Working with students with disabilities is one of the most fulfilling careers in education. And demand in the field is very high. But while prospects are very good and one of the reasons more people are considering special education, it takes a special kind of person to fill this role. Coming in with false expectations or preconceived ideas could end up in disappointment. Special education is more than just a job, it’s a calling, and only those with the right set of abilities and temperament needed can succeed. Here are some of the things you should know before embarking on a career in special education.

4 Things You Should Know Before You Start a Career in Special Education

You Need to be Able to Cope with Stress

All teachers have to deal with a certain amount of stress, but special education teachers even more. You can be the best instructor in the world, but students in special education have different needs and usually require more attention.

There’s also the possibility of having to deal with the occasional meltdown. You’ll have to be able to cope with different, and sometimes very strong personalities, and learn how to resolve conflict. You’ll also have to be able to stay calm under fire, as your demeanor will have an effect on the students as well.

You Have to be Able to Wear Many Hats

Special education teachers are more than just teachers. They’re community advocates, counselors, and coordinators all wrapped in one. They’ll also have to be able to connect students with special needs to resources that will allow them to succeed beyond class.

Another major part of the job is working with the parents of children with disabilities. Parents will usually not have the same expertise as you and might rely on yours on certain issues.

Different States Have Different Requirements

Depending on the state, you might have to get a different formation or fit some different criteria. States like Massachusetts, for instance, set the bar very high for their special education teachers, which is one of the reasons why their schools rank so high. If you want to get a moderate disabilities license in Massachusetts, you will need to go through an M.Ed. in Moderate Disabilities. This will allow you to get the credentials necessary to work with Pre-K students with moderate disabilities in self-contained or integrated classrooms.

Special Education Teachers Receive Higher Compensation

While the job of a special education teacher may be demanding, they’re also compensated accordingly. According to BLS data, special education teachers earned around $53,000 per year on average in 2017, compared to just $28,790 per year for preschool teachers. Schools have to pay a premium to get access to this type of expertise, and we can expect demand to grow as shortages are being felt around the country.


Working as a special education teacher is one of the most rewarding careers you can find. However, make sure that you are fully aware of what the job entails and make sure that you have the traits, aptitudes, and character necessary for the position.