Employment of special education teachers is expected to grow by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is expected because of increasing enrollment and continued demand for special education services.
From 2010 to 2020, overall enrollment is expected to grow in elementary and secondary schools, increasing the number of students receiving special education services. However, enrollment growth will not be equal across all grades.
Enrollment of special education students in kindergarten, elementary, and middle school grades is expected to grow faster than that in high school grades. As a result, employment of preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school special education teachers is expected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, employment of middle school special education teachers is expected to grow 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, and employment of high school special education teachers is expected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations.
Along with enrollment growth, continued demand for special education services is expected.
Children with special needs are being identified earlier, increasing the need for special education teachers for young children. Early identification is important because early intervention is essential in educating children who have special needs.
Laws emphasizing training and employment for people with disabilities are expected to lead to some job growth for special education teachers, as are new higher standards for high school graduation. More parents are expected to seek special services for children who have difficulty meeting the higher standards required of students.
Students will need the services of special education teachers to adapt lessons to their different learning styles and needs. Furthermore, general education teachers will need the help of special education teachers to learn how to present information to students who have learning disabilities.
Although overall student enrollment is expected to grow, there will be some variation by region. Enrollment is expected to grow fastest in the South and West. In the Midwest, enrollment is expected to hold steady, and the Northeast is projected to have declines. As a result, employment growth for special education teachers is expected to be faster in the South and West than in the Midwest and Northeast.
However, despite expected increases in enrollment, employment growth for special education teachers will depend on state and local government budgets. When state and local governments experience budget deficits, they may lay off employees, including teachers. As a result, employment growth of special education teachers may be somewhat reduced by state and local government budget deficits.
From 2010 to 2020, a significant number of older special education teachers are expected to reach retirement age. Their retirement will create job openings for new teachers.
In addition, many schools, particularly those in urban and rural areas, have difficulties recruiting and keeping special education teachers. As a result, special education teachers should have little difficulty finding employment.
Job opportunities may be better in certain specialties, such as early childhood intervention or working with students who have multiple disabilities, severe disabilities, or autism spectrum disorders.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition