Selected Job Profiles in Special Education

All descriptions are adapted from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Teachers—Special Education, online at: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Special-education-teachers.htm

 

Special Education Teachers

Early/Pre-K to 12

Nature of Work
Special education teachers work with children and youth who have a variety of disabilities. Most special education teachers instruct students at the elementary, middle, and secondary school level, although some work with infants and toddlers. The majority of special education teachers work with children with mild to moderate disabilities using or modifying the general education curriculum to meet the child's individual needs. A small number of special education teachers work with students with more significant cognitive disabilities, primarily teaching life skills and basic communication and literacy in connection with general education curriculum.

Work Environment
Special education teachers enjoy the challenge of working with students with disabilities and the opportunity to establish meaningful relationships with them. Some schools offer year-round education for special education students, but most special education teachers work only the traditional 10-month school year.

The special education classroom is an environment that relies on collaboration as special education teachers work closely with general education teachers, parents, teaching assistants, therapists, and other pertinent personnel in order to best meet the needs of students with disabilities. Professional traits such as strong organization skills, flexibility, patience, and personal responsibility are important to be a successful special education teacher.

While teaching students with disabilities can be highly rewarding, the work also can be emotionally and physically draining. Common issues include heavy workloads and administrative tasks, as necessary documentation of student assessments and progress monitoring can produce a substantial amount of paperwork. At times special education teachers deal with the threat of litigation against the school or district by parents if correct procedures are not followed or if they feel that their child is not receiving an adequate education. Recently passed legislation, however, is intended to reduce the burden of paperwork and the threat of litigation.

The physical and emotional demands of the job cause some special education teachers to leave the occupation. Taking advantage of mentoring opportunities and becoming involved in professional organizations can ease these concerns.

Education and Training
Many colleges and universities across the United States offer programs in special education at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral degree levels. Special education teachers usually undergo longer periods of training than do general education teachers.

Most bachelor's degree programs last four years and include general and specialized courses in special education. However, an increasing number of institutions require a fifth year or other graduate-level preparation. Among the courses offered are educational psychology, legal issues of special education, child growth and development, assessment, curriculum development and planning, strategies for teaching students with disabilities, and transition.

Some programs require specialization, while others offer generalized special education degrees or a course of study in several specialized areas. Students typically spend the last year of their program completing an internship in a classroom supervised by a certified teacher while monitored by the university supervisor.

Licensure and Certification
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require special education teachers to be licensed. The state board of education or a licensure advisory committee usually grants licenses, and licensure requirements may vary by state.

In some states, special education teachers receive a general education credential to teach kindergarten through grade 12, then earn an additional certification in a specialty area, such as learning disabilities or behavioral disorders, on their license. Many states offer general special education licenses across a variety of disability categories, while others license several different specialties within special education. Find licensure and certification information for your state

Other Qualifications
Special education teachers must be patient, able to motivate students, understanding of their students' special needs, and accepting of differences in others. They must be creative and able to apply different types of teaching methods to reach students who are having difficulty learning. Communication, cooperation, and collaboration are essential skills because special education teachers spend a great deal of time interacting with others, including students, parents, and school faculty and administrators.

High-incidence disabilities: Resource and/or Inclusion

Special education teachers who work with students in high-incidence disability areas (learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and speech-language disorders) may work in either an inclusive or resource environment.

In an inclusive environment they co-teach with a general education teacher, allowing students with disabilities to stay in the general education classroom throughout the school day. There are a variety of co-teaching models available so that teamed teachers can find and use the model that works best for them and meets the needs of the students with disabilities in the classroom.

Resource environments allow the special education teacher to pull students out of the general classroom and teach them in a quieter, more structured location. In some cases, special education teachers may participate in both types of environments within the same school day—co-teaching in one classroom in an inclusion model and pulling students out of another classroom later in the day in a resource model.

Low-incidence disabilities: Sensory, Developmental, and /or Multiple/ Severe Disabilities

Special education teachers who work with students who have more significant cognitive or physical needs often work in a self-contained classroom with the support of a teaching assistant. Low-incidence classrooms typically serve students who are working on communication, basic literacy, and functional skills for daily life. While the general course study is used to guide curriculum, the curriculum is often subject to modifications (as opposed to adaptations) in order to merge standard objectives with functional skills.

Teacher/Specialist: Emotional or Behavioral Disorders  

Special education teachers who specialize in emotional or behavioral disorders work with students who exhibit a wide range of characteristics, including but not limited to aggressive behaviors, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, depression, and anxiety or conduct disorders. Teachers serving these students may do so in the inclusive classroom, in a pull-out/resource model, or in a self-contained classroom environment depending on the nature of the behavioral characteristics being exhibited. Some school districts may have a separate school for students who are unable to effectively function in a regular school environment.

A strong working knowledge of behavioral strategies and interventions is necessary. Many special education teachers who work with students with emotional and behavioral disorders choose to pursue a Behavioral Specialist degree in postsecondary education.

Teacher/Specialist: Autism Spectrum Disorders  

Special education teachers who work with students identified on the autism spectrum will also find a range of environments from full inclusion in the regular education classroom to a self-contained classroom with additional teaching supports. As autism characteristics include significant communication delays and deficits and an inability to relate to others or social situations, special education teachers who work with this population need to have a strong working knowledge of communication and behavior, as well as content areas and functional skills, since cognitive disabilities may or may not be present in the individual student.

Advancement Opportunities
Special education teachers can advance to become supervisors or administrators. They may choose to advance in specialized disability areas and seek higher degrees or certification such as a Behavioral Specialist, Autism Specialist, and so on. They may also earn advanced degrees to become instructors in colleges that prepare others to teach special education.

In some school systems, highly experienced teachers can become mentors to less experienced ones, providing guidance to those teachers while maintaining a lightened teaching load.

Job Outlook and Earnings
Employment of special education teachers is expected to increase faster than average. Job prospects should be excellent, as many districts report problems finding adequate numbers of certified special education teachers. For salary information in your state, click here

For More Information:

Council for Exceptional Children
2900 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22202-3557
888-232-7733

CEC's Special Interest Divisions

Division of Early Childhood (DEC)
Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders (CCBD)
Division for Communicative Disabilities and Deafness (DCDD)
Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD)
Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD)
Division on Visual Impairments (DVI)

 

ESE Support Services

Speech-Language Pathologist

Nature of Work
Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent disorders related to speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, and fluency.

Work Environment
Speech-language pathologists (SLP) usually work at a desk or table in clean comfortable surroundings. In schools, they may work with students within their classroom or pull them out to an office or resource room. Some work in the client's home.

School-based SLPs typically serve students with both high-incidence and low-incidence disabilities. In high-incidence populations, they work primarily with language and articulation problems, while in low-incidence populations they may work with nonverbal students who are in need of augmented communication through communication icons or boards or a voice output system.

Education and Training
Most speech-language pathologist jobs require a master's degree. In 2007, more than 230 colleges and universities offered graduate programs in speech-language pathology accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. While graduation from an accredited program is not always required to become a speech-language pathologist, it may be helpful in obtaining a license or may be required to obtain a license in some states. In some work situations, additional training in augmentative and alternative communication may be necessary to effectively serve students with significant communication disabilities.

Licensure and Certification
In 2007, 47 states regulated speech-language pathologists through licensure or registration. A passing score on the national examination on speech-language pathology, offered through the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service, is required. Other usual requirements include 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and nine months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. Forty-one states have continuing education requirements for licensure renewal. Medicaid, Medicare, and private health insurers generally require a practitioner to be licensed to qualify for reimbursement.

Only 12 states require this same license to practice in public schools. The other states issue a teaching license or certificate that typically requires a master's degree from an approved college or university. Some states will grant a provisional teaching license or certificate to applicants with a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree must be earned within three to five years. A few states grant a full teacher's certificate or license to bachelor's degree applicants.

In some states, the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association meets some or all of the requirements for licensure. To earn a CCC, a person must have a graduate degree from an accredited university, complete 400 hours of supervised clinical experience, complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical fellowship, and pass the Praxis Series examination in speech-language pathology administered by the Educational Testing Service. Contact your state's licensing board for details on your state's requirements. Find licensure information for your state.

Other Qualifications
Speech-language pathologists should be able to effectively communicate diagnostic test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatment in a manner easily understood by students and their families. They must be able to approach problems objectively and be supportive. Collaboration skills are integral, as the SLP often works closely with the teachers (general education and special education) to further address student needs within the school day. Because a student's progress may be slow—particularly with students in low-incidence populations—patience, compassion, and good listening skills are necessary.

Advancement Opportunities
As speech-language pathologists gain clinical experience and engage in continuing professional education, many develop expertise with certain populations, such as preschoolers and adolescents, or disorders, such as aphasia and learning disabilities. Some may obtain board recognition in a specialty area, such as child language, fluency, or feeding and swallowing. Experienced clinicians may become mentors or supervisors of other therapists or be promoted to administrative positions.

For More Information:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
2200 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850-3289

CEC's Division for Communicative Disabilities and Deafness (DCDD)
2900 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22202-3557

 

Occupational Therapist

Nature of Work
Occupational therapists help individuals improve their ability to perform tasks in living and working environments. In an educational setting, they work with students with cognitive, physical, developmental, or emotional disabilities. Occupational therapists use treatments to develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills. The therapist helps students not only improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also compensate for permanent loss of function. The goal is to help these individuals have independent, productive, and satisfying lives.

Occupational therapists help students perform all types of activities, from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing, cooking, and eating. Physical exercises may be used to increase strength and dexterity, while other activities may be chosen to improve visual acuity or the ability to discern patterns. For example, someone with short-term memory loss might be encouraged to make lists to aid recall, and a person with coordination problems might be assigned exercises to improve hand-eye coordination.

Occupational therapists also use computer programs to help students improve decision-making, abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, and perceptual skills, as well as memory, sequencing, and coordination—all of which are important for independent living.

Work Environment
In large rehabilitation centers, therapists may work in spacious rooms equipped with machines, tools, and other devices that generate noise. In school environments, therapists may work directly with students in the classroom or use a pull-out model to work with them in a more structured environment.

The work can be tiring because therapists are on their feet much of the time. Those providing home health care services or serving multiple schools may spend time driving from appointment to appointment. Therapists also face hazards such as back strain from lifting and moving people and equipment.

Education and Training
A master's degree or higher in occupational therapy is the minimum requirement for entry into the field. In 2007, 124 master's degree programs offered entry-level education, 66 programs offered a combined bachelor's and master's degree, and 5 offered an entry-level doctoral degree. Most schools have full-time programs, although a growing number are offering weekend or part-time programs as well. Coursework in occupational therapy programs includes the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences as well as the application of occupational therapy theory and skills. Programs also require the completion of six months of supervised fieldwork.

People considering this profession should take high school courses in biology, chemistry, physics, health, art, and the social sciences. College admissions offices also look favorably on paid or volunteer experience in the health care field. Relevant undergraduate majors include biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, liberal arts, and anatomy.

Licensure
All states regulate the practice of occupational therapy. To obtain a license, applicants must graduate from an accredited educational program and pass a national certification examination. Those who pass the exam are awarded the title "Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR)." Specific eligibility requirements for licensure vary by state.

Other Qualifications
In school environments, therapists are typically part of a planning team for each child that they serve. Therefore, strong communication and collaboration skills are a must.

Advancement Opportunities
Occupational therapists are expected to continue their professional development by participating in continuing education courses and workshops. In fact, a number of states require continuing education as a condition of maintaining licensure.

Job Outlook and Earnings
Employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, and job opportunities should be good.

Physical Therapist

Nature of Work
Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. They treat accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.

Work Environment
Physical therapists practice in hospitals, clinics, and private offices that have specially equipped facilities. They also treat patients in hospital rooms, homes, and schools. These jobs can be physically demanding because therapists often have to stoop, kneel, crouch, lift, and stand for long periods. In addition, physical therapists move heavy equipment and lift patients or help them turn, stand, or walk.

Education and Training
Individuals pursuing a career as a physical therapist usually need a master's degree from an accredited physical therapy program and a state license, which typically requires passing scores on national and state examinations.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, there were 209 accredited physical therapist education programs in 2007. Of the accredited programs, 43 offered master's degrees and 166 offered doctoral degrees. Only master's degree and doctoral degree programs are accredited, in accordance with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. In the future, a doctoral degree might be the required entry-level degree. Master's degree programs typically last two years, and doctoral degree programs last three years.

Physical therapist education programs start with basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics and then introduce specialized courses, including biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures. Besides getting classroom and laboratory instruction, students receive supervised clinical experience.

Licensure
All states regulate the practice of physical therapy. Typical licensure requirements are graduation from an accredited physical therapist education program and passing scores on national and state licensure exams. Specific eligibility requirements for licensure vary by state.

Other qualifications
Physical therapists should have strong interpersonal skills so that they can educate patients about their physical therapy treatments and communicate with patients' families. Physical therapists also should be compassionate and possess a desire to help others.

School Counselor

Nature of Work
Educational, vocational, and school counselors provide individuals and groups with career and educational counseling. They assist students of all levels, from elementary school to postsecondary education, and advocate for students by working with organizations to promote the academic, career, personal, and social development of children and youth.

School counselors help students evaluate their abilities, interests, talents, and personalities to develop realistic academic and career goals. They use interviews, counseling sessions, interest and aptitude assessment tests, and other methods to evaluate and advise students. They also operate career information centers and career education programs. Often, counselors work with students who have academic and social development problems or other special needs.

Elementary school counselors observe children during classroom and play activities and confer with their teachers and parents to evaluate the children's strengths, problems, or special needs. In conjunction with teachers and administrators, they make sure that the curriculum addresses both the academic and the developmental needs of students, particularly in the areas of social interaction and behavior. Elementary school counselors do less vocational and academic counseling than high school counselors.

High school counselors advise students regarding college majors, college and university admission requirements, entrance exams, financial aid, trade or technical schools, and apprenticeship programs. They help students develop job search skills such as resume writing and interviewing techniques. College career planning and placement counselors assist alumni or students with career development and job-hunting techniques. They assist with transition planning for students with disabilities, focusing on postsecondary education and job training for students with mild disabilities and job training and life skills for students with significant disabilities.

Vocational counselors, also called employment or career counselors, provide mainly career counseling outside the school setting. Their chief focus is helping individuals with career decisions. Vocational counselors explore and evaluate a person's education, training, work history, interests, skills, and personality traits. They may arrange for aptitude and achievement tests to help the individual make career decisions. They also work with individuals to develop their job-search skills and assist them in locating and applying for jobs. In addition, career counselors provide support to people experiencing job loss, job stress, or other career transition issues. In regard to special education, vocational counselors are often members of the transition planning teams for students with disabilities, providing school personnel and families with information and support for transition plans.

Rehabilitation counselors help people deal with the personal, social, and vocational effects of a variety of disabilities. They evaluate the strengths and limitations of the individuals, provide personal and vocational counseling, and arrange for medical care, vocational training, and job placement. Rehabilitation counselors interview both individuals with disabilities and their families, evaluate school and medical reports, and confer with physicians, psychologists, occupational therapists, and employers to determine the capabilities and skills of the individual. They develop rehabilitation programs by conferring with clients; these programs often include training to help clients develop job skills. Rehabilitation counselors also work toward increasing the client's capacity to live independently.

Work Environment
Work environment can vary greatly depending on occupational specialty. School counselors work predominantly in schools, where they usually have an office but may also work in classrooms. Other counselors may work in a private practice, community health organization, or hospital. Many counselors work in an office where they see clients throughout the day. Because privacy is essential for confidential and frank discussions, counselors usually have private offices.

The work schedules of counselors depend on occupational specialty and work setting. Some school counselors work the traditional 10-month school year with a summer vacation, but increasing numbers are employed on 11-month or full-year contracts, particularly those working in middle and high schools. They usually work the same hours as teachers, but they may travel more frequently to attend conferences and conventions. College career planning and placement counselors work long and irregular hours during student recruitment periods.

Education and Training
Education requirements vary based on occupational specialty and state licensure and certification requirements. A master's degree is usually required to be licensed as a counselor. Some states require counselors in public employment to have a master's degree; others accept a bachelor's degree with appropriate counseling courses.

Counselor education programs in colleges and universities are often found in departments of education or psychology. Fields of study include college student affairs, elementary or secondary school counseling, education, gerontological counseling, marriage and family therapy, substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling, agency or community counseling, clinical mental health counseling, career counseling, and related fields. Courses are often grouped into eight core areas: human growth and development, social and cultural diversity, relationships, group work, career development, assessment, research and program evaluation, and professional identity. In an accredited master's degree program, 48 to 60 semester hours of graduate study, including a period of supervised clinical experience in counseling, are required.

Licensure
Find licensure information in your state.

Other Qualifications
People interested in counseling should have a strong desire to help others and should be able to inspire respect, trust, and confidence. They should be able to work independently and as part of a team. Counselors must follow the code of ethics associated with their respective certifications and licenses.

Counselors must possess high physical and emotional energy to handle the array of problems that they address. Dealing daily with these problems can cause stress.

Job Outlook and Earnings
Employment for counselors is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. However, job growth will vary by location and occupational specialty. Job prospects should be good due to growth and the need to replace people leaving the field.

Assistive Technology Practitioner/Specialist

Nature of the Work
An assistive technology (AT) practitioner or specialist evaluates students with disabilities in order to help them become more independent and productive with the use of appropriate assistive or adaptive technology. They conduct assessment evaluations to determine a student's needs, recommend hardware and software, suggest products to address a particular functional need, assist in procuring the technology needed for trials, provide professional development and training on the product, collect data, and provide telephone and classroom technology support to students, teaching staff, and families. Their expertise helps them assist in accommodating the physical and cognitive limitations of students with disabilities.

Work Environment
School-based AT specialists are often district-wide positions requiring travel from school to school in order to meet with individual students and teachers. In addition, they may be required to prepare professional development for afternoons/evenings, weekends, or summer trainings to help teachers and families successfully implement AT. Depending on the case load, number of members on the AT team, and size of the district, the position can be a stressful one. Strong organizational skills are a must.

Education and Training
Some states require a teaching license to be employed as an assistive technology specialist, but others do not. Generally speaking, job applicants who have strong computer skills combined with experience in special education or teaching are most likely to be hired in entry-level jobs.

Colleges and universities increasingly offer undergraduate and graduate classes in special education technology. Entrance to a master's degree program generally requires a strong background in teaching, curriculum and instruction, special education, or a related service field. A typical sampling of courses includes strategies for integrating technology into early childhood, elementary, and secondary education; technology for educating students with multiple disabilities or pervasive developmental disorders; computer applications; and transdisciplinary approach to rehabilitation.

High school students considering this profession should take classes in science, math, and English, as well as courses in business or industrial arts. Excellent computer skills in both software and hardware will be required in all courses of study beyond secondary school. Teenagers can gain valuable experience toward becoming technology specialists by working with children who are learning how to use computers. They can gain valuable experience working with children and youth with disabilities by volunteering for organizations such as the Special Olympics.

Licensure
While licensure in assistive technology is not currently offered, there are a number of certificate programs offered through universities as well as the Assistive Technology Practitioner (ATP) certificate offered by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). The ATP certificate encompasses those working in industry as well as schools, including clinicians, manufacturers, and suppliers. AT certification programs offered through universities are more focused on the effective provision of school-based AT services for students with disabilities.

Other Qualifications
AT practitioners and specialists are resourceful, persistent, patient, and creative. They are problem solvers who work well with both children and adults and can juggle a variety of tasks at the same time. Excellent observation and communication skills are needed as they are required to analyze complex information to make sound decisions. They need to combine technical expertise with insight into how to help others become confident users of technology, particularly when working with students, teachers, and families who may be intimidated by technology.

For More Information:

CEC's Technology and Media Division
2900 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22203-3557

Teacher Assistant

Nature of the Work
Teacher assistants provide instructional and clerical support for classroom teachers, allowing teachers more time for lesson planning and teaching. They support and assist children in learning class material using the teacher's lesson plans, providing students with individualized attention. Other responsibilities may include supervision of students in the cafeteria, schoolyard, and hallways, or on field trips; recording grades; setting up equipment; and helping prepare materials for instruction. Teacher assistants also are called teacher aides or instructional aides. Some assistants refer to themselves as paraeducators or paraprofessionals.

As schools become more inclusive and integrate special education students into general education classrooms, many teacher assistants in both general education and special education classrooms increasingly assist students with disabilities. They attend to the physical needs of students with disabilities, including feeding, reinforcing the learning of functional skills such as good grooming habits, or providing physical assistance in special area classes, in therapy, or on the school bus.

Teacher assistants also provide personal attention to students with other special needs, such as those who speak English as a second language or those who need remedial education. Some work with young adults to help them obtain a job or apply for community services to support them after schooling. Teacher assistants help assess a student's progress by observing performance and recording relevant data.

Work Environment
Teacher assistants work in a variety of settings—including preschools, child care centers, and religious and community centers, where they work with young adults—but most work in classrooms in elementary, middle, and secondary schools. They also work outdoors supervising recess when weather allows, and they spend much of their time standing, walking, or kneeling.

Those who work in general education classrooms may provide remediation lessons to students with high-incidence disabilities, monitor behavior, and assist with attention and motivation while working with individual students or small groups. In special education classrooms, they often have these responsibilities in addition to offering support in learning basic communication, literacy, and functional life skills.

Approximately 4 in 10 teacher assistants work part time. However, even among full-time workers, about 17 percent work fewer than 40 hours per week. Most assistants who provide educational instruction work the traditional 10-month school year.

Education and Training
Requirements for teacher assistant positions vary by state and district. In some areas, they may need only a high school diploma and on-the-job training, while other areas require an associate's degree at an accredited community college.

Teacher assistants who work in Title 1 schools—those with a large proportion of students from low-income households—must have college training or proven academic skills. They face new federal requirements as of 2006: assistants must hold a two-year or higher degree, have a minimum of two years of postsecondary education, or pass a rigorous state or local assessment.

For those areas that only require a high school diploma, having a college degree or related coursework in child development improves job opportunities.

Licensure
Some states or districts require teaching assistants to pass the ParaPro Assessment of the Educational Testing Services (ETS) Praxis evaluation. Others follow the guidelines discussed under the Education and Training section.

Advancement Opportunities
Advancement for teacher assistants—usually in the form of higher earnings or increased responsibility—comes primarily with experience or additional education. Specifically, teaching assistants may increase their advancement opportunities in special education by pursuing assistive technology training in order to better support students with disabilities. Some districts offer financial incentives for qualified teaching assistants to work with students who have more significant needs and require high-tech supports to succeed in school.

Some school districts provide time away from the job or tuition reimbursement so that teacher assistants can earn their bachelor's degrees and pursue licensed teaching positions. In return for tuition reimbursement, assistants are often required to teach for a certain length of time in the school district.

Job Outlook
Many job openings are expected for teacher assistants due to turnover and average employment growth in this large occupation, resulting in favorable job prospects. Opportunities should be best for those with at least two years of formal postsecondary education, those with experience in helping special education students, or those who can speak a foreign language.

Demand is expected to vary by region of the country. Regions in which the population and school enrollments are expected to grow quickly, such as many communities in the South and West, should consequently have rapid growth in the demand for teacher assistants.

Director/Administrator for Exceptional Student Programs

Nature of the Work
Special education administrators oversee school district special education programs. They assist with program administration, ensure the quality of special education services, and work with teachers and parents in the education process.

Effective management of area coordinators that deal with specific components of special education is also critical for success in special education administration. These components include but are not limited to compliance monitoring, overseeing assistive technology programs, planning district-wide professional development for both high-incidence and low-incidence populations, and working with families and legal advocates.

Work Environment
The work environment for special education administration personnel is often office based and located in county school system buildings. It may also be office space in local schools depending on the space requirements or need to be near schools that have a high population of students in special education.

As is often the case in administrative jobs, positions in special education may have increased stress due to paperwork, heavy workloads, and dealing with legal concerns and litigation.

Education and Training

A master's degree is required in most (if not all) administration positions, while larger school districts may require a doctoral degree.

Licensure
All states require a license to practice. Licensing requirements vary by state I'm not an administrator so I have questions about this-- I'm not sure where you got it and what it means—is it that all SPED administrators must hold a current "teaching" license?

Other Qualifications
Special education administrative positions require candidates to be innovative leaders in the field, keeping abreast of research-based best practices and supporting teachers in pursuance of additional training. In addition, they must be excellent managers and have strong organizational skills. Special education meetings with families can be emotional and require the leadership to be supportive of both teachers and families, confident in decisions made, and articulate about those choices. Administrators must inspire trust in those that work for them as well as the families of the students with disabilities in the district.

Advancement Opportunities
Education administrators advance through promotion to higher-level administrative positions or by transferring to comparable positions at larger schools or systems. They also may become superintendents of school systems or presidents of educational institutions.

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For More Information:
CEC's Council of Administrators of Special Education
101 Katelyn Circle, Suite E
Warner Robins, GA 31088 

American Association of School Administrators
1615 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

College and University Faculty in Special Education

Nature of Work
Postsecondary teachers include college and university faculty, postsecondary career and technical education teachers, and graduate teaching assistants. Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. Most of these students are working toward a degree, but many others are studying for a certificate or certification to improve their knowledge or career skills.

Teaching in any venue involves forming a lesson plan, presenting material to students, responding to students' learning needs, and evaluating student progress. In addition to instruction, postsecondary teachers, particularly those at four-year colleges and universities, also perform a significant amount of research in the subject they teach as well as provide service on local, state, and national levels. They must also keep up with new developments in their field and may consult with government, business, nonprofit, and community organizations.

Work Environment
Many postsecondary teachers find the environment intellectually stimulating and rewarding because they are surrounded by others who enjoy their subject. The ability to share their expertise with others is also appealing to many.

Education and Training
Four-year colleges and universities usually require candidates for full-time, tenure-track positions to hold a doctoral degree. However, they may hire individuals with a master's degree or doctoral candidates for certain disciplines for adjunct, part-time, and temporary jobs.

Doctoral programs take an average of six years of full-time study beyond the bachelor's degree; this includes time spent completing a master's degree and a dissertation. Candidates specialize in a subfield of a discipline, for example, counseling psychology, and also take courses covering the entire discipline. Programs typically include 20 or more increasingly specialized courses and seminars plus comprehensive examinations on all major areas of the field.

Candidates also must complete a dissertation—a written report on original research in the candidate's major field of study. The dissertation sets forth an original hypothesis or proposes a model and tests it. Students in the natural sciences and engineering usually do laboratory work; in the humanities, they study original documents and other published material. The dissertation is done under the guidance of one or more faculty advisors and usually takes one or two years of full-time work.

Advancement Opportunities
For faculty, a major goal in the traditional academic career is attaining tenure. The process of attaining tenure can take approximately seven years with faculty moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions as they meet specific criteria. The ranks are typically instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Colleges and universities usually hire new tenure-track faculty as instructors or assistant professors under term contracts. At the end of the period, their record of teaching, research, and overall contribution to the institution is reviewed and tenure may be granted if the review is favorable. Those denied tenure usually must leave the institution.

Tenured professors cannot be fired without just cause and due process. Tenure protects the faculty's academic freedom—the ability to teach and conduct research without fear of being fired for advocating controversial or unpopular ideas. It also gives both faculty and institutions the stability needed for effective research and teaching and provides financial security for faculty. Some institutions have adopted post-tenure review policies to encourage ongoing evaluation of tenured faculty.

Job Outlook
Employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow much faster than average as student enrollments continue to increase. However, a significant proportion of these new jobs will be part-time and non-tenure-track positions. Retirements of current postsecondary teachers should create numerous openings for all types of postsecondary teachers, so job opportunities are generally expected to be very good, although they will vary by the subject taught and the type of educational institution.

For More Information:

CEC's Teacher Educator Division (TED)
2900 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22202-3557