Teaching children with developmental disorders like autism can be very challenging, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Autistic children, according to the National Institutes of Health Fact Sheet, have a neurodevelopmental disorder that prevents them from having normal social interactions with others, impairs their communication skills and results in repetitive and predictable behavior patterns. Teachers who work with these children must have patience as well as specialized training. Becoming a teacher in this area of education requires that you be willing to commit several years of your life to obtaining the know-how to teach children with this disability.
Determine what the minimum requirements are in your state for working in the field of special education. Some states only require the completion of a bachelor's degree in special education, while others require a Master's degree. Knowing the requirements beforehand can help you plan and choose the right school to obtain your education.
Obtain your bachelor's degree in special education. If your state only requires a bachelor's degree in special education, you may have to complete a degree program that takes slightly longer than a traditional four-year program. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that special education teacher must usually receive additional training before they receive certification to teach.
Bachelor's degree programs in special education tend to provide you with a generalized knowledge of the field. For this reason, teachers who work with autistic children typically have to receive additional training beyond the bachelor's degree. During your first two years in your bachelor's program, you can expect to complete general education courses. During the remainder of your program, you will take education and special education courses designed to prepare you for licensure in the state where you intend to teach.
Pass your state certification exams. Each state requires that its teachers earn certification to teach in their area of specialization. This usually results when graduates of state-approved teacher education programs apply for their teaching license and are deemed eligible by the state department of education to sit for the certification exam. The number of certification exams required to be a licensed teacher varies by state. Some states only require one exam, while other require as many as three exams. Regardless of the number of exams you will be required to take, you can expect to take at least one exam over your knowledge of the field of special education.
Complete specialized training in the field of autistic education through either a certificate program or a Master's degree program. If your state only requires a bachelor's degree to teach special education, you may be able to complete your training by obtaining a certificate in the field of teaching children with autism and developmental disorders. If a Master's degree is required in your state, you can use your Master's degree program as an opportunity to specialize in education for autistic children. Many schools that offer Master's degree programs in special education also offer a specialization in this field.
2016 Salary Information for Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers earned a median annual salary of $57,840 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, special education teachers earned a 25th percentile salary of $46,080, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $73,740, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 439,300 people were employed in the U.S. as special education teachers.