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Careers in Special Education

Where do special educators work?

Special educators work in many different environments. A small percentage work in private schools, residential facilities, hospitals and clinics, or in the students’ homes. The majority, however, work in the public schools. Within these schools, special educators work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Self-contained classrooms–Only 20% of students with disabilities spend the majority of their school day in a classroom specifically set aside for children with disabilities.
  • Resource rooms–Most special education teachers work in resource rooms, where they provide specialized instruction to students with disabilities who come in for part of the school day, either individually or in small groups.
  • General education classrooms–An increasing number of schools are using an inclusion model, in which students with disabilities receive most, if not all, of their instruction in a general education classroom. In these settings, special educators work closely with general education teachers to meet the needs of the students.
Why should YOU consider a career in special education?
  • You want a career that allows you to help others. Being a special educator allows you to make a positive difference in the lives of children with disabilities. With the help of special educators, an increasing number of children with disabilities have been succeeding in school and enrolling in college.
  • Being a special educator gives you the opportunity to use many talents and skills creatively and to grow both professionally and personally.
  • The need for special education professionals has never been greater. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the need for qualified special educators and related service personnel will increase “faster than most other professions” in the next 10 years. And the U.S. Department of Education reports “The number of students with disabilities served under IDEA continues to increase at a rate higher than both the general population and school enrollment.” In Wisconsin, there is a strong demand for special education teachers.
  • The personal rewards of educating children and youth with disabilities is greater than you can ever imagine.
What issues should I consider in terms of deciding which of the special education program options to pursue?

The Special Education Department offers two licensure options for undergraduate students:

  1. Special Education – Cross Categorical  Ages 6 to 21 | Grades 4K-12
  2. Special Education – Dual Licensure  Birth to Age 8 | Grades PK to 3
  • You should first consider what age children with disabilities you want to teach. This will help you decide if you want to enter the early childhood special education or cross-categorical.
  • The Cross Categorical Special Education Only program has fewer total credits to degree.
Teachers Needed | Highest Licensure Need in Wisconsin

Cross-categorical special education is the highest need licensure area in the State of Wisconsin.

The teacher workforce state report for Wisconsin noted:

“In 2015–16, 1,969 emergency licenses and emergency permits were issued in Wisconsin, more than double the number issued in 2013–14. This count may underestimate shortages because the state reports data only on emergency licenses and permits issued, and not the total number of teachers uncertified for their teaching assignments.” The latest numbers of emergency licensed teachers in WI was over 600 issued for just one year in the special education category alone.