bonuses and incentives can recognize your work and performance as a special education teacher. This can make you more appreciated and valued by your employer and other sources. This can also make you more confident and proud of your work and achievements.
  • Encouraging your work and performance: Seeking out bonuses and incentives can encourage your work and performance as a special education teacher. This can make you more motivated and inspired to work hard and excel in your profession. This can also make you more challenged and excited to try new things and improve your skills.

However, seeking out bonuses and incentives also has some challenges and costs, such as:

  • Competing for limited resources: Seeking out bonuses and incentives Seeking out bonuses and incentives can involve competing for limited resources. You may have to face a lot of competition and comparison from other special education teachers or other teachers. You may have to meet high standards and expectations from the bonus or incentive sources. You may have to deal with disappointment, frustration, and discouragement if you do not get the bonus or incentive that you want or deserve.
  • Fulfilling obligations and expectations: Seeking out bonuses and incentives can involve fulfilling obligations and expectations. You may have to follow the rules and regulations of the bonus or incentive sources. You may have to report and account for your work and performance. You may have to maintain a certain level of quality or quantity of your work and performance. You may have to repay or return the bonus or incentive if you fail to meet the criteria or conditions.
  • Balancing your work and life: Seeking out bonuses and incentives can involve balancing your work and life. You may have to work extra hours, take on extra tasks, or participate in extra activities to qualify for the bonus or incentive. You may have to sacrifice some of your personal, family, or social time or interests. You may have to deal with stress, fatigue, and burnout.

Therefore, seeking out bonuses and incentives is a personal and professional decision that you have to make carefully and wisely. You have to weigh the pros and cons, and consider your goals, interests, and abilities. You have to plan ahead, prepare well, and persevere hard.

Conclusion

In conclusion, special education teacher salary is an important topic for anyone who is interested in becoming or already working as a special education teacher. Special education teacher salary can vary widely depending on many factors, such as location, experience, education, certification, and others. Special education teacher salary can also be increased by various ways, such as negotiating your salary, pursuing higher education, obtaining additional certifications, applying for grants and scholarships, and seeking out bonuses and incentives. However, each of these ways has its own benefits and challenges, and requires careful and wise decision-making. Ultimately, special education teacher salary is not only a matter of money, but also a matter of passion, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

FAQs

Q: What is the difference between special education teacher salary and general education teacher salary?

A: Special education teacher salary and general education teacher salary are both based on the same salary scales and factors, such as location, experience, education, and others. However, special education teacher salary may be higher or lower than general education teacher salary depending on the type and level of the school, the demand and supply of special education teachers, and the availability of bonuses and incentives for special education teachers.

Q: How can I find out the special education teacher salary in my area, school, or district?

A: You can find out the special education teacher salary in your area, school, or district by using online sources, such as the BLS, PayScale, Glassdoor, or Indeed, to get an idea of the average salary, salary range, and salary by factors of special education teachers. You can also ask your colleagues, mentors, or professional networks for their insights and experiences. You can also check the official websites, documents, or contracts of your area, school, or district for the specific salary scales and benefits of special education teachers.

Q: How can I negotiate my special education teacher salary with my employer?

A: You can negotiate your special education teacher salary with your employer by following these steps:

  • Do your research and find out how much other special education teachers are earning in your area, school, or district.
  • Prepare your case and justify why you deserve a higher salary or better benefits.
  • Practice your pitch and rehearse what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.
  • Time your request and choose the best moment to negotiate your salary.
  • Be confident, clear, and concise in your communication.
  • Be polite, respectful, and professional in your tone.
  • Be assertive, but not aggressive, in your approach.
  • Be flexible, but not desperate, in your attitude.

Q: How can I pursue higher education as a special education teacher?

A: You can pursue higher education as a special education teacher by enrolling in a college, university, or online program that offers courses, programs, or degrees in special education or a related field. You can choose the level, type, and mode of education that suits your needs and goals. You can also apply for scholarships or financial aid to help you pay for your education. However, you need to consider the time, money, and effort that pursuing higher education requires, and the academic pressure and competition that you may face.

Q: How can I obtain additional certifications as a special education teacher?

A: You can obtain additional certifications as a special education teacher by completing a course, program, or exam that tests your skills and competencies in a specific area of special education or a related field. You can choose the certification that suits your needs and goals. You can also apply for grants or scholarships to help you pay for your certification. However, you need to consider the time, money, and effort that obtaining additional certifications requires, and the professional pressure and competition that you may face.

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