Special education is a hard path to choose, which requires not only certain personal qualities, but also a few years of diligent studying. If you are positive that this career is for you though, you will be required to take several steps.
STEP 1: Get a bachelor’s degree. There are multiple schools that offer programs in special ed, so you can choose the one you like most. As a rule, special ed students study how to behave and act in the classroom with disabled children, how to assess their abilities and progress, and also how to teach basic subjects reading and math. The curriculum includes child psychology and development. Over the last years, educational establishments tended to require an additional – fifth – year of education in order to master a certain area of specialization. Along with campus-based programs, there are also distance-learning opportunities.
STEP 2: Get a teaching certificate. Certification (or licensing) is required to work in public schools and must be obtained in the corresponding state. Private schools may also require a certificate – however, they not always do. General and specialized state licenses are issued. The first allow teachers to work with students with different disabilities, and the second are only for a certain category of students.
STEP 3: Get a master’s degree. Some schools require this degree from their teachers, while others are content with bachelor’s and state certification. Obtaining the master’s is a way to deepen one’s knowledge in the field and become more confident.
STEP 4: Go to school! After all of the above is completed, a person is ready to teach. However, during the first years she will receive the guidance.
STEP 5 (optional): If you want to narrow down your field of specialization, you may choose one of the following categories: mild/moderate disabilities, moderate/severe disabilities, deaf students, visual problems, physical impairments, early childhood.
STEP 6 (optional): Advanced certification. Numerous opportunities are offered for special ed teachers who want to get better at what they do.
However, there are other ways to get qualified in the field. If you have a Master’s degree in education and want to become a special ed teacher, you should consider an educational specialist degree. It is less than a doctorate and roughly equals to a second master’s. And, of course, there are doctoral programs, which prepare students for school management positions.
The ground zero of becoming a special education teacher is realizing what you are going for. This career requires patience and persistence, as well as creativity and determination. The rate of people who can’t cope and quit on the way is high, and not to join their ranks one should verify that this is exactly what he or she wants. Without solid determination, it is impossible to become a special education teacher, even if you complete all required stages.