Kindergarten and elementary special education teacher salary & career outlook
If you have a soft spot for children, then you may want to become a kindergarten and elementary school special education teacher.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, special education teachers help students with a wide range of physical, emotional, mental and learning disabilities to learn basic skills such as communication techniques and literacy. They must also teach various subjects, such as reading, writing and math. This entails adapting lessons to meet a student's needs, as well as discussing progress with parents, teachers, counselors and administrators, among other tasks.
To become a special education teacher at a public school, according to the BLS, typically requires a bachelor's degree and a state-issued certification or license. Requirements vary by state. And at a private school, you typically need a bachelor's degree. Some teachers receive a degree in special education and others in elementary education or a specific subject matter. Important qualities to possess as a special education teacher, according to the BLS, include communication skills, critical-thinking skills, interpersonal skills, patience and resourcefulness.
As if the job itself isn't rewarding enough, special education teachers typically make a livable wage and are in a growing field.
Special education teacher salary
In general, teaching isn't a career that you do for the money, and special education is not an exception.
According to the BLS, as of May 2013, kindergarten and elementary special education teachers earned a mean annual wage of $56,690, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $35,920 or below, and the top-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $84,020 or above.
Those numbers can change by industry, however. The BLS reports that a few of the top-paying industries in America for special education teachers as of May 2013 were:
- Offices of Other Health Practitioners (not primary care doctors): $67,50 annual mean wage
- State government (OES designation): $61,350 annual mean wage
- Home Health Care Services: $58,470 annual mean wage
Location will probably affect your pay as a special education teacher, too. According to the BLS, the top-paying states in America for special education teachers as of May 2013 were:
- Rhode Island: $72,380 annual mean wage
- Connecticut: $71,810 annual mean wage
- New York: $70,010 annual mean wage
And the top-paying American metropolitan areas for special education teachers as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:
- New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division: $68,580 annual mean wage
- Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL Metropolitan Division: $61,030 annual mean wage
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA Metropolitan Division: $53,190 annual mean wage
Job outlook for special education teachers
The future's looking bright for special education teachers in America.
According to the BLS, employment of special education teachers at kindergarten and elementary schools across the U.S. is projected to grow by 6 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than the average for all occupations but growth nonetheless. That adds up to roughly 12,000 new jobs nationwide.
Many possible explanations for the growth exist, though they all must be weighed by the fact that government funding could affect growth.
"Better screening and identification of various disabilities in children is expected to increase the demand for special education services," according to the BLS. "In addition, children with disabilities are being identified earlier and enrolled into special education programs, increasing the need for special education teachers in preschool and kindergarten grades."
To speculate on where the growth may occur, let's look at past data. According to the BLS, the American states with the highest concentration of jobs for kindergarten and elementary special ed teachers as of May 2013 were:
- West Virginia
- New Jersey
According to state data aggregated by Projections Central, the states with the highest projected growth through 2020 for these teachers at the preschool, kindergarten and elementary levels include:
- Texas: 44.9% growth
- Utah: 33.8% growth
- New Mexico: 33.4% growth
Wherever you end up as a special education teacher, you're part of a field doing important work -- which may explain why it's growing.
Occupational Employment and Wages: Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013,
Special Education Teachers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
Long Term Projections for Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary School, Projections Central,