What does a special education teacher do?

Special education teachers are responsible for developing and delivering classes to students with special needs. They also have a role in assessing and evaluating the needs of students, and reporting on their developmental outcomes. They often have a role in assisting students with their physical needs and also regularly act as advocate for the special needs services and students within the wider school setting.

Tasks:

  • Adapt the curriculum to students’ needs
  • Teach basic health, hygiene and safety tasks
  • Promote a safe and calm environment
  • Assist students with their physical needs in addition to teaching
  • Advocate for the special needs services and students within the school

What skills do I need to be a special education teacher?

Special education teachers can make an enormous difference in the lives of their students. Empathy and patience are essential to the role, special education teachers must approach each student as an individual and tailor lessons to address each student’s needs. They must be adaptable, responding to situations in the classroom quickly and evaluating the moods of their students throughout the day. Special education teachers must also have excellent motivational skills, as their students can be reluctant to learn at times.
Skills/attributes
  • Highly motivated and motivating
  • Organised and observant
  • Sensitive when dealing with students and their families
  • Able to communicate simply and clearly

Specialisations

As they progress in their careers, special education teachers may wish to focus on a specific specialisation or pursue senior positions.

Adult literacy and numeracy teacher

Improving the literacy and numeracy of adults through reading, writing and mathematical training uses many of the same skills required for special education teaching. These teaching roles can take place in a variety of settings including government agencies, private practice and community education.

English as a second or other language (ESOL) teacher

Many special education teachers move into teaching English to speakers of other languages over time. The adaptability and experience in creative teaching approaches that special education teachers have can make these roles, working with new immigrants or international students, a great fit.

Gifted and talented program teaching

Gifted and talented students have different learning needs to many of their peers. These students benefit from additional lesson plans that allow them to develop their ability or interest in a particular subject and teachers who operate gifted and talented programs tailor the curriculum to meet those needs.

Study pathways for special education teachers

Special education teachers generally complete a Bachelor of Education, specialising in special education, or pursue postgraduate study in special education to enable them to work in this area.

Getting Started

Find courses that put you on the pathway to a teaching career.

Skill Building

Work towards becoming an accredited teacher with courses designed to build competence and confidence.

Professional Development

Find high level courses that will let you expand on your professional skill set and pursue new opportunities.

Industry Recognition

In order to work as a teacher you will need to join the register of qualified teachers in your state. Find out more in our Resources section.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your teaching career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for teaching jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Demand for special education teachers is growing strongly and these roles are generally paid above the average salary level for teaching staff.