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How Much do Special Education Teachers Earn?

While a special education teachers salary is usually not the main reason that educators venture into the niche career field of special education, compensation is important.

Educational testing has become more sophisticated and widespread which further highlights the need for special education professionals at the kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school levels.

It is well known that the educational levels in which special education teachers work impact job opportunities and their salaries.

Here are some other factors to consider for special education career prospects as well as information about entering the career field.

Types of Special Education Concentration Areas for High Job Prospects and Top Pay

The type of special education concentration area that is chosen by a teacher is a factor that affects career opportunities and pay. Most people do not realize the depth of special education offerings that are now available in today’s school systems unless they have loved ones who require these services. Some of the concentration areas within special education are behavior disorders, autism and developmental disabilities, high ability, deaf and hard of hearing, learning disabilities and blindness and visual impairments. Because of the dramatic increase of autism cases in children over the last few decades, special education in that particular niche category is in higher demand than other special education areas, and it is a concentration area in which a teacher may garner a higher salary.

Academic Preparation for Careers in Special Education

The minimal academic requirements for special education teachers who are generalists are undergraduate degrees in elementary education, special education or a content area like science or English. However, many states require advanced degrees in special education with a concentration in autism or a professional development certificate in autism for special education teachers who are autism learning experts.

The annual mean salary for generalist special education teachers who are only required to have undergraduate degrees was $61,520 in 2014 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to a salary report from Indeed, $63,000 is the average salary for a special education teacher with an advanced degree . Salaries for special education teachers can rise to $92,030 depending on education, experience and job location according to the BLS.

Licenses and Certifications for Special Education Teachers

Earning a degree that matches one’s chosen special education category is only the first step in gaining access to teaching jobs. Special education teachers also must take state certification tests and gain their teaching licenses in the states in which they plan to teach. Each state has different licensing requirements, but most states require licensing candidates to have a certain number of student teaching hours in their specialty areas. Special education teachers who want to go abroad to teach often can transfer their state licenses to meet the requirements of international schools.

Where to Teach

While there is a demand for special education teachers throughout the world, teachers who want to gain employment opportunities domestically are interested in the states with the highest numbers of great paying jobs. New York and California have some of the highest number of special education positions in the nation, and their annual mean salaries for special education teachers of all types are $76,760 and $70,900 respectively. These two places are both high cost of living areas, and economics minded special education teachers may want to take their skills to Illinois where they pay an annual mean wage $68,620 which is equivalent to a six figure salary in New York.


Educators who teach special education face unique challenges that require a great deal of patience, problem solving abilities and organizational skills. Most experts advise against entering the career field based on the special education teachers salary alone, but it is an area of teaching that is highly regarded, reasonably well compensated and full of personal and professional growth opportunities.