9 High-Paying Jobs that Work with Special Needs

High-paying jobs that work with special needs include Special Education Teachers, Audiologists, Intervention Specialists, and Speech Pathologists. The world of special education today is significant, making up for a notably sizable portion of the overall education system across the United States and abroad.

For those in search of work here, there is certainly plenty. However, for those in search of the absolute highest pay for work in this field, several job roles pay above many of the rest here. For the scoop on the top-paying careers in Special Education, follow along.


Special Education Industry Top-Paying Jobs

  1. Speech and Language Pathologist
  2. Educational Audiologist
  3. Adaptive Special Education Teacher
  4. Special Education Teacher
  5. Early Intervention Specialist
  6. Occupational Therapist 
  7. Applied Behavior Analyst 
  8. Social Worker
  9. Developmental Psychologist



1. Speech and Language Pathologist

Speech and language pathology is the applied science focused on how the human mind adapts to and utilizes speech skills. This can be a complex area of the brain to understand, but those who do can play a helping hand in the special education force. Speech and language pathologists are the pros who specifically use this science with patients and students who need to strengthen their speech and language skills or overcome certain hurdles obstructing it.

A speech-language pathologist works with individuals with swallowing problems and speech, language, fluency, voice disorders, and other communication disorders. For example, they develop alternative ways of communicating. The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) accredits speech-language pathology education programs.

Education: master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (more)
  • American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders (more)
  • American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders (more)
  • American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (more)

Salary: $79,060 per year

Job Growth: 21% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


2. Educational Audiologist

Educational audiologists are similar to speech and language pathologists in that they work with hearing-impaired students and patients to overcome audio-based challenges such as general sound perception and translation issues, subsequently associated speech function issues, and more.

To become an educational audiologist, one must typically present with a master’s or doctorate in audiology. Some workers in this role also have obtained a start through a master’s in special education itself. All states require audiologists to have a license.

Education: Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (more)
  • American Board of Audiology (more)

Salary: $78,950 per year

Job Growth: 10% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


3. Adaptive Special Education Teacher

The adaptive teaching approach works to achieve instructional goals with learners who have individual differences. Some differences may include prior achievement, aptitude, or learning style. As the name suggests, adaptive special education efforts are also adapted to further help the individual student with their specific needs.

Adaptive special education teachers are the professionals who take special education to this next, adapted, and customized level. Currently, thirteen states require these teachers to hold a separate license in adaptive special education teaching and a typical teaching degree.

Education: bachelor’s degree

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education.

Median Annual Salary: $61,820 per year

Job Growth: 4% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


4. Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers represent what is likely the most recognized face of the special education industry. These teachers are those who teach in standard special education classes or that privately teach special education students. These professionals implement and monitor Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 Plans and ensure these special education programs comply with rules and standards.

There are also many career pathways for Special Education Teachers. These specialties include Early Intervention (more below), Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Special Education Technology, and Gifted Education. Elementary teachers use customized instruction to work with preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school students. Secondary teachers work with middle and high school students, providing inclusive instruction studies. Special Education Technology helps students with additional education requirements using technology tools. Gifted teachers work with learners to help them find resources, learning programs, advanced curricula, assessment tools, and compacted lessons.

Per the BLS, special education teachers in the public school system must hold a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification. In contrast, private school workers are typically only required to hold an applicable bachelor’s degree. Special education programs offer rewarding careers and help over 7 million students annually in the US.

Education: master’s degree

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education.

Median Annual Salary: $61,820 per year

Job Growth: 4% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


5. Early Intervention Specialist

Early Intervention Specialists work with students from birth to five years old. They help to identify early signs of developmental disabilities. Understood, a leading organization dedicated to advancing special education, in general, describes this role well. Early intervention is an organized, professional effort to help young children reach major milestones they may otherwise fail to arrive at healthy times.

At the helm of much of this early intervention, the process is this professional. This well-paid special education worker is thus the professional who helps evaluate and subsequently works with children needing early intervention learning services.

Education: master’s degree

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • Teach.org or contact your state’s board of education.

Average Salary: $61,820 per year

Job Growth: 4% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


6. Occupational Therapist 

Occupational therapists (OTs) work with people with special needs to build skills to support independence. These skills range from going to the toilet to eating. They work with all kinds of people, including children on the autism spectrum. For example, an occupational therapist might assist an autistic child with writing.

To be an occupational therapist requires a master’s degree in occupational therapy. In addition, OTs must have a license to practice in their state.

Education: master’s degree or doctoral degree in occupational therapy

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)

Average Salary: $85,570 per year

Job Growth: 14% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


7. Applied Behavior Analyst 

Applied Behavior Analysts are psychologists. They work specifically with children with autism to understand the relationship between a child’s behavior and environment. The goal of this therapy is to have the child and family adapt the behavior and increase the child’s

To be an applied behavior analyst requires a master’s degree and a license to practice clinical psychology. Once you have those, either training in applied behavior analysis or a doctoral degree in behavioral analysis will prepare you for the required board certification. State-specific requirements are on the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) website.

Education: master’s degree in Psychology

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology.
  • American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN) offers certification in neuropsychology.

Average Salary: $81,040 per year

Job Growth: 6% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


8. Social Worker

Social workers interact with many different populations. Within special needs, they often work with children on the autism spectrum. These professionals work to help an autistic child to improve their social and psychological functioning. At the same time, they work with the child’s family to offer support, help improve social interactions, and coordinate therapies and other services that might benefit the entire family.

Education: bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or master’s degree in social work (MSW)

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)

Median Annual Salary: $50,390 per year

Job Growth: 9% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)


9. Developmental Psychologist

Developmental psychologists work with special needs children. They study and interact with them to understand the best treatment, therapy, and coping mechanisms for them. They also inform teachers and parents on the best approaches for treating children with the attention and support they require to succeed.

Education: master’s degree in Psychology

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations: These organizations offer specialty certifications

  • The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology.
  • American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN) offers certification in neuropsychology.

Average Salary: $81,040 per year

Job Growth: 6% from 2021 to 2031 (BLS)



Job Outlook for Special Education

The special education industry is a large and growing one in which many professionals make a great wage. Some jobs here, however, offer a much higher salary than others. These jobs mentioned above are some of the highest-paying careers in special education today.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the overall employment of special education teachers will grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031.


Salary in Special Education

The BLS median annual wage for special education teachers is $61,820. Furthermore, the pay ranges from $46,180 to $100,040. Below is the average salary for special education teachers by the employer.

Special Education TeacherSalary
preschool$62,420
secondary school$62,120
middle school$61,820
all other$61,720
kindergarten and elementary school$61,640

What are the Main Types of Disabilities?

There are many types of disabilities with an array of severities. Some are not noticeable, while some are obvious. Below are the World Health Organization’s (WHO) eight categories of disabilities.

  • Mobility & Physical Disabilities
  • Head Injury & Brain Disabilities
  • Spinal Cord Disabilities
  • Vision Disabilities
  • Hearing Disabilities or Hearing Impairment
  • Cognitive & Learning Disabilities
  • Psychological Disabilities or Mental Disorders
  • Invisible Disabilities

What Qualities Do You Need to be a Special Education Teacher?


Adaptability

Classrooms are unpredictable, so teachers need to be flexible and adaptable.

Assessment Skills

Assessing a student’s strengths is essential to being a special education teacher. So, teachers must be able to quickly evaluate abilities and recommend the best course of action for students.

Collaboration

Cooperating with parents, administrators, other teachers, and community agencies is essential to develop supportive learning environments.

Communication Skills

Teachers advocate for their students and ensure they have all the necessary resources.

Compassion

When treated with love, respect, and compassion, students will learn to value themselves and manage their disabilities.

Creativity

Special education teachers should be able to creatively impart their lessons to highlight each child’s learning strengths. Keeping children’s unique needs in mind, teachers must apply differentiation in their lesson plans and various teaching methods to help students achieve the set objective.

Devotion To Improvement

Teachers should always continue to learn and work towards professional development.

Knowledge Of Theory And Practice

Educational programs based on a solid understanding of human development, learning theory, and professional knowledge are the foundation of learning for children with special needs.

Listening Skills

When students feel heard, it boosts confidence. Great teachers listen to and advocate for their students.

Organization

A structured and organized classroom helps students feel safe and creates a positive atmosphere for learning. Therefore, being organized is one of the critical factors for all successful special education teachers.

Patience

Being a special education teacher requires a lot of patience. Though special needs children take longer to perform a simple task, teachers must give them enough time to help them complete the job. An excellent special education teacher needs to be patient and understand her students better to help them learn.

Professionalism

Maintaining high levels of integrity and competence in their work helps children, parents, schools, and communities feel respected and valued.

Trustworthiness

Building trust and respecting confidentiality help special education teachers connect with students and parents.


Other Careers

  • Occupational Therapy / Occupational Therapists
  • Social Worker / Social Workers
  • Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Educational Diagnostician
  • Resource Teacher
  • Certified Behavior Analyst
  • Special Education Tester
  • Intervention Specialist
  • Special Education Director
  • Adjunct Professor
  • Learning Behavior Analyst
  • Special Education Coordinator
  • Special Education Course Developer
  • Adaptive Special Education Teacher
  • Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant
  • Special Education Advocate

Your Career

There are many different ways to help people with disabilities. Professionals can find jobs in schools, community mental health centers, and clinics. Additionally, you can work with different populations. You can treat individuals with hearing loss, learning disability, anxiety disorder, mental illness, or someone who is visually impaired. These jobs are all in high demand and have a comfortable median income.

So, if you desire to help individuals with special needs and have excellent interpersonal skills, consider a rewarding career in one of the jobs above!


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