Demand for special education teachers continues to rise

AUGUSTA, GA – The number of students enrolled in special education programs has risen by 30 percent in the last 10 years, according to the National Education Association. And as improvements in screening more accurately identify learning differences in children, the demand is expected to continue to increase.

One reason for the growth is support for students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder – as well as for students with other special needs. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control released a study that found 1 in 50 children between the ages of 6 and 17 have been diagnosed with autism, an increase of 72 percent since 2007. In addition, simple population growth and teacher retirement continue to fuel demand.

That has driven the increased need for Special Education teachers across the nation. Dr. Nai-Cheng Kuo, Professor of Education at the GRU College of Education, says that the demand of intervention specialists is expected to continue to expand over the next 10 years, due to the implementation of Response-to-Intervention.

“The implementation of response to intervention (RTI) emphasizes teacher collaboration, early identification and early intervention, data-based decision-making, and on-going progress monitoring,” she said. “It requires more intense attention on each student who requires help, and that means it requires more teachers who know how to work with students who have special needs. Special education teachers are prepared to provide more explicit and more intensive interventions for students with special needs.”

Based on multiple assessment data, special education teachers utilize tailored instructional methods to assist diverse students with different physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive needs. Accommodation and modification are incorporated to accelerate students’ learning.

The GRU College of Education is preparing college students to enter this growing career field, with both undergraduate and graduate programs for those seeking a career in special education. The Special Education program at GRU provides thorough training in subject matters, pedagogical skills, classroom and behavior management, and critical thinking as well as cultivates teacher candidates’ professional work attitude and their abilities to meet the changing relationships among schools, communities, and the world of work.

“We hold professional development workshops every semester and closely work with our partner schools to ensure that all students can succeed with caring, love, respect, and evidence-based practices,” Kuo said.

In addition to their coursework, special education teacher candidates spend more than 1,000 hours in real classrooms, teaching real students. GRU teacher candidates are prepared to meet the challenges in their classrooms from the first day.

“Working with students who have special needs is demanding,” Kuo said. “But when seeing every student become happy, establish self-image and confidence, and succeed with proper instructional support, it is rewarding.”

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual wage for special education teachers was $55,060 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,740, and the top 10 percent earned more than $87,390.

The median annual wages for special education teachers by grade level in May 2012 were:

  • $56,830 for special education teachers, secondary school
  • $55,780 for special education teachers, middle school
  • $53,820 for special education teachers, kindergarten and elementary school
  • $52,480 for special education teachers, preschool

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a special education teacher, visit or contact Dr. Nai-Cheng Kuo at 706-667-4776 or


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